Internationally Board-Certified Neurosurgeon Serves Patients Like Family
Dr. Jaime Gasco is a Valley Care Clinics neurosurgeon at South Texas Health System Hospitals who recently became board-certified in two continents, here in the United States as well as in Europe. Our staff had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Gasco to get a closer look at what it means to be an neurosurgeon and the impact he is making on the lives of Valley residents.
RGVision: What does a neurosurgeon do?
Dr. Jaime Gasco: A neurosurgeon deals with the problems related to the brain, the cervical spine, the neck, the lumbar spine, anything that has to with the central nervous system or the peripheral nerve system. Surgeries can be anything from brain tumors to lumbar disc herniations to carpal tunnel. We also treat emergencies and trauma, for example, when patients suffer a fall or a car accident.
RGVision: Talk a little bit about preparation. Your background, schooling, and how you continue staying up-to-date on trends.
Dr. JG: For what we do, you need to be constantly studying, preparing and going to courses where the latest technology is being shown and being done. I knew I wanted to do this since I was 16. I was formally exposed to neurosurgery at age 21 to 22 as a student. I trained overseas — I did part of my training in Spain and I rotated in Singapore and also the University of Virginia as a medical student during my first years as a resident in general surgery. I continued my education at the University of Texas in Galveston, where I participated in rotations at M.D. Anderson, Methodist, and Memorial Hermann UT Houston system. I had the honor to serve as faculty at the University of Texas Galveston as assistant professor and director of resident education for a number of years before I moved to the Valley.
RGVision: What was that moment when you were 16 that you realized you wanted to be a neurosurgeon?
Dr. JG: A female neurosurgeon, who was a family friend, came to dinner when I was age 16 and my father told her “this kid wants to be a neurosurgeon,” so she invited me to the operating room. I visualized three or four surgeries that day with her — pediatric brain tumors — and with one of the best neurosurgeons in Madrid for pediatric brain surgery. I knew at the time that was going to be what I would do.
RGVision: Talk about your recent certifications by the two different boards from two different countries and put it in perspective to what that means to a patient.
Dr. JG: I think for patients, it gives them a sense of reassurance that the person/doctor they are seeing is knowledgeable. There’s always the discussion with the patients that has to happen in order for them to understand their condition. It gives patients a little of an expectation, and a level of confidence and trust that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Of course there may be surgeons that are not board certified who are young in their careers, just like I was a few years ago, and they may be also be very competent. For me to pursue both continents’ certifications was just a matter of uniting my background with my current professional situation.
RGVision: What are some of the tools that you use in any advanced technology for the procedures you’re performing most?
Dr. JG: So we have really state-of-the-art technology right now at South Texas Health System. We have microscopes that allow us to see with great accuracy and is very useful for our microspine surgeries with minimally invasive techniques. We also have navigation tools with an intraoperative CT scan that allows us to navigate the spine as we’re doing surgery. And it allows us to put screws or hardware with a very good degree of accuracy and confidence. Like anything, I think it’s very important to understand that the surgeon’s experience and the decision making process is superior in importance to any equipment. You can do these surgeries with X-rays, but the equipment gives you a level of confidence. You can never be overconfident and place all your trust in a piece of equipment, because they can fail any time. Every operation has to be planned as thoughtfully as you would plan a flight.
RGVision: Do you have a mantra or philosophy that you abide by and tell others?
Dr. JG: I would say that “take each day at a time and try to strive to be better every day.” So you know, at the end of the day, you’ll look back and say “that was a good job” and analyze and look back on the things that you could have done better. I think it’s very important to be self-critical as a doctor.
For patient care, I always do to patients and offer to patients what I would offer to a family member, and that’s something I was taught during training by my chairman and it has always been proven to be the best thing I learned. It always works. If your motivations are good and are essentially to help your patient, your indiciations will be most of the time very, very correct.