Peter Sun, MD
Division Chief, Neurosurgery
Oakland Magazine Best East Bay Doctors 2007-2009
Medical School: Columbia University, New York
Residency: Neurosurgery, University of California, Davis, CA
Chief Resident, Neurosurgery, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Spine, Surgery, Neurosugery and Orthopedics, New York University
Fellowship: Pediatric Neurosurgery, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Board Certification: Pediatric Neurosurgery
Language(s): English, Mandarin
He divided his residency between the University of California, Davis; Yale University, where he was chief resident; and New York University, where he was also a chief resident and did work in spine surgery. He then did a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Pediatric neurosurgery held a special attraction. “Neurosurgical conditions in kids tend to be curable,” said Dr. Sun. “Neurosurgery on children has a lifetime impact.”
He also discovered special strengths that help him excel. “I can be patient and determined,” said Dr. Sun. “I don’t give up. Dissections can take a long time, but you don’t want to injure anything. Things always work out at the end.”
Before moving to the East Bay, Dr. Sun was an assistant professor in Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania, and an attending neurosurgeon at Children’s Philadelphia.
In 2000, Dr. Sun came to Children’s Hospital to become its chief of Neurosurgery, and joined a select group: Bay Area neurosurgeons who have completed pediatric neurosurgery fellowships.
At Children’s, Dr. Sun and his team perform about 300 to 350 surgeries each year. The state-of-the-art equipment they use includes a system allowing very precise endoscopic surgery.
A computer navigation system loaded with images of a patient’s skull and brain, made with MRI scans, provides exquisitely accurate mapping. Combining the navigation system with a tiny camera inserted through very small incisions into the skull gives Dr. Sun an amazing tool for precision surgery.
In 2001, he used the system to remove a tumor threatening a child’s spinal cord.
“The only possible way to get to the tumor was through the mouth,” said Dr. Sun. With help from a team including a cranio-facial plastic surgeon, the surgery was successful.
In another collaboration with the cranio-facial surgeon, Dr. Sun performed surgery on a 6-year-old boy with severe craniosynostosis. The boy’s skull sutures had fused. During a six-hour surgery, Dr. Sun cut the skull into several pieces and the two surgeons reconstructed the boy’s skull, increasing the circumference of his head by four centimeters.
“All the girls think I’m cute now,” said the boy a year after his surgery.
In spite of his packed schedule, Dr. Sun has found time to author or co-author 15 peer-reviewed journal articles, contribute to book chapters and give presentations across the country. He’s also an assistant professor in Neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco, and a pre-med mentor at the University of California, Berkeley.
All that, and logging more than 1,000 hours a year in the operating room, keeps Dr. Sun very busy. When he has time to relax, he likes to spend it with his family, his wife and two young sons, enjoying a special meal, or exercising.
For Dr. Sun, the best part of his work is the camaraderie of his team and seeing his patients do well. “I’m very proud of my team in the OR and the office,” said Dr. Sun. The surgery team is almost a second family. Their team spirt also helps families with extraordinary financial burdens. They created the Neurosurgical Family Fund, a “safety net” to help families with transportation, medicine, toiletries, hotel rooms or clothing when needed. For one family they raised $40,000 with help from Dr. Sun’s wife and her friends, putting on a salsa music event at Oakland’s Claremont Hotel.
“I love what I do,” said Dr. Sun. “I love the technical part and I love the fact that a job well done can save someone’s life. Medicine has plenty of problems, but I have a lot of passion for what I do, and it makes a difference to me how well our patients do.”
That’s something money can’t buy.