Issaquah Brothers Become Brain Surgeons for a Day

By Christina Corrales-Toy

August 28, 2012

Kunal Gupta (left) looks on as his brother Kanav uses a titanium drill on a plastic skull model. Dave Schinkel, a clinical specialist with the drill manufacturer, Medtronic, describes how the drill is handled during surgery. By Greg Farrar

Two Issaquah brothers were among those invited by the Swedish Neuroscience Institute to become brain surgeons for a day on Aug. 24.

The event, hosted by the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment, was held at Swedish’s Cherry Hill campus in Seattle.

The purpose of the event was to give participants a look into the work being done to cure brain cancer and raise awareness of one of the most malignant cancers in the world, which affects more than 22,000 people in the United States.

Kanav and Kunal Gupta had the chance to closely examine a human brain, experiment with surgical devices and learn about brain surgery from Dr. Greg Foltz, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.

Kanav, a 19-year-old student at the University of Washington, said the event gave him a chance to explore a different medical field.

“I’ve been interested in the medical field for a while and I just want to get an idea of what the specialties are in the field,” he said. “I’ve never really experienced surgery too much in depth, especially related to the brain, so I thought this was an excellent opportunity to get some awareness and exposure to that.”

Kunal, a 15-year-old Issaquah High School student, participated in the event with an eye toward exploring a potential future in medicine.

“I am interested in the medical field and I still don’t know what kind of doctor I want to be,” he said. “So something like this would help me choose what I want my profession to be.”

The day began with a presentation from Foltz, who showed the group a video of a brain surgery he performed just days before.

Next, participants, dressed in scrubs and gloves, had the opportunity to work with instruments like the ones Foltz used in his surgery.

The Gupta brothers eagerly tested every instrument. From using a drill to remove a bone flap from a plastic skull, to dissolving the inner part of an orange with a tool that does the same to tumors, the brothers appreciated working with the high-tech tools and learning the intricacies of brain surgery.

“Being able to see all the various equipment they had was great,” Kanav said. “The biotechnology that goes into making all these different tools and such is quite amazing.”

The best part of the hands-on workshop, the Gupta brothers said, was getting a close view of an actual human brain.

“I really liked looking at the brain,” Kunal said. “It was just a fascinating experience.”

After the hands-on skills session, the participants went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment and its research lab. The event ended with a question-and-answer session with a brain cancer survivor and Foltz.

In his presentation, Foltz said brain cancer is highly aggressive and incurable, with a survival rate of only one or two years. He added that, during surgery, he can effectively remove a brain tumor 85 percent of the time. So, one of the keys to curing the disease, he said, is to prevent reoccurrence of the tumor.

The goal of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment is to provide brain tumor patients with a multidisciplinary team of doctors whose entire focus is to treat both benign and malignant brain tumors.

“We set up this center with the idea that we were going to optimize each patient’s chances of survival,” Foltz said.

Almost 100 people entered for a chance to participate in the event. Due to space limitations, 25 people were randomly chosen to attend. Attendees ranged in age from 15 to 74.


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