Q&A with neurosurgeon and glassblower Paul Santiago, MD

Neurosurgery professor Paul Santiago, MD, works with residents and patients at the Specialty Care Clinic. MATT MILLER/WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopedic Surgery Paul Santiago, MD, is known for walking through the halls saying “yo yo yo whaas upppp” and “hi, good morning, it’s Paul.” Santiago is well liked by his patients, colleagues and staff.

“He is really well liked by his patients because he always spends a large amount of time with them, clear in what is possible, tells them the pros and cons of everything, and then fights for their care,” says Gretchen Blow, Neurosurgery’s manager of Administrative Services. “He is liked by staff because underneath his huge physical presence he cares deeply about people and how they feel. He always wants to make sure they’re ok.”

One of many examples of Dr. Santiago’s beautiful artwork.

Santiago took a few moments to tell us about his passion for neurosurgery, his glass blowing and one of his greatest achievements: getting out of the inner city.

Why did you decide to specialize in neurosurgery?

Neurosurgery was the last rotation of my third year of medical school at Yale. Prior to that, I was headed for Orthopaedic Surgery. The combination of the patients, the challenges and the intelligent, hard working people I would work with made it impossible to do anything else. The chief resident at the time was a soon-to-be pediatric neurosurgeon by the name of Tim George. His spirit was amazing and infectious and made it easy to decide that neurosurgery was the right place for me.

What do you love about your work?

I love the scope of the interactions I have every day. Wandering the halls from early morning to late at night means I get to know so many different types of people.  Also, few people can say they have never been sick. I have been blessed with caring for many different types of patients and the overwhelming majority have been the kind of  people I would not mind sharing a cup of coffee with or a glass of wine with if they were interested.

How long have you been at WashU?

Since September of 2003​.

What is your favorite food?

​A tie between classic French (sweet breads, yum) and Korean street food (there is just something about burn-your-mouth spicy stir fried octopus-Nakji Bokum).

How did you get into glassblowing and how long have you been doing it? What do you like about it?

Dr. Santiago creating his next great piece of art at Third Degree Glass Factory.

After years of driving by Third Degree Glass Factory on Delmar and telling my family I would like to take a lesson some day, they gave me lessons. They told me I needed a hobby and glassblowing would be it. I have been blowing glass for nearly five years and have a long way to go with my studies. I have right brain challenges and my artist mentors have extreme patience. Glassblowing requires incredible presence and patience and has introduced me to yet another group of great people.

What else might your colleagues not know about you?

Most people know that I am a huge fan of Heavy Metal, hard rap and 90s Hip Hop.  Unbeknownst to my colleagues, I am also a closet Pitbull fan.  I even have the oversized sunglasses and white leisure suit.  Seriously, I consider one of my greatest achievements in life is to have made it out of the inner city and having the privilege of calling them colleagues.

Dr. Santiago, whose specialties include cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral spinal surgery, spinal tumors, and spinal cord tumors, sees adult patients at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and the Center for Advanced Medicine. To make an appointment, call 314-362-3577.