Cara L. Sedney M.D.
Board Certification: Certified in Neurosurgery by the ABNS
Medical School: WVU
Faculty Rank: Assistant Professor
Special Clinical/Research Interests: Spine surgery, international medicine, bioethics, qualitative research methods
Is there a particular population of students (e.g., ethnicity, spiritual, sexual orientation) that you would particularly like to advise?
Anyone with interest.
What does a typical day in the life of a neurosurgeon include?
Probably no "typical" day! I try to be in the office by 6:30 and leave whenever my work is done. Some days are all day in the operating room (surgeries may be 1 hour or more than 12 hours!), some days are all day in clinic (a neurosurgeon working in clinic at full capacity often has to see up to or greater than 50-60 patients in a day). Seeing inpatients is generally done early in the morning or at night after everything else is done. Emergencies are common so its essential to be flexible. Always multitasking. I take about 10-12 days of call a month (some practices take more, or less call). Late days are common. I have reserved one day a week for research because that's important for me.
What is the biggest challenge of being a neurosurgeon?
Clinically, its making sure to always be meticulous and see every angle and uncover every detail that may be important, since you have an enormous volume of patients and are dealing with often life-threatening, critical issues. It's a challenge to be so meticulous and cover every angle and yet see so many patients, while still making that human connection with every one.
How do you foresee neurosurgery changing over the next 20 years?
Neurosurgical care is likely to change greatly due to the widespread changes in our national health system. Stay tuned. Additionally, the use of minimally invasive techniques and minimizing surgical morbidity is becoming increasingly important in our specialty.
What advice would you give a student who is considering a neurosurgery residency?
Neurosurgery is amazing; there is literally nothing like it. Patient care is exciting. The surgery is beautiful and you get to help patients through what might very well be the hardest challenge of their lives. There is literally nothing more amazing than seeing the cranial nerves as they come out of the brainstem after a delicate microscopic subarachnoid dissection. And there's nothing more satisfying than being physically sore after a hard day's work from a big spinal fusion.
However, it involves personal sacrifices in regards to personal and family life. To me, it is totally worth it and I love it. To make sure that it will be worth it to YOU, you need to
- Make sure that you like the real thing, not the media/public perception of a neurosurgeon. There is tons of mystique around the idea of a neurosurgeon. Make sure you like the real job, not the TV version of the job. If you've wanted to be a neurosurgeon since you were 5, you probably need to seriously evaluate the reason for your interest.
- Make sure that you are willing to accept the responsibility (and the bad outcomes) that inevitably comes from dealing with very sick patients.
- Make sure that you are willing to accept the personal sacrifices (and remember, even if those things don't matter to you at age 26, they may matter to you at age 36)
- Make sure that there is NOTHING else you would be happy doing. If there is something else that would make you happy, do it. If neurosurgery is the only thing – do that!