The science of treating brain aneurysms, a key component of neurosurgery, has developed in the last 70 years, says Chris Taylor ’91, a neurosurgeon on the medical school faculty of the University of New Mexico.
Attempts to treat aneurysms before 1937 often led to the patient’s death, Taylor explained in a lecture at the Suter Science Center of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) during its 2012 Homecoming and Family Weekend.
An aneurysm is a vesicle or envelope in an artery that does not belong; blood can get in but has no way to escape. Labeled as apoplexy in the 17th century, the eventual blockage of the blood vessels leads to strokes, which can eventually cause paralysis or death. Taylor credited Antonio Egas Moniz, who won a Nobel Prize in 1949 for his work on computerized tomography, and Godfrey Hounsfield, co-winner of a Nobel Prize in 1973 for magnetic resonance imaging, for laying the groundwork for modern neurosurgical techniques for treating aneurysms.
Taylor began his lecture, titled “A Time Bomb in the Brain: Aneurysms of the Central Nervous System,” by complimenting Dr. Daniel Suter, for whom the Science Center is named. Taylor said Suter’s enthusiasm for science remained after his retirement in 1985, causing Taylor to be imbued with a passion for science while at EMU.
Taylor showed his audience images of the brain, particularly the Circle of Willis, a circle of blood vessels at the center of the brain that supplies blood to the brain and its surrounding structures. Taylor said that grasping how those blood vessels work and their importance has led to great understanding of how the brain works.
Taylor touched on the contributions of many scientists to neurosurgical advances through history, including William Harvey, the first physician to describe the circulation of blood throughout the body; Thomas Willis, credited with the discovery of the Circle of Willis; and Walter Dandy, the founding father of neurosurgery. In emphasizing the work of forerunners to modern neurosurgery, Taylor reminded his audience of our ability to “influence the world around us. The incredible contributions of many of these people are overwhelming to me.”
At the University of New Mexico since January 2006, Taylor regularly lectures on neuroanatomy, as well as hosts post-grad medical residents who attend surgery and do rounds with him. He and his wife live in Albuquerque, N.M.