WMHS expands neurosurgery
In May of this year, Western Maryland Health System expanded upon their already comprehensive neurosurgery program as they welcomed neurosurgeon Or Cohen-Inbar, M.D. Ph.D. Dr. Cohen-Inbar was recruited to be the latest addition to a program that has been blessed with Drs. Kheder Ashker and Augusto Figueroa, two neurosurgeons who have brought many years of service and dedication to our region. Recently, Dr. Cohen-Inbar sat down for an interview about his practice, his impressions of the community and who might benefit from the care that he and his team provide.
What type of patients are suitable for neurosurgery? Who should consider coming to see you?
Neurosurgery is a very wide field. It deals with all central nervous system diseases of a potential surgical nature, meaning both the brain and the spinal cord. In that very large definition, we can find different aspects of care. Any type of patient who has a disease of the central nervous system that has a potential surgical solution should consider coming to see us.
How do patients get in to see you?
First, many of our referrals come from community neurologists and primary care providers. We put a lot of effort and time into collaborating with and educating these professionals in order to get them more knowledgeable about potential situations where a neurosurgeon is required.
Second, we accept referrals and second opinions from other institutions, and third, we also accept direct referrals. We have a form on the hospital website, wmhs.com, that allows easy access for referrals. A potential patient will answer a few easy questions, and a neurosurgery team member will reach out to them before a consultation is scheduled. A team reviews everything before an office appointment is scheduled to make sure all information that is needed is ready, and if anything is missing, they will help obtain it before the appointment. All of this is done to provide a very comprehensive and complete consultation.
What type of services do you provide, and what type of surgeries do you perform?
We provide the entirety of services when it comes to neurosurgery. For the spine, we perform surgeries for degenerative spinal diseases, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, instability of the spine and spinal tumors in both the neck and lower spine. For the brain, we perform surgery on brain tumors – my area of expertise, both benign and malignant lesions. We treat all other brain diseases and pathologies as well, including vascular malformations, aneurysms, hydrocephalus and hydrodynamic issues, traumatic brain injuries and functional issues like tremors or pain. We offer both open micro-surgery capabilities as well as stereotactic radiosurgery, which is a non-surgical highly focused radiation therapy used to treat a range of brain diseases. It can deliver precisely targeted radiation in a single high-dose treatment, effectively treating the diseased tissue while helping to preserve healthy brain tissue. I was trained at the University of Virginia Gamma Knife Center, Charlottesville, Virginia in this field, and hold an academic appointment with both the University of Virginia Department of Neurosurgery and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Department of Neurosurgery.
Why is neurosurgery important in our area?
Neurosurgery serves a pivotal role in our area for multiple reasons. First, we are the sole comprehensive medical center within 70 miles in any direction. That means we have to serve the community and be independent in providing the entire realm of medical and neurosurgical services. Therefore, WMHS leadership was adamant about building and maintaining an independent, strong neurosurgical service.
Most of the patients in mountain Maryland prefer to stay close to home, especially if they are dealing with a serious illness. Patients want quality care near where they live, and this needs to be done in a multidisciplinary fashion, where the neurosurgeon speaks to the medical oncologist, and to the radiation oncologist and then a single treatment team is geared to providing optimal cancer treatment for the patient. For those reasons, we have built a very strong tumor program here at WMHS. We have weekly meetings, and we talk much more often as the need arises.
Another consideration is that, in many cases, timing is of the essence, and if you consider bad weather or the fact that the next large neurosurgical center is an hour or sometimes two hours away, we need to provide independent neurosurgical abilities here to the people of our community.
What are your impressions of our area now that you have been here for a little while?
I must admit that I have fallen in love with mountain Maryland and Cumberland. There is that small city allure where everyone knows each other, and the fact that you can find true kindness, accountability and caring for each other makes me want to be a part of and serve this community the best I can.
I’ve been here for only about six months, but I feel fully committed to both this community and this institution, and it brings me pride and joy to be part of it. I must tell you that our hospital has a lot to be proud of. The healing environment provided here at times is superior to that offered in larger ivy league institutions.
How has your experience been at WMHS since you began your practice?
In general, I would say I’ve gotten a lot of support for the way that I think neurosurgical care should be provided. Since I’ve been here, my colleagues have done their best to help me acclimate and start my practice. I’ve also found the administration to be very supportive in supplying me with the equipment and the staff needed to be able to provide a higher standard of care, as well as the ability to formulate and put into motion protocols that will allow for patients to receive better care.
Examples of this include:
- We have established a cell phone hotline for every patient we operate on. If any medical concern arises, our patients have a direct line to call us and somebody will pick up the phone and give direct consideration to them. Even if it is weeks or months after surgery, if the patient develops some concern, there is no need to go to the ER or primary care provider or to have any doubts. They can come straight to us, and the matter will be handled directly.
- Every patient is called a few days after discharge to make sure their return home is going well and all aspects of their care are happening as planned.
Although I have come from far away, I feel like part of the WMHS family. My aim here is to build neurosurgical services that will provide high quality, personal, involved and accountable care for the patients of our community. We will try our best to be the friend and the support that patients need during the crucial points of their lives. Although this is something we do every day, we never forget the honor of receiving the patient’s trust in allowing us to take care of them.