Recognizing neurosurgery as a discipline distinct from general surgery, Harvard Medical School has established a Department of Neurosurgery as an academic department. The decision became effective October 1.
In a letter to the HMS community addressing the change, Jeffrey S. Flier, HMS dean, wrote, “It is important to note that an HMS graduate, Harvey Cushing, founded the field of neurosurgery a century ago while he was at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital,” now Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Cushing was a member of the HMS Class of 1895.
The change in status to an appointing academic department was championed by the chiefs of neurosurgery at four of the School’s affiliated hospitals. Three of the affiliates—Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, and Massachusetts General Hospital—had previously housed hospital-based departments of neurosurgery, while Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had organized neurosurgery as a division of its Department of Surgery. These entities have been managing HMS faculty appointments for neurosurgeons and neuroscientists through their departments of surgery.
The new academic department will be governed by an executive committee led by Robert Martuza ’73, the William and Elizabeth Sweet Professor of Neuroscience at HMS and chief of Mass General’s Department of Neurosurgery. Martuza will serve a three-year term as the chair of the committee.
According to Nancy Tarbell, the C.C. Wang Professor of Radiation Oncology and HMS dean for academic and clinical affairs, this change brings potential benefits to the new department, including more direct oversight of faculty promotions; increased capability to recruit faculty; and comparability with peer institutions.
The decision to develop neurosurgery into an academic department was driven in part by the knowledge that, as a discipline, neurosurgery is recognized as a specialty distinct from general surgery in terms of training programs, fellowships, and specialty boards.