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Thinking Differently about Health Care

Chief neurosurgeon gets training for evolving roles

Oran Aaronson
Medical Director, Vanderbilt Spine Center; Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, VUMC; Neurosurgeon, Howell Allen Clinic and Saint Thomas Medical Partners

Vanderbilt MM Health Care 2013

Born in London, Oran Aaronson moved to Israel with his parents as a young child. He lived there long enough to serve a three-year stint in the Israeli Defense Forces after high school, then went back to London for college and medical school. “One byproduct of having lived in multiple countries is that I have become intellectually curious about different systems of health care delivery and seen the advantages and drawbacks of each system,” he says.

Oran brought that curiosity with him when he joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a neurosurgery resident in 1998. His medical education gave him the tools for his chosen specialty. But as his responsibilities grew — now he directs the residency program in neurosurgery while serving as chief of neurosurgery at the VA Hospital on the Vanderbilt campus — he recognized that his formal training had not prepared him for the broader role he now plays in health care delivery. “The organizational and managerial aspects of medicine require me to use skills that are much broader than the treatment of any one medical condition or patient,” he says.

One year later, Oran believes he has gained a whole new perspective on working within a large health care organization. “I’ve further developed the skills to be an effective leader,” he reflects. “I have acquired the skills to help solve complex business problems and make strategic organizational decisions. And I am now able to speak the same language as our managers and better influence key stakeholders.”

And one of the best aspects of an experience he calls “phenomenal” involves the diverse backgrounds of the students. “I have gained insight into their worlds,” Oran says, “and have probably learned as much from my interactions with them as from the didactic teaching.”