Nicholas Wetjen, MD

Nicholas Wetjen, MD00MD

What is your hometown?

Dubuque, IA

What is your official title?

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics
Senior Associate Consultant at Mayo Clinic
Senior Associate Consultant, Pediatric Neurosurgeon
Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and Pediatrics

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I have been interested in science—animals and wildlife, etc.—for as long as I can remember. My interest strengthened in high school as I did well in science and mathematics classes in school. I originally had intentions of pursuing veterinary medicine and changed my mind early in undergraduate studies to human medicine. I was already developing an interest in the brain, how it works, diseases that affect it, and how it might be treated with surgery while an undergraduate. I worked in a laboratory that looked at how the nervous system developed while simultaneously working as an orderly at Mercy Hospital in Dubuque on the Orthopedics/Neurology floor and Emergency Department.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

I've always had a strong interest in science and math and medicine was one area where you have the direct ability to help people with that interest. And of course, at least for me, the more that I get into it the more I like it. Not a day goes by without it being interesting – what you learn medically and what you learn from the patients themselves.

I liked the idea of applying an interest in science to helping people. It's rewarding, on the whole patients and families are grateful for you, and its an extremely stimulating and challenging environment intellectually. Training residents and teaching medical students presents immeasurable rewards. I'm always impressed by the reality that by passing on to a medical student or resident something about patient care has enormous potential to help many people.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

Not a lot at this point – still starting out. I've started working on long-term research projects.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

The faculty and resident staff in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa played a critical role in expanding my interest in neurosurgery as a medical student. My first experience in medical school was winning a research grant to work in a neurosurgery laboratory under the direction of Dr. Christopher Loftus to investigate collateral blood flow changes in the brain following a stroke or cerebral artery occlusion. The residents and staff in neurosurgery introduced me to neurosurgery conferences and clinical research projects that advanced my goals. Drs. Arnold Menezes, John Van Gilder, Timothy Ryken, Vincent Traynelis, and Patrick Hitchon were particularly good career mentors.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

Resident of Iowa, excellent reputation, I think you get a lot of hands-on experience as a medical student and you get a lot of practice working with actual patients even as a second year through coursework. There was a lot of CBL which has proven very valuable in addition to regular coursework. For the quality of education you get, Iowa is definitely the most cost efficient place to receive your medical education.

Please describe your professional interests.

Pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric craniocervical and cervical spine surgery, Cranial and spinal congenital malformations, craniosynostosis, pediatric epilepsy surgery, pediatric brain tumor, neuroendoscopy, pediatric skull base and pediatric vascular surgery (AVM, vein of Galen malformations, Moyamoya disease).

What are some of your outside interests?

I enjoy hunting, downhill skiing, SCUBA diving, mountain biking, archery, and reading.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Decide early what you want to do. It helps a great deal so that you can jump in and get to know a faculty member that can be a great mentor. That really opens doors for you and gives you a strong relationship that can give meaningful advice to you as you go through your career. You can tailor your career so much easier that way as well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017