The newest member of the world class surgical team at Texas Back Institute is a native of Brooklyn, New York and is a first generation Ghanaian American. Dr. Akwasi Boah was introduced to the medical profession as a toddler.
“My father was a pediatrician and my mother was a nurse when I was born,” he said. “Later, my mother became an entrepreneur.”
He graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a degree in Interdisciplinary Health Services with a minor in Biology and was accepted by the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Clearly, this medical school was a long way from his home!
“I thought Atlanta was on another planet,” Dr. Boah laughed. “But I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life there. From there, I came back home for surgical training at New York University School of Medicine, and did a fellowship at Johns Hopkins in their Department of Neurosurgery.
“As it turned out, I had a family member who lived in Dallas and when I came down to visit, I took the opportunity to meet with Texas Back Institute and thought this organization was just fantastic. They have internationally renowned surgeons and among the ‘spine universe,’ TBI is very well known.”
Orthopedic Surgery vs. Neurosurgery
Dr. Boah is one of two neurosurgeons on the Texas Back Institute team, while the rest of the spine surgeons at TBI have backgrounds in Orthopedic surgery. He explained the difference.
“Aside from the types of well-known conditions we treat, there are other differences that are important,” he said. “As with any specialized profession, neurosurgery and orthopedics attract different types of personalities. Much of our overlap concerns the spine, but we also overlap with peripheral nerves and some of the tumors we treat.
“The fundamental difference is our respective approaches to surgical medicine,” Dr. Boah noted. “One metaphor comes to mind. When I was doing my surgical fellowship, this was a time when hurricane Sandy hit New York City and I spent a lot of time with the orthopedic surgeons at our institution. I noticed that these ortho surgeons seemed to be amused when we scrubbed in with them because we were wearing our operating loupes.
“The difference between the two disciplines hit me about a month later. I realized that a neurosurgeon is focused on a very small area and very anal retentive about even the smallest part of the process,” he smiled. “Often we are operating with the help of microscope in a field which is no larger than a silver dollar and we are extremely focused on the smallest details − including the loupes!
“We admire the orthopedic surgeons because they have a great understanding of the principles of bio-mechanics – the big picture,” he said. “The fusion of our respective talents and approaches greatly benefit the patients we take care of.
“I decided to focus on neurosurgery rather than the broader orthopedic surgery because I loved studying neuro-anatomy in medical school. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It was like seeing Michael Jordan dunk a basketball from the foul line – that kind of cool!”
“My early experience in the operating room was at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta,” he said. “I was one of several students watching the senior surgeons operate. There was one surgical room which was dedicated to the neurosurgery team from Emory University and two days each week a doctor named Sanjay Gupta, who is the chief medical correspondent for CNN, would come in to operate. I had no idea that this very well-known doctor was also a neurosurgeon, but one day he allowed me to observe his surgery.
“I expected this group to be extremely curt, heavy-handed, not welcoming and mean,” Dr. Boah laughed. “However, it was exactly the opposite. It also opened my eyes to many surgical procedures including the practice of putting MRI’s on the wall during surgery. They taught me so much and were very welcoming. Plus, many of the things I had learned in neuro-anatomy were on display for me to see. From those first experiences, I was hooked.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Boah or any of the brain and spine specialists at Texas Back Institute, just click here .