Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Neurosurgeon Keith Black

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Dr. Keith Black in his office at Cedars-Sinai.

Meet Dr. Keith Black! He’s one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons and chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery. When he’s not seeing patients, he can be found working to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and researching ways to slow or prevent the degenerative condition.

We sat down with Dr. Black to learn more about the man behind the research.

Where did you grow up?

Dr. Black: I lived in Auburn, Alabama until I was 10 and then my family moved to Cleveland. I stayed there until I went to college at the University of Michigan.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a doctor?

Dr. Black: If I wasn’t in medicine, I’d probably still be doing something related to science. I would probably still be researching the brain or the nervous system.


Read: Brainworks Takes LA Students Inside the Brain


Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?

Dr. Black: A lot of places, but always someplace close to the water—the Caribbean, the South Pacific, the Mediterranean.

What’s the best part of your job?

Dr. Black: The patients. We deal with patients who face a lot of difficult challenges; something that affects the brain is different than things that affect other parts of the body because it impacts the very essence of who we are. To guide them and help them through those challenges is very rewarding. I think neurosurgery is particularly rewarding because there’s little room for error and it’s high-risk, but when things go well you can have really extraordinary outcomes.


Read: Study: Eyes Could Be Window to Early Alzheimer’s Detection


What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Dr. Black: I love the water, so I love sailing and scuba diving. I like being outdoors. I also like to hike, and I incorporate that into my exercise routine. I like to hike Runyon and Temescal canyons.

How about the Santa Monica Stairs?

Dr. Black: I don’t do the Santa Monica Stairs because they’re so crowded, but I do take the stairs here in the hospital. I almost never take the elevator up, so I usually walk up 6 floors to my office. You will always find me in the stairwells.

What would you say to someone thinking about pursuing a career in neurosurgery?

Dr. Black: Make sure it’s really a passion and that you’re pursuing it because of that passion. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and to really put in that work you have to love it.

It cannot be viewed as a job because if you think of it as a job, you’re not going to be very good at it. The other thing is making sure you have the skills to do it, because if you don’t have the hand/eye coordination and fine motor detail, you won’t be good at it.

What is your favorite band or musical artist?

Dr. Black: That’s tough because I’m very eclectic. I could be listening to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” or R&B, sometimes jazz, or even rap. Depends on my mood.

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