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Spotlight: Neurosurgeon Cornelius Lam, MD, PhD, is both a caregiver and a teacher

University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Cornelius Lam, MD, helps train the next generation of neurosurgeons—and applies leading-edge research to his clinical care.
“My research gives me insight into my patients’ disorders and how to give them the best care. In return, they provide the inspiration—the insight—I need to design my research.”
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Neurosurgeon Cornelius Lam, MD, PhD, is both a care provider—and a teacher. 

Lam is equally passionate about both his roles; his surgical work allows him to help others, while Lam’s position as a professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neurosurgery and as Chief of Neurosurgery at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center gives him the opportunity to conduct medical research and train the next generation of doctors. Lam also sees patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center and University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

The relationship between the two positions is often mutually beneficial, Lam said.

“My research gives me insight into my patients’ disorders and how to give them the best care. In return, they provide the inspiration—the insight—I need to design my research,” Lam said.

We sat down with Lam to ask him a few questions about his work. Here’s what he had to say:

Describe your role within University of Minnesota Health.  

I am a University of Minnesota Health neurosurgeon and a professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neurosurgery. I serve patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center in a number of areas, including pediatric and functional neurosurgery. One of my focuses includes treatment-resistant neurological conditions, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. 

When working with my epilepsy patients, my goal is to help reduce their seizures. I believe that medical innovation and leading-edge care are important. For example, I implanted the first NeuroPace RNS® neuro-stimulation device in the upper Midwest in one of my epilepsy patients. It modulates his brain’s activity to reduce the number of seizures he experiences. In addition, I treat patients with peripheral nerve issues, including median nerve problems, which often translates to carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Why are you passionate about your profession? 

The ability to help people and to expand our knowledge about neurosurgery through research. I also love the opportunity to pass discoveries on to the next generation of neurosurgeons and to medical school students through our educational programs. We’re creating leaders in our field and helping to ensure that Minnesota will have good neurosurgical care in the future.

Learn more about our neurosurgery services at University of Minnesota Medical Center.

How does your work with patients strengthen you as a neurosurgeon? 

Partnering with each person in my care improves my ability to treat other patients. I learn as much from them as they might learn from me.

How does your research into conditions such as hydrocephalus affect your patient care? 

For me, it’s a reciprocal relationship. My research gives me insight into my patients’ disorders and how to give them the best care. In return, they provide the inspiration—the insight—I need to design my research. 

What do you respect about the University of Minnesota Health community? 

Everyone has the same goals: to strive for excellence in education, research and patient care. The M Health community also gives me many opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across medical disciplines.

What makes your work memorable? Are there any specific moments you often recall?

One of the more memorable aspects of my work is my almost 18-year partnership with MINCEP Epilepsy Care. This world-renowned, Level 4 epilepsy center has been in existence since 1964 and helps set national standards for epilepsy care. It’s a privilege to be associated with it. 

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