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Focus on Paul Santiago, MD

Paul Santiago, MD, is an associate professor of neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery. His specialties include cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral spinal surgery, spinal tumors, and spinal cord tumors.

Dr. Santiago sees patients at two convenient locations:

The Neurosurgical Cervical Spine Institute and Spine Center in the Center for Advanced Medicine, 4921 Parkview Place, 6th floor, Suite B.

West County office at 1040 North Mason Road, Suite 211.

PLEASE CALL 314-362-3577 FOR AN APPOINTMENT

What happened in the course of schooling to influence you to choose your specialty?

Neurosurgery was my last rotation as a third year medical student at Yale. I was amazed at the enthusiasm and work ethic of the neurosurgery residents and the attending physicians. They might have been exhausted and a little beat down by the end of each shift, but they would bounce back the next day and start over again – they were remarkable.

The neurosurgical conditions they were treating were so engaging that the residents and attendings I was working with were willing to work hard for their patients. I wanted to be part of something like that –motivated people come together as a team.

What brought you to Washington University?

What brought me here was “Wash U. -- period”. It’s a great place.. Washington University not only has gifted and compassionate neurosurgeons, but is has the resources to make them effective. It is hard to find that exact combination. I work with some of the kindest people I know.

Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?

I enjoy interacting with so many different people on a daily basis. When a patient comes to see me, he or she doesn’t just get my opinion, but also the opinions of many other specialists. I work with excellent radiologists, anesthesiologists, physiatrists and nurse practitioners to plan the course of action for my patients. I like the fact that it is multidisciplinary – it is not just me.
I get a lot of satisfaction from working with patients with cancer -- trying to give them hope and the support they need. If I can’t give them hope, at least I can give them some relief, help make them comfortable and maximize the time they have.

What new developments in your field are you most excited about?

We are learning more and more how to match the right technology with the right patients to achieve the best outcomes.

Over the years, technology for treatment and diagnosis has become more reliable – we know what makes it work and we know what makes it fail. The most exciting development in spinal neurosurgery and neurosurgery is being able to select the appropriate treatments to give a specific group of patients the best possible outcome.

Where are you from?

I’m an East-coaster from Jersey City, New Jersey – living there until I left for college at age 17. I haven’t been back to live, but visit often. Most of my family lives in or around New York City.
My own family likes living in the Midwest. My wife and I enjoy raising our two children here. It’s perfect – we have everything we need now. I guess we’ll see what we are like when the kids go off to school and we are retiring. It might be a little different for us then, but for now it’s perfect.

Is there a particular award or achievement that is most gratifying?

I attended a small, alternative private middle school in the late 1970s. It was a grass roots school located in some extra rooms at the public library and funded by Ford Foundation grants. The woman who founded and ran the school has been one of my greatest mentors. She recently invited me back to be the commencement speaker at the school’s 35th graduation ceremony.

That was my greatest and most gratifying achievement, and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I got an incredible amount of satisfaction out of her validating my being successful. I didn’t realize until it happened, how important that was to me. It was a thrill to talk to the kids about what it was like to have been at the school 35 years ago and what their future has in store for them after graduation.

Today the school is not considered an alternative school. It’s an independent private school, but it still has the spirit and energy of its early days. I don’t think that spirit will ever die. It has graduates who live all over the globe. The woman who runs the school is very socially conscious, she taught me that the world needs people to stand up and say no - but you can say no without a fist. And that’s a lesson that a lot of people don’t learn.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My dad fancies himself a philosopher, and his advice was to always work hard, tell the truth and treasure your family and friends.

If you weren’t a doctor, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think I’d be in the restaurant industry. I’ve always loved cooking and I’m a frustrated amateur chef. But I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was six, so I can’t imagine doing anything else.