“The brain is awe-inspiring. It’s fascinating in the sense that this is the organ that determines who we are and what makes us human. The brain is also humbling. There are times when the brain is not very forgiving and we must treat it with respect.”
This is the philosophy of Joseph F. Emrich, MD, a neurosurgeon at Berkshire Medical Center, who brings more than 30 years of experience treating conditions of the brain and spine. During those years, Dr. Emrich has seen dramatic changes in neurosurgery that have made the procedures far safer, using technology that now has pinpoint accuracy.
Among the most stunning developments in the field of neurosurgery include advances in sophisticated imaging technology that enables the surgeon to see exactly what has occurred in the brain. “The pictures that a two-minute scan will produce are absolutely amazing – they are very eloquent studies,” Dr. Emich said. And while images of the brain will clarify a patient’s problem, the surgeon said it is most important to treat the patient – and not just what appears on an MRI.
“Once we have the images, I go back to my training as a physician and thoroughly examine the patient and get a full history,” he said. “Then, with all of this information at hand, we decide the best treatment for each individual.”
In addition to brain imaging technology, major advances in the instruments used during neurosurgery now enable far greater precision. “When I first began as a neurosurgeon, there were some deep areas of the brain that we could not approach,” he said. “Now, we can go anywhere.”
And finally, advances in anesthesia keep patients safe and stable for operations that can last 10 to 15 hours.
Similarly, treating spinal conditions also illustrates how far neurosurgery has come in the last generation.
“When I first started, we hardly ever used plates or screws on the spine,” he noted. “Now, we use them all of the time to reconstruct and stabilize the spine to help mitigate pain and other conditions.”
Dr. Emrich arrived at Berkshire Medical Center in 2015, following 20 years as a neurosurgeon in Albany. He and his wife have always admired the Berkshires, and he was impressed by BMC. Prior to joining BMC, he served as Director of Functional Neurosurgery at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes Barre, PA.
“I felt I could come here and truly make a difference,” he said. “This is a hospital that is committed to neurosurgery. It’s large enough to support a comprehensive program, yet small enough to be friendly and focused on excellent patient care,” he said. “I wanted to help provide consistent neurosurgical care for the community and do it in a compassionate and patient-friendly environment.”
“I can promise my patients a thorough assessment, and a discussion of all possible options based on my years of experience,” he continued. “We’re here to provide an expert opinion, but to also offer reassurance that we’ve seen this before. At BMC, we offer a balanced approach between high-tech surgical care in an unhurried way to give patients the time they need to go through what can be a tough situation.”
A native of Canada, Dr. Emrich received his medical degree from McGill University and completed his residency in Neurosurgery at Montreal Neurological Hospital, McGill University, He is fellowship trained in Neuro-oncology and brain tumor imaging at the Montreal Neurological Institute, also affiliated with McGill University.