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Dr. Boylan, Ayer’s First Female Neurosurgeon, on ‘Delivering the Best Care I Can’

March 22, 2021

An innate sense of curiosity and yearning for challenge transformed Dr. Arianne Boylan into something of a trailblazer, although she doesn’t dwell on it.

She is the first female neurosurgeon at Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute and one of a handful in the specialty.

“I see myself as a neurosurgeon. I just happen to also be a woman,” she said. “I’m happy to be identified as a female neurosurgeon if it helps bring more women into the field or makes a female patient more comfortable, but my real focus is delivering the best care I can.”

Dr. Arianne Boylan
Dr. Arianne Boylan

Dr. Boylan is director of neurotrauma at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and sees patients in Bridgeport and Westport. Her clinical interests run the gamut of neurosurgical conditions with a focus on degenerative disease, tumors, trauma and deformity of the spine. She also treats brain trauma and tumors, and peripheral nerve conditions.

“I wanted to challenge myself and be in a field that’s changing every day,” she said of the career she was introduced to during a virology research summer internship at the National Institutes of Health. “I liked the patient side of things. I’ve been hooked ever since!”

After neurosurgical training at the University of Colorado and Wayne State University, she completed fellowships in spinal oncology at Detroit Medical Center and orthopedic complex spine/deformity at Yale School of Medicine.

“It’s important to have diversity because patients want a neurosurgeon they fit best with,” she said. “It’s scary to have an operation on your spine or your head. Each of us has a unique history and personal experience that goes into how we deliver patient care.”

She said she helps her patients understand their diagnosis and options going forward, noting, “I’ve always been a very curious person and enjoy the detective work part of the job.”

She brings that curiosity – which also sent her traveling to five of the seven continents to “learn about different cultures” — to the expanding Spine Wellness Center, part of Ayer Neuroscience Institute. The team is rooted in belief that surgery is the last resort for spine care and all other avenues should be tried first, Dr. Boylan explained. The team also enjoys a shared passion for clinical research and belief that integrative therapies enhance patient care.

“I am passionate about my patients – I call them my surgical family – and find it rewarding to help them progress,” she said.

Nurturing other women in healthcare roles is also her focus at what she called “a great time to be a woman in medicine – there’s so much growth and acceptance,” she said.

“We need more strong women in all aspects medicine – just like we need people with diverse experiences and ways of thinking based all backgrounds, no matter the gender, sexual orientation, race, religion and nationality to improve the patient experience and drive innovation in the field. That can make all the difference in patient outcomes to have that connection. There are definitely psychological and emotional components to healing,” Dr. Boylan said.