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Brains Behind the Institute

Melanie Hayden Gephart

Melanie Hayden Gephart

Associate professor of neurosurgery

To be successful as a neurosurgeon, I really think that a healthy life balance is key.

Academic pursuits are important, as is having other interests, such as family, athletics, and community—they’ve made me more effective and efficient in the office and the operating room. The perspective I've gained from them helps me think more creatively about how to solve challenging research and clinical problems.

In addition to working in my lab, I take care of patients with malignant brain tumors. Unfortunately, the current tools for helping them are really insufficient. Pursuing neuroscience and neurosurgery was a chance to meld my research interests and my clinical drive into a career where I could treat patients now, and help find new treatments for the patients I'd see in the future. Neuroscience has an incredible capacity to advance medical therapy for brain cancer, but we haven't fully tapped it yet.

Part of my work involves facilitating collaboration between scientists developing treatment tools and the medical professionals who could use them to benefit patients. Being a clinician helps me understand what patients' needs are, and how to best direct and drive a particular scientific project. Having my own lab helps me understand the challenges of making sure that a scientific discovery is true and durable. And my family helps me to be a better physician, because I can better relate to my patients' struggles during times of crisis.

When I decided to specialize in neurosurgery, there were very few women in the field, and I had trouble finding a mentor who could guide me, given everything I wanted to accomplish. Here at Stanford I found excellent research and clinical mentors, and I saw the possibility of combining a fulfilling family life, a vibrant clinical practice, and meaningful contributions through science to develop better treatments for brain cancer.

Photo: Steve Fisch

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