Barrow Pituitary Center Welcomes Neuroendocrinologist
“You often have to be a detective in trying to find out what’s going on with each individual patient,” he said. “You have to be a good listener and tease out the important information that will help you in your objective of getting to the bottom of the patient’s problem.”
Dr. Yuen specializes in neuroendocrinology, a branch of medicine concerned with the interactions between the brain and the system of glands that regulate and produce many of the body’s hormones. He primarily treats disorders of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized organ which is located at the base of the brain and controls several other glands that make up the endocrine system.
“It’s somewhat of a unique subspecialty of endocrinology, which is why there are not many of us in the country,” he said.
Dr. Yuen recently joined Barrow as medical director of the Barrow Pituitary Center and the new Barrow Neuroendocrinology Clinic.
Becoming a Neuroendocrinologist
Dr. Yuen’s first exposure to neuroendocrinology came in the form of a research opportunity. While training as a fellow in general endocrinology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, he obtained a grant to undertake a research project studying the effects of growth hormone on body composition and glucose metabolism in children and adults.
“Given the fact that the production of growth hormone is from the pituitary, it got me very intrigued,” he said. “The pituitary is such a tiny gland, and yet it is such an important gland in that it is able to exert its influence on so many parts of the body.”
He spent three years on the project, which culminated in a thesis. After defending his thesis and earning his doctorate in medicine from the University of Sheffield in the U.K. in 2005, he received funding from the Growth Hormone Research Society to come to the United States for his postdoctoral training. He underwent training in neuroendocrinology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
Dr. Yuen said no specific formal training program exists for neuroendocrinology. The most relevant fellowship programs provide training in general endocrinology.
“You often have to undertake further training in the form of being mentored by an experienced neuroendocrinologist and being involved in research in this area,” he said.
He hopes to be able to start such a mentorship program at Barrow.
Philosophy of Care
Dr. Yuen came to Barrow from the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, where he served as medical director of the Swedish Pituitary Center. He chose to continue his career at Barrow because of its worldwide reputation and expertise in neurology and neurosurgery. An outdoorsman, he also relished the thought of year-round sunny weather.
And with its breadth of neurological specialists, Barrow’s collaborative environment aligns with Dr. Yuen’s philosophy of care.
“My philosophy is to be engaged in a multidisciplinary team approach,” he said. “Hormones can affect almost every part of your body, so this specialty requires collaboration with many other medical disciplines.”
My philosophy is to be engaged in a multidisciplinary team approach. Hormones can affect almost every part of your body, so this specialty requires collaboration with many other medical disciplines.
-Dr. Kevin Yuen, Barrow Neuroendocrinologist
These disciplines may include neurosurgery, neurology, neuro-oncology, neuro-ophthalmology, neuropsychology, and radiation oncology—all of which can be found at Barrow. Dr. Yuen also receives referrals from specialists in various medical fields, including rheumatology, sleep medicine, sports medicine, rehabilitation, and even dental medicine.
Dr. Yuen also strives to ease the anxiety many of his patients seem to feel by helping them to better understand their condition and how it can be managed. Not only does that mean making his patients aware of traditional treatments but investigational therapies as well.
“Because of the fact that I’m very passionate about research, I think this offers many opportunities for these patients to be involved in the cutting edge of research into pituitary diseases and to be considered for new medications that are not yet available to the general public,” he said.
Having the opportunity to help improve the function and quality of life of patients with pituitary disorders is why Dr. Yuen finds neuroendocrinology extremely rewarding.
“That not only has a huge impact on the patients themselves but also their families, coworkers, and other people around them,” he said.