Neurosurgeon will take skull base surgery to a new level

Over the last 30 years, Krembil Neuroscience Centre Neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Gentili has pioneered a host of complex treatments for tumours located in difficult to access places. His endonasal surgical approach has garnered worldwide attention and led hundreds of medical students and other surgeons to pursue training at KNC.

“This type of surgery is very difficult because it goes to the most difficult regions to reach in both the brain and skull,” says Dr. Gentili. “The challenge is accessing a tumour while avoiding the critical blood vessels and all of the nerves that are packed in there

Grateful patient Nancy Hotson and husband Brad, along wit her parents Wendy and John Crean, have come together to establish the Crean Hotson Chair in Skull Base Surgery at UHN. The academic chair ­– for which Dr. Gentili is the first recipient – is the first of its kind in Canada and includes a $3-million endowment.

“Dr. Gentili gave me the gift of living a healthy tumour-free life,” explains Nancy about her decision to give back to UHN and support her surgeon. In 2011, she was told she had a barbell-shaped tumour called a trigeminal schwannoma at the base of her skull. As  the mother  of two very young children, Nancy was terrified. Fortunately, five months later she underwent craniotomy surgery at KNC under the direction of Dr. Gentili. The 12-hour surgery was a success.

“We have some of the best neurosurgeons in the world right here in Toronto at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre,” says Nancy. “We want to send a message about the need to recognize and nurture excellence in the field.”

Dr. Gentili is equal parts thrilled and honoured to accept the chair after dedicating more than three decades of his life to devising innovative surgical techniques that are used in operating rooms around the globe.

“The importance of the chair is that it provides an outlet for leadership and guidance into skull-base surgery,” he says. “It’s a multifaceted approach. It allows for clinical research, it supports fellowships, and it supports anatomical studies that will help us find new techniques and approaches that make treatment less risky for the patient.”

In addition to allowing him to continue to push boundaries in the field of micro-neurosurgery, the chair provides an opportunity for Dr. Gentili, 69, to recruit, train and begin to consider succession planning for the skull-base surgery program at KNC.

“To have my work recognized by the community, my patients and peers in this way is an incredible honour,” says Dr. Gentili.

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