Introduction: Performing good work in either neurosurgery or neuroscience alone is a challenge. Despite this, a large number of neurosurgeons divide their careers between the two fields, and attempt to perform good work in both arenas simultaneously. The purpose of this study is to determine if it is possible to do good work in both neurosurgery and research simultaneously, or whether one field suffers at the expense of the other.
Methods: This question was put to practicing neurosurgeons via an electronic survey that was distributed to resident and staff neurosurgeons in Canada. In addition, select scientists, clinical neurosurgeons, and neurosurgeon-scientists were interviewed for a more in depth view of the same issues.
Results: 54 surgeons completed the survey, 32 of whom were current or intended neurosurgeon-scientists. Themes explored through the survey included motives behind the pursuit or absence of research in one’s neurosurgical career, the quality and feasibility of a dual career, and alternatives to one individual assuming a dual role.
Conclusions: The opinions obtained revealed that it is possible to do good work in both neurosurgery and neuroscience simultaneously, but in reality it is very difficult to do. Alternatives to this dual career, such as collaboration between clinical neurosurgeons and pure scientists for example, may help bridge the gap between clinical and research arenas.
Patient Care: This study was done in the hopes of increasing awareness of the difficulties inherent in pursuing clinical and research neurosurgery simultaneously, and aims to improve patient care by stressing clinical priorities when assuming a career divided between clinical and research duties. In order to do so, the study highlights alternatives to one individual taking on the roles of scientist and surgeon concurrently, especially in a future of mounting competition for research funds, scientific complexity, and time constraint.
Learning Objectives: By the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to:
1) Describe, in light of current attitudes expressed by neurosurgeons and residents, the importance of having realistic views in regard to the role of neurosurgeons in neuroscience research.
2) Discuss, in small groups, neurosurgical opinions regarding the current and future status of neurosurgeon-scientists in Canada.
3) Identify alternatives to a dual career in neurosurgery and neuroscience, while still striving to make significant research contributions.