Tag Archives: neurosurgery

Giffords’ surgeon credits system, multidisciplinary approach

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

With the news that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in Tucson in January, will travel to Florida to watch the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavor, which will be commanded by her husband, there may be renewed interest in her medical history and treatment.

Lemole speaks at Health Journalism 2011 in Philadelphia on April 16.

Lemole speaks at Health Journalism 2011 in Philadelphia on April 16.

Attendees of Health Journalism 2011 heard her neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, describe his response, and that of the whole team at his hospital, in the minutes, hours and days after Giffords’ injury. In the speech, he credited the hospital’s multidisciplinary approach as well as the fact that the system worked as it was intended to on that day. He gave details about Giffords’ treatment and brain injuries in general that health journalists might find useful as Giffords re-emerges in the news.

If you weren’t able to make it to the conference, now you can watch Lemole’s keynote speech online.

Some articles about the talk:

Neurosurgeon reflects on time in the media spotlight

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

By Anna Nguyen
Independent Journalist

For G. Michael Lemole Jr., M.D., it’s simply his job to save the lives of patients who have suffered from life-threatening traumatic injuries.

lemole

Lemole spoke to health journalists at AHCJ’s annual conference.

Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona Department of Surgery and University Medical Center, found himself in the national spotlight after he performed brain surgery on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she sustained a gunshot wound to the head in Tucson on Jan. 8.

As the keynote speaker at Health Journalism 2011, he retraced the treatment of the congresswoman earlier this year and his experience working with the media.

“Everyone made a big deal of what we did, but it’s what we do everyday … This is academic medicine at its best,” Lemole said. His hospital is designated by the American College of Surgeons as being equipped to provide the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients. “The real focus of the entire event is the congresswoman.”

Lemole and surgical team performed three surgeries on Giffords. On Jan. 8, Lemole and Martin E. Weinand, M.D., removed part of Giffords’ skull to allow her brain to swell, as well as removing dead brain tissue and skull fragments caused by the bullet. On Jan. 15, Lemole repaired her orbital roof fracture through a skull base approach.

“If there is any silver lining in this, it’s that the bullet didn’t take a more traumatic trajectory,” he said.

The last surgery that Giffords received was a ventriculostomy, which measured intracranial pressure and drained fluid in the brain. He supervised the congresswoman’s care until she was released to a Houston rehabilitation hospital on Jan. 21.

During this time, Lemole and others committed to making themselves available to the media. “We strategized with ourselves, administrators, and with the family. The family asked us to get the correct information out,” he said.

Many doctors are reluctant to speak to the media because they are trained to judge and be judged by objective criteria. With media interactions, doctors are not in control as they are in our operating rooms and intensive care units, Lemole said. During the coverage, he found blog postings involving his parents and comparing his looks to Dan Aykroyd.

Overall, Lemole considered the experience “as positive as it could have been in this terrible event.”

“It’s important to get the story right and give some positive feedback to the media. It was a healthy interaction and respectful of both parties,” Lemole said after the speech.

Conference attendees found the opportunity to hear from Lemole helpful in thinking about their own reporting.

“It’s always good to hear from the other side. We’re always asking the questions and don’t usually get a chance to hear how they viewed us,” said Stephanie Nano, assistant health and science editor for The Associated Press in New York.

Daniel J. DeNoon, a senior medical writer for WebMD, said that this is an ongoing story that journalists will be writing more about. “I really appreciated that he went into details of the operation. It’s extremely timely and informational.”

Anna Nguyen is an independent journalist based in Philadelphia.

Pierce uses medicine to tell a classic sports story

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

It has all the fixings of a front-page health narrative – the handsome baseball star, the stunning neurological condition, the virtuoso brain surgeon and the arduous, improbable comeback – but Charlie Pierce’s piece in The Boston Globe Magazine is remarkable not for these stuff-of-legend elements, but for the mundane ones.

From how his first symptoms affected top prospect Ryan Westmoreland’s ability to gun down the bad dudes in “Call of Duty” to how he spent a week practicing stair climbing before he could board the Red Sox owner’s  private plane, Pierce nails the niggling medical realities that drive this profile home. I could recap the highlights, but this is a case where the value lies in the storytelling as much as in the story.

Giffords’ neurosurgeon to deliver keynote speech at Health Journalism 2011

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

G. Michael Lemole Jr., M.D., the neurosurgeon who treated U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in Tucson on Jan. 8., will be the keynote speaker at Health Journalism 2011.

G. Michael Lemole, M.D.
Lemole

Read more about Lemole.

Other confirmed speakers include Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, and Donald M. Berwick, M.D., M.P.P., administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who will take part in separate Newsmaker Briefings.

Health Journalism 2011Take a look at the topics to be covered at the best annual training event in health journalism, then register and make your hotel reservations. AHCJ’s annual conference will be April 14-17 in Philadelphia. Along with Newsmaker Briefings, it includes panels, workshops, field trips and networking opportunities for reporters interested in health and health care. The Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism will be presented.

Unprecedented number of fellowships available

Journalists covering rural health, working beats other than health, those working for the ethnic media and journalists in California, Missouri, New York and Oregon can apply for fellowships to attend the conference. Deadline: Feb. 23

Neurosurgery conference ditches paper for iPods

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Stacey Burling reports that neurosurgeons will be skipping the paper for their next meeting, relying instead on iPod Touches pre-loaded with conference materials.

touchReading on the iPod Touch. Photo by Ben Kraal via Flickr

It will be only the second conference to have done so (a group of Canadian filmmakers was the first). Registration fees were hiked by $100 to cover the cost of the devices, and local Apple staff will be on hand to answer questions. Burling describes the process:

When they register at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons meeting, the doctors will be given iPod touches already loaded with everything they’ll need, including the program (165 pages last year), summaries of research presented at the meeting, advertising and information from exhibitors. Doctors will be able to use the iPods for messaging and for interacting with presenters during meetings. The convention also attracts 3,500 exhibitors and guests who will not be given the devices.

Top N.Y. neurosurgeons suspended, sued

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Heidi Evans of the New York Daily News has followed the story of a pair of embattled New York neurosurgeons, high profile doctors who earned a combined $10 million a year, since the story broke on May 6. The North Shore University Hospital surgeons, Thomas Milhorat and Paolo Bolognese, were recently suspended for what Evans described as “abandoning a patient in the operating room after she was anesthetized and prepped for brain surgery” and are the target of a lawsuit alleging they used experimental treatments that may have made some patients’ conditions worse. Milhorat, the state’s highest-paid surgeon, has since retired from dealing with patients and moved to full-time research duty.

Evans’ coverage has been persistent and thorough:

Some background, from Evans’ first story:

The (two-week suspension for both doctors) came a week after the disturbing April 10 incident when Bolognese was scheduled to operate on a female patient, sources told the Daily News.

Frantic staff looked for him, but he was nowhere to be found.

The patient’s head was shaved, anesthesia had been administered and she was laying out cold on the OR table near a table of sterilized instruments waiting to be used. Milhorat was then called, but he refused to do the surgery because the patient wasn’t his.

No other surgeon apparently was available, and the surgery did not take place.

The doctors founded the hospital’s Chiari Institute, dedicated to the treatment of a rare brain condition. Their suspension and Milhorat’s resignation have incited strong reactions on both sides, with Evans’ story about Milhorat’s son representing one extreme and a story about the ‘devastated’ Idaho family of a 4-year-old patient representing the other. The stories’ comment sections are all worth a read, as they help illustrate the passion of the debate. Dozens of former patients and their families express support for the surgeons and question Evans and those commenters whose support for the doctors isn’t so evident.