PNA Spotlight: Dr. Mario Zuccarello
This month the PNA Spotlight focuses on Mario Zuccarello, MD, a Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Zuccarello is also a member of the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Stroke Team. Dr. Zuccarello did his undergraduate work at the Gymnasium in Catania, Italy. He earned his medical degree from the University of Padova, Italy. He then completed fellowships at the University of Iowa and the University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville, and at the University of Cincinnati. His research focuses on neurovascular disease and the development of new neurosurgical techniques for the treatment of stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, vasospasm, carotid artery disease, and moyamoya disease. He was kind enough to answer some questions from the PNA. His answers follow.
What inspired you to choose your career path?
Early experiences with my father’s illness gave me my first exposure to medicine. As I started medical school, I became deeply interested in the anatomy and physiology of the brain. This led to my discovery of neuroscience and to the realization that the best way I could get to know brain function was to become a neurosurgeon. After I became a neurosurgery resident, I understood that neurosurgery required my entire dedication and commitment. I was fortunate to learn from mentors who taught me the importance of knowledge of surgical neuroanatomy to performing accurate, and safe surgeries. I still have the pleasure of learning and perfecting new surgical techniques, and continue to carry this message to my trainees.
What is the primary focus of your work/research?
My primary clinical focus is the treatment of patients with pituitary tumors, skull base tumors, and complex cerebrovascular disease. My clinical practice also includes a full range of minimally-invasive approaches, in addition to complex open skull base and brain surgery.
My research interests involve the study of surgical neuroanatomy and the application of innovative techniques in the operating room with the goal of improving surgical safety and effectiveness. I am particularly interested in the development of keyhole approaches, and the use of the endoscope during those procedures in order to improve surgical exposure, decrease morbidity, decrease hospital stay, and ultimately to improve outcomes.
What do you consider to be the future of your field?
The field of pituitary tumor management is the perfect example of how the future medicine will be. A multidisciplinary approach with the creation of Centers of Excellence will provide a comprehensive assessment and the selection of the best and most effective medical and/or surgical treatment. Because the use of current endoscopes, including 3D endoscopes, has decreased surgical invasiveness and improved effectiveness, I am sure that in the future we will have better visualization tools which will make surgery even better. In addition, I am confident that in the future higher-quality images will be capable of identifying ever smaller tumors, and more effective medical treatments will become available.
What should patients know about your field/what deserves more recognition/awareness?
The treatment of patients with pituitary tumors requires a team-based approach. Patients have to find the best team, one that offers all treatment modalities to treat their disease. All members of the team: neurosurgeon, endocrinologist, ENT, neuro-ophthalmologist, radiation therapist, neuroradiologist, and neuropathologist play a very important role. All members have to be committed to collaboration, in order to achieve the best outcome.
What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?
Patients, and in particular neurosurgical patients, put their life in our hands. I have dedicated my life to becoming the best possible surgeon for my patients. I am committed to provide my patients with the best and most compassionate care, to provide all the information needed to make the decisions that are best for them.
Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?
The PNA provides a knowledgeable and highly reliable resource to educate patients and family members about pituitary adenomas. I want to make my contribution to PNA so that our patients can continue to receive proper, updated education and counseling.