Costco has a great service called Grand Rounds, where a person can get a second opinion about a health issue by an expert in the field. It’s a new service they just purchased this year, and my VP at work asked me to give it a try if I had the chance and let them know what I think. So I did.
I contacted Grand Rounds and asked them to provide an expert opinion that will help me figure out about the radiation issue. Also, when I communicated with Dr. Bloch about his research, he emphasized the importance of making sure your neurosurgeon is both very experienced and very good. I haven’t been able to figure out how to determine that, so I also asked about whether they could offer some suggestions about identifying a neurosurgeon’s degree of expertise in skull base tumor resection.
So far, I’ve found their assistance very helpful. The staff physician who reviewed my documents to locate a specialist for me was Dr. Cain McClary, who specializes in pathology, and he was great when we spoke. He assigned my case to a neurosurgeon named Dr. Theodore Schwartz. Schwartz is extraordinarily impressive, and will review my documentation and provide his feedback about the Bloch/Almefty question (hopefully on Monday).
When I asked Dr. McClary about whether they could provide a suggestion about how to learn more about my neurosurgeon’s experience with these sorts of surgeries (I called to ask the neurosurgeon about this first, of course, but he was on vacation last week, so I’ll have to catch him when he returns). He said he could find that out for me, because Grand Rounds has access to all sorts of data that isn’t readily available to anyone who isn’t a doctor or insurance company.
He checked and said that my neurosurgeon has only been out of residency for a few years, so his rankings aren’t as high as many of the other local surgeons with more experience in the field. He then suggested that Grand Rounds would be happy to provide me with a list of the highest-ranked neurosurgeons in my area with extensive experience in this sort of operation who would be happy to meet with me. He said the Seattle area is filled with a lot of extremely highly-ranked neurosurgeons.
Grand Rounds then assigned staff physician Dr. Connie Innis, who specializes in diagnostic radiology, to help with identifying local highly-ranked neurosurgeons. She quickly sent me a list of two: Dr. Farrokh Farrokhi and Dr. Louis J. Kim. Dr. Farrokhi has actually already reviewed my files because he is part of the Virginia Mason neurosurgery team that meets every other week for that purpose – he and my current neurosurgeon are colleagues. Dr. Kim works at the Harborview Medical Center. Both have outstanding credentials and experience performing this sort of procedure. I’d like to meet with both.
The fact is, there are no guarantees and there’s no way to know what will happen once any surgeon gets in and stars poking around in my cranium. Anyone could have a great day or a bad one. My current neurosurgeon could be the greatest who ever lived, at the beginning of an illustrious career. I really liked him and feel confident in his capability – it’s just a big decision and the I have no idea how Virginia Mason decides which surgeon will be assigned to any particular case. I’d feel like I wasn’t doing my due diligence if I didn’t speak with at least a few other local neurosurgeons to compare notes and make sure I’m comfortable with how this rolls.
I’m worried, though, about hurting his feelings (which is why I haven’t mentioned his name on this page). He’s been very kind and spent an hour talking to us about the surgery and what we could expect. One of the nurses in his office said he’s a genius. It’s likely I may end up choosing him to do this surgery; but it’s too big a decision to just go with the first person I meet, however impressive. I wouldn’t buy a car without taking other models for a test drive, even if I really thought the first one was great. I wouldn’t hire someone to work on my house without interviewing a few different contractors. I’m fussy, so I even interviewed a bunch of different printing companies and toured their facilities before I found a suitable printer to take care of our graphic design clients.
Everything is moving quickly, and maybe this is just me trying to exert some control over a process that affords me very little… it’s hard to say. I like my current medical team. I like how they do things – they are very knowledgeable and seem extremely capable and I like how they collaborate to decide on how to handle cases. I’ve liked everyone I’ve dealt with so far, so this is no reflection on them either professionally or personally. This just isn’t an area where I have any expertise, and speaking with some other neurosurgeons would provide the context I need to feel comfortable with any decision. I hope everyone will understand.