We spoke to the three partners at the Asia Brain Spine and Nerve Medical Centre at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre – neurologist Dr Tauqeer Ahmad, neurointerventionist Dr Manish Taneja, and neurosurgeon Dr Timothy Lee. We learned that in the treatment of complex neurological conditions, three heads are better than one.
My Alvernia:How did the three of you meet and decide to set up Asia Brain Spine and Nerve Medical Centre together?
Dr Manish:Being part of a small community of neuro-practitioners in Singapore, we had heard about each other. I first met Dr Lee in person when he asked me to see a patient of his who had been admitted to Mount Alvernia Hospital and needed treatment for a brain aneurysm. Dr Ahmad and I had known each other from my time at Singapore General Hospital. When we realised that all the neuroscience-related practitioners were practising independently in private practice in Singapore, we decided to start a comprehensive neuroscience centre together.
My Alvernia:Why did you choose to set up your practice at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre in particular?
Dr Manish:We had already been looking after patients at Mount Alvernia Hospital for a number of years, and were looking for a place that provides first-class logistical support along with a friendly working environment and seamless patient care. We met the senior management team to explain our vision and the rest is history.
My Alvernia:What sort of services does your practice provide, and how do they complement each other?
Dr Manish:We provide comprehensive neurological, neurosurgical, neurointerventional and pain management care, all of which are complementary to each other.
Dr Ahmad:Patients suffering from a neurological condition often require the close attention of multiple specialists to manage their condition. For example, a young patient who suffers acute stroke requires a neurologist to diagnose and plan the best treatment, an interventional radiologist to intervene immediately and remove the clot, and lastly a neurosurgeon to do decompression craniotomy if needed. The availability of all the specialists in a highly coordinated manner within a very short period of time, to ensure that you do not miss the window of opportunity, is always a challenge even in a highly advanced centre.
My Alvernia:Can you share another example of a case that has required the collaboration of all three partners?
Dr Ahmad:A patient with secondary headache often requires input from all three of us. Recently we managed one local patient, a lady in her early 40s, who had a tumour excised by Dr Lee, and an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) embolised by Dr Manish. She also suffered from epilepsy, which was managed by me.
My Alvernia:What are the most common conditions that you see among your patients?
Dr Ahmad:We see all kinds of conditions related to the brain, the spine and the nerves, from common problems such as headache and dizziness to complex tertiary conditions like brain and spine tumours, brain aneurysms and vascular malformations.
My Alvernia:What are some of the most important recent breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological conditions?
Dr Manish:One of the most important recent advances has been in clot removal for acute stroke and better endovascular devices for the management of brain aneurysms. Just a decade back, only 50 to 60 percent of aneurysms could be treated with a minimally invasive approach. Now with newer coils, stents and flow diverters, more than 90 percent of aneurysms can be treated with this approach.
My Alvernia:Given Singapore’s ageing population, do you think that people are becoming more aware of the modifiable risk factors for conditions such as stroke and dementia, and taking preventive measures?
Dr Manish:Our Singapore community is by and large well aware of health-related issues. We are fortunate to have one of the best healthcare systems on the planet in both public and private practice, which is unique. Of course, patient education is a process that is constantly evolving as our understanding and practice evolves.
My Alvernia:Do you see any trends among your patients in terms of increases in preventable lifestyle-related conditions, an unhealthy dependence on pain medication, or anything else that could be cause for concern in our society?
Dr Ahmad:Though we do have all the first-world, lifestyle-related health problems, things are improving as awareness increases. There is always room for improvement, of course. We see some patients who have a dependence on sedatives or sleep-inducing drugs, and occasionally cases of analgesic abuse for headaches, but they are fortunately not so common.
My Alvernia:If you were to give Singaporeans one piece of advice in terms of preventing neurological conditions, what would it be?
Dr Manish:Please choose an active healthy lifestyle and get check-ups on a regular basis. It is better to prevent a neurological condition, if possible, rather than to treat it.
My Alvernia:How do you look after your own neurological and general health in your day today life?
Dr Manish:I exercise regularly, stay fit and eat a healthy diet. I also enjoy life to the fullest!
Dr Lee:I spend time with my family, make sure that I get enough sleep, eat plenty of vegetables, and meditate.
Dr Ahmad:I get regular exercise, follow a balanced and healthy diet, strive to live a stress-free life, and try to minimise my use of electronic gadgets.
My Alvernia:What is the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of practising neurology?
Dr Manish:Getting a patient well. There’s nothing better than hearing a patient who has fully recovered say ‘thank you’ with a smile on their face!
Dr Lee:Above all, I appreciate an uneventful surgery followed by the full recovery of a patient.
Still fresh in my memory was the time I volunteered with Mount Alvernia Hospital’s Community Outreach team to help a 5-year old Cambodian girl suffering from tethered spinal cord syndrome. Doctors in her home country could not diagnose what was ailing her. They concluded that she would lose her ability to walk in a few years’ time. A relatively simple surgery to relieve the pulling of the nerve was all she needed.
Dr Ahmad:For me, it is a combination of early diagnosis, immediate intervention and complete recovery without any neurological deficit which in turns reduces morbidity.
My Alvernia:Thank you, gentlemen, for deepening our understanding of complementary care for neurological conditions. Here’s wishing you the very best of patient outcomes!