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Spotlight: Ramachandra Tummala, MD, believes in the “human element” of healthcare

“Improving technology allows us to develop new treatments, but that only takes you so far. The commitment and skill of our care providers matters more.”
When it comes to treating patients, Vascular Neurosurgeon Ramachandra Tummala, MD, believes the commitment and skill of care providers matters most.

Nothing is more important in healthcare than the “human element,” according to Vascular Neurosurgeon Ramachandra Tummala, MD.

Tummala, who sees patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center and is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, helps advance medical research and train new physicians in the field. But when it comes to treating patients, he believes the commitment and skill of care providers matters most.

We asked Tummala to tell us more about the complexities of vascular neurosurgery, his passion for his profession and his respect for University of Minnesota Health. Scroll down to see more.

Describe your role within M Health. What interests do you bring to patient care?

My three roles are to deliver high quality clinical care, participate in research to advance our fields, and educate future neurosurgeons. My areas of focus are vascular neurosurgery—which includes endovascular treatments—and skull base surgery to manage conditions that affect the base of the head, such as acoustic neuromas and pituitary tumors. 

What is a vascular neurosurgeon? How does vascular neurosurgery differ from neurosurgery?

A vascular neurosurgeon manages diseases that involve the blood vessels of the brain. Some of the conditions we treat include brain aneurysms, congenital malformations of brain blood vessels, narrowing of vessels in the brain or the neck, and strokes. A vascular neurosurgeon is someone who operates in the head and repairs a blood vessel, clips or pinches off an aneurysm, removes an abnormal collection of blood vessels that poses a risk for bleeding or seizures, reopens a narrowed or blocked blood vessel, or reroutes blood flow to an area of the brain that’s not getting enough. On the endovascular side, we use catheters to repair aneurysms from the inside with coiling, stents or by reopening a blocked blood vessel by removing the clot. 

How does your work with patients help people with stroke or risk of stroke?

When we treat an aneurysm or reopen a blood vessel, our goal is to reduce the risk of that aneurysm or blood vessel causing hemorrhage or stroke in the future. We hope to prevent something bad from happening. Of course, we’re putting the patient through some risk in the hope that the good we can achieve outweighs the risk of the procedure. 

Learn more about our neurosurgical care.

Why are you passionate about your profession? How do you see it evolving in the future at University of Minnesota Health?

The biggest attraction to me is the preventive nature of vascular neurosurgery. We’re trying to take something that’s potentially dangerous, such as an aneurysm or narrowed blood vessel, and reduce the risk of something bad happening. At University of Minnesota Health, we have a longstanding culture that takes into account the entire person and not just a single, specific condition. Improving technology allows us to develop new treatments, but that only takes you so far. The commitment and skill of our care providers matters more. There is a human element to all of this. It’s important to have skilled care providers performing a procedure, or handling post-operative care, for example. As a result, you want to make sure you have good in-hospital infrastructure with your nurses, therapists and rehab facilities. At M Health, we have all this infrastructure and are continually looking for ways to expand it and make it better.

What do you respect about the M Health community?

We are given an opportunity to focus on excellence in treating a specific condition or individual patient, as well as on departmental and individual excellence. There is a lot of latitude to professionally improve. From a personal perspective, I have a handful of patients every year who have no financial resources or insurance and are facing frightening, daunting conditions that require treatment. I have never been denied the ability to take care of these people. If someone has a condition that I believe we’re in the best position to take care of, the institution has accommodated those patients and tried to reduce the delays as much as possible.