Being alone is not something Andrew Venteicher, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon and researcher with University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians), is used to.
That may seem odd for someone who subspecializes in treating patients with rare conditions or tumors that require surgery between the brainstem and the base of the skull.
But that’s not the whole story.
“It’s very team-oriented,” Dr. Venteicher explains. “We do many shared surgeries with ear, nose and throat (ENT), ophthalmology and other departments too.”
Dr. Venteicher says subspecializing in neurosurgery wasn’t part of his original career plan, but seeing two family members need a special kind of neurosurgery while he was growing up left a significant impact on him.
“When I was in middle school, my dad’s doctors thought he had a tumor called ‘glioblastoma,’” Dr. Venteicher explains, “But when they went in for the surgery, they discovered it was an abscess that they cured with surgery and antibiotics.”
Years later, while in college, he became interested in biomedical research and ultimately pursued medical school at Stanford University, near where his parents lived at the time.
While deciding his medical career path at Stanford, his mom began showing symptoms of a large brain tumor. After a successful skull base operation to remove the ultimately benign tumor, Dr. Venteicher decided that’s what he wanted to pursue with his career– To help neurosurgery patients on a team of doctors like the ones who helped his parents.
The beauty of a team approach
One of the pieces Dr. Venteicher appreciates most about his practice now is how team-based it is at the University of Minnesota and M Physicians.
Much of the care Dr. Venteicher provides is in partnership with experts across specialties like endocrinology, ophthalmology and ENT through the U of M Medical School’s Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery. He works especially close with his ENT colleagues Meredith Adams, MD, Matt Tyler, MD and Emiro Caicedo, MD.
In fact, Dr. Venteicher sees patients weekly in a dual clinic with Dr. Adams and Dr. Tyler. “We focus on combined surgeries for tumors around the brainstem. We found that patients really enjoy seeing both of us at the same time,” he explains.
Dr. Venteicher also runs a research laboratory with a team that includes postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students, where they are focused on research to help understand diseases and tumors that may require skull base surgery.
“I am very fortunate to work in a wonderful lab with this team, where we focus on these rarer skull base tumors at the molecular level, which is an understudied area with great need.”
Dr. Venteicher and his team feel passionately about this, he says, so they can hopefully design new therapies for the future.
A legacy of team-based care
There are several patients Dr. Venteicher has seen since he joined M Physicians who have needed multiple skull base surgeries.
“Some of these patients required multiple procedures from the surgeons who preceded me here and have required additional procedures since I took over their care,” he says. “Their attitude and resilience have really been inspiring.”
And for Dr. Venteicher, those patients are always part of the team too.
“There is no alternative to spending time with patients,” he says, adding, “Sometimes there’s more than one way for how to proceed. The more time you spend with a patient, the more you understand what's important to them and how you can shape the tools at your disposal to get that patient to where they want to be.”
It’s in these relationships with his patients and colleagues that Dr. Venteicher continues to find the most inspiration.
“I'm constantly amazed by all the subspecialists I work with across departments and within my own. And I love working with our really hard working residents, advanced practice providers and our nursing staff.”
Dr. Venteicher says that he regularly sees and hears the benefits of this approach where they matter most– from the patients he and his colleagues treat together.