Neurosurgeon of the month...

June 2021 - Dr Sofia Ionescu

Sofia Ionescu is recognised as the first female neurosurgeon in the world, practicing neurosurgery for 47 years between 1943-1990. Speaking in an interview Dr Ionescu spoke of the decisive moment that led to her pursuing neurosurgery. Following an injury to her supervisor Professor Bagdasar, Dr Ionescu performed her first every surgery on an extradural intracranial haematoma – subsequently being coined a “diamond in the rough” and taken under the wing of her supervisor. However, it wasn’t until 1954 when Dr Ionescu began practicing as a specialist neurosurgeon, serving as chief of both the cerebral tumour and spinal pathology department in her local hospital. Outside of her practice as a neurosurgeon, Dr Ionescu was heavily involved in research publishing around 2/3 studies annually and received numerous decorations recognising her achievements within medicine. Most notably, Dr Ionescu received the Star of the Republic, the highest distinction awarded to a Romanian citizen. In 2005, Dr Ionescu was officially recognised by Women in Neurosurgery (WiNS) as the first female neurosurgeon. Sadly, Dr Ionescu passed away in 2008 at the age of 88. Dr Ionescu serves as an inspiration for all aspiring neurosurgeons, and paved the way for the future of women in Neurosurgery.

April 2021 - Professor Ram Prasad Sengupta

Professor Ram Prasad Sengupta, was born into extreme poverty in Chittagong, India (now in Bangladesh). His family couldn’t afford to send him to school, so he sold fruits on the streets and learned from any books he could get his hands on. Eventually, defying the odds, he became a medical student at Calcutta University. Upon graduation in 1961, Prof Sengupta began to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a surgeon. Unable to afford surgical training in India, he travelled to Britain where for the next 51 years Professor Sengupta worked as a neurosurgeon based at Newcastle General Hospital and the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Professor Sengupta fondly recalls how it was actually fate that brought him into the world of Neurosurgery. As he puts it, “A very kind hospital manager found me a locum doctor's job in neurosurgery. Since there was no response to my applications for other jobs, I got stuck with neurosurgery.” But once he was into it, there was no looking back. His interest in neurosurgery began when he realized how closely life and death, or recovery and disability, were linked and influenced by the skills of neurosurgeons. Taking an interest in neurovascular surgery, he became a pioneer in the field of intracranial aneurysms; once performing a series of operations on 32 anterior communicating aneurysms without any mortality. He has been awarded an OBE for his incredible work and Newcastle University has bestowed on him an honorary doctorate of medicine, in recognition of all his work in the city. He has been dubbed as the ‘Neurosurgeon of the Millennium’ by the Indian Neurological Association and awarded the Medal of Honour by the World Federation of Neurological Surgeons for his contributions to the field of Neurosurgery. In 2002, disappointed by the limited opportunities available to manage Bengal’s poorest people affected by neurological illnesses, he decided to channel his talent into helping people living in similar conditions to the ones he experienced as a boy, and founded the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata. The institute provides affordable treatment for people from across Eastern India suffering from brain injuries and diseases. Retired for some years, he now spends half his time working in Kolkata at the institute, which collaborates closely with Newcastle University’s institute of Neurosciences, and the other half at his home in Newcastle with his family. When asked what he would like to tell aspiring neurosurgeons of today- he recalls the words of Professor Yasargil which deeply resonates with how he felt upon seeing brain surgery for the first time during his training - “I think about the creator and human brain evolution every time I open a Sylvian fissure. Looking into the ventricles, the cisternae, or at the brainstem is more visually appealing than most of earth’s landscapes or any images of the universe. When doing awake or functional surgery, I am impressed of having in my hands the most incredible machine ever made, capable of producing movements, sensations, thoughts, calculations, or feelings which can be elicited or modified only with the tip of an electrode." Many thanks to Upamanyu Nath (India Ambassador for NANSIG) for the nomination

