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  • My CNS Leadership Institute Experience

    Author: Analiz Rodriguez, MD, PhD
    Assistant Professor, Director of Neurosurgical Oncology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

    I became interested in leadership opportunities as a neurosurgery resident. During my residency, the vice chair of my department, Dr. John Wilson, was chair of the Joint Washington Committee. I was impressed by the impact he made on neurosurgical practice and his mentorship inspired me to apply for the CSNS socioeconomic fellowship. This fellowship allowed me to begin understanding how our national neurosurgery organizations carry out change in regards to trauma care access, residency education, and Medicare reimbursement, etc.

    As a senior resident, I also applied for a CNS Leadership Resident Fellowship where I was able to contribute to Nexus, as neurosurgical education is an interest of mine. Around this time, I served as the WINS liaison to the Joint Tumor Section. Through these experiences, I got to meet some of the most galvanizing women in neurosurgery—leaders such as Dr. Stroink, Dr. Rosseau, Dr. Germano, and Dr. Benzil. I doubt they are even aware how impactful their advice has been, as they all are so personable and help guide many resident physicians. Following residency, I have been lucky enough to continue activities in education and served as secretary of the Communication and Education Committee for the CSNS. I also am on the CNS Scientific Program Committee.

    When I started my job as an academic neurosurgeon after fellowship, I applied for the CNS Leadership Institute. From my residency experiences, I knew I wanted to learn how to impact more than just the patients I operate on. I had started a position in a state with many disparities relating to neurosurgical care and my goal was to learn how to improve access to disadvantaged patients, as this aligns with my personal beliefs. For my CNS Leadership experience, I was given advice on how best to implement a program addressing the needs of rural patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). After the Leadership course, I started a TBI research group with the deputy chief science officer at the state Department of Health. Our multidisciplinary team just published an article in Critical Care Medicine and we hope to ultimately change policies to decrease TBI morbidity and mortality in our state. This pilot project turned out to be much more fruitful than I ever anticipated, and I believe that is due to the skillsets and advice I gained from the Leadership Institute.

    The Leadership Institute helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style in order to optimize your capabilities. I also found the leadership training principles applicable to running my research laboratory. There are unique challenges for surgeon-scientists that many people are not aware of and I serve on my College of Medicine’s Research Council board to represent the interests of clinician scientist young investigators. Since my subspecialty interest is in oncology, my next leadership project will relate to implementing a community-based research program addressing brain tumor health disparities. I will get an opportunity to engage with researchers outside of my institution and learn to leverage community partnerships.

    In summary, all neurosurgeons must be leaders in some form as we are the “captain of the ship” in our operating rooms. However, if you are interested in asserting your leadership skills to a make broader impact, then the CNS Leadership Institute can give you guidance to reach your full potential. I enjoyed my experience and hope to be able to continue leadership roles that improve neurosurgery patients’ lives. 

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