Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Neurosurgeon Tiffany Perry
Mar 06, 2019 Cedars-Sinai Staff
"Take what you do somewhere else in the world that doesn't have it and teach someone else what you've learned."
Each year, she takes a medical mission trip to Uganda to teach doctors there how to perform complex spinal surgeries.
We sat down with the North Carolina native to learn more about what motivated her career choice and how she uses her skills to make a bigger impact in the world.
What inspired you to pursue medicine?
Dr. Tiffany Perry: I went to college to pursue music. I was a piano performance major, but I always loved science and math so I took a lot of those classes for fun. Labs were my fun classes.
In my junior year I got really nervous about being able to make a living in music. I talked to my advisor and he suggested medicine so I took the MCAT as a backup plan. I got accepted to medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill. I entered medical school and never looked back.
"The moment I walked into an OR I knew that was what I wanted to do."
How did you end up in neurosurgery?
TP: I was interested in neurosciences. I thought it was amazing how the mind works with the body and the physiology behind it.
I thought about psychiatry but decided it wasn't for me. I really wanted to be able to diagnose a problem and fix it, and that's often not possible in psychiatry. Then I shadowed a neurosurgeon and the moment I walked into an OR I knew that was what I wanted to do. I loved it.
Your job is high pressure. How do you relieve stress at the end of a long day?
TP: I still play piano and I love to run. I do yoga, which helps me stay centered.
I also love to watch HGTV and "Say Yes to the Dress" with my daughter.
What kind of music do you listen to on your runs?
TP: I listen to everything! I listen to all genres of music in the OR too. I have playlists that are organized by the procedures that I do. I like Hailee Steinfeld and Post Malone because I have an 11-year-old.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about pursuing medicine?
TP: My advice to people always is: Find that thing you love to do and do that—whether it's medicine or not.
I always tell my daughter when you find that thing, that's not the end of it. Take what you do somewhere else in the world that doesn't have it and teach someone else what you've learned. The goal is to make a difference.
So that's a big part of why you go to Uganda?
TP: Yes! The goal of our trips is to teach doctors how to do these surgeries and each year they get better and better.
We go with a team of doctors, nurses, a physical therapist, and an anesthesiologist. We see about 120 patients and this year we performed 16 surgeries.
I always come back reminded of how fortunate we are here to have our healthcare system. What we have is better than the best care people can get in other parts of the world—we're so blessed.