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    Ryan Reaves
    Ryan Reaves

    This episode of the MGMA Insights Podcast features Dr. Dawn Tartaglione, DO, FACOS, DFACOS, Medical Director of Neurosurgery at Bayhealth. Known as “Dr. T,” she discussed her journey into neurosurgery while highlighting its challenges, rewards and innovations.

    In 2003, Dr. T was the first female Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine to become a board-certified neurosurgeon. This launched her 22-year career in neurosurgery practice, where she has specialized in multiple areas, including spine, neurotrauma, brain and spine tumors and critical care. Dr. T is also the first neurosurgeon to be elected President of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons.

    Dr. T met with MGMA Senior Editor Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM, to offer insights into the intricacies and innovations of neurosurgery along with the importance of stress management and empathetically engaging with patients.

    Bedside manner and leadership

    Delivering bad news to patients and their families presents numerous challenges as part of the role of neurosurgeons. These interactions often require being both direct and empathetic to patients. Using a structured approach, Dr. T starts with definitive statements before softening the blow while being mindful of the patient’s/family’s emotional state. "Any time I've operated on a person, hopefully I've had the opportunity to meet with them before the event, or at least talk to them on the phone," Dr. T said. 

    Managing stress and work-life balance

    Dr. T’s typical day as a medical director involves managing patient care and scheduling surgeries. She emphasizes the importance of work flexibility and self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Some best practices she promoted include reducing or cutting time spent on social media, finding hobbies outside of work, and creating a work environment that supports everyone’s passions. Dr. T's experienced advanced practice clinicians capably fill workflow gaps to minimize delays. Together, they weather periods of high acuity through collaborative problem-solving and perspective-sharing.

    Neurosurgery challenges

    Neurosurgery presents unique challenges compared to other medical disciplines given the lack of redundancy within the nervous system. Cases where surgical intervention may not offer much hope for the patient is a significant challenge that takes an emotional toll on neurosurgeons. At Bay Health, Dr. T routinely performs a spectrum of neurosurgical procedures ranging from the relatively straightforward to the highly complex. Through extensive training and mentorship, surgeons can learn advanced techniques and decision-making to help ensure optimal outcomes. 

    Neurosurgery advancements

    Neurosurgery has evolved over recent decades through technological advancements. One example Dr. T highlighted is deep brain stimulation, which has become a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions by improving symptoms and fine motor control. Other innovations, such as navigation tools and AI applications, allow for better visualization that improves how neurosurgeons mitigate risks while operating on the nervous system.


    Dr. T's top priority as a medical director is ensuring optimal care coordination even when emergent issues arise, necessitating sudden changes. Years of experience have taught Dr. T the importance of acknowledging realities while communicating compassionately. "I'm really excited about neurosurgery in general, and one of my callings, as I get older, is to help younger surgeons adjust to their practice," Dr. T said. Commenting on the staffing shortages, she added, "There aren't enough neurosurgeons, so we've got to work as long as we safely can."


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    Let us know if there's a topic you want us to cover or an expert you would like us to interview or if you'd like to appear on the member spotlight podcast. Email us at If you have a question for our Sr Advisor Cristy Good, email

    Ryan Reaves

    Written By

    Ryan Reaves

    Ryan Reaves is content coordinator at MGMA. He is a seasoned content professional with a background in both community journalism and sports apparel eCommerce. Ryan is skilled in proofreading, image editing, and writing online content in a fast-paced environment. At MGMA, Ryan develops and edits content for books, podcasts and consulting.

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