Coming Full Circle – Dinner with the Surgeons

Coming Full Circle – A series of 4 Blog Posts describing our experiences visiting the Norman Parathyroid Center  Link to Blog Post #1 Coming Full Circle – A Visit To NPC’s Clinic at Wesley Chapel of the series.

This is our second post of the series….

We were fortunate to get to know the surgeons from the Norman Parathyroid Center on a more personal level over dinner at the packed and trendy Eddie V’s. Not to be outdone by the live music, the menu offers a “lilting mix of jazzy numbers and classic tastes” as their website claims. While we could easily allow this post to dissolve into a tantalizing restaurant review, we won’t let that happen! Instead, check the place out through the link provided if you are planning a visit to Tampa and want an excellent dining experience.

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Left to Right – Dr. Kevin Pollack, Dr. Jim Norman, Joyce Arnon, Dr. Doug Politz, Sophie Freedman, Dr. Deva Boone, Dr. Jose Lopez and Barbara Creamer

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As surgeons start their days well before the sun rises, it was a welcome surprise to have five of the seven in attendance at dinner given their busy schedules and long work days, knowing they had to be back at it bright and early the very next day. Over a delicious meal, we learned that together, Dr. Norman and his team currently perform about 3,400 surgeries per year (average 68 per week). Here’s some things we’ve learned about each of the seven surgeons:

Dr. Jim Norman is the founder of the Norman Parathyroid Center. “Jim”, which he prefers being called, is one of world’s foremost experts on parathyroid disease and is recognized as the inventor of minimally invasive parathyroid surgery in the mid 1990s, and is credited with dramatically changing the way parathyroid surgery is performed. Dr. Norman is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and also a Fellow of the American College of Endocrinology (FACE). Still, given all his credentials, as well as what he has created and accomplished, he never fails to mention that at NPC, it is truly a team effort.  Jim is always quick to praise his fellow surgeons. When asked, Jim shared with us that the favorite part of his job is meeting patients face-to-face and changing lives.

Dr. Doug Politz, is board certified in General Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), and is also a Fellow of the American College of Endocrinology (FACE), the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, among other medical societies. Dr. Politz was trained in mini-parathyroid surgery under Dr. Norman in the late 1990’s and then practiced in Texas from 2000 until 2004 where he introduced MIRP mini-parathyroid surgery to the State of Texas, building an extensive referral network which launched him into becoming the number one parathyroid surgeon in Texas. Dr. Politz then re-joined the Norman Parathyroid Center. Aside from Jim, Doug has performed far more parathyroid operations than any other surgeon worldwide (over 13,000 + ). Doug hopes to make a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area in the near future with his family. As he is a fan of good wine, we were able to enthusiastically suggest some of our favorite places to visit in the heart of the Napa Valley and Sonoma wine regions north of San Francisco.

 Dr. Jose Lopez was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Puerto Rico. He attended medical school at the University of Puerto Rico where he finished not only at the top of his class but was recognized as being in the top 10% of all medical students. Dr. Lopez spent 5 years training at USF under Drs. Norman and Politz. He then completed a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery. Interestingly enough, Dr. Lopez’s own mother was diagnosed with pHPT and had her surgery performed at NPC. This is a good reminder that we all need to be vigilant about checking our calcium values and informing our family members to do the same! Given Jose is fluent in Spanish he has agreed to do a podcast for us in Spanish really soon to help us educate a larger audience – stay tuned for more on this!

Dr. Deva Boone obtained her medical degree from Cornell University and then completed general surgery residency at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. While there she received several awards for research, and during her final year received the highest award for outstanding contributions to surgical education and research. Deva currently oversees research projects at NPC and earlier that day we met Emily, a research assistant, who is collecting data on past use of lithium in patients. After her residency, she received additional training in Chicago for thyroid and parathyroid tumors before joining NPC in August 2014.

Deva  shared, “after seeing how surgery was being performed at the center,  in all good conscience, I could not conceive of doing the surgery the way I had been taught as I had now seen there was a much better way”.  Here’s an excerpt from a blog she wrote on this topic entitled, Dr Deva Boone: Achieving Excellence in Parathyroid Surgery in which she explains her decision to join NPC:

Jim and Doug weren’t merely doing the operation a little better; they were doing a different operation, a vastly superior one. As unbelievable as it may have seemed before, it was easy to see how they could cure more patients than anyone else, and with a faster operation. After seeing how they did it, and listening to Dr. Norman walk me through his approach and thought processes during his operations, I knew I could never again perform the operation the way I had been doing it–the way it was taught to me and the way that all other surgeons in the world are doing this operation.

Before our main courses arrive, Deva excuses herself to return a call from a patient who had just had surgery that day. All patients are given a list of all the surgeon’s personal cell phone numbers should any questions arise after leaving the hospital and in the ensuing weeks.  All the surgeons who performed surgeries earlier that day were planning to call their patients that evening as well, to see how they were doing.

We are pleased that Deva will again be our parathyroid expert and guest speaker at our upcoming 2nd annual Parathyroid Peeps Retreat at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, November 3-6 2016. If you attend Miraval, in addition to attending sessions and signing up for one-on-one doc chats, you can join her for early morning hikes to watch the sun rise in the desert sky! When Deva is not working, she pursues her other passions which include tending chickens, raising and releasing butterflies and birdwatching. 

Dr. Kevin Parrack came from the faculty at Columbia University. He trained in surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital and then completed fellowship training in Endocrine (thyroid/parathyroid surgery) at the Cleveland Clinic with Dr. Jamie Mitchell serving as a mentor. It was a delight getting to know Kevin, as we hadn’t previously had the opportunity to work with him on any projects. We talked about the possibility of doing a podcast with him in the near future and he was more than happy to oblige. So we can all look forward to learning from Dr. Parrack really soon. From our conversations with Kevin, we can attest that he brings a fantastic intellect and wonderful bedside manner along with his great operative skills to NPC.

Unfortunately we were not able to meet Dr. Jamie Mitchell as he was on vacation. We heard that Dr. Mitchell has a national reputation as an expert in endocrine surgery and is one of the most experienced parathyroid surgeons in the world. He was the senior parathyroid surgeon at Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) for 6 years (2009-2015) when he left there to join the team in Tampa. Nor were we able to meet Dr. Daniel Ruan, who has just recently joined NPC’s surgical team.  He is coming from Harvard University where he was the Director of Endocrine Surgery. He went to medical school at Duke University and did surgical residency at Harvard. He then completed an endocrine fellowship at UCSF before returning to perform parathyroid, thyroid and adrenal surgery at Harvard in 2010.

After meeting all the surgeons we were in awe that patients not only benefit from their individual levels of expertise, but that each patient benefits from their collective experience during intake and on the day of surgery.  We saw also that their dedication to the mission of raising awareness of the disease and to curing each patient is truly remarkable.

Link to Blog Post 3 of 4:    Coming Full Circle – Meet-ups Expand! 

Link to Blog Post 4 off 4: Coming Full Circle – Learning from Experts

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