Neurosurgeon of the Month

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

June 2020 – Dr Claire Karekezi

Our Neurosurgeon of the month!! 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

July 2020 – Dr Laura Lippa

Our Neurosurgeon of the Month is 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

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.

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.

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.

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.”