​​Image of Dr. Mark Bernstein
Dr. Mark Bernstein sits on a stack of 100 copies of his newly published textbook, which he will be giving away to residents and as gifts on his future developing world missions. (Photo: UHN)​

Walking into Dr. Mark Bernstein's office it's hard not to notice the tall stacks of brand new grey and blue textbooks around the room.

There is a stack in front of his brown leather couch, a stack in front of his already full book shelf, and Dr. Bernstein reveals that until recently, the stacks were spilling into the reception area.

Dr. Bernstein, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, has ordered 100 copies of his newly published textbook Neuro-Oncology: The Essentials, which he plans to give away to residents and fellows.

Dr. Bernstein specializes in neuro-oncology, a subspecialty in neurosurgery focusing on the treatment of brain tumours. In 1996, he performed the first awake-outpatient craniotomy in the world. Keeping patients awake during the surgery helps surgeons ensure they are not harming areas of the brain that are essential for normal function.

This third edition brings the area up-to-date – where surgical advances and research have improved care for patients. Among the updates are eight new chapter topics, including neuro-oncology in the developing world.

"I felt strongly about the need for a chapter on the developing world because I think it's important that we continue to build relationships with colleagues overseas and continue to advance modern neurosurgical care in developing countries," Dr. Bernstein says.  

Over the past eight years, Dr. Bernstein has organized over 20 international missions to help bring surgical skills and training to communities in need. This latest edition of the book will not only be given to his residents, but he also plans to distribute them as gifts on all his future missions.

In addition to a chapter on the developing world, Neuro-Oncology: The Essentials tackles the basic science and evaluation of tumours, outlines radiation and other treatment options, and provides information on related issues such as end-of-life care.

"It's great for residents studying for exams because a lot of books in this area are huge, so this is more digestible," Dr. Bernstein says.

Dr. Bernstein says the neuro-oncology field continues to grow and there will likely be a need for more editions.

"We've published three textbooks in the last 15 years and in another 10 years there should probably be another edition done," he says. "The field is very fluid so there are frequently new developments to highlight."

A literary 'first'

Dr. Bernstein also managed to find time to publish a book that is a first of its kind. Neurosurgical Ethics in Practice: Value-based Medicine is the first book to focus on the ethical dilemmas neurosurgeons face daily. It came out the very same week as the Neuro-Oncology book and Dr. Bernstein also purchased 100 copies of it to give to residents and other students.

"A colleague gave me the idea to write a book on this topic and it's quite exciting to have it be a first," he says.

Every day neurosurgeons make hundreds of ethical decisions, Dr. Bernstein says. The book provides a systems approach process of how to think about a problem and reach a solution so that all parties are served.

"Most people think they know ethics. They think because they are a good person that they will always be capable of making an ethical decision," he says. "But it's not always that simple to dissect and rectify a problem when you're making so many decisions on a daily basis."

Dr. Bernstein says he hopes neurosurgeons can use the book as a resource in addition to consulting with colleagues when they're not confident with a decision.

Despite the process of developing ideas, shepherding contributors, various edits, and finding a publisher, Dr. Bernstein says putting together both books has been exciting.

"It's a lot of work and a lot of re-writes, but it's really a labour of love."


To​ purchase Neuro-Oncology: The Essentials – Third Edition, please visit: Thieme Publishers or Chapters-Indigo 

To purchase Neurosurgical Ethics in Practice: Value-based Medicine, please visit: Springer or Amazon  

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