Dr. Daniel Yoshor excited by new challenge at Penn Medicine

Alan Condon -   Print  |
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Daniel Yoshor, MD, was recently appointed chair of the department of neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Dr. Yoshor, current professor and chair of the department of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, will assume the position July 1.

Here, Dr. Yoshor discusses why he decided to join Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine, his stretch goals in his new position and the next big trend in spine care.

Note: Responses are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What attracted you most to this role at Penn Medicine? What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

Dr. Daniel Yoshor: I believe Penn Medicine is the ideal environment for the rapidly evolving future of academic neurosurgery and academic medicine in general. Organizational structures that worked very well in the past, such as medical schools working in collaboration with independent hospitals, or elite hospitals that function as independent units and not part of a larger health system, are no longer ideal for today's highly interconnected world. The combination of an outstanding medical school, a robust health system and a thriving physician practice group as a single integrated entity makes Penn Medicine unique. 

Because of this structure, Penn Medicine is strategically positioned to lead in research and innovation, and in the delivery of quality healthcare to a large population. The potential synergies are readily apparent and exciting. With my dual roles as chair of the department of neurosurgery and vice president of the health system, I will have a chance to be deeply involved in this exciting future.

Q: What are your stretch goals in your future role as chair of the department of neurosurgery at Penn Medicine?

DY: The neurosurgery department is a very strong one and has prospered under the leadership of Sean Grady, MD, over the past two decades. If I had to pinpoint a particular stretch goal, it is to produce research innovations that are more than just incremental, but also rapidly and directly advance patient care in a palpable way. That may seem like a reach when one considers, for example, that years of sophisticated research on glioblastoma multiforme have sadly produced relatively little benefit for patients who suffer from this terrible disease. 

However, Penn Medicine is an environment where big impactful advances can and do happen, such as Dr. Carl June's pioneering work on CAR-T therapy — which the department is actively harnessing to design and test new glioblastoma therapies under the leadership of Don O'Rourke, MD. Our department will aim to make advances on that level, in brain tumors and in other areas of need.

Q: What achievements are you most proud of during your time at Baylor?

DY: Baylor is a wonderful institution, and I am proud to have spent nearly my entire career there. I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, Ray Sawaya, MD, and to build on the foundation he created. I'm most proud of the outstanding faculty and staff I have worked with during my time as chair of the Baylor department of neurosurgery. I personally recruited and/or mentored nearly everyone who is currently in the department, and they never cease to impress me with their hard work and excellence. 

We developed a culture that has allowed these great people to thrive. In the five years that I have been department chair, they have elevated our research to No. 3 in the nation in NIH funding, and led the ascent of Baylor St. Luke's from being unranked in neurology/neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report to ranking No. 18 in the nation — the highest ranking of any hospital in Houston. I am confident the department will continue to rise in all missions after I move to Penn Medicine, and I expect at least seven of the current faculty members will be chairs of neurosurgery departments in the future, beginning with Peter Kan, MD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Q: What do you see as the next big trend in spine?

DY: For spine, the next big trend is the development of integrated, multidisciplinary spine centers that leverage the combined strengths of neurosurgery, orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, anesthesiology, radiology and neurology. At Baylor, a spine center is currently in formation under the leadership of neurosurgical spine specialist Alex Ropper, MD. The Penn Spine Program already provides high-quality, integrated care across the Penn Medicine network, and the Penn Spine Center at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is already up and running under the leadership of Bill Welch, MD. 

At Penn Medicine, spine specialists from neurosurgery and orthopedics and other key departments work together across the network and in a specially designed clinic space at Pennsylvania Hospital to provide optimal care for spine patients without any artificial boundaries or barriers. We hope to leverage this model to develop and test innovations in spine care, as well as extend the best elements of the model across the entire health system.

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