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CNS Fellowship Recipients

2007-2008 CNS Domestic Fellows

Sunit Das, MD
CNS/MGI Pharma Fellowship in Tumor Research Award


Dr. Sunit Das has a B.A. degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a M.A. in Philosophy from Harvard University. He then completed his medical school degree at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Prior to returning to Northwestern for his residency training, he spent three years at the National Institutes of Health, completing a doctoral program in Neurobiology. Since the start of his residency, Dr. Das has studied the molecular processes involved in the tranformation of neural stem cells into glial tumors in the lab of Dr. John Kessler. He will use the CNS/MGI Pharma Fellowship in Tumor Research Award to continue this work in the coming year.

Quotation: “A grant from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons not only allows me support as I begin my career as a surgeon-scientist, but would specifically designate my work as being accomplished by a neurosurgeon.
Brad Elder, MD
CNS Basic/Translational Resident Research Fellowship

Dr. Brad Elder was born in Norman, Oklahoma and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he majored in Chemical Engineering. There, he was honored with the Dow Outstanding Junior Award, as well as selection to the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society as a junior. He decided to pursue his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he quickly became interested in neurological surgery. A year of research in the Bartoli Brain Tumor Laboratory under the auspices of Dr. Jeffrey Bruce laid the foundations for his specific interests in neuro-oncology. His time was spent investigating the immunologic properties of human brain tumors using flow cytometry and mRNA analysis. The research also included the development of a tumor invasion model using time-elapsed imaging. This experience further clarified his career goals, and it led to co-authorships on papers published in the peer-reviewed literature. He entered the Neurosurgery Match upon finishing medical school, obtaining a position in neurosurgery residency at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

His goal is to pursue a career in academic neurosurgery with a focus on neuro-oncology. During the 2007-08 academic year, he will perform research in the Department of Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology under the direction of Charles Y. Liu, MD, PhD, and David A. Tirrel, PhD, who is the Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He intends to use his background in chemical engineering and training in neurosurgery to develop novel surgical strategies to treat malignant brain tumors and to conduct basic and translational research guided by his clinical activities.
Daniel Orringer, MD
CNS Basic/Translational Resident Research Fellowship

Dr. Daniel Orringer was originally born in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2000 and from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in 2004. His research had previously focused on factors regulating the control of the immune system and the cell cycle. He is currently a PGY-4 resident in neurosurgery at the University of Michigan. For the CNS Basic/Translational Research fellowship period, his project lies in applying novel technological advances to improve the surgical treatment of brain tumors. Specifically, he plans to apply nanotechnology to enhance the precision of brain tumor surgery. He has created collaborations between experts in nanotechnology and neurosurgery at the University of Michigan with the ultimate goal of developing nanodevices designed to delineate tumor margins in the operating room. He was recently awareded a two-year Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) from the National Cancer Institute.

Quotation: “The CNS Basic/Translational Research Fellowship will offer me the opportunity to work with experts in applied physics, chemistry, nanobiotechnology, molecular and MR imaging, and neurosurgery to realize my hopes of applying technologic advances to developing novel treatments.
Ben Waldau, MD
CNS Basic/Translational Resident Research Fellowship

Dr. Ben Waldau graduated from medical school in Heidelberg, Germany, receiving a magna cum laude for his medical dissertation on molecular genome analysis at the German Cancer Research Institute. For his work, he was awarded a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and studied the molecular biology of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Steven Goldman’s laboratory in New York. Ben Waldau is currently a fourth-year resident in Neurosurgery at Duke University and has a strong interest in neural regeneration/enhancement. He will use the CNS Basic Science / Translational Research award to study brain-machine interfaces in