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Question and Answer with Dr. Yoshor

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Daniel Yoshor, MD, has recently been appointed as chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and vice president of clinical integration and innovation for Penn Medicine. Dr. Yoshor is a neurosurgeon whose previous appointment was chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his medical degree from University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

What is the most exciting thing about being the chair of Penn’s neurosurgery department?

I think that Penn Medicine is a fantastic place, uniquely positioned for the future of healthcare. The seamless integration of an outstanding medical school in one of the world’s leading research universities with a large, robust, and sophisticated healthcare system offers extraordinary potential. And that is particularly the case for neurosurgery, where technology, innovation, and subspecialization are the keys to the future. There is no better environment anywhere for cultivating greatness in neurosurgery than Penn.

What neurosurgical conditions will you focus on at Penn?

My primary focus will be on leading our team of outstanding neurosurgery specialists. Each member of the team is focused on developing a highly subspecialized program within their areas of expertise. In my clinical practice, my focus will be on surgery for pituitary and brain tumors, as well as for epilepsy that cannot be controlled with medications. I have spent the past 27 years focusing on these specific areas, and I enjoy applying the expertise I have developed, through hard work and experience, to help my patients.

What is your philosophy on patient care?

I believe that there is no substitute for highly focused subspecialty excellence in neurosurgery. It is not enough for our patients at Penn Medicine to be treated by the some of the most talented neurosurgeons in the world – I want those neurosurgeons to focus their talent and energy on specific areas within neurosurgery. This kind of focus results in deep expertise and in innovation. When you combine a passion for subspecialty excellence with sincere compassion for individual patients, it’s truly magical. And patients appreciate that.

What kinds of research will you lead at Penn and what does that mean for patients?

Currently, neurosurgeons helped patients primarily by doing things like surgically removing tumors, epileptic regions, or hemorrhages, by securing aneurysms, and by relieving pressure from the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. But in the future, neurosurgery will increasingly use technology to actually interface with the brain in order to restore function. That is the next frontier. Our laboratory is working to understand how visual information is processed in the human brain, and in developing new methods and technologies for inputting information directly into the visual part of the brain. In most patients with acquired blindness, the visual part of the brain is still intact and functional. Our strategy is to use novel technology to bypass these patients’ irreparably damaged eyes and input visual information directly to their brains, to help them see again. Admittedly, it’s a very ambitious goal, but with the ongoing amazing advances in neuroscience, engineering, and computer technology, it is no longer science fiction.

In addition to being chair of neurosurgery, you are also vice president of clinical integration and innovation for Penn – what does that role entail?

At Penn Medicine, we have an incredible medical school in the heart of Philadelphia that leads the world in research, education, and innovation, as well as an incredible and very large and sophisticated health system that spans a good portion of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. My role will be to help bridge the divide, to make these components work together smoothly and effectively, to advance innovation and to spread it across the system. As I pointed out earlier, I truly believe that we have the potential to do this better than any other institution in the nation.

What do you see as the next trend in neurosurgical care in the Philadelphia region and beyond?

Minimally invasive, maximally effective neurosurgery is what we will be doing. And it’s more than a trend, it’s fast becoming the standard. Whenever possible, we will treat patients with very small incisions, taking out brain tumors through the nose, treating complex brain aneurysms through a tiny needle stick, or reconstructing the spine using very small incisions. When it’s done right, patients recover faster and get back to their normal lives.

What do you enjoy doing outside of practicing medicine?

I’m a pretty normal guy with fairly typical interests outside of medicine. I enjoy travel, hiking, history, and sports, especially basketball. I also read a lot for pleasure. Some of the tv shows that are streaming nowadays are really good, and my wife and I are not above an occasional binge. And family is a big priority. My wife and I had children at a very young age, and one benefit of that is that we are already enjoying interacting with three of our older children as adults who have moved on to college and beyond. At the same time, we still have one daughter in middle school, so we continue to have the pleasure of parenting in our home.

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