“I like seeing a problem and being able to fix it.”
That’s how Dr. Simone Betchen sums up her attraction to surgery. It’s an interest she’s had since she was a teenager, when she volunteered in a general surgeon’s office and had the opportunity to observe her first operation: a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). “I can remember it was appealing because I could see the anatomy I’d been learning about in school, but it was in real life, it was three dimensional,” she says. “That’s when I realized that I love surgery.”
In 1990, Betchen used the TYLENOL® Future Care Scholarship to help her attend the University of Pennsylvania, where she continued to explore her interest in surgery by volunteering in the operating room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Later, in medical school at Johns Hopkins University, she saw brain surgery for the first time. “I just remember when they took the skull off, and opened the dura, which is the covering of the brain, I could see the brain pulsating with the heartbeats,” she says. “And I just knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Today Betchen practices neurosurgery at Maimonides Medical Center, New York Methodist Hospital, and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. She admits to being surprised by the level of business acumen required by her job, as she deals with issues not taught in medical school -- such as building a practice, negotiating a contract, and managing staff.
Ultimately, though, Betchen is inspired by her successes in the operating room. “When someone is dying before your eyes and needs emergency surgery and then they walk out of the hospital,” she says, “or when someone comes to your office crying from pain, then walks in the after surgery smiling, that is extremely rewarding.”