Nitesh V Patel, MD is a Neurosurgical resident in the Department of Neurosurgery at Rutgers University. On November 4th, 2018 he’ll be running in the TCS New York City Marathon to benefit the National Brain Tumor Society, as one of the first participants in the new NBTS Gray Nation Endurance program. (See more on the program, here and below).
“As a neurosurgeon, I often find surgery not the challenge but rather simply a small piece of the puzzle. It’s the conversations before surgery, the decisions after surgery, and the patient’s perspective on their own prognosis that define my job…When I run…I get the chance to breathe and think about those office conversations, the emotional roller coaster that patients often experience, and my own hand motions in the operating room. Running lets me mentally refine my approach. It makes be a better physician and surgeon for my patients. So, when I decided to run the TCS Marathon, I wanted to do it for a cause that defines my purpose. The NBTS’ mission is directly reflective of that.” – Nitesh Patel
When I was a teenager, I lost my father to a severe stroke that he suffered as a complication after a routine surgery. I was 15; my brother was 19; my mother was 45.
Following the stroke, and prior to his death, my family was introduced to a neurosurgeon from Newark, New Jersey, Dr. Michael Schulder. Although there was little Dr. Schulder could do for my father medically at that point, the support and empathy he provided allowed us to remain standing on two feet.
But what I didn’t realize at the time, was that it was more than just that. A fire was lit and it led me to where I am today.
Today, I’m a senior neurosurgical resident at the same Newark, NJ, hospital in which my father passed away. I have the honor and privilege to treat neurosurgical patients. Over time, I’ve developed a particular interest in neurosurgical oncology. I feel that brain tumors are essentially puzzles inside of an even bigger puzzle. We barely have a grip on understanding how our brains work; throw in unregulated cell growth (the tumors), and the problem becomes exponentially greater.
I used to think that my job was difficult; long hours every week, days without sleep, and barely time to eat or use the restroom. Over time, I’ve come to realize that my patients and their families actually have a much harder job. The journey from diagnosis to recovery, or sometimes death, is more taxing than anything else.
I took up running early on in my residency training in an effort to help me reflect. The long, quiet runs, and hearing my own footsteps is almost therapeutic, allowing me to channel my inner thoughts. I feel it makes me a better care provider for my patients. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to take this self-therapy and turn it into something I can use as a tool to help patients beyond just those I see in my office and operating room.
National Brain Tumor Society’s (NBTS) mission and goals are in line with this philosophy. When I spoke to NBTS staff, they were eager to work with me to help accomplish my goals – to run for my patients, raise funds for research, and simply show patients that I will be with them throughout their own marathon of treatment and recovery. And I’m reaching out to my whole personal and professional networks for help.
This will be my first marathon and honestly, I’m full of excitement and anxiety.
Training has made me refine my own skills of persistence, dedication, and self-reflection. This is mental fitness as much as physical fitness, and my ability to care for my patients depends on that more than anything.
I’m fortunate to have the opportunities that my career provides. There’s nothing more rewarding than being part of a pillar of support for patients and families.
In the future, I hope to continue on my path toward an academic oncologic neurosurgeon, allowing me to teach students and trainees. Paying it forward is a concept that was embedded in my character; I want to make it the core my career. I will continue running and will take on more long-distance events. I encourage all those involved in neurosurgery to take charge – if we stand at the frontlines together, no obstacle will stand a chance.
Endurance challenges like Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, IronMan, and various half, full marathons and ultramarathons are a great way to have fun, challenge yourself, and give back to a cause you care about, all at the same time. As such, National Brain Tumor Society has launched our Gray Nation Endurance program to partner with individuals looking to raise money through participating in an endurance event. Check out the new website, here and its fundraising page, here. If you have questions about getting involved in our Gray Nation Endurance program, contact Lauren Gainor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 237-1758.