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Extraordinary Leaders for Extraordinary Times: Dr. Erich Anderer

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As the world grapples with the shift toward social isolation, managing pandemic-related stress, and an uncertain future, we at Wanderlust know that our greatest strengths are the wisdom of our leaders and the power of community.

We have reached out to the lighthouses in our teaching community to share some succinct, actionable insights with our community, as well as to call on us to be bold and envision how this shift can create a better world. Because extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. 

COPING IN THE PRESENT

For me, it’s always the same answer: family and work. Even though I’m a doctor in NYC and regularly work with Covid patients, my wife and I have made the decision to stay together as a family. I take significant precautions Erich_2– assessing my temperature twice a day, adhering to good cough and sneeze etiquette, tossing my clothes in the washer and showering before I hug my kids when I return home (the hardest one), but I know there are still risks. The choice we have made, however, is that keeping the family close, physically and emotionally, outweigh those risks.

Work has been brutal in a lot of ways. Much has been written about the battles health care workers have been waging against this novel virus and I’m not looking to add to the narrative here. Suffice it to say that for someone who is used to being in control – of an operating room, of a meeting, or of a clinical situation – this has been an unsettling time. Never before have we had to treat such a capricious disease, in such high numbers, and in such a short period of time. In light of this, I can’t say enough about the creativity, positivity, and selflessness of my co-workers in the face of such uncertainty and risk. Witnessing the bravery of my colleagues along with the unsolicited love and support many of us have gotten from our surrounding community, gives me real hope for the future.

ANSWERING THE CALL

People think New Yorkers are rude, and that may be true at times, but I have never seen a group of people move ERich_3more quickly to help each other out in times of collective need. Watching what happened after 9/11, and what is currently going on with the nightly 7PM serenades in front of our hospitals, the innumerable GoFundMe campaigns, and the ad hoc groups taking groceries to the elderly in our neighborhood, has reaffirmed my belief in a mostly benevolent human nature.

What is particularly cruel about this virus is that it preys on one of the most fundamental human traits: our need for close, meaningful contact with other human beings. On an individual level, I found that being forced to focus on what was truly important to me – from activities to food items – was a fruitful exercise. On a societal level, I’m hoping this experience will reset our priorities so that when we come out of isolation, we can re-engage with each other more responsibly, compassionately, and empathetically. And I would like this goodwill to last longer than an Instagram story or hashtag campaign! #covidkindness

Dr ErichDr. Erich Anderer is the chief of neurosurgery at NYU Langone – Hospital Brooklyn, and an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the NYU School of Medicine. He was born in Japan and grew up in NYC, where his family utilized a Reiki and shiatsu practitioner in conjunction with the family physician for preventative health care and maintenance.

Dr. Anderer performs about 200 spine and brain surgeries a year, and is an expert in complex spine surgery. He has an interest in self care as a means to prevent and treat most causes of neck and back pain. He is also helping to investigate ways to reduce the use of opiates in post-surgical patients, and eliminate their use in chronic pain.

He is an enthusiastic (albeit a beginner) student of yoga, and spends as much time outdoors with his wife and two children as possible. Dr. Anderer is a board member of the NY State Neurosurgical Society, the Japanese Medical Society of America, and the Open Space Alliance, a parks conservancy in Brooklyn.

Connect with Dr. Anderer on Instagram.

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