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day in the life

What It’s Really Like to be a Brain Surgeon

Standing meals, challenging surgeries and 12-plus hour shifts.

Dr. David Bonda, neurosurgery resident, puts on a face mask as he prepares for a day full of surgeries and patient visits. | Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a brain surgeon? We followed Dr. David Bonda, a Northwell Health neurosurgery resident, for a day to find out. What did we learn? For Dr. Bonda, it involves a lot of hard work, endless stamina, boundless curiosity, and a little love from Grandma and Grandpa.

Dr. Bonda had always been fascinated by the human brain. “I was split between pursuing a PhD in neuroscience and a career in medicine. But when I saw my first living, pulsating brain during a craniotomy in medical school, the decision was made.”

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


His shift starts early. Dr. Bonda begins his day reviewing patient cases with his team at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, NY.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda checks the motor functions of a patient after a recent surgery. “The hardest part of my job is breaking bad news to patients and their families,” he says. “We see a lot of devastating conditions in neurosurgery, and helping everyone understand what is happening is a huge part of the job.” 

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


He takes a few minutes to grab a quick breakfast in the hospital. Eager to get back to work, Dr. Bonda eats standing up —he has a long day ahead, packed with patient rounds and complex surgeries.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda reviews imaging before his first procedure of the day, a spinal surgery.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


It takes three to five minutes to scrub in the proper way to prevent an infection in the operating room. Dr. Bonda rigorously washes the side of each finger, between fingers, the back and front of hands and his arms.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Neurosurgery is very much about teamwork. Dr. Bonda operates alongside seasoned neurosurgeon Dr. David B. Weintraub and a dedicated team of nurses and anesthesiologists.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda and Dr. Weintraub quite literally put their heads together to achieve the best possible outcome. Dr. Weintraub specializes in deep brain stimulation surgery for movement disorders, as well as surgery for pain disorders associated with degenerative spine disease. 

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda ties a stitch during the close of the two-hour surgery.  “This field is intellectually and technically challenging, but incredibly rewarding,” he says. “I consider it a privilege to train in neurosurgery.”

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


After a busy morning, Dr. Bonda takes a short break to check emails and touch base with his girlfriend, Katie, a head and neck surgery resident at another hospital out of state. “We try very hard to make our long distance relationship work by keeping in touch as much as possible throughout the day and talking on the phone each night before going to sleep,” he explains. 

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda consults with a patient before another surgery.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


No matter how many surgeries he performs, Dr. Bonda’s passion for his craft never dwindles. “Neurosurgery is the most incredible field on the planet,” he says. “Each day, I have the opportunity to personally impact patients with life-altering diagnoses and guide them through their treatments.”

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda finally heads home after a 12-plus hour shift. “Residency is a blast. It can certainly be stressful and exhausting between the work hours, responsibilities, and material that need to be learned, but overall it's been a great experience,” he says.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


Dr. Bonda eats dinner at home, where he lives with his grandparents.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well


“My grandparents are just five minutes from the hospital, and I get to hang out with them every day, which I never got to do when I was growing up in Cleveland,” he explains. “It's a lot of fun living with them, and I know they appreciate having me around.”

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Published June 5th, 2018

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