The surgeon: Helping kids like his own
A profile of Cook Children's medical director of Neurosurgery
Several moments throughout his life, led John Honeycutt, M.D., to becoming the chief neurosurgeon at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, Texas. But none really shaped the doctor he is like the birth of his children.
“People told me everybody wants to work in pediatrics until you have kids,” Dr. Honeycutt said. “They said, ‘Then you won’t want to work on kids any longer. It will be too much.’ But it was the exact opposite. When I had my own kids I realized even more this was what I wanted. I wanted to help kids like my own. It gave me much more empathy. It made it much easier to take care of them. In my line of work, I’m asking parents to hand their kids off to me and take care of them. They entrust their kids’ lives in my hands and I understand that.”
As a teenager, Dr. Honeycutt saw first-hand the role a surgeon can play in helping a family after a traumatic event.
One afternoon in his hometown of Paragould, Ark., while “horsing around” after football practice, the then 15 year old broke his neck.
A surgical scar remains on Dr. Honeycutt’s neck and so do the memories of his time in the hospital. He describes the scene at the time like what you would see in a bad TV movie as he was placed in traction.
As a patient, he saw physicians changing patient’s lives and making them better. The straight A student now knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Then during medical school, Dr. Honeycutt found his specialty.
“When I was doing my neurosurgery rotation, it all just clicked,” he said. “It clearly had all the parts I really enjoyed. I liked being a surgeon. I liked the neurosciences. I liked the workings of the brain. I just loved everything about it.”
While Dr. Honeycutt is now an experienced neurosurgeon, he still strives to be at the forefront of the latest technology and technique. Working on a child’s brain requires not only a steady hand, but the latest in state-of the-art technology.
Dr. Honeycutt and his fellow neurosurgeons use their expertise to perform the most intricate and delicate surgeries, such as deep brain stimulation, iMRI-guided surgery and laser ablation surgery.
“It’s an exciting time right now because we are learning so much about the brain and how it works and at the same time our technology continues to improve with micro instruments, with robotics and computers,” Dr. Honeycutt said. “If I don’t keep learning and keep up with what’s going on, I can get so far behind, rather quickly. One of the great things about Cook Children’s is we are always on the leading edge.”
Another aspect of Cook Children’s that Dr. Honeycutt said makes it unique is the relationship between the neurologists and the neurosciences. As surprising as it may be, Dr. Honeycutt says it’s rare for other hospitals to have the neurologists and neurosurgeons share a clinic together. He calls the working relationship between everyone involved in the Department of Neurosciences at Cook Children’s unbelievable. A lot of it has to do with that communication and the skill of the surgeons and physicians. They push each other constantly to do better.
At Cook Children’s, the neurologists and neurosurgeons can give each other immediate feedback on a patient. “You look at our situation and say, ‘Why doesn’t everyone do this?’ It’s so silly that people don’t do this everywhere,” Dr. Honeycutt said. “It’s one of the things that makes this place so special.”