Dennis Dee Spencer, MD, is a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating epilepsy, seizure disorders associated with brain tumors, and pituitary tumors. Early in his career, Dr. Spencer pioneered a surgical technique for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy that has been adopted worldwide. In recent years, as the field’s understanding of epilepsy has deepened, treatment options have continued to evolve. Where it was once believed that epilepsy was a localized problem that affected just a part of the brain, Dr. Spencer explains that, “We now think of epilepsy as a disruption of normal, functional networks in the brain.”Surgery and medication remain important treatment options, but in recent years, electrical brain stimulation has become an effective treatment for some patients as well.
“Every month, we see patients whose lives have been given back to them,” Dr. Spencer says. He recalls a particular patient, a lawyer, who was experiencing frequent and intense seizures that were preventing her from pursuing her dream job as a judge. “We removed a lesion, and, within a month, she was a different person.”
Dr. Spencer is chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine and directs the epilepsy and pituitary tumor programs within Yale Medicine. He manages to do all of this while also producing a prodigious amount of research. His research focus is on seizures and brain tumors, including the role of glutamate, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter. Dr. Spencer is the Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery at the medical school.