September 23, 2022 by John Fernandez
He Drives Neurosurgical Advances and Race Cars — Meet the Energetic and Goal-Driven Chief at Baptist Health Miami Neuroscience Institute
He is a world-renown neurosurgeon with an expertise in the field of meningioma research and gamma knife radiosurgery. And, by the way, he drives race cars and owns a wine label. Meet Michael McDermott, M.D., who joined Miami Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health, as chief medical executive in March 2020.
“What are the qualities I think have helped me in my career? I’m energetic, goal-driven, fastidious, curious,” he says.
(Meet the Chief: Hear from Michael McDermott, M.D., chief medical executive at Miami Neuroscience Institute, as he elaborates on his pioneering work in neurosurgery and his surprising hobbies. Video by Dylan Kyle.)
Dr. McDermott drives fast cars as a break from his hectic schedule of patient consults, surgeries and other medical duties. But he also has found time to maneuver advances in neurosurgical techniques and pioneer surgical management of meningiomas, the most commonly diagnosed primary brain tumors in adults — the vast majority of which are non-cancerous. But these tumors can grow slowly and, if left undiscovered, can be severely disabling and life-threatening depending on their location.
He has conducted leading research generating more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and comes from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as second in the nation in neurology and neurosurgery.
“I was attracted to the nervous system in medical school,” he recalls. “In my first elective in neurosurgery, they told me to find the chief resident, and 20 minutes later I was helping him with an acute subdural hematoma (when blood pools between the brain and its outermost covering) in the O.R. So, I thought, okay, this stuff is really cool.”
The treatment of patients in neuroscience, as in other fields, evolves with the help of multidisciplinary teams sharing their expertise – and finding the right solution.
“The clinicians know what the problem is — they just don’t know what the solution is,” he explains. “So, once you get people together in a room, there’s just something that happens where you can create a spark that other people start thinking about it in a different way than you have. And that’s how progress happens.”
When Dr. McDermott is performing neurosurgery, he may be listening to soothing music – nothing too loud or raucous.
“I listen to what used to be called lounge music back in the day. So, an instrumental with some vocals, but quiet. I don’t listen to AC/DC, or anything like that. If you’re taking a tumor out of somebody’s brainstem after they’ve had open radiosurgery twice — and now you’re going back again — it helps to calm you a bit. So, I think it’s useful.”
In sharp contrast, he enjoys revving up his Formula Ford on the track as a welcome break from the intensity of his medical accomplishments. It’s part of an attempt to “try and balance everything,” as he puts it.
“In ’97, I took techniques of racing. I bought a car. When I’m driving the car, I’m not thinking about … my responsibilities or anything. So, it was a total break, and it was fun.”
And then he can relax with a glass of his own wine. “I have my own wine label, Neurosurgery Sellars, with an S. Depending on the grape varietal, I name it based on a neuro-anatomy part.”
Dr. McDermott is married to Coralee, who he met when he was a neurosurgery resident and she was a neurosurgery nurse. They have two sons.
“Do I have a motto that I live by? My motto is treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. That’s kind of my thing.”