Brooklyn neurosurgeon Erich Anderer combines brains and heart

When Dr. Erich G. Anderer was nine years old, he made his fatherbuy him a copy of the human anatomy textbook, Gray’s Anatomy of theHuman Body, so that he could pore over the engravings and sketchthem out for himself. Now, at 35, with over 12 years of medicalschool and training behind him, he has put that early fascinationto use as a neurosurgeon at Maimonides Medical Center.

I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid. I used todraw pictures of the human brain and I enjoyed opening things up,said Anderer recently between shifts. After my residency, I wantedto work at a big community hospital with a lot of resources andalso be able to keep my hand in academia. I realized thatMaimonides offers the best of both worlds.

Anderer joined the Maimonides staff last July after completinghis residency at New York University Medical Center, where he had afellowship in spine surgery within the departments of neurosurgeryand orthopedic surgery. Before that, he attended ColumbiaUniversity Medical School, where he worked with Brooklyn native andNobel Prize winner Richard Axel and discovered his interest inneuroscience and self-described surgical personality.

The intriguing thing about neuroscience, says Anderer, is thatthere is a potential for innovation that [may be] greater in myfield than others because its complexity has prevented healthprofessionals from fully understanding a lot about the way thebrain and spinal cord function.

Also, the breadth of diseases you can treat [is huge], headded, everything from delicate blood vessel surgeries andaneurysms all the way up to big tools and screws and rods. So itruns the gamut.

At Maimonides, he is able to indulge his curiosity and work withthe latest techniques and technology while utilizing his skillsin a supportive, collegial atmosphere filled with staff that servesa culturally diverse community such as that which exists insouthwest Brooklyn.

As one of three neurosurgeons on staff at Maimonides, Anderer isable to do fieldwork by visiting and networking with generalpractitioners, getting to know the people he serves on a personal,neighbor level.

South Brooklyn [has] very strong ties to the neighborhood. Youhave to rely on person-to-person contacts and that applies todoctors, too, he said. In Manhattan, it’s a little more lonely,even though there are more people.

Now that he has lived in Brooklyn for nearly nine years and hasa great job and colleagues doing what he loves, Anderer feels likehe can settle down with his fiancé and embrace his life andwork.

Nonetheless, to be a successful doctor, he said, You have to bea person who is okay with delayed gratification, to think in thelong term but act in the short term. Medicine in general andsurgery in particular are fields where you have to be able tolisten to people, create, plan quickly and implement, but not losesign of the big picture. It’s demanding.

For this reason, Anderer added, Maintaining good psychologicalhealth is important. You have to take care of yourself. For himthat means, trying to figure out the new hot restaurant, runningin marathons and playing guitar in a band. Those things keep mebalanced, he stressed.

Still, although the health field is increasingly complicated,Anderer maintains that students shouldn’t be discouraged.

In my opinion, it’s the greatest field there is. Don’t letthose other factors not dealing with medicine interfere with whatyou do, he said. People worry about the future climate and I tellthem it doesn’t matter. You do this because you love it.

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