The ‘mystery and miracle’ of medicine never gets old
Doctor Michael Stechison’s day begins at 5:00 AM with two cups of coffee and, on those days when a difficult brain surgery is on the schedule, he’ll play a few bars on the piano before leaving the house.
“It kind of warms your fingers up.”
We’re not talking “Chopsticks” here. At one time, he had visions of life as a concert pianist. Growing up in Toronto in a family of musicians and doctors, a young Michael struggled with the choice between music and medicine.
“I actually learned to read music before I learned to read English,” says the doctor who has, after all these years, managed to keep his talented fingers in two pies at once: neurosurgeon by day, jazz pianist by night. Not every night, of course.
To the benefit of patients at Eastside Medical Center, his overarching focus is their neurological health and the excellence required of anyone brave enough to literally get inside someone else’s head.
Dr. Stechison left Canada early in his career when he saw a limited future under his country’s healthcare system. After stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania where research and writing and lecturing were as much a part of his job as surgery, he arrived in Georgia with a PhD in neuroanatomy and the desire to treat every disorder of the neurological system with a broader understanding of how miraculously the brain works. Grasping the physiological side of things has helped in his work but understanding the mystery of the mind he leaves to his wife, Dr. Cheryl Gratton, a neuropsychologist. As he puts it, “I do the hardware; she does the software.”
Together, they make a remarkable team. As an athlete himself––he’s run marathons for years––Dr. Stechison appreciates teamwork. And some of the most important members of his teams are his patients.
“A well-educated patient is the best kind of teammate to have,” says Dr. Stechison. “You have to have the belief that you’re going to get better.” So every patient sees what the doctor sees––images, models, charts––and together they eliminate irrational fears and plot the best course of action. Sometimes that’s no action at all, or at least a less invasive course of treatment, especially when it comes to spinal disorders.
“We have a pretty good self-healing capacity. Sometimes doing surgery on someone’s spine is very necessary, but it should not be undertaken lightly.”
Dr. Stechison also considers a patient’s lifestyle. Taking someone’s athletic hobby away from them for the sake of surgery that might be best put off is oftentimes not only the best decision physically, but mentally. In the end, each patient is different and each patient is precious.
“I really recognize the privilege this is to be able to have a life where you are helping other people. The mystery and the miracle of being able to do these things has never really gotten old for me.”
Treating every patient as if they were family and working with them as teammates has led to successful outcomes where no one leaves with any unanswered questions and together, doctor and patient make beautiful music together.
Michael Stechison, MD, PhD
Medical Director of Neuroscience Eastside Medical Center
Eastside Medical Center
1700 Medical Way
Snellville GA 30078
Eastside Medical Group:
1700 Tree Lane · Suite 470
Snellville GA 30078