THE YOUNG PIONEERS

DR. SERGIO ANDRÉS TORRES-BAYONA

"IT WAS VERY PLEASANT FOR ME TO KNOW THAT THE WFNS DEVELOPS SUCH ALTRUISTIC PROGRAMS WHERE I THINK I COULD FULFILL ONE OF MY GOALS IN LIFE, TO SERVE UNCONDITIONALLY"

Dr. Torres-Bayona, a young pioneer, has managed to develop some ideas that have not been studied before, such as the investigation of new genes in Glioblastoma multiforme, which is generally carried out by biologists. He has received two consecutive WFNS young neurosurgeon awards. In 2019 at the WFNS world congress in Beijing and in 2022 it will be at the WFNS world congress in Bogotá.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona

How do you know about the WFNS Foundation?

I have known about the foundation since the world congress of Neurosurgery in 2019 in China. I was at the opening talk where the results of the last 2 years were shown and it immediately caught my attention because of the commendable functions they fulfill. It was very pleasant for me to know that the WFNS develops such altruistic programs with which I am compatible and since then I would like to be part of the foundation where I think I could fulfill one of my goals in life, which is to serve unconditionally.

I would like to include Colombia as a destination of the foundation. I am sure that over there you could provide great help to many fellow neurosurgeons. The creation of this foundation was undoubtedly a great idea from Professor Martin-Rodriguez and Professor Madjid Samii whom I know from multiple courses and conferences. I fondly remember Dr. Miguel Ángel Arraez who I appreciate a lot, I consider as an endearing person, he was always a very accessible person and in the past, I received a lot of help from him to be able to continue my studies after completing the Neurosurgery residency. Definitely, the people behind this foundation are the most suitable to represent it.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona at Cobos Medical Centre, Bogota.

Where did you study and where do you work?

I did medical school in Bucaramanga, in Colombia, obtaining my degree in 2009. I tried to do Neurosurgery also in Colombia but there are only 12 specialty places in the whole country despite having a population of 50 million inhabitants. So I decided to go to study in San Sebastián, Spain where I finished my residency in 2018. 

Later on, I spent 1 year in Pittsburgh, United states studying as a research fellow in the neuroanatomy laboratory with the mentorship of Dr. Juan Carlos Fernandez-Miranda and Dr. Paul Gardner. Since mid-2019 I have been working in Bogota, but in a few weeks, I will return to work in San Sebastián in Spain.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona and team during the residency on Neurosurgery at San Sebastian. Mikel Armendariz, mariano Arrazola, Nicolás Samprón, Enrique Úrculo, Patricia Torres, Alicia Bollar, Jose Undabeitia.

Was your start in Neurosurgery easy?

Not in Colombia. The recognition in Colombia of my title as Neurosurgeon of Spain was torture. 

Thanks to the Young Neurosurgeon Award granted by the WFNS in 2019, great social pressure was generated for the Colombian Ministry of Education through the media and social networks, with which I was finally able to work in my country. 

However, the tabloid headlines were not liked by the country’s neurosurgeon union as they indicated that I had been awarded as the best neurosurgeon and ironically I was never congratulated by the Colombian Association of Neurosurgery. 

However, in the content of the columns, I clearly specified that this award was only an academic recognition and not my performance as a Neurosurgeon.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona at Pittsburgh/USA. Realizing studies of the cranial base and endonasal endoscopy.

How do I see the future of the profession and how do I see myself as a professional?

Fortunately, the world is developing new technologies that are making surgeries more effective, efficient, and safe. 

In countries like Colombia, access to these new developments has always been limited, so there are many centers in which Neurosurgery is still practiced without a microscope. 

For my part, I want to continue researching Glioblastoma Multiforme and neuroanatomy without leaving the neurosurgical profession. 

Despite the adversities, my experience in my country was very rewarding, in 3 years I grew a lot as a professional, I am very grateful to have returned to Colombia even for a short time, it left me with many life lessons.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona at the Biodonostia Institute / San Sebastián, Spain, developing his Ph.D studies in glioblastoma molecular biology and genetics..

As a young pioneer that I have contributed to neurosurgery?

Not only do I like to innovate, but I have managed to develop some ideas that have not been studied before, such as the investigation of new genes in Glioblastoma multiforme, which is generally carried out by biologists, but I believe that multidisciplinary groups and translational medicine can achieve better results.

All these molecular and genetic studies were developed during the doctorate I did in Spain in molecular biology and biomedicine. I have also ventured into the study of neuroanatomy and we have managed to develop new approaches in the laboratory for the development of minimally invasive surgery and endoscopy. In 2018 I was studying at the University of Pittsburgh medical center (UPMC). In that year I investigated the possibility of expanding the limits of lateral orbitotomy with the use of the endoscope.

Our results show that through this route it is possible to resect the uncus for the management of epilepsy, clipping of aneurysms of the communicating posterior artery, and management of cavernous malformations of the brainstem or perform a biopsy of a tumor in the midbrain, reducing the morbidity associated with conventional pterional craniotomy.

What has it meant to me to receive the award?

For me personally and for my family it has been a great pride. It is the recognition of several years of effort in research in a laboratory, which is not something usual for a neurosurgeon. In my profession as a neurosurgeon in Colombia, it has meant almost nothing.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona received the WFNS Young Neurosurgeon award in 2019 in the WFNS Beijing Congress.

What is the current state of the profession in Colombia?

The health system in Colombia is very complex. Access to the health system in small towns is very limited. In Colombia, we are only 500 Neurosurgeons for a population of 48 million, which makes us a very valuable resource but poorly valued and recognized. I have colleagues who work without a microscope and with very old surgical instruments, which could affect the quality of the surgery results. Most of the health system is private and in many cases, the procedures that we request from the external consultation are not authorized by the insurers.

On the other hand, some young neurosurgeons are subcontracted by other neurosurgeons, which affects a lot their income and training.

Within your career, what is something that you have done that has brought you great joy or great sadness?

I have had several great joys; the first was when I managed to get into the Neurosurgery residency in Spain. Later, being already inside, I obtained several achievements and recognitions such as the Young Neurosurgeon Award which was possible due to the results of my Ph.D. in molecular biology, which I also carried out in Spain. Returning to work in my country was very frustrating; the social, health, and labor systems are perverse.

Do you find the aims of the collective interest of the WFNS Foundation appealing?

Of course, I see them in accordance with the solutions to the problems that I have mentioned that I have experienced in my country, Colombia. It would be an interesting place to develop these goals with young neurosurgeons as it is the continuous training and providing high quality and low-cost instruments to young neurosurgeons. Now that I return to work in Spain, I would like to be part of the foundation of the WFNS, I believe that I would be able to help Colombia more from abroad than from home.

What are your interests?

Apart from my profession and research as I already mentioned, lately, I have been dedicated to writing, self-knowledge, unconditionally serving people, meditation, and quiet life. 

I am passionate about traveling around the world and getting to know different cultures, their people, and gastronomy, getting to know around 40 countries so far. 

In sports I am a lover of running, for me, it is my time of the day in which I can analyze and give free rein to my ideas; it must be that the neurotransmitters released with exercise stimulate the creative part of my brain, in addition to releasing stress a lot, that’s why I do it at least 3 times a week.

Medal received at the 2016 marathon of San Sebastian.

Dr. Sergio Andrés Torres-Bayona visiting the 7 colour mountains in Peru.

«In Colombia, we are only 500 Neurosurgeons for a population of 48 million, which makes us a very valuable resource but poorly valued and recognized. I have colleagues who work without a microscope and with very old surgical instruments»