By Michael Haederle

It Takes a Brain Surgeon

Dr. Meic Schmidt Assumes Duties as Chair of UNM Department of Neurosurgery

When Meic Schmidt, MD, MBA, started on the job as chair of The University of New Mexico Department of Neurosurgery on Feb. 1, he hit the ground running.

Schmidt, who comes to UNM following a stint as chair of Neurosurgery at New York Medical College and director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., had several vacancies to fill.

"We have well-trained faculty members in pretty much all the sub-specialty areas in neurosurgery," he says. "We are going to recruit new faculty to fill the gaps, and two are going to start in June, if everything works well."

Those would be specialists in spinal deformities and skull base surgery. Schmidt also wants to bolster the department's roster by recruiting a second pediatric neurosurgeon and a neuro-oncologist.

Schmidt notes that with the planned launch of the Nene and Jamie Koch Movement Disorders Center there will also be the need for a neurosurgical specialist trained to insert electrodes through the skull for deep brain stimulation, a key treatment for Parkinson's patients and others.

Hiring new faculty would also be a step toward regaining accreditation of the department's residency program, he says. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) withdrew its accreditation of the program last summer, citing a number of deficiencies.

Patient care is not affected in any way by the lack of a residency program, Schmidt says, but having a residency in place will help ensure that New Mexico has enough neurosurgeons to meet its needs in the future.

"This place needs to have a Neurosurgery residency," he says. "A lot of people want this to happen quickly, but that is likely a multi-year project."

Schmidt, who was born in Germany, completed medical school and a neurosurgery residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He later completed fellowships in neuro-oncology and spine surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.

He spent 14 years on the University of Utah faculty, eventually becoming vice-chair of the Neurosurgery Department and holding the Ronald I. Apfelbaum Endowed Chair in Spine and Neurological Surgery.

As a surgeon he focuses on patients with tumors and injuries to the brain, spine and spinal cord. His research has focused minimally invasive spinal surgery for metastatic tumors, and he is known for helping to establish a new thorascopic spine surgery technique for tumors and fractures.

Schmidt sees many similarities between New Mexico and Utah, especially when it comes to serving patients spread across a large state. "Maybe culturally they are a little different, but geography, weather, population - the issues are very similar," he says

He also has high praise for the state-of-the-art Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit in the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion at UNM Hospital. "This is probably the best ICU I've ever seen," he says. "We are well-covered in that area."

But it's UNM's faculty and staff who make the real difference, Schmidt says. "People work very hard," he says. "There are a lot of people who are driven to make this a better place."

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