it’s not brain surgery… or is it?

By his own admission, neurosurgeon David S. Gordon, MD, is not the first doctor you’d think of calling if you’re experiencing neurological symptoms.

Neurosurgeons treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves, ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to chronic neck pain to Parkinson’s disease. But if you’re having persistent, progressive headaches, for example, you’re not likely to type “neurosurgeons near me” into a search box.

Instead, you’d probably visit your primary physician or a neurologist for evaluation and diagnosis. From there, you might be referred to a neurosurgeon for further treatment—quite possibly, to Dr. Gordon or someone on his team at Northwell Health in Westchester.

As the regional Chair of Neurosurgery for Northwell Health in Westchester, Gordon works with a team of subspecialists that includes brain, vascular and spine surgeons, as well as neurologists, who treat diseases and disorders of the nervous system. After building a successful career with Montefiore Medical Center/Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and NYU Langone Hospital in Brooklyn, he was recruited by Northwell Health to help develop a program to deliver advanced neurosurgical and neurosciences care in Westchester. He now practices at Northwell’s two campuses—Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco and Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow—where he is Chief of Neurosurgery.

On a typical day in the surgical suite, Gordon treats conditions of the brain and spinal cord. In addition to clipping aneurysms and removing blood clots that could lead to stroke, he might be found removing abnormally tangled blood vessels or excising tumors from the base of the skull, a notoriously difficult spot for surgical intervention. Some procedures can last up to15 hours. When not in the OR, he’s seeing patients at his Mount Kisco office.

Gordon’s enthusiasm for the high level of competence and expertise he has found among his Westchester colleagues is sincere and infectious. “We have the ability to treat people with complex disease processes close to their homes, which makes things easier on them and their families,” he says. “If we encounter something that requires more sophisticated treatment, we have ready access to the breadth of neurosciences care throughout the Northwell system.”

Gordon is heartened by treatment advances that he describes as “a sea change in [neurological] care.” The dividing lines that once existed between neurosurgeons and neurologists have been replaced by a team approach that attacks the problem from all sides. “We can actually reverse the course of some conditions, including stroke,” he says.

He cites a recent case in which a woman presented with a benign tumor that was pressing on her optic nerve. Her executive function and cognition had declined to a point where her friends and family barely recognized her. “We removed the tumor and, within days, her personality came back and her functions were restored. This case was a standout, but it’s just one example of what’s possible,” Gordon says.

Growing up in New Jersey, Gordon was fascinated by the brain and its intricacies, but had no intention of becoming a brain surgeon. In medical school, observing a surgeon clipping an aneurysm, he was hit by a profound realization. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” he recalls. He chose to specialize in cranial neurosurgery, which has remained his specialty for the past 20 years.

A month-long surgical elective in Sri Lanka during his residency inspired Gordon to join medical missions to deliver care in remote places. For years, he has traveled annually to Mongolia with a team of volunteer surgeons to perform multifaceted procedures on patients with rare and complicated conditions. The team works side by side with Mongolian doctors to provide them with advanced training they could not feasibly acquire on their own.

Gordon met his wife, a novelist, in New York City. In 2020, the couple moved to Northern Westchester, where they are now raising three daughters under the age of eight. Their family passions are skiing and hiking together—every chance they get.

Gordon continues to be awed by the body’s capacity to recover from the worst insults. When he hears older patients admit to ignoring signs of a possible neurological condition, chalking it up as a consequence of aging, he is quick to remind them that headaches, numbness, unusual memory or balance issues could be signs of a more serious condition that can be arrested or even reversed if it’s caught in time.

And while he concedes that “call the neurosurgeon” may not be top of mind for most people, Gordon advises, “Maintain brain health with exercise and diet. Pay attention to your body and if you notice something unusual, don’t blow it off. Bring it to your doctor’s attention.”

Latest posts by Donna Moriarty (see all)