March 2021 - Professor Gary Steinberg

Professor Steinberg is a cerebrovascular and skull base neurosurgeon based at Stanford University Medical Centre, where he has worked for over 33 years – founding the Stanford Stroke Centre in 1991, a centre he now co-directs. During his surgical training, he received an NIH NINDS Individual National Research Service Award allowing him to investigate aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage. In 1987, he joined Stanford faculty as Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery progressing to Professor in 1997. Two years prior to this, he became Chair of the Stanford Neurosurgery Department, and now holds the Bernard and Ronni Lacroute-William Randolph Hearst Endowed Chair of Neurosurgery and the Neurosciences. In these roles he has expanded the department from 5 faculty members, to over 60 neurosurgeons and neuroscientists. Alongside his clinical work, Professor Steinberg is heavily involved in research, accumulating over 135 million dollars in grant funding over the past 30 years, over 400 peer reviewed articles, and 130 book and video chapters. His lab examines the mechanisms of cerebral ischaemia, developing neuro protective agents and uses novel procedures (including stem cells and ontogenetic stimulation) to enhance post-stroke functional recovery. Whilst performing his own research, Professor Steinberg is also passionate about advancing neurosurgical research; sitting on the editorial board of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, Neurosurgery, Cerebrovascular Diseases and World Neurosurgery, among many. Away from his clinical and research career, he also holds a proactive role in medical education. Between 1995-2004 he was Neurosurgery Program Director, and has trained more than 170 students at various points in their clinical and academic careers, whilst serving as a visitor professor, delivering more than 600 talks at scientific meetings globally. Throughout his career, Professor Steinberg has received many honours and awards, including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Young Faculty Award, the 2016 Stroke Progress and Innovation Award, the 2017 Society of Neurological Surgeons H. Richard Winn, M.D. Prize for research, the 2017 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and most recently the Ralph G. Dacey Jr M.D Medal for outstanding cerebrovascular research from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Professor Steinberg’s advice to future aspiring neurosurgeons is that with the recent innovations in microsurgical and endovascular techniques, improved understanding of neural circuits, molecular/cellular biology and pathomechanisms of neurologic disease, as well as novel translational approaches to restoring function in the injured or diseased nervous system, this is a very exciting time to enter the field of neurosurgery. The future of our field is indeed, very bright!

February 2021 - Dr Gelareh Zadeh

Dr Zadeh is a Professor of neurosurgery at University of Toronto and consultant neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital. In 2020, Dr Zadeh was appointed the Dan Family Chair in the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto- this appointment made her the first woman to be named Chair of Neurosurgery in Canada, one of the worlds largest neurosurgery programs. Her work focusses on neuro-oncology and skull base surgery. Alongside this, she works as Principal Investigator at “ZadehLab”, Co-Director for the Krembil Brain Institute and Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The research Dr Zadeh performs is focussed on understanding the mechanisms behind glioma angiogenesis, studying the regulators of tumour metabolism and examining the genetic landscape of Meningiomas and Schwannomas. In 2016, she was appointed as Wilkins Family Chair in Brain Tumour Research and is passionate about developing and improving surgical clinical trials. Dr Zadeh has held numerous organisation roles on a national and international level. She has acted as President of the Society for Neuro-Oncology, Editor-in-Chief of Neuro-Oncology Advances and Chair of Neuro-Oncology Committee at the World Federation of Neurological Surgeons. These successes serve as a testament to her inspiring commitment to the profession. More recently, Dr Zadeh has been named in the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada.

December 2020 - Professor Thanjavur Santhanakrishna Kanaka

Thanjavur Santhanakrishna Kanaka (31 March 1932 to 14 November 2018) is Asia's first female neurosurgeon and one of the world's first few female neurosurgeons. She was associated with Madras Medical College, Tamilnadu, India for many years and she has been a mentor for many of the present neurosurgeons there. She was a member of B. Ramamurthi and his team, became the earliest team in India to perform stereotaxic procedures since 1960. She pioneered in functional neurosurgery in India and presented many research papers at international conferences. She retired as a surgeon in 1990, but still ran Sri Santhanakrishna Padmavathi Health Care and Research Foundation, which offered free healthcare to the needy, located near her house at Chromepet in Chennai. She was a great inspiration to many women neurosurgeons in India and she was the reason behind the formation of Women In Neurosurgery India in 2016. Her main interest was in fabricating deep-brain-stimulation kits in India by Indian biomedical engineers at an affordable price. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of Madras Neuro Trust

November 2020 - Dr Beverly Cheserem

“2020 has been been an incredible year with many ups and downs. For me, I finally came back to work in Kenya after more than 20 years pursuing medical training. I have just started at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, as full time faculty in the department of Surgery. I undertook my undergraduate studies at the University of Southampton in the UK. I was fortunate to receive a lot of support including the Macghloughlin and Morris Scholarship by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, The Worshipful of the Apothecaries Scholarship, The Belmont Trust, The Newby Trust and the Charles Henry Foyle Trust. I benefitted greatly from the university tutorial support system which helped me transition into life in the UK and living away from home. As money was tight, I did various jobs including working as a carer’s assistance where I cared for one of the first women to get the right to vote (incidentally my classmate was the niece of Emmeline Pankhurst), a medical typist, admin officer at the research office, telephone recruiter for the Southampton Women’s Survey and as a processor with the blood bank. All this jobs gave me very different perspectives of the NHS which to me is one of the greatest aspects of living in the UK. The ideas that care would be provided based on need not ability to pay, the research and training conducted and longterm care was truly an eye opener for me on healthcare delivery. After medical school I worked in various junior capacities in Bournemouth, Cardiff, Liverpool and London before being accepted into the South London Neurosurgical rotation from 2009 – 2017. I got the FRCS Neurosurgery in 2015, got my CCT in 2017 followed by a 2-year skull base fellowship at the University Hospital Wales under Miss Caroline Hayhurst and Mr Pablo Goetz. I was fortunate to have visited various skull base units during my training including Bellaria Hospital in Italy under Prof Mazzatenta and Hopital Lariboisiere under Prof Sebastian Froelich. I was fortunate to get awarded the Ronald Raven Award towards a 6 week visiting fellowship to University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) under Prof Paul Gardner and Prof Snyderman. In 2019, an internet search led me to Prof Roger Hartl who runs the Weill Cornell Global Fellowship based at the Muhumbili Orthopaedic Institute, Tanzania. I worked in Tanzania for 11 months and learnt a lot about global health. I undertook research on traumatic brain and spine injury, taught residents and nurses and learnt a whole new way of practising medicine. Although I speak swahili, I quickly learnt that translating what I learnt in the UK and making it culturally relevant and understandable can lead to many episodes of ‘lost in translation’. For example, pain in the local community is not assessed as a score out of 10 but whether the pain is experienced from ‘a distance’. Patients are very religious and often pray for their healthcare professionals. In the UK, the NHS is your health and social insurance whilst in Africa (Tanzania included), your principle support system is your family and community. The fellowship also gave me the opportunity to be an international organising faculty on the first online Neurotrauma course and in 2021 we plan to host the first blended scoliosis course open to the 12 countries that make up the College of Surgery of East, Central and South Africa (COSECSA). COSECSA is the largest surgical college in terms of number of countries and is often referred to as ‘the College without Borders’. Other highlights of 2020 include developing and publishing the first continental survey of the effects of COVID-19 on African neurosurgery and training accepted for publication by World Neurosurgery and founding the Young African Neurosurgeons monthly webinar series. I have also been appointed to the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, Young Neurosurgeons Forum (WFNS-YNF). In the 20 years I have been away, Kenya has changed. It is an exciting time to be home with 83% of the population having access to a smart phone, the development and ubiquity of mobile money called Mpesa (literally short form for ‘mobile money’ in swahili); a growing educational, financial and IT industry (Google and many tech companies have their regional headquarters in Kenya). The neurosurgery community has rapidly grown to 37 neurosurgery consultants and 15 neurologists for a population of 47million (not enough but steadily growing) and I hope to continue to contribute in research, training and service development. I took a lot from my training in the UK and urge NANSIG members to take as much out of every opportunity, even the setbacks. I certainly had my fair share of challenges and even moments that I considered quitting, but I am grateful to those who supported me and gave me second chances. When I chose a career in neurosurgery, I knew of only 2 female neurosurgeons and no black surgeons in the UK. But there is ever greater diversity now in the surgical field and if you apply yourself, you eventually get your breaks. There are many opportunities in working within the neurosciences and you should leverage the opportunities provided by NANSIG to work-out where you fit in the grand scheme of things. Those interested in an elective in Kenya are certainly welcome to contact me and see life from a different lens.”

October 2020 - Dr Aysima Altınok

In 1954, Dr. Aysima Altınok began her residency training in neurosurgery at Haydarpaşa Numune Hospital where the first official department of neurosurgery in Turkey had been founded five years earlier. On November 22, 1959, she successfully completed her training and was certified officially as a neurosurgeon, thereby becoming the first woman neurosurgeon in Turkey. Dr. Altınok was the chief of the department of neurosurgery from 1968 to 1992 at Bakirköy Mental and Psychological Health Hospital in Istanbul. She was among the founders of the Turkish Neurosurgical Society in 1968 and was awarded the honour of “Medical Doctor of the Year in Turkey” by the Ministry of Health in 1990. Throughout her career, she had published many articles in medical journals, and presented at national and international neurosurgical meetings.

September 2020 - Dr Katrin Rabie

Dr Katrin Rabie is a consultant Neurosurgeon and the Chair section of Spine at NU-sjukvården. She is also the Social Media Editor for Acta Neurocirurgica. In 2017, she won the Swedish Neurosurgical society’s award for PhD thesis of the year. In 2016, she was awarded the EANS Aesculap award for best clinical paper. She has a strong engagement in neurosurgical research, patient advocacy for equitable care and patient safety. She is deeply engaged in EANS through different committees. She regularly teaches at EANS research courses each year and is an invited speaker at EANS and several other international meetings.

August 2020 - Professor Yoko Kato

This month’s neurosurgeon of the month is Professor Yoko Kato. She is the first woman in Japan to become a professor of neurosurgery. She is also the founder of the Women’s Neurosurgical Association (WNA) of Japan and of the Asian Women’s Neurosurgical Association.

July 2020 - Dr Laura Lippa

Dr.Lippa currently works as a Consultant Neurosurgeon in Livorno, Italy. She received her MD at the University of Firenze in 2011 and completed her residency in 2018 at the University Hospital of Siena, followed by a research fellowship in neurotraumatology. Dr. Lippa has a keen interest in Global Neurosurgery, mentorship and she acts as one of the Social Media Editor for Acta Neurochirurgica. Dr. Lippa is a member of a number of committees, including the neurotrauma section of the Italian Neurosurgical Society (SINCH), the EANS and WFNS Young Neurosurgeons committees, the EANS Neurotrauma Committee, WFNS-WHO Liaison Committee, and serves as one of the SoMe Editors for Acta Neurochirurgica and is a member of the WFNS Newsletter Editorial Board. Dr Lippa strongly believes that women belong anywhere they want and wishes to do her part in changing the way surgery is perceived: obstacles aren’t definitive and so are hostile environments. She believes equity will be conquered faster if we engage ourselves in mentorship – sometimes dreams need just a little validation in order to come true. She hopes to become someone who clears paths for others to walk – the person she needed when she was younger.

June 2020 - Dr Claire Karekezi

Dr Claire Karekezi is a Consultant Neurosurgeon at the Rwanda Military Hospital. She graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Rwanda, College of Medicine and Health sciences in 2009. She completed her Residency program in Neurosurgery and graduated as a Neurosurgeon in 2016 from the Mohamed V University, World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS)-Rabat Training Center for African Neurosurgeons, in Rabat, Morocco. After her residency in Neurosurgery, Dr Karekezi further enrolled in several neurosurgical fellowships with a special interest in Neuro-Oncology and Skull Base Surgery: at the Brigham and Women Hospital/Harvard Medical School, USA as an International Visiting Surgeon Fellow (IVSF) in Neurosurgery/Neuro-Oncology (April-July 2016) and later completed a Clinical Fellowship in Neuro-Oncology & Skull Base Surgery (July 2017-July 2018) at the University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Canada. Upon her return home to Rwanda in July 2018, after her Fellowship in Toronto, Dr Karekezi became Rwanda’s First and currently only Female Neurosurgeon. Her other notable achievements include: 1. Recipient of The Fall 2013 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) Women In Neurosurgery (WINS) Greg Wilkins-Barrick Chair Visiting International Surgeon Award; 2. Recipient of The 2016 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) International Visiting Surgeon Fellowship Award in Neurosurgery/Neuro-Oncology, Brigham and Women Hospital/Harvard Medical School, USA 3.Recipient of the 2018 Shield Maiden Women in Surgery Africa (WISA) Award in recognition of the arête in achieving career excellence in surgery, COSECSA, Kigali. 4.Recipient of the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative TTP Women in science ‘First Award 2019’ for being Rwanda’s First Female Neurosurgeon, February 2019 5. Dr Karekezi currently serves as the Chairperson of Women in Neurosurgery Africa (WIN-Africa), section of the Continental Association of African Neurosurgical societies (CAANS) from August 2019 and is a member of multiple National and International Neurosurgical organizations

May 2020 - Dr Alexa Canady

In 1981, Alexa Canady became the first female African-American Neurosurgeon in the US. Canady specialized as a pediatric neurosurgeon and served as chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987 to 2001. Under her guidance, the department was soon viewed as one of the best in the country. Dr. Canady continued to advance the field of pediatric neurosurgery through her research. Her contributions, particularly in the management of hydrocephalus and spinal dysraphism, are widespread and led to numerous publications and presentations. This research also led to the invention of a programmable antisiphon shunt to treat hydrocephalus, for which she shares a U.S. patent with two fellow neurosurgeons. Dr. Canady continues to be both an advocate for her profession as well as diversity in medicine