Meet Dr. Dana Adkins with Sentara Neurosurgery Specialists
Dana E. Adkins, M.D.
Sentara Neurosurgery Specialists
Growing up, becoming a doctor was always in the mix for Dana Adkins, MD - even if other professions occasionally grabbed his attention.
"It was either be a doctor or be an actor," Dr. Adkins says. "Be a doctor or be a biologist. Be a doctor or be a police officer." Thanks to a family tradition of medical careers - his grandfather was a physician and his mother was a nurse - being a doctor won out in the end.
Driven by a desire to serve and a proud family history of military service, Dr. Adkins joined the Navy. Top grades in high school and college led to acceptance at Vanderbilt University's medical school. He took several neurology classes, further developing an interest in the subject. As a commissioned Naval officer, his schooling was covered.
Following his graduation, Dr. Adkins did his internship at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He completed the Navy's diving medicine program and was eventually stationed with a SEAL team in Hawaii. Dr. Adkins functioned as the primary care provider for members of the SEAL unit and their families. Additionally, after training to become a diving medical officer and a hyperbaric medical officer, he deployed with the SEALs on submarines. During these missions, Dr. Adkins tracked the SEAL's dive profiles and treated conditions requiring hyperbaric therapy, such as air embolisms.
After four years serving as a diving medical officer for the SEAL command, Dr. Adkins completed his civilian neurosurgical residency at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. A fellowship in neurosurgery with a focus in complex spinal conditions followed at the University of Washington, Seattle. "I'd gotten a lot of exposure to neurosurgical spinal procedures and minimally invasive spinal procedures, but my fellowship was actually an orthopedic fellowship," Dr. Adkins says. "I gained a lot of experience in the surgical management of conditions that are traditionally managed by orthopedic surgeons, such as spinal deformities, scoliosis and other large spinal corrections."
Dr. Adkins is originally from the Hampton Roads area. When he saw a Sentara posting for a complex spine surgeon, he decided to apply. He was already familiar with the Sentara name and the hospital - Sentara Norfolk General Hospital - was in his hometown. The job was also near a beach, something he'd come to love after his time in Hawaii. And Sentara checked off the boxes he wanted for his career. The hospital was a Level 1 trauma center with a stroke program and strong commitment to top-quality neurology care.
"Not only was Sentara offering all the things I was looking for, Sentara was home," Dr. Adkins says. "When I applied, I was thinking I already knew the area and I could go back and be near my family and friends. It's really been fantastic."
At Sentara Neurosurgery Specialists, Dr. Adkins specializes in degenerative spinal disease with minimally invasive solutions, which allow for smaller incisions, less blood loss, and faster recovery times. For more complex problems such as tumors or deformities he utilizes a combination of open and minimally invasive techniques to find the best solution for an individual's problem. He also has expertise in skill based tumor surgery and peripheral nerve disorders.
Dr. Adkins serves on various Sentara committees and directs the Sentara Spine Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. As director, he meets monthly with administrators and the heads of nursing and physical therapy to discuss patient volume, complication rates and staffing needs. Together, they identify ways to enhance the patient experience. He has been named as a Top Doc by Coastal Virginia Magazine five years in a row (2018-2022).
Dr. Adkins strongly believes in giving back to the community and teaching the next generation of neurosurgeons. He is on faculty at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and is the chapter sponsor of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons student interest group. Medical students with an interest in neurosurgery also rotate with Dr. Adkins. Finally, he is part of an outreach program at William & Mary for premed students who are interested in learning more about medicine, surgery and neurosurgery.
Despite those commitments, Dr. Adkins finds the time his patients need for top care.
"I love to teach and pass on knowledge - I love mentoring medical students who are interested in neurosurgery," he says. "But the most rewarding part of my job is patient care. To take a patient who has a problem, operate on them and have them get better is the most rewarding thing I do."