Making a difference in his hometown: A neurosurgeon shares his journey back to Fort Wayne

When he first started training to become a neurosurgeon, Tyler Atkins, M.D., didn’t think he’d ever end up back in Fort Wayne.

His studies took him all over the country—even all over the world. Yet, he landed back home.

A 2006 graduate of Carroll High School, Atkins went to Indiana University in Bloomington for his undergrad studies, and then medical school at the IU School of Medicine in Fort Wayne. After graduation, he made his first big move to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he trained for seven years as a neurosurgery resident.

In the later years of his residency training in Charlotte, he took an elective year to pursue international studies. In 2019, Atkins spent six months in Switzerland as Chief Resident at a university hospital. Then for the first half of 2020, he completed a fellowship in complex and minimally invasive brain tumor surgery in Sidney, Australia.

It wasn’t until recently that Atkins considered moving back to Northeast Indiana.

“When I left for residency, I thought I would want to go to a major university setting for neurosurgery,” Atkins says. “But the growing community of Fort Wayne—and in particular, Parkview—piqued my interest for the type of complex and advanced surgeries I was interested in doing.”

A 2006 graduate of Carroll High School, Tyler Atkins, M.D., returned to Fort Wayne to work for Parkview Health.

As a provider with Parkview Physicians Group – Neurosurgery, he specializes in complex and minimally invasive brain and spine surgery, and he sees an opportunity to help a lot of local patients.

“Minimally invasive surgery is the most intriguing for people,” he says. “We can maximize the use of technology to minimize incisions and interventions, resulting in shorter hospital stays, less pain, and faster recovery. We can even perform outpatient procedures for conditions that would traditionally land people in the hospital for several days.” 

Atkins says the connections he made as a medical student also had an impact on his decision to return to Fort Wayne. He names several mentors he met during medical school.

“Dr. Bill Young and Dr. Jim Dozier—I had my first interactions with them as a student and have now joined them in practice, which is an exciting evolution,” Atkins says. “My first-ever surgery was with Dr. Young, and now he’s in the office next to me. And Dr. Fen Lei Chang, who leads Parkview Neurosciences and is dean of the IU School of Medicine campus in Fort Wayne—I know he’s always proud when his medical students end up in the neurosciences, let alone come back to Fort Wayne.”

Family is another connection that brings Atkins back to Northeast Indiana. His maternal grandparents were the founders of Ward Corporation, an aluminum foundry still operating just off Main Street in Fort Wayne.

Atkins’ wife, Deedee, is also a Fort Wayne native and his high school sweetheart. With daughters, ages 2 and 4, the couple is happy to raise their children near family.

A self-described outdoorsy and active person, Atkins also appreciates the amenities available in Northeast Indiana.

“Fort Wayne has always been an easy place to live, and it’s becoming even more enjoyable,” he says. “After being away for the better part of a decade, I am very impressed with the trail system. There’s a great restaurant scene growing here, too. And the rejuvenation of downtown has made it the place to go for dining, coffee, sports, and other events. I don’t feel like it’s a tiny Midwest town anymore.”

In many ways, the city developed and Parkview grew alongside Atkins’ career.

“I was a medical student when Parkview Regional Medical Center was under construction,” he recalls. “One night, I was taking a break from studying, which is rare for medical students, and I parked my car and looked up at all the scaffolding and lights. I very distinctly remember watching this impressive building go up and thinking, ‘That’s a big deal for Fort Wayne, and I could see myself wanting to work in a place like that.’”