BUFFALO, NY - In Erin E. Biro’s line of work, there is no margin for error. A slip of just a few millimeters may mean the difference between a positive prognosis, paralysis or worse.
“If I’m not a little nervous going in, then I’m not respecting the responsibility I’ve been given,” says the neurosurgeon on staff at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, LA.
Biro practices medicine’s most difficult art. She is tasked daily with performing the most precise of operations on the brain, the organ that controls virtually everything about us.
“There is something so completely elegant about the brain,” she adds. “It’s a privilege to be able to operate on this organ that makes people who they are.”
A pre-med major at Canisius, Biro entered SUNY Upstate Medical School undecided about whether to pursue surgery or medicine. Everything changed during her first operating room experience.
“I observed a craniotomy,” Biro recalls. “The experience piqued my interest in neurosurgery and really started me on my path.”
It’s a path few female physicians travel.
According to the American Board of Neurological Surgery, women represent just 5 percent of the nation’s 3,689 practicing, board-certified neurosurgeons. Biro is an ideal case study.
Upon joining Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, LA, five years ago, she became the first, and remains the only, female neurosurgeon on staff. She is also the sole female neurosurgeon practicing in the greater New Orleans area.
“I actually think many of my patients connect with me because I am a younger neurosurgeon and female,” she explains. “They connect these attributes with a degree of empathy that may not be as evident among some of my male counterparts.”
Biro’s 10-hour days often fluctuate between clinical practice and surgical procedures, of which she performs nearly 200 a year. Any spare time is spent with husband, C.J. Bui, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Ochsner, and their two young children, Ellie and Christian.
The family travels and spends approximately one month each year in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where Biro and Bui volunteer at Children’s Hospital #2. The government hospital serves all of South Vietnam with a population of 45 million.
“They just don’t have enough access to quality and affordable healthcare,” Biro explains.
And so theirs is a mission trip that involves operations, donations and education.
Aside from treating pediatric patients, Biro and Bui teach the latest operating methods and diagnostic procedures to their Vietnamese counterparts. With the assistance of Ochsner Medical Center, the couple donates contemporary surgical tools and supplies to the hospital.
“Our goal is to help position the medical professionals so they may provide both better treatment and better care for their patients,” she says.
It’s a philosophy around which Biro has built her successful practice – delivering compassionate, individualized care and always treating the person behind the patient.
“I spend as much time with my patients as they need so they feel truly comfortable with their diagnosis and their care plan,” she says. “I want them to know their time and care are important to me.”