Dr. Francisco Ponce Celebrates 1000th DBS Surgery

Barrow Neurological Institute neurosurgeon Francisco Ponce, MD, has reached an impressive surgical milestone, performing his 1,000th groundbreaking Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) procedure for a Parkinson’s patient who traveled to Barrow in Phoenix from Reno.

Dr. Ponce has performed more of these surgeries than any other surgeon in the United States. DBS is a delicate two-part procedure which involves placing one or two electrodes into the brain and connecting them to a neurostimulator that is placed under the skin. Essentially like a “pacemaker” for the brain, the neurostimulator can be programmed to deliver an electrical current to select brain regions where the electrodes are placed.

Dr. Ponce and neurologists at Barrow’s Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, agree the DBS procedure can provide remarkable therapeutic benefits for otherwise treatment-resistant movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.

“I am excited about the increased DBS awareness over the past eight years in the region,” says Dr. Ponce. “I see this milestone as a testament to the commitment we’ve made to patient education, surgical safety and consistency, and neurologist engagement.”

Stephen Smith, 73, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than a dozen years ago. Today, the Reno man has newfound relief from his symptoms after becoming Dr. Ponce’s 1,000th DBS patient.

photo of phoenix neurosurgeon Francisco Ponce
Dr. Francisco Ponce
Barrow Neurosurgeon

Smith began investigating DBS as a possible treatment option for his Parkinson’s disease about three years ago. Last December, he decided to become a patient of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center’s director, Holly Shill, MD.

“Patients learn about this opportunity to address the quality of their life while living with Parkinson’s and other tremor disorders, however they often do not have access to this type of comprehensive care. As a result, we have seen Phoenix become a destination for Parkinson’s disease and DBS treatment,” says Dr. Shill.

Smith says he grew up in Phoenix and knew Barrow had an excellent reputation. “When I arrived at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow and met Dr. Ponce, I learned I would be his 1,000th patient and immediately felt assured that he was the right person to perform this surgery for me. His calm demeanor and outstanding record of success made me feel that I could be in no better hands.”

A former professional employee with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for 40 years, Smith says he is most anxious to resume a normal lifestyle, accomplishing the everyday tasks that most take for granted, like writing a check, buttoning his own shirts, shaving, reading a book, and taking road trips.

“I want to spend more quality time with my children and grandchildren. My wife, Vilia, and I have many things we still want to do in this life and our prayer is that the ‘Golden Years’ will truly become that for us and for many others with Parkinson’s through research and dedicated doctors and staff such as those at Barrow,” says Smith.

Media Contact:
Carmelle Malkovich
(602) 406-3319