Emad N. Eskandar, MD, MBA
David B. Keidan Professor and Chairman
Department of Neurological Surgery
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Montefiore Medical Center
Medical School: University of Southern California (Keck School of Medicine)
Residency: Massachusetts General Hospital – Harvard Medical School
Fellowship: Harvard Medical School
When and why did you join the Congress of Neurological Surgeons?
I joined the CNS in 1999, at the end of my residency. I felt it was a vibrant, contemporary, and inclusive professional society that perfectly met the needs of young neurosurgeons.
What advice do you have for new CNS members on how they can best reap the benefits of CNS membership?
The CNS is a unique society, and like many organizations, its people are the most important element. I would recommend that a new member try to meet and spend time with as many people as possible including CNS staff, residents, fellows, junior faculty, and senior faculty. Neurosurgery is a small community and it is possible to learn a great deal and to generate a network of friends and colleagues that will be important throughout career and life.
How did you get into the field of neurosurgery?
I came to neurosurgery because of my interests in neuroscience, surgery, research, philosophy, and physics. As an undergraduate, I planned to be a physicist or an engineer. To support my education, I worked for one year as psychiatric therapy assistant in a state psychiatric hospital. This opened my eyes to the wonders of the mind, how things can go awry, and how little we actually understand. I became profoundly interested in neuroscience. In medical school, I realized that I did not want to become a psychiatrist (with all due respect to my psychiatry colleagues), but felt that neurosurgery would allow me to combine all things I loved – patients in need of thoughtful care, beautiful surgeries, great research, and amazing colleagues.
Describe your job in a tweet (i.e. 280 characters)
I have the best job in the world – Ridding people of severely disabling problems, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, & TN, researching profound problems such as learning, decision-making, and addiction, while facilitating the growth of neurologists, neurosurgeons, and neuroscientists.
What is the biggest challenge you face on the job, and how are you managing it?
The biggest challenge is finding a balance between work and spending time with my wife and four children. My current approach is to focus on work during the week, and to completely devote my weekends, vacations, and any other opportunities to my family (i.e., no laptop, phone, or conference calls). It is not ideal, but it’s better to have some time completely devoted to the family than to constantly try to juggle the different demands.
What research, science, and/or technology do you see having the biggest impact on the future of neurosurgery?
I think the tools generated by artificial intelligence will provide profound insights into workings of the brain, circuits, cells, neoplasms, and many other topics. However, this research has to be done by neurosurgeons that understand the nature of the problems, and can successfully use these techniques to help our patients. At the moment, much of the cutting-edge work is being performed by industry for commercial reasons. As a community, we need to embrace this technology, make it part of our skill-set, and develop practical and ethical guidelines for its use.
What are you proudest of in your life or career?
In my life, I am most proud of my family and four children. In my career, I am most proud of leading the Neurosurgeon Research Career Development Award (NRCDP), which has supported many young neurosurgeon scientists, about 85% of whom have gone on to obtain independent federal funding and establish thriving careers combining research and surgery.
If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why?
I would interview Albert Einstein. I am fascinated by how he essentially took a simple thought experiment, based on the idea that the speed of light is constant for a given observer, and on that basis derived the special and general theory of relativity, without the benefit of experiments to validate the results or their vast implications. Since then, this theory has been the basis of an enormous amount of scientific and technical advancement. There is really nothing like it in the history of science.