Yale Medicine neurosurgeon Patrick Doherty, MD, says his first priority is to help patients relax. “Almost every patient who comes to me is stressed,” he says. “They’re concerned, they’re in pain, they know that there’s something wrong with them. My role is to take that stress and flip it around, either with humor or by explaining what is going on that’s causing their pain.” As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Doherty specializes in treating a range of conditions, including herniated discs, spine tumors, traumatic brain injuries, blood clots in the brain and brain trauma. He often uses models, MRI scans, and other images to help patients understand their conditions better and make informed decisions about their care.
Dr. Doherty’s passion for neurosurgery began in medical school, where he met a comatose patient with a subdural hematoma—a condition where broken blood vessels cause blood to pool between the brain and its outer covering. After surgeons removed the blood from the surface of the brain, the patient recovered and left the hospital a week later. Now chief of Yale Medicine neurosurgery at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Dr. Doherty continues to have similarly rewarding experiences, including a patient who came into the hospital unable to walk and now competes successfully in stair-climbing competitions.
While brain surgery is a serious matter, Dr. Doherty likes to make sure his patients get a good laugh pr two during their time with him. “A lot of what we deal with is not light, but there's always an opportunity to relate to the patient or their family in a slightly less than serious way, to help them appreciate that you're human, and this relationship is human,” he says.