What do you hope viewers will take away from your Netflix show?
I hope they see that surgery is work that requires an extreme amount of empathy. When caring for patients, we must provide them hope. The most effective surgeons are also artists. What separates the artist from the surgeon is often nothing more than compassion. The trust patients put in us is extraordinary, and we have an ability to forge a true connection with them. When that connection occurs, it's the most sacred bond that exists.
How does the life you led impact the type of surgeon you are today?
I grew up in poverty in Mexico, entered the U.S. as an undocumented migrant worker at 19 and became a brain surgeon at Mayo Clinic. My upbringing and education provided me with a firsthand account of being in need as well as access to the most extraordinary talent in the world. Because of this, I'm more than a surgeon. I am also a son, a father, a brother, a friend and an innovator. I have a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses — and how to make the most of them. My background is a key to my resilience, why I refuse to surrender.
What role does technology play in improving patient care?
I'm a huge proponent of the potential of technology in surgery. It gives us opportunities to fight disease and give the patient a chance to fight for their life. Without technology, we can't give patients hope. Once you take away hope, you take away everything.
What do you say to providers who say, 'It can't be done'?
Focus on the opportunities, not the challenges. The world is full of negativism. You turn on the TV and you hear how the world is ending. Scientists focus on what they cannot do. I choose to focus on what we can do. How amazing is the human brain? There are 100 billion neurons and trillions of synapses in our brains firing constantly — we have more synapses in our brain than there are stars in the galaxy!
What do you foresee as the future of surgery?
Genetic surgery and robotics will transform how and where surgery is performed. We are looking at ways I might operate on someone in Latin America or Africa from the U.S. through the use of remote robotics. Surgery will become less invasive, and robotic- and genetically modified technologies will play major roles. We see the opportunities ahead. Now, it's just a question of getting there. OSM