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Barrow Neurological Institute uses sports model to keep neurosurgeons sharp

Much like the college athletes that train for the NCAA Final Four, residents at the Barrow Neurological Institute must also train for endurance and strength.

The institute follows what they call a surgeon-athlete model to help residents like Alexander Greven develop stamina and teamwork.

Greven is one of at least six surgeons and residents at Barrow who played some form of college or minor league sports — in his case, Division III college basketball at Emory University.

Greven says his experience with sports plays into the medical profession.

“You've developed this expertise before in a different field. And so you can apply the same principles to develop an expertise in this field, which is, you know, staying in the operating room, basically being a gym rat,” he said.

Greven also says sports help with handling adversity. While he no longer plays basketball as much, he says he participates in some sports activity with the other residents.

Michael Lawton is the institute’s president and CEO.

“So my belief is that surgery is more than just an intellectual exercise where you study, you learn, you apply knowledge about anatomy or technique. It's a performance art,” he said.

Lawton compares the learning and training process of becoming a neurosurgeon to the time and effort it takes to develop athletic skills..

Ignacio Ventura is a reporter for KJZZ. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in news media and society.