The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has approved the establishment of a Department of Neurosurgery at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, which will enhance neurosurgical education for medical students and make a lasting impact on the Roanoke and New River valleys. The new department will help advance the field of neurosurgery with cutting-edge research while addressing the growing demand for specialized care in the area.
The Department of Neurosurgery will be instituted with the approval of the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
“The creation of a new Department of Neurosurgery will be a significant milestone in the growth of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Over the past decade and within the Department of Surgery, Carilion Clinic expanded its neurosurgery program to include experts in adult, pediatric, endovascular, and complex spinal neurosurgery,” said Lee Learman, dean of the medical school. “These faculty are actively engaged in the education and research missions of the medical school. They instruct Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine medical students and neurosurgery residents and collaborate with researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience. The program has now grown to the size that it can become organized as its own academic department, as is the case in most U.S. medical schools.”
When it became fully integrated as the ninth college at Virginia Tech in 2018, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine had 11 departments — nine clinical and two non-clinical — including the Department of Surgery, which contained 11 sections, or specialty areas that required specific education and training, including neurosurgery. Leaders from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Carilion Clinic, seeing the demand for the existing neurosurgery specialty and residency program, along with the needs of the region, determined a standalone department was critical.
Michael Nussbaum, chair of the Department of Surgery, expressed excitement about the potential impact of the new department on the region. “The addition of a dedicated Department of Neurosurgery will strengthen our ability to provide comprehensive care to patients in need,” he said. “By integrating neurosurgery education into our medical curriculum to a greater degree, we are investing in the future of health care in this region and advancing the level of specialized care available.”
Neurosurgery, a branch of medicine focused on the prevention, diagnosis, and surgical treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system, has witnessed remarkable advancements in recent years. By establishing the Department of Neurosurgery, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine aims to equip future physicians with the skills and knowledge necessary to address complex neurological conditions and deliver high-quality care.
The new department will expand clinical rotations and elective opportunities for students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. It will also enhance post-medical school residency training by potentially providing additional residency positions. The neurosurgery residency program at Carilion Clinic – Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine currently offers one position per year for a total of seven residents at any given time. During 2021-22, the program received 245 applications for the neurosurgery residency position.
With the establishment of the Department of Neurosurgery, the region is poised to witness a transformation in neurological care. By growing the cadre of highly skilled neurosurgeons, the region will experience an increase in specialized expertise, supporting improved patient outcomes and access to care. The presence of a dedicated department will also enhance research opportunities, attracting grants and funding to support innovative projects. This will not only contribute to the scientific community but also stimulate economic growth in the region.
Carilion Clinic’s new neurosurgery chair, a renowned clinical and academic leader, will be appointed as the medical school academic chair after SCHEV approval of the department. A non-physician vice president of neurosurgery from Carilion and a full-time research associate will support the administrative and academic success of the department. The department would be established with nine physician neurosurgery faculty members.
“Demand for neurosurgical services continues to increase, and adding a new academic department will continue the great momentum happening with health sciences in our region,” said Nancy Howell Agee, Carilion Clinic’s chief executive officer. “Specifically, it will mean enhanced care for our patients and new opportunities for clinical trials, research, ground-breaking innovations, and academic growth, all of which contribute to our region’s growing reputation as a health care hub.”
Josh Meyer for Virginia Tech