Department of Neurological Surgery

Departmental History

Department of Surgery (1925 – 1952)
The Vanderbilt Department of Surgery was established in 1925 under the leadership of Barney Brooks, M.D. At that time all aspects of surgical care were coordinated within this one department. Brooks served as chairman until 1952. He was succeeded by H. William Scott, Jr., M.D., who served as chairman until 1982. As surgical advances progressed, the Department of Surgery was reorganized to include specialized divisions, including Neurological Surgery.

Division of Neurological Surgery (1953 – 1974)
In 1953, William F. Meacham, M.D., a former chief resident in Surgery at Vanderbilt, was appointed chief of the division. Neurological Surgery flourished under Meacham’s supervision and became one of the busiest services in the hospital. The program expanded through the late fifties to include both laboratory and clinical investigation with studies in shunts for hydrocephalus, and basal ganglia lesions. The Residency Program also expanded under Meacham’s direction, and increased clinical coverage when Vanderbilt Hospital affiliated with the Nashville General Hospital as well as the Thayer Veterans Administration Hospital in 1953. In 1974, 17 of Meacham's former residents established the William F. Meacham Society to honor the physician-teacher.

Section of Surgical Sciences – Department of Neurological Surgery (1975 – 2009)
Recognizing the need for increased responsibility and autonomy among the various surgical divisions, the Department of Surgery was reorganized into the current Section of Surgical Sciences. The Division of Neurological Surgery became the Department of Neurological Surgery, headed by Chairman Meacham. In 1984, George S. Allen, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Neurosurgical Training Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, succeeded Meacham as chairman. An expert on pituitary transplants, he performed the first adrenal-brain transplant in 1987, and in 1988, he helped open the Neurological Intensive Care Unit. In 1993, Allen became the first holder of the William F. Meacham Chair. Also that year, the Cully Cobb Lectureship was established. Since then, Allen continued to promote new technologies and therapies, including stereotactic radiosurgery, and noninvasive, laparoscopic and robotic surgical methods.

In 2010, Reid C. Thompson, M.D., succeeded Allen as William F. Meacham Professor of Neurological Surgery, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery, and Director of Neurosurgical Oncology. Dr. Thompson joined Vanderbilt as Director of Neurosurgical Oncology and Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center in 2002. He was named Vice-Chairman of Neurological Surgery in 2004. His expertise in skull base surgery and neurovascular surgery have positioned the Vanderbilt Department of Neurological Surgery as a leader in research, education and patient care.

In 2012 the decision to form a new division dedicated to serve pediatric patients lead to a national search landing Dr. Jay Wellons, III, as Chief of the new Division.of Pediatric Neruological Surgery. Dr. Wellons' keen clinical interest and extensive focus on novel innovations and research was key in recruiting him into the Vanderbilt faculty.

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