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Get to Know: Mahesh Karandikar, Neurosurgeon

Mahesh Karandikar, MD, joined UW Medicine in January 2020 as a clinical assistant professor of Neurological Surgery at UW Medical Center’s Neurological Surgery Clinic and UW Medicine’s Spine Center.

Karandikar completed his residency at UW Medicine, followed by an orthopedic spine fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. He jumped at the opportunity to return to UW Medicine, where he specializes in spine and spinal cord surgery.

Let’s Get to Know Him:

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?

My mother, who is now retired, was an anesthesiologist. As a kid, I loved accompanying her to the hospital, and I met a lot of surgeons who happily let me tag along and ask questions. In high school, I volunteered as a hospital orderly running various errands. I always felt that I wanted to be in medicine.

Was there a specific inspiration for pursuing your specialties?

Through my mom’s work, I had the most interaction with cardiovascular and orthopedic surgeons, but very little exposure to neurosurgery. It remained rather mysterious to me. When I was introduced to it in medical school, I couldn’t get enough. I’m fascinated by the brain because so much remains unknown and ready to be discovered. It’s like a black box of information — it forms the perfect marriage between research and clinical medicine.

What is your philosophy and approach to medicine?

In addition to my mom, I’ve been lucky to have a few mentors. All of them influenced me by their sense of character and the ways in which they interacted with people. How they approached the world in general positively impacted their approach to medicine.

I don’t believe in perceived hierarchies. Medicine is a collaborative effort and patients are part of the team. There is an art to medicine that you learn through practicing it. That’s one reason I like being at UW Medicine. It’s a collaborative atmosphere.

What was your path to joining UW Medicine?

I did my residency at UW Medicine from 2004 to 2011, then proceeded to complete multiple fellowships elsewhere, and subsequently spent around six years in private practice. I returned to work for UW Medicine in 2020.

After my practicing elsewhere, I realized how unique my experience at UW Medicine had been. I always wanted to return and was ecstatic when there was an open position. It’s an exciting place with an unbelievable amount of cooperation and a lack of toxic internal competition. The focus is always on patients. You can’t top UW Medicine in terms of patient care.

What is an average work week or day like for you?

My current focus is mostly on spine surgeries. I’m someone who loves to prepare, mull it over and paint a picture of the operation in my mind. I’ll start on the weekend reviewing and getting ready for the week’s cases.

What are your professional goals moving forward?

Number one is always to provide excellent patient care. Second, I want to give back to the next generation of residents. I take the role of being a good teacher very seriously. Third, I want to engage in meaningful research — not just for the sake of doing it, but something I’m passionate about.

An ongoing objective is that I try to learn five new techniques every year. Medicine and technology move quickly and I don’t want to be left behind.

What other passions shape your outlook?

I love being in nature — hiking, kayaking, exploring. Being in the Puget Sound area is a bonus of working at UW Medicine.

How did COVID-19 change, reinforce or influence your approach to medicine?

The way UW Medicine has handled the pandemic is frankly incredible. The communication and quick navigation has been amazing. The pandemic has been stressful, but it’s also brought out all the best aspects of UW Medicine.

Guest Writer: Deanna Duff

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