A Look at a Leader: Andrew Jea, MD
“At this point, our group has the ability to provide the complete spectrum of pediatric neurosurgical services and procedures, with high-quality and high-value,” Dr. Jea explains.
For Dr. Andrew Jea, a pediatric neurosurgeon and the new director of pediatric neurology at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, it all began with a family emergency. When Jea was in high school his younger sister lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. She was ultimately diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain that interrupts the process of transporting blood between the brain, lungs and heart.
“I was scared, along with my parents,” he recalls. “But I remember how calm the neurologist was and how he took the time to explain what was happening to my sister and what to expect. It got me interested in the study of the brain.” That experience was life changing, he says, and ultimately inspired Jea to have one singular career goal: become a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Dr. Jea, was born and raised in New Jersey, but he and his family eventually moved to Miami, Florida when he was in eighth grade. He attended The University of Florida for college (majoring in electrical engineering) and then completed his medical school and neurosurgical residency at University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital. With a desire to learn from the best, Dr. Jea then accepted a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. In 2007, he took his first faculty appointment at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas as an assistant professor. He then became a pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, rising up to become the director of their neuro-spine program.
During his time in Texas, Dr. Jea watched the department’s team grow from three to six pediatric neurologists over the course of three years and rise up the US News & World Report rankings from number six to number two during his nine year tenure.
However, while Dr. Jea was happy in Texas, a fortuitous phone call from the neuroscience team at Indiana University Health soon presented an opportunity he couldn’t resist. The official position, chief of pediatric neurosurgery, meant Dr. Jea could potentially align himself with another strong team. “The IU school of medicine and the neuroscience team at Indiana University Health are very strong, and the other pediatric neurologists here are all highly respected as experts in their various specialties,” Dr. Jea explains. All of the variables were immediately appealing, he says. “Plus, Indianapolis is an idyllic setting to work and raise a family.”
Dr. Jea will provide expertise in spinal deformity surgery for scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis; bony tumors of the spinal column; movement disorders; birth brachial plexus injury; peripheral nerve surgery; procedures to ameliorate pain; and fetal neurosurgery to repair spina bifida defects. “At this point, our group has the ability to provide the complete spectrum of pediatric neurosurgical services and procedures, with high-quality and high-value,” he explains.
After hours, Dr. Jea and his wife, Lourdes, an internal medicine physician, have their hands full at home. With twin six-year-old boys, a three-year-old boy and a Miniature Schnauzer named Mozart, their hobbies are mostly geared around their young family. Weekends and free time are mainly spent taking the boys to their basketball and soccer practice/games, or attending cub scouts meetings. As the boys grow, the doctors plan to impart their love of travel, showing them the various parts of the world they enjoyed before they had children. But for now, they stick to easy one day road trips and visiting Florida. Dr. Jea’s family remains in Miami and his wife’s family resides in Orlando.
While the fun and chaos of being a father to three young boys pulls Dr. Jea in many directions at home, at work he has a primary focus. “My main goal is to have Riley Hospital for Children become a regional and national destination for children with complex neurosurgical problems.”
-- By Gia Miller