2012 AANS Annual Report - page 20

Redefining Mentorship:
A Natural-Born Neurosurgical Leader
Karin M. Muraszko, MD, FAANS
It is obvious to anyone who meets Karin M. Muraszko, MD, FAANS,
that she has a passion for neurosurgery. That enthusiasm was evident
at the 80th AANS Annual Scientific Meeting, where Dr. Muraszko
presented the 2012 Van Wagenen Lecture.
“All surgeons are leaders by virtue of their jobs,” she told an audience
of her peers. Dr. Muraszko is proof of this theory. Not only is she an
inspiration to her fellow female neurosurgeons, but she is an example
for everyone within the specialty who strives to better themselves,
their patients, the neurosurgical community and beyond.
As a child, Dr. Muraszko was diagnosed with a form of closed spina
bifida and experienced first-hand how a physician’s perception of a
patient can affect how the latter feels. This may be why, at an early
age, she began thinking about becoming a doctor. She went on to
specialize in pediatric neurosurgery, focusing on therapies for the
treatment of pediatric brain tumors, Chiari malformations, and other
congenital anomalies of the spine and brain, as well as children with
complex craniofacial anomalies.
“I love the fact that neurosurgery is still such an open book,” Dr.
Muraszko said. “There’s still so much we don’t know, so much we’re
learning.” To this day, she remains excited about operating on “such
important organs” as the brain and spinal cord.
As Dr. Muraszko stated in her Van Wagenen Lecture, you can’t be in
two places at once, and there are only 24 hours in a day. However, it’s
clear that she makes the most of every minute.
Now approaching her eighth year as the only female chair of an
academic neurosurgical department (at the University of Michigan)
in the U.S., Dr. Muraszko noted that more women — who make up
52 percent of medical school students — are considering careers in
neurosurgery. “There was a time when to be a neurosurgeon was
to dedicate your life solely to neurosurgery,” she said. “Now, we
recognize that a balance is important. You want to have a family. You
want to have a life in the community. You want to have an existence
outside of neurosurgery.”
Dr. Muraszko encourages women in the specialty through her
participation in Women in Neurosurgery (WINS), an organization
whose mission is “to educate, inspire, and encourage women
neurosurgeons to realize their professional and personal goals, and
to serve neurosurgery in addressing the issues inherent to training
and maintaining a diverse and balanced workforce.” A former WINS
president, she now sits on the executive board.
She also dedicates her time to up-and-coming neurosurgeons
through mentorship, which she calls “an obligation” and “part
of the joys of being in an academic neurosurgical environment.”
Furthermore, during her Van Wagenen Lecture, Dr. Muraszko
referred to mentoring as “crucial,” imploring attendees to “be an
ethical and social role model.”
She herself was inspired by David Gordon McLone, MD, PhD, FAANS,
who “believed in the ability of people with disabilities to live normal
lives — I’m proof positive of that,” she noted. Dr. Muraszko also is
thankful for her personal mentors: Peter W. Carmel, MD, FAANS;
Kalmon D. Post, MD, FAANS; and Edward H. Oldfield, MD, FAANS.
“The legacy you leave is not just the patients you operate on, but
your residents, and the knowledge you create and impart, as well,”
she explained.
When she’s not advising future neurosurgeons, Dr. Muraszko
sets her sights on the world. As co-founder of the University of
Michigan’s Project Shunt — which provides care to indigent children
in Guatemala through ongoing medical missions by neurosurgeons,
anesthesiologists, neurosurgical residents and nursing staff — she
has helped to bring aid to more than 300 children since 1998.
“I think I get as much back as I give,” said Dr. Muraszko of what
motivates her. “It’s one of the reasons you become a doctor.”
Dr. Muraszko is the Julian T. Hoff Professor of Neurosurgery and
director of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Clinic at the University of
Michigan. The first female director on the American Board of
Neurological Surgery, she also is a member of the AANS Nominating
Committee and chairs the AANS Membership Committee. After
graduating from Yale University and earning her MD degree from
the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Muraszko
performed her internship, neurosurgical training and pediatric
neurosurgical training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center-the
New York Neurological Institute.
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