Neurosurgery and neurology have been closely connected since the programs began at The Ohio State University in the early 1930s. Dwight M. Palmer, MD, an early leader, made important contributions over three decades. As chair of Psychiatry and Neurology and administrative chief of Neurosurgery from 1945-1951, Dr. Palmer set the educational tone in the clinical neurosciences.

Harry E. LeFever, MD, was the founder and mentor for Ohio State’s Department of Neurosurgery. He received his medical degree in 1925, and then studied with Dr. Harvey Cushing in Boston and with Dr. Thierry de Martel and Dr. Clovis Vincent in France. After returning to Columbus in 1932, Dr. LeFever limited his practice to neurosurgery, which was unusual for the time.

The neurosurgical outpatient clinic at Starling-Loving University Hospital was established around 1934. The Starling-Loving Hospital later moved into University Hospital, which was built in the 1950s.

Dr. LeFever is described as an inspiring teacher and motivated a generation of Ohio State medical students to pursue neurosurgery careers. During the 1950s, he was joined by three outstanding physicians who achieved local and national fame in neurosurgery: William E. Hunt, MD; John N. Meagher, MD; and Martin P. Sayers, MD.

In 1945, a combined medical school Department of Neurological Surgery, Neurology and Psychiatry was formed. The separate division of Neurological Surgery within the Department of Surgery was created in 1951 with the opening of University Hospital, now Doan Hall.

At least 20 neurosurgeons proclaimed through the years that Dr. LeFever was their inspiration, including Charles Rossel, Dr. James Barnes, Dr. Robert Hess, Dr. Joel White and Dr. Calvin Early, who was later chief of the Naval Residency Program at Bethesda. The early development of the Division of Neurosurgery was directly related to his efforts.

Dr. William E. Hunt followed Dr. LeFever as chief of the division, in 1963. Dr. Hunt received his medical degree from Ohio State in 1945. Dr. Hunt served in the U.S. Army as a general surgeon following his internship and then did his residency with Henry Schwartz in St. Louis, at Washington University. He returned to Columbus in 1953.

Tolosa-Hunt Syndrome — granulomatous inflammation of the cavernous sinus — and the Hunt-Hess scale for aneurysms are named for Dr. Hunt. In 1998, Dr. Hunt received the first gold medal presented by the Neurosurgical Society of America for lifetime achievement in neurosurgery.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Hunt — with the help of many scientists, including George Bingham, MD, PhD — received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the basic science of spinal cord injury. This combined neuro-anatomy, neurophysiology, neurology and neurological surgery. Their collaborative effort led to the development of a neuroscience department at Ohio State.

Seminal work in spinal cord injury has been done by the Division of Neurological Surgery and the basic neurosciences. The model developed for standardization of lesions of the spinal cord was developed at Ohio State. As a neurological surgery resident, Dr. Donald Behrmann helped develop this model. In addition to completing his neurological surgery residency, he received a PhD in neuroscience.

Dr. Hunt led this division to national prominence until 1989. Dr. Michael E. Miner became chief of the Division of Neurological Surgery when Dr. Hunt retired. He remained chair until 2002. Dr. Miner trained several excellent clinical neurosurgeons and continued the strong clinical emphasis of the neurosurgery program.

After Dr. Hunt’s death in 1999, an endowed fund supporting the neurosciences was established from the Charlotte Curtis Hunt Charitable Trust. The Neuroscience Department received a $2-million gift from the estate of Dr. William Hunt and Charlotte Curtis Hunt. The Neuroscience Department Chair continues to advance the department’s educational goals.

Neurosurgery became an official department at Ohio State on Jan. 1, 2004, and Dr. E. Antonio Chiocca was its first chair. Dr. Chiocca remained chair until 2012.

Dr. Russell Lonser was named chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery in November 2012. He came to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Lonser is head of the National Football League’s Research Subcommittee. He is also a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee, studying brain injuries in sports and high-impact activities.

These and other leaders have carried on Ohio State’s strong tradition of multidisciplinary leadership and collaboration. They continue to set new standards for excellence in neurological surgery and other disciplines.

The department continues to grow, recruiting additional specialists in other areas, including movement disorders, spine surgery and vascular disorders. Additional staff and high-caliber research will translate into many benefits, including:
  • An enhanced educational environment for medical students
  • More clinical training opportunities for students and residents
  • More patients seeking treatment at Ohio State for a wider range of disorders and injuries

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