Voice Magazine / Stories / 2016 Spring / Brain Matters

Brain Matters

It was a pure adrenaline rush simply walking into the operating room. As he scrubbed in for the first time, all Kim Burchiel could think about was what he was soon to experience. 

Kim Burchiel Performing Surgery
(1) Dr. Burchiel and colleagues place Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) leads for Parkinson’s Disease, using an intraoperative CT scanner; (2) An MRI scan showing the position of Deep Brain Stimulation electrodes in the brain.

Dr. Kim Burchiel vividly remembers the moment he decided to be a surgeon.

It was a pure adrenaline rush simply walking into the operating room. As he scrubbed in for the first time, all he could think about was what he was soon to experience.

He had an idea of what to expect but he did not know how it would make him feel. His hands shook as he slipped on his gloves and fastened the operating gown around his waist.

It all became real as he walked over to the operating table and stood before his first patient.

“Surgeons will tell you that this is the pivotal moment that determines everything. You either love it or you hate it,” Dr. Burchiel said as he recalled his first surgical experience.

It was just before the start of his second year as a medical student at the University of California, San Diego, and he was looking at his first orthopedic trauma case. Seeing it was one thing. Placing his hands on the patient was a different experience altogether.

“I was on cloud nine for days after that. I know it sounds odd, but the feeling I got that day confirmed I wanted to be a surgeon.”

Dr. Burchiel has come a long way since his first operating experience. As the leading neurosurgeon at Oregon Health & Science University, he is the current John Raaf Professor in the OHSU Department of Neurological Surgery where he divides his time between the operating room and the classroom.

Specializing in the treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy and pain management, his practice is as influential as his research. With more than 300 peer-reviewed articles published under his name, his work is nationally recognized and respected.

In 2015, he was invited to be an honored guest lecturer at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and later that year was awarded the Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors granted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons for exemplary service in the field of neurosurgery.

But it is his commitment to education and community service that fuels his passion and it is one of the reasons he was drawn to serve on the University of La Verne Board of Trustees and the President’s Health Advisory Council.

“The University of La Verne is in a perfect position to be a leader regionally and nationally in serving the medical and educational needs of its community. With President Lieberman’s leadership, the University has hit an inflection point that is positioning itself to meet a great need. I want to be a part of that,” Dr. Burchiel said.

Since joining the board in 2012, Dr. Burchiel has played an influential role in the University’s development of several new healthcare initiatives, one of its top priorities. One initiative is the University’s leadership with the Convergence Group, a community of higher education and corporate leaders who are working together to produce programs that will pave the way for a more diversified medical workforce to serve the growing population within Inland Southern California.

“He brings unparalleled commitment to the University of La Verne, helping to move forward both our mission and healthcare initiatives,” President Devorah Lieberman said. “When he is on campus, he engages with our students and faculty, sharing his knowledge and wisdom in a way that promotes innovative ideas.”

Dr. Burchiel said the University of La Verne’s vision has resonated with him since day one, and he is looking forward to the future.

“I believe the salvation of civilization is through education,” he said. “Not all problems in the world would be remedied by education, but most of them can.”