Q&A with Lindsey Ross, Brain Surgeon in the Making
When Lindsey Ross arrives at Cedars-Sinai in the early-morning darkness and doesn’t leave until close to midnight, she considers herself lucky: What once seemed like a faraway goal—becoming a doctor—is now her reality as a second-year neurosurgical resident.
Four years ago, when she was a medical student at UCLA, Lindsey won a coveted position in the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience. The program, supported by the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery, is an extraordinary research opportunity available to undergraduate, graduate, and medical students with an interest in neuroscience. Lindsey worked with Julia Y. Ljubimova, MD, PhD, director of the Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine Laboratory in the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.
While she was in the Washington Scholars program, a tragic event solidified her career path. Her good friend, a top college athlete, was a pedestrian struck by a drunk driver. He suffered from brain trauma and fractures to his neck, as well as other serious injuries. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai, where he lay in a coma for more than two weeks.
Q: How did your friend’s accident affect you?
A: At that point in medical school, I was exposed to nothing more than classroom instruction. I had very little real patient contact. This was the first time I had seen somebody in a coma, and, while it was difficult, I was fascinated by everything I was learning. That experience truly inspired me, and I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. And when I saw him wake up after two weeks, open his eyes, breathe on his own, and move to the rehab unit, I was probably forever changed. Physically, he’s not exactly like he was before, but he’s still the same vibrant person I knew.
Q: Have your career objectives changed over the past four years?
A: Yes, very much so. My clinical training has shifted my gears toward a focus on patient care. I’m a very upbeat and positive person, and even when working with people who are the sickest in the hospital, with the most devastating diseases, I can find something positive. I think that helps make me an empathetic and relatable physician.
Q: What has been the most surprising part about becoming a doctor?
A: I knew this profession would be mentally difficult, and I knew it would be physically difficult, but I probably didn’t fully understand how emotionally difficult it is. Every day, we are learning to have difficult conversations and help families and patients with challenging decisions. This is a role I take very seriously.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of neuroscience and neurosurgery?
A: I think we will start bridging the gap between individual nuances in personality and cognition, with fields such as functional neurosurgery, and as we do, I hope the connections between humanity and the science of the brain will become clearer. It’s a very exciting field and I’m curious to see where we’ll be in just five years.