Quantum Leaps and Bounds
Executive Q&A with Dr. Ali Krisht, director of CHI St. Vincent’s Arkansas Neuroscience Center
Dr. Ali Krisht is the director and lead neurosurgeon at CHI St. Vincent’s Arkansas Neuroscience Institute. He is the 2019 recipient of the international Herbert Olivecrona Award for contributions to the field of neurosurgery, rated among the top 1% of all neurosurgeons in the United States by the rating firm Castle Connolly and editor of the journal Contemporary Neurosurgery. Dr. Krisht has delivered more than 170 presentations and lectures around the world and received honorary citizenship in Taipei, Taiwan, for his work in neuroscience education in the Taipei community. He earned his medical degree from the American University of Beirut and completed his surgical residency at Emory University in Atlanta.
AMP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Krisht: My original ambition was to become a soccer player, but a broken leg introduced me to the practice of medicine and eventually neurosurgery. I came to Arkansas in 1994 to work with two of the world’s most talented neurosurgeons who would later become my mentors, Dr. Ossama Al-Mefty and Dr. Gazi Yasargil. I received invitations to practice elsewhere but chose to stay in Little Rock and partner with CHI St. Vincent to establish the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute (ANI).
In all, I have dedicated the last 35 years of my life to the field of neurosurgery. With ANI, we’ve been able to expand beyond surgical practice into research, creating the best practices and educating neurosurgeons who come to us from around the world to learn how best to care for their patients at home. The CHI St. Vincent Arkansas Neuroscience Institute opened its doors in 2019 on the campus of CHI St. Vincent North in Sherwood, but I like to say that was really the first major step of many more to come.
AMP: How has neuroscience changed since you entered the field?
Krisht: One of the things that attracted me to the field of neuroscience so many years ago was the realization of how little we actually know about the brain. Over the last 40 years, we’ve quite literally experienced a quantum leap in terms of our understanding of this field and, more importantly, outcomes for neurosurgery patients. At one time, 50% of patients would not experience a positive outcome, but today, thanks to the work of my mentors and others dedicated to this field, 85–90% of patients experience positive outcomes from surgery. Not only that, but thanks to advances in microneurosurgery and other advanced techniques, we can conduct the most complex surgeries over 18–19 hours, and the patient can be ready to return home after just a few days in the hospital. It really is incredible how far we have come – and inspirational as well – to realize how much more we still have to learn.
AMP: How hav neuroscience and neuroscience services changed here in Arkansas?
Krisht: Whether a patient comes to us following a stroke, tumor diagnosis, traumatic brain injury or other related condition, they can now expect the best care in the world right here within the borders of Arkansas. At ANI, we see patients from across the state, region and even the globe. They come to us because they know we have the resources, technology and, most importantly, the medical expertise to provide the highest quality of care.
AMP: What are some upcoming neuroscience initiatives?
Krisht: As I mentioned, the establishment of ANI was only the first step toward fulfilling the vision I have for this field. We want to become a lighthouse for both our patients needing care as well as other neurosurgeons looking to expand their understanding and skill in neurosurgery. We’re currently expanding our own team of highly trained and recognized neurosurgeons and hope to grow our expertise to cover every sub-specialty of neurosurgery in order to better serve our state and communities.
We also have a responsibility, to the broader field of neurosurgery and those who look to us from around the globe, to learn. Our future plans for ANI include the establishment of facilities adjacent to our current Sherwood location that will house and carry out the most advanced research for treating malignant brain tumors and other non-treatable neurological diseases. Our future goal and vision is to treat what is now considered “untreatable.”
AMP: Why is it important for Arkansans to know about neuroscience?
Krisht: : There are many dated ideas about neurosurgery, and to many, a patient’s immediate response can be fear or sadness. In reality, neurosurgery today is extremely safe. A patient’s condition may not be safe, but we have the expertise and technology to provide treatment with the most positive outcomes and the smallest risk than ever before in history. In truth, neurosurgery today can be less risky than getting into your car to drive to work. That’s really important for everyone to understand. If someone finds the right surgeon with the right experience to treat their condition, they can expect the very best treatment.
If anybody tells a patient their condition is inoperable or cannot be treated, there are centers like our Arkansas Neuroscience Institute at CHI St. Vincent, where we tackle the inoperable and untreatable because we are not going to give up on patients. Difficulty doesn’t exist, and impossible doesn’t exist.