Biography

David McDonagh, M.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, Neurological Surgery, and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He serves as Director of the Division of Neuroanesthesiology and Vice Chair for University Hospital in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management. He is Medical Director of Perioperative Services and Chief of Staff at Zale Lipshy Pavilion – William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. He specializes in neurosurgical anesthesiology and neurocritical care. 

Dr. McDonagh earned his medical degree at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed residencies in neurology and anesthesiology at the Duke University Medical Center, where he also received fellowship training in neurocritical care and stroke. He spent 10 years on the faculty at Duke, serving as Neurocritical Care Fellowship Director, Neuroanesthesia Fellowship Director, and Division Chief of Neuroanesthesiology. He currently holds an adjunct associate professorship there. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2015. 

One of approximately 50 physicians in the United States who are trained in both neurocritical care and neuroanesthesia, Dr. McDonagh regularly lectures and has published an array of research in both neuroanesthesia and neurocritical care. His work in quality assurance and improvement has led to changes in clinical practice at both Duke and UT Southwestern. He is the Neuroanesthesia Section Editor for OpenAnesthesia.org and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology.

Dr. McDonagh is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Association of University Anesthesiologists, the International Anesthesia Research Society, the Neurocritical Care Society, the Society of Neurosurgical Anesthesia and Critical Care, the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists.

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Meet Dr. McDonagh

Neurosurgical Anesthesiologist and Neurocritical Care Specialist in Dallas

David McDonagh, M.D., is one of approximately 50 physicians in the United States who have completed advanced training in both neurointensive care and neuroanesthesiology. He chose that path so he could build his career entirely around the critical care of the neurosurgical patient, offering the best care possible for people who are in extremely delicate and dangerous health situations. 

As Medical Director of Perioperative Services at UT Southwestern’s Zale Lipshy Pavilion, Dr. McDonagh cares for neurovascular and stroke patients, brain tumor patients, complex spine surgery patients, and others with advanced surgical needs for diseases of the brain, spine, head, and neck. 

His team, one of the largest academic neuroanesthesia and neurocritical care teams in the United States, makes sure these patients have an optimal recovery by providing vigilant, round-the-clock care – including state-of-the-art imaging and neuromonitoring services, pain control, and postoperative recovery. 

“Providing that caliber of care takes a network of individuals who can function at top speed, at any time,” Dr. McDonagh says. “Acute strokes and unexpected surgical complications can happen at any hour of the day or night, so our services have to be at their very best, 24/7.” 

Dr. McDonagh says that an experienced and specialized staff is the key to a high-performing brain institute. 

“The reason UT Southwestern is able to offer the highest level of neurosurgical services is that we not only have a large team of outstanding neurosurgeons, but also a team of highly trained and highly subspecialized experts in neuroanesthesia, neurocritical care, stroke neurology, neuroradiology, and neuropathology.” 

Developing Better Neurocritical Care

Because it’s challenging to create and maintain a system that can perform so well and so consistently, one of Dr. McDonagh’s passions is developing new systems-based approaches to help his team function more efficiently and effectively to enhance the recovery of his patients. 

“Those protocols often start well before an actual surgery,” he notes. “We set our patients up for success by making sure they have access to whatever services and specialists they might need for their unique situation before they reach the operating room – physical therapy, rehabilitation medicine, social workers, psychologists, internists, and geriatricians, for example.” 

Dr. McDonagh’s work in the operating room and the critical care unit is often life-saving, but it is also mostly behind the scenes.

“My patients meet me when they are very ill, under extreme emotional stress, or have altered consciousness due to medications or brain injury – so they often don’t fully know what I’m there to do,” he says. “I think for people who are in fields like mine, we find gratification in seeing that our patients did well, that outstanding care was provided, and that we did our part to help patients and families through a very difficult time in their lives.”

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Education & Training
  • Internship - MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (1998-1999), Internal Medicine
  • Fellowship - Duke University Medical Center (2004-2005), Neurocritical Care
  • Residency - Duke University Medical Center (2002-2005), Anesthesiology
  • Residency - Duke University Medical Center (1999-2002), Neurology
  • Medical School - Georgetown University School of Medicine (1994-1998)

Clinical Focus

  • Pain Management

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Q&A by Dr. McDonagh

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