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About our STEM Role Model

Dr. Lee Selznick, MD is a Brain Surgeon at Virginia Brain and Spine Center. He diagnoses and operates on patients with problems involving the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves and helps them get back to their normal lives after suffering otherwise disabling neurological problems. We asked him a few questions about himself and his STEM career to get to know him and his work a bit better before his live event.

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Spending time with my children, playing baseball/golf, and swimming/skiing

Do you play any sports or do any athletic activities?
Yes, for fun – baseball, basketball, water and snow skiing.

What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?

What’s the song you listen to the most?
Currently, “Getting Better” by Bob Schneider.

How do you describe yourself?
A jack-of-all-trades (master of none).

Who do you look up to and admire?
My father who taught me to be happy and proud.

Highest degree attained    
Doctor of Medicine (MD)

Schools attended
Rutgers College, Washington University School of Medicine, Duke University (Residency)

Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college

What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m a Neurosurgeon!

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
A natural tendency towards laziness.

Virginia Brain and Spine Center

Official title

“Layman’s” title
Brain Surgeon

Years in this organization/position
8 years

What does your organization do?
We diagnose and operate on problems involving the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves.

What is your role in the organization?
Physician and Partner.

Describe your work environment
My time is split between the office where we see patients to diagnose problems of the nervous system and the hospital where we operate and fix problems of the nervous system.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
Brain power (knowledge and reasoning), Hand/eye coordination (knives, saws, drills to fix impaired nerves/brain)

Describe a typical day in your job
Meeting people – hearing their story, examining them, and reviewing imaging studies – to diagnose neurological problems; Fixing people – taking patients to the operating room and taking care of them afterwards.

Describe an atypical (but notable) day in your job
Standing in the OR for 6-8 hours straight to remove a large brain tumor.

How is the work you do important to society?
I help people get back to their normal lives after suffering otherwise disabling neurological problems.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
Helping patients with brain tumors, epilepsy, or tremors.

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
Bringing more technology to the operating room and expanding our capabilities.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Life and death decisions, literally.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
I have had patients die despite my best efforts, but I have also had patients live who I otherwise thought should have died.

What would a teenager find interesting about what you do?
Brains! Viewing and operating on the “seat of your soul.”

What are some of the perks of your job?
People are often impressed with what I do and it pays well too.

What are the downsides of your job?
Time, training, stress.

If asked to “sell” this career to someone, what would you say to convince them to pursue it?
Its more of a “calling” – you have to be engaged and motivated by the work and confident in your abilities or you will never be able to handle the time and stress required; however, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What’s something that most people don’t know about your job/work?
You have to be smart, but its not “rocket science” (which you have to be much smarter for).

What personal traits make you well suited for the work that you do?
Smart, motivated, confident and well-aware of my limitations (which could otherwise make for a dangerous surgeon).

What career-related awards or other forms of recognition have you received?
Best clinical outcomes report for my Epilepsy Program at Winchester Medical Center, 2014
Best job you’ve ever had and why
My current one – this is what I worked my whole life for!

Worst job you’ve ever had and why
Residency Training – the crazy long hours took away from my family and personal life.

Biggest career “break” or notable moment
Getting the only A in my college NeuroAnatomy course – I had two friends in the class who wanted to be Neurosurgeons and I previously never really considered it an option (and I’m the only one of the three who is now a neurosurgeon).

Proudest career accomplishment
Multiple lives saved (and still counting).

What were you like as a kid?
Athletic but small, smart but not brilliant, friendly but shy.

What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
Star Wars, Indiana Jones (all the movies)
The Hobbit (the books)
A Wrinkle in Time
Scoobie Doo

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
As a teenager I already suspected I wanted to be a doctor (a professional athlete was not likely although preferred).

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
It was a slow progression – I was premed in college, loved Neuroscience, then loved surgery in Medical School, then loved Neurosurgery which combined the two.

Who inspired you on this path?
My dad – he encouraged me to pursue any job that I wanted as long as I loved doing it and did my best at it.

What did you believe about this career before entering into it that proved to be different once you were in?
I thought it was going to be more about brain tumors but there are so many different things we treat and mostly in the spine.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
I may have been another kind of surgeon (plastic/reconstructive surgery is fascinating); I would have enjoyed engineering/building things, or writing/creating things.

Why did you agree to become a STEM Role Model?
Children are sometimes pigeon-holed down certain paths and it is important for them to know all the different career possibilities out there that they otherwise may never have considered.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Study hard and you have to be absolutely fascinated with the work.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
Other than tropical islands for vacation, I have not been a terribly exciting traveler.

What question should we have asked you but didn’t?
This was more extensive than any school or job interview I have ever had...

Additional Resources    
Virginia Brain & Spine Center
YouTube: “Neurosurgery with Lee Selznick, MD” 

How to Participate

May 12, 2016 at 1:00pm Eastern

To participate in the live event, return to this page just before the scheduled start time. You'll find a link in this box that will provide access to the live event page.

The live event page will consist of a live video player and a question submission form. Questions you send during the live event will be sent to our live event moderator, who will select as many as possible to pass along to the live event host and our featured guest.

We typically receive more live questions than we are able to respond to. To increase your chances of having a question selected, we encourage you to pre-submit your question before the event using the form below.

Pre-event question submission will end at 5pm Eastern the day before the event.