BROOKSVILLE — To Dr. Esther Wylen, the brain and spinal cord are parts of the most fascinating organ system in the human body.
Her fascination with the central nervous system carried her through a five-year residency after medical school, and another year-long internship in general surgery.
And now, it has brought her to Hernando County, where she will practice as the county's first full time neurosurgeon.
Wylen, 48, will see patients primarily at Brooksville Regional Hospital, but she will also provide care at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, which like Brooksville Regional is a Hospital Management Associates facility.
She arrived in Florida this month after leaving her job teaching and training medical students while running a clinical practice at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, La.
"I'm really looking forward to being a community neurosurgeon," Wylen said in a recent telephone interview. "It's quite a change from what I've been doing. I like variety and new places, and meeting new people."
Wylen earned her medical degree from Albany (N.Y.) Medical College, and then headed south to complete a neurosurgery fellowship in Louisiana. After that, she worked as an ophthalmology resident in New Orleans and completed another fellowship in glaucoma.
Once she completed her neurosurgery residency back at Albany, Wylen took the Shreveport job teaching and training residents, ultimately putting her surgery career on hold. In Hernando, she will finally fulfill her dream of seeing patients and helping them cope with their nervous system disorders.
"It's such a diverse system, and you're always seeing something new," Wylen said. "I've always been drawn to a surgical career where you can intervene directly in treating ailments. It's hands-on medicine."
The region has needed a physician like Wylen for a long time, said Corey Lively, Brooksville Regional chief operating officer. The search for such a doctor who wanted to be part of the community and was a neurosurgeon was extensive.
While neurosurgeons have come from neighboring counties to treat patients, never before has there been such a specialist who has worked full time out of a local hospital, he said.
Along with treating major trauma to the head and neck, which most people associate with neurosurgery, Lively said that Wylen can help treat patients with brain tumors, chronic spine problems and other ailments.
As the hospital readies itself for its newest physician, staff has also been brought up to speed to ensure a smooth transition to begin working with Wylen.
In addition to starting her practice, Wylen will also be closer to family who live on the east coast of the state. She said that it's always been a long-term goal to get to Florida.
"I'm looking forward to serving the local community," Wylen said.
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (352) 848-1432.