During an episode of Checking the Vitals this year, SpecialtyCare’s Todd Schlosser sat down with Jonathan Rasouli, a spinal neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. Rasouli discussed the collegiate shift that inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, why he chose neurosurgery as his focus, how the field has evolved, and how he leverages social media to engage other thought leaders in the surgical space. Today, we highlight this conversation and the life Dr. Rasouli leads in the medical field.
A Collegiate Shift
Jonathan Rasouli initially studied biomedical engineering but grew an interest in medicine right before starting his third year. This collegiate shift altered his future career endeavors and led him on the path to healthcare. He credits this growing interest to the math, physics, biology, and chemistry curriculum that he studied and his passion for working with people.
While studying biomedical engineering, he worked with some doctors on new medical devices and realized that he didn’t see himself as an engineer but maybe a doctor. He loved the gratifying feeling of working with and helping patients and the information and research aspect of an ever-evolving field.
Early Pathway to Medicine
Rasouli completed the MCAT around the same time as this collegiate shift and, upon graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, he began applying to various medical schools. Being from the New York City and North Jersey area, he wanted to return to his roots, so he applied to many northeast programs. He was accepted and began his medical career at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
After being accepted into medical school, he wanted to pursue cardiology, which stuck for his first three years. However, once he started rotations and worked with the general surgery department at Montefiore Hospital, he experienced another shift. He loved the surgeries he was shadowing and the feeling of being a part of every aspect of the process, from pre-op to post-op.
During the rotation, Rasouli had four weeks of general surgery and four weeks of electives. One of the electives was neurosurgery which fell in line with his interests, but he wasn’t sure if he was cut out for it. It’s a rigorous seven-year program with long hours, complex training, and a high-stress environment. Once he started the program and witnessed his first neurosurgery, he knew this was the career path meant for him.
Rasouli knew that he wanted to stay in New York City for residency. Of the four neurosurgery programs in New York City, he matched with his first choice of Mount Sinai. When he started, he worked on simpler OR cases but, as he moved through the residency program, he took on more responsibility and got involved in more complex procedures.
The Evolution of Neurosurgery
Since Rasouli started medical school in 2007, neurosurgery has changed drastically. A primary change is the growing popularity of the field. When he applied to medical school, there weren’t nearly as many people interested in the field as there are now. Additionally, more research and resources accredited to neurosurgery have compelled people’s interests, including different research publications and mentors.
Another significant change has been technology. Two state-of-the-art technologies are augmented reality (AR) and robotics. Augmented reality allows the surgical staff to virtually see a patient’s CAT scan over their spine while in surgery, which helps with the placement of instrumentation. Although it’s not widely used yet, Rasouli predicts this technology will become more popular in the next 5-10 years. Additionally, he believes improvements will be made to spinal fusions and possibly an entire shift away from them to introduce a new era of replacement surgery.
Leveraging Social Media in the Surgical Space
In today’s era, most people have at least one social media account. It’s an effective way to communicate information and stay informed of any field’s latest news and events. While Rasouli was in medical school, social media didn’t exist, but it started to gain some traction by mid-residency.
He started a Twitter account to follow prominent accounts and get updates on various spine organizations. He liked the way they were leveraging social media to educate people on the field. He also had a spinal surgeon friend who would post spinal cases that he saw and ask people for their input on what to do, which sparked debate and educated conversations.
This avenue inspired Rasouli to build his Twitter account around communicating educational information and establishing an open forum for anyone in neurosurgery to connect, share ideas, and ask questions. Building this shared community has allowed him to meet many other amazing individuals in the field.
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