Jannetta Symposium

Dr. McLaughlin trained with the legendary Dr. Peter Jannetta. Dr. Jannetta was not just the creator of the gold standard treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, he was also a visionary, whose moral compass inspired all those who encountered him. For Dr. McLaughlin, he served the roles of teacher, of mentor, and of friend. 

On the occasion the Inaugural Peter Jannetta Symposium presented these remarks. We invite you to watch the video. 

Dr. McLaughlin's Remarks

Good morning.

From the day we met to present day I've often asked myself as I'm sure you have, why was PJ so inspirational what about him invoked such an emotional response of attachment. What was his secret sauce?

We heard a lot of stories last night, but what was it?  I thought if I could figure that out, maybe someday I could emulate those qualities and achieve maybe a fraction of his greatness. We've all converged here this weekend for many different reasons…, admiration, love, respect. Some of us have an 8:05 lecture to give. But we're here to celebrate Dr. Jannetta’s legacy. I don't know about you but if I had to boil it down he made me feel three feelings…, still today.

He made me feel talented he made me feel important and he made me feel  special.

So first special. Peter embraced opportunities to make a connection. Shortly after we arrived in Pittsburgh my wife Julie and I decided to have a wine-tasting party. We invited Peter and Diana hoping they might come, but not actually thinking they would arrive.

Sure enough, on a cold wintry Saturday evening, I heard a knock at the door and first to arrive at our modest Miners Row house sitting on the side of the steep hill in Swissvale in walked PJ and Diana. He gave me his signature bow and curtsy, which I thought was a little strange, but grew to love and he made a beeline for the kitchen to start helping Julie with the hors d'oeuvres. He appointed himself the sous chef and we had a most delightful and interesting evening. Now I don't know what Swissvale is like presently but back then, it wasn't Ligonier.

I'm sure that party was not the typical party that they attended, not the typical town they visited, and certainly not the typical wine they drank. Think about how busy your schedule is now and what his schedule is like in his heyday. What would you do if a junior resident asks you to a wine party? He made you feel special and he made you feel talented.

He gave us the freedom in OR8 that many other residents all over the country didn't get. Where else would you be doing craniotomies your first month on service? I remember calling from Russia 20 years ago like it was yesterday.

“Dr. Jannetta.  I just gave Grand Rounds in St. Petersburg at the hospital and the chief wants to do a microvascular decompression.

His reply… When?

My answer…  tomorrow! What should I do?

Well how many is he done? Zero!

Long pause…  PJ's answer?  Go for it. Go for it. Keep him out of trouble. Use muscle and don't screw it up. Can you imagine what a pat on the back that was for me as a 6th year resident  5,000 miles away?  I'm sure you can because he likely gave you that kind of a pat on back when you needed it. He made you feel talented.

And lastly, he made you feel important. But not too important. He exuded humility and taught by example… Right?

Here was one of the greatest neurosurgeons, and yet he insisted…, Call me Peter…, to staff, to nurses, to colleagues. He was important yes, but not too important to not call him by name. You must all remember his admonition that if a nuclear bomb went off at the AANS, and all the neurosurgeons were wiped off the face of the earth health care would not blink an eye.

As neurosurgeons we were important, but not too important. I remember hosting him at Princeton Brain and Spine as visiting professor. After his lecture I gave him a tour of the facilities. I shared with him our strategic plan and I handed him some marketing materials to peruse. I have to admit I was quite proud of what we had accomplished. We had competed against some major universities that had come into our market and I wanted to show them that I wasn't just wasting my time in private practice as he used to often tease me.

You know the marketing materials and news articles. They're quite flattering. You know…, the stuff can make you feel good. It can be intoxicating.

 At the end of the tour, he focused on an article that was hanging on the wall. It was a picture with a legend and my arm around a local personality. I'm sure you have these kinds of articles in your office. He scanned the photo, clutched my forearm, and then very seriously looked at me and said

“Mark. Beware of the Delilah of the press. It's all BS. Never focus on fluff.”

I'll never forget it. Important but not too important.

Before I close I'd like to mention something else that was important to Peter and that was his foundation. The Jannetta Foundation has helped support this event and Dr. Jannetta’s research, and with Robert’s help and collaboration, this meeting has come to fruition. And as a parent, and I'm sure you all know. If it's important to your kids, it should be important to you. We're all Doctor Jannetta’s kids and if it was important to him, it should be important to us.

I want to encourage all of you to please, register, sign up, and make a contribution, because it's these kind of meetings that have come from the Jannetta Foundation.

As I said at the beginning, it's taken me years to realize PJ's gravitas and why he had an impact with everyone around him. My hope for all of you, is as we celebrate his legacy and you experience this love and respect today. And on your way home, my hope is that you ask yourself the same question. What made this man so transformational? And when you find your answer, and in your own way, go be that person and like he did pass it on.

You can learn more about Dr. Jannetta.

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Warm Regards