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At Columbia Neurosurgery, Teamwork Carries the Day

Cardiac surgery. male cardiac surgeon team operating in surgical theater room at child hospital clinic


Columbia’s Neurosurgery Department has a unique advantage in the medical world. It’s not always visible to patients, but it contributes to the outstanding care Columbia patients receive.

Curious? It’s how the individual doctors subspecialize and how that, in turn, allows the whole department to work together as a team.

Like other members of the department, endovascular neurosurgeon Dr. Sean Lavine was attracted to Columbia in part because of this team atmosphere. As Dr. Lavine knew, such cooperation remains exceedingly rare in neurosurgery departments.

It is often the norm to have a neurosurgery department full of generalists—neurosurgeons who handle everything from brain tumors, to spine work, to the treatment of brain blood vessel problems. A team of players who were all eager to be quarterback, center and wide receiver.

But at Columbia, neurosurgeons have unique areas of specialization and therefore don’t need to compete with one another. This creates a unique, complementary, patient-care delivery environment.

For example, Dr. Lavine focuses on neuroendovascular surgery—that is, surgery done inside the blood vessels in the brain. At Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Lavine is Clinical Co-Director of Neuroendovascular Services.

And he knows that even within his subspecialization of neurosurgery, to provide the best care to his patients, it’s sometimes better not to go it alone. Instead, he often works with a team of other subspecialists who bring different backgrounds and expertise to the many types of surgery on blood vessels in the brain.

Within the field of neurovascular surgery, different methods and combinations thereof are better in different cases. In addition to surgery done from inside the vessels, there’s traditional open surgery using microscopic tools and techniques. There are also other forms of minimally invasive surgery using their own tools and techniques.

To build the best possible neurovascular team, Dr. Lavine needs a balance of subspecialists. That means hiring not only the best doctors, surgeons and nurses, who are each good team players, but also being smart about which backgrounds and areas of expertise to represent.

The cooperative atmosphere at Columbia has allowed neurosurgeons like Dr. Lavine to hone their team-building skills to better benefit patients. Dr. Lavine recently had the opportunity to share his skills with other neurosurgeons at the annual meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. There he helped teach a course about creating the best possible neurovascular team.

He was invited to share the great success of the Neurovascular Team at Columbia, and his thoughts on the reasons for our excellence. Other centers shared their team philosophy. This lead to an outstanding discussion for many attendees hoping to develop programs throughout the nation and abroad.

Three cheers for strong teams!

(Want to learn more about Dr. Lavine’s opinion of teamwork? He is inspired in his work by a basketball coaching legend. Read the story here—it’s a fun one.)

Read more about the Endovacsular Center here.

Learn more about Dr. Sean Lavine on his bio page here.

patient journey

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