Professor Bruce Mickey makes sure that neurosurgeons in Aarhus stay sharp. He assists in the training of young surgeons, and he challenges surgical techniques, teaching and decisions among the specialists to ensure that they meet international standards. Photo: Tonny Foghmar.


Previously, young surgeons were trained by older and more experienced surgeons.  This is still the case, but today surgical training is supplemented by increasingly standardised education and training.

Professor Bruce Mickey is a neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and a specialist in brain tumour surgery. He is also an associate professor at Aarhus University, and he assists in the education and training of  Danish neurosurgeons.

Bruce Mickey is very concerned about effective training of skilled neurosurgeons, and he compares the training of surgeons to the training of pilots.

- We expect to fly with an experienced pilot, who has been trained in a simulator before he has been allowed in the cockpit, and who has done a lot of flying with more experienced pilots, after which he has been tested and evaluated, says Bruce Mickey.

- Today, we train surgeons in the same manner. A neurosurgeon is not supposed to operate on his own before he has been through a comprehensive training programme, says Bruce Mickey.

Train the trainer

Bruce Mickey has spent this week in Denmark helping Danish doctors specialising in neurosurgery to become better neurosurgeons. The course is a proficiency course in neurosurgery, which is a mandatory part of the training of neurosurgeons in Denmark.  Consultant Gorm von Oettingen at Aarhus University Hospital has created the proficiency course where he teaches along with other specialists in neurosurgery.

- Bruce Mickey is a kind “train the trainer”. Being a surgeon and teacher is a lifelong learning process. Bruce challenges me and shows me my limits and where I can improve my expertise so I can continue to develop, says Gorm von Oettingen.

Aarhus University Hospital has an international fund used to bring specialists such as Bruce Mickey to Aarhus.  He has traveled to Aarhus for the past two years in connection with the proficiency course in neurosurgery.

- I learn something every time. Although I have been a doctor for 37 years, my skills improve every time I teach or operate, and I get inspired by the way Gorm von Oettingen has created and adjusted this course, says Bruce Mickey.

Keeping specialists sharp

In addition to teaching, Bruce Mickey also operates together with specialists and doctors in training at the Department of Neurosurgery when he is in Aarhus.

- He helps us stay sharp and to strive for perfection. We share our experiences, and we also talk honestly about our difficulties. And it is very valuable to get Bruce Mickey’s view on our challenges, says Dr. Gorm von Oettingen.

Being a specialist in brain tumours the American professor also attends multidisciplinary conferences on the treatment of brain cancer and gives feedback on the doctors' decisions.  Do they meet international standards?

- In recent years, we have worked intensively to improve the safety of surgery on brain tumours and Bruce Mickey is an important guarantee that we continuously strive to optimise our surgical technique, teaching and decision-making, says administrative consultant Carsten Kock-Jensen, Aarhus University Hospital.

- We see some rare cases in Denmark from time to time. Bruce Mickey may have seen 50 of these cases and that makes him an very useful resource.

Moreover, Bruce Mickey’s colleagues at UT Southwestern in Dallas have helped initiate a research project with their colleagues at Aarhus University to develop a method to predict when the precursors of a brain cancer ,gliomas, develop into cancer. 

Bruce Mickey hopes this collaboration can be expanded in the future.