Dr. E. Malcolm Field, 81-year old neurosurgeon
Saginaw Valley Neurosurgery Organization

After spending two days at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, MI, documenting the daily activities of Dr. E. Malcolm Field, it’s easy to understand why so many of the other doctors and general staff revere this 81-year old neurosurgeon who has been with St. Mary’s for 50 years.

When I was told about Dr. Field and how he approaches his daily routine starting to see patients at 4am, in surgery by 8am, and does not use elevators, stairs only.  I’ll admit, I was skeptical until I spent time with him.

A simple motto he lives by – “No S.B.E.”: No Smoking, No Booze, No Elevators.

It’s important that you understand the depth of this neurosurgeon’s resume. 
Since 1962, he has performed over 56,000 surgeries.  He founded the Field Neurosciences Institute, which not only a think tank for basic and clinical research on treating brain disorders such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but also an educational resource center for injury prevention and care.

Their latest quest of the possible stem cell replacement for degenerative diseases in our aging spins.  He also formed the Saginaw Valley Neurosurgery Organization with Jerry Schell.  This team of protégés of Dr. Field heads up what might be one of the best care centers for neurosurgical issues in our state. 

St. Mary’s is one of the few hospitals in the country that has the ‘cyberknife’ and 'Tomo' under one roof, primarily due to the leadership provided by Dr. Field. These two instruments of modern medicine are non-invassive robotic surgical tools used to surgically destroy cancerous tumors.

Let’s go back to my day…

After a lengthy interview session for our film, it was clear that there are a few lessons we can all learn from a doctor of his stature.  Not to mention the type of human being he is; a humble man who grew up on a farm in Brighton.

My morning started at 6:30am - Dr. Field had already been at the hospital two hours earlier doing his rounds with patients.  I set up for the filming of the "Grand Rounds", starting promptly at 7am.

"Grand Rounds" is a gathering of doctors/surgeons and other medical staff in a boardroom setting.  It’s here on a big screen that Dr. Field projects images of patients who need surgery or are recuperating from surgery.

Through his hour-long Q&A discussion, it’s clear that there are some brilliant minds gathered to talk about the necessary directions to take for a patient’s health.

"Grand Rounds" ends and Dr. Field says his good-byes and heads to O.R.  He has a patient there waiting, already sedated to have his carotid artery opened to save him from having a stroke.

He moves quickly down the halls and as he opens the door to the staircase, he asks me, “Can we take the stairs?”   As if I’m going to say ‘no!’ 

We arrive in the O.R. area and I follow him into the locker room where I get dressed and prepped for filming in the O.R.  I’ve done this many times, so I know the procedure.  My son, Josh, was with me, taking production photos.  I know this would be a great experience for him, since he is majoring in Science;  Although, I wasn't sure how he would handle the surgery.

Once in the O.R., I positioned myself to where I could capture the precision detail work of this 81-year old surgeon.  Once Josh got over the first incision into the neck to get to the carotid artery, he was fine.  It was touch and go for a minute, I could tell, as I watched him quickly turn and walk to a corner of the O.R.

Well into the surgery, the phone rang in the O.R.  The head nurse said the trauma unit had an 82-year old woman who came in unconscious from hitting her head.  They did an MRI.  He asked for the pictures and then asked a few questions.  Soon, the pictures appeared on a screen.  He stopped his surgery, went over to look at the picture and had a number of questions.  He finally said, “get her ready for surgery.”

I left the O.R. after about an hour to film some other segments.   All I could think about was I am not sure what they are paying this guy but I am sure it’s not enough.

Later in the afternoon, I was filming with a patient of Dr. Field and his wife.  The gentleman’s name is Julien and his wife is Delphine.  They’re from France.

Thirteen days ago, Julien was in a terrible car accident and has been in a coma using breathing tubes, as well as several other pieces of equipment, keeping him alive.  Julien is very special to Dr. Field; he is one of his scientists who works in the lab at Central Michigan University Neuroscience Center with FNI's
Executive Director, Dr. Gary Dunbar.

Dr. Gary had selected Julien three years ago while in France to lead one of
his research groups at CMU.  It’s no surprise that Dr. Field has a great deal of respect for Julien.  So, the day of his accident, he made sure he was air lifted to St. Mary’s so he would be under his care. 

In the morning, I visited Julien as his dear wife Delphine stood bedside, holding his hand while he was in a semi-conscious, immobilized state.

What I was not prepared for is what would happen in the early afternoon.  Dr. Field walked in to see him.  “Julien…Julien, you there? Can you hear me?”

Dr. Field asks Julien to squeeze his right hand and then his left hand.  He then snaps his fingers on either side of his head, around his finger in front of his eyes.

As I filmed, I knew inside just how big of a deal that was.  Dr. Field said to the nurse, “ok, let’s get the breathing tubes out and see how he does on his own.”

I knew then I had witnessed a very precious moment in this man’s life as well as his family.  I’m confident Dr. Field’s working history is filled with these moments.  You may ask yourself, 'could I be ok with an 81-year old doctor taking care of me'.  I hope I never need a neurosurgeon, but if I do, I sure hope Dr. Field is available.