Brain surgery, science and education

As a pediatric neurosurgeon, neuroscientist, and educator, I come across many interesting bits of information and wonderful people. I will try to share some of this with you here. While the site draws heavily from my experiences as the Campagna Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Oregon Health & Science University, and head of neurosurgery at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, this is a personal blog. My thanks to my wonderful OHSU colleagues, who share this exciting and rewarding work with me.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Tradition Grows Deep Roots

The Mario and Edith Campagna Scholarship is less than a decade old, but is already growing deep roots and tradition within the soil of U.S. neurosurgical education. This week, the Campagna Scholarship Committee of the OHSU Department of Neurological Surgery met to choose the 8th Campagna Scholar. As Chair of the Committee, I can attest that we had some hard work choosing amongst many highly qualified and deserving candidates from around the country.

The new Campagna Scholar is Stephen J. Lehnert, a first year medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine. As a Purdue undergraduate, Stephen earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and was a Pi Tau Sigma engineering honors student. Stephen has broad scientific interests, having worked on predictive modeling strategies in health care and served as a research engineering intern at Ingersoll Rand, Rockwell, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The skills Stephen has garnered from this work will be well utilized in clinical research during his Scholarship, under the guidance of OHSU Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, and functional neurosurgery expert, Dr. Ahmed Raslan.

Of course, most important to the Campagna vision and legacy, Stephen is an engaging, enthusiastic and hard working future physician and surgeon, passionate about all his undertakings. He enjoys sports and the outdoors, including basketball and running, and will really benefit from the chance to get to know Oregon while he is here as a Scholar.

Former Campagna Scholar, Susan Wozniak, Campagna Professor Dr. Nathan Selden, with Dr. and Mrs. Campagna on a Scholar trip to Medford
One of the highlights of the summer (for the Scholar and for myself!) is a trip to southern Oregon to visit with Dr. Campagna. Like the Scholarship, itself, this tradition of mentorship and stewardship of future leaders in neurosurgery has grown deep roots.

Friday, March 15, 2013

OHSU Neurosurgery Residency 2013 Match

It is a true pleasure to announce the outstanding results of the OHSU 2013 Neurosurgery Residency Program Match. OHSU matched two residents this year, following our complement increase in 2012 to three and two residents on an alternating year schedule:

Dr. Carli Bullis, MD, holds undergraduate degrees in both biology and history from Indiana University in Bloomington, and is completing her medical degree at the IU School of Medicine where she is a member of the AOA honors society. As a medical student, she conducted research on the radiographic anatomy of pediatric spine surgery. At IU, she was a silver medalist at the US Figure Skating Intercollegiate National Championships.

Dr. Lauren Simpson, MD, studied neuroscience as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and earned a Master of Public Health degree at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is completing her medical degree at Duke University, where she is a Dean’s Tuition Scholarship Merit Award winner. She has participated in and written about medical care capacity building in the underdeveloped world.

Our program is proud of the outstanding quality of the medical graduates who come to OHSU to train in neurological surgery. OHSU neurosurgery residents are amongst the most accomplished and capable in the country.

With this year’s match, we believe that the OHSU program now also represents the highest number (7) and highest proportion (47%) of female residents in any of the 101 accredited U.S. residency programs. This proportion is almost identical to that of women graduating from U.S. medical schools (48%), and dramatically higher than the percentage of women neurosurgery residents currently training in the U.S. (12%), or entering accredited residency programs each year (20%).

The OHSU neurological surgery residency program is fortunate to attract top applicants of either gender and of various cultural backgrounds. Increasingly, the residents we train resemble the rich and diverse population that they will care for. Each of our residents strive to meet and surpass the rigorous criteria for hard work, compassionate care, and excellence required by the personally demanding and technically challenging field of neurosurgery. Each of them defines what it takes to succeed in this terrific profession.

Carli Bullis

Lauren Simpson

Monday, March 4, 2013

Enjoying a Colleague's Success

In January, I was invited to a very special dinner celebration, to acknowledge my friend and colleague, Dr. Jeff Koh, head of pediatric anesthesiology at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Dr. Koh was being honored as the first holder of the Fred Fax Professorship of Pediatric Anesthesia. This important endowed position, a gift from the estate of Alice and Fred Fax, will support the important work of Jeff and his colleagues at Doernbecher now and in perpetuity.

At the dinner, listening to colleagues from near and far who were visiting to join in the celebration, I was reminded of the special talents that Jeff brings to his care of patients at Doernbecher. His calm, warm and wonderful demeanor with children changes their operative experience (and that of their parents) for the better. His focus and skill as an anesthesiologist brings an unmatched level of safety and care to their outcomes. Indeed, when one of my own children needed an anesthetic for placement of ear tubes, Jeff took care of them. This passion for quality extends to all of Jeff’s anesthesia colleagues at Doernbecher, in part because he helps to inspire it.

Jeff is also a superlative leader, who keeps a complex OR environment humming, makes sure everyone is at their best, and that everyone’s contribution is valued. Holding the Fax Professorship is emblematic of all these skills, and of what Jeff brings to Oregon’s children.

My favorite part of the dinner was to see Jeff’s wife, children, and even siblings and father, some from very far away, visiting to enjoy their family member’s success, and to better understand his contributions. That night, they too became part of our “Doernbecher family”!

My colleagues Dean Mark Richardson and Drs. Jeff Koh, Stacy Nicholson and Jeff Kirsch

Monday, February 18, 2013

Surpassing Your Elders

I had the pleasure in January of spending the day in Hillsboro at the Intel Lego Robotics Championships for the State of Oregon. I was there to watch my son’s team (Team Sigma) compete in the finals after winning runner up at their regional competition the month before.

Lego Robotics is a terrific program for junior high school students, which marries robot design, programming and competition, to team work on a major, innovative, and creative project using engineering skills, and focused on the real world. This year, the project theme focused on the health of the elderly, with the goal of proposing real solutions for elder health and safety.

My son’s team visited a local nursing home, got to know some of the residents and staff, and found about one very serious problems for the elderly: walker falls. People dependent on walkers to get around can sometimes lose control of the walker and still suffer a fall, sometimes with devastating and life altering hip or other injuries. Ryan and his friends, all on their own, looked over various walker models, learned about the most common fall mechanisms, and engineered a solution. They then went a few steps farther, drawing a CAD diagram (using fee software they found online), buying the necessary parts for a prototype, and building it!

I was privileged to be in the room with their coach in Hillsboro when they demonstrated their prototype and project design boards to a panel of engineering judges at the competition (see the photo below). Listening to them present I thought I was watching a group of young engineers, not my own 13-year old son and his friends. The judges were rapt and pushed them with tough questions. Without any ability for help from coach or parent, they confidently answered everything, using expertise (and some vocabulary) that I do not even possess. I was stunned. For the first time as a parent, I most clearly understood some of the things my son can do that I can’t, and never will be able to.

Ryan’s team also won rave reviews from teamwork judges, and robotics judges, as well as had some great runs on the robot competition tables.

Karen and I sat on our hands with anxiety, along with the parents of over 80 other teams, as the statewide awards were announced. No matter how impressed I had been, I started to give up hope after Team Sigma failed to earn first place or runner up in any of the category awards (teamwork, design, programming, etc.). As the overall 3rd place in Oregon award went by, I started to rehearse in my head a condolences and encouragement talk to have with my son. Again, it shows how little I know! In second place in Oregon – Team Sigma! I will never forget the looks on the faces of this terrific team.

Well done!

Team Sigma Accepts 2nd Place in Oregon Trophy at Intel Lego Robotics

Team Sigma Demonstrating Project to Judges