On Oct. 17 the public is invited to join Dixie Regional Medical Center in officially celebrating the opening of the Southern Utah Neurosciences Institute, an alliance of services ranging from pain management to neurosurgery.
Tours of the institute, the biplane suite (where highly specialized imaging procedures occur), and a light lunch will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The institute is located on level four of the Dixie Regional Health & Performance Center, 652 S. Medical Center Drive.
Attendees may also tour the “Mega Brain” from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the east lawn of the Health & Performance Center. Mega Brain is the world’s only portable, inflatable, walk-through brain exhibit. It is approximately 18 feet long by 14 feet wide by 12 feet high. Visitors enter the exhibit through the frontal lobe, which is responsible for personality and higher cognitive functions, and exit through the cerebellum, the portion of the brain that controls balance and coordination.
While many of the services offered under the umbrella of the institute have a long history at Dixie Regional – sleep medicine, acute rehabilitation, neurology – other, more recent additions mean the institute now offers patients a truly comprehensive array of answers, all in one location. Key specialists in these programs include Dr. Diane Vroenen, Dr. Cindy Duke, Dr. Jon Obray, Dr. Rick Obray, Dr. Derek Frieden, Dr. Lucy De Saibro, Dr. Barry Fleischer, Dr. Kirk Watkins, and Dr. Rusty Moore.
One of the most recent service additions is neurosurgery. Neurosurgeons Dr. Chad Cole and Dr. Benjamin Fox have joined veteran orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Michael Major in this program. The addition of neurosurgery represents a huge step forward for the entire region, and fills a critical requirement as Dixie Regional continues to pursue level II trauma center designation.
Dr. Chad Cole
Dr. Chad Cole began practicing in St. George in 2012, and was the first neurosurgeon based in southern Utah. A graduate of University of Utah Medical School, Dr. Cole performs advanced surgical procedures for problems affecting the spine, neck, and head, including head injury, brain tumors, strokes, aneurysms, intracranial hemorrhages, and complex spinal conditions.
The hospital recently added an O-arm imaging device that Dr. Cole uses when performing complex surgeries, especially deformities of the spine. “It allows us to confirm that screws and rods are in the right location,” he explained. “It correlates our instruments in real time with a picture of the structures of the spine, and makes surgery much simpler and safer even in the most complex cases.”
Dr. Benjamin Fox
Dr. Fox is both a neurosurgeon and an interventional neuroradiologist, so he is specifically trained in procedures to treat stroke patients who either do not respond to “clot-busting” medications, or who arrive at the hospital more than three hours after a stroke and therefore do not qualify for current therapies.
“There are very few doctors around the country who are trained to do what Dr. Fox does,” said Mitch Cloward, the hospital operations officer with accountability for neurosciences. “We are fortunate to have someone of his educational background and training here at Dixie Regional. His capabilities bring a real benefit to our community, and to our larger region.”
Dr. Fox has spent the past two years completing an interventional neuroradiology fellowship in Tennessee. “There is a very high incidence of stroke in the South, so I performed these procedures on regular basis,” he explained. Dr. Fox completed medical school and residency at Baylor in Houston.
Dr. Michael Major
A native of southern Utah, Dr. Major has 30 years of experience in spinal surgery, with more than 5,000 surgeries under his belt. Orthopedic spine surgeons specialize in dealing with fractures, degenerative arthritis, scoliosis and deformities, sciatica, discectomy, decompression, spinal fusion, and some tumors.
“In many areas of the country, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons compete for the same patients, and it can be hard to get them to cooperate with each other,” said Dr. Major.
Not so in southern Utah. Dr. Major has welcomed the arrivals of Dr. Cole and Dr. Fox. “Between us, we should be able to offer treatments for almost all spinal problems,” said Dr. Major. “We each bring a different skillset to the table, and we are better together than we otherwise would be alone.”
The ideal of providing an integrated neuroscience program, not just with surgery, but also with pain management, neurology, and all of the different components, “can be a hard model to follow,” said Dr. Major. “Integrated programs are very rare, but our hospital and physicians are committed to working together in a collegial way. We’re cooperative, not competitive.”
“The public needs to be empowered in knowing that there are options and answers right here in southern Utah,” said Dr. Fox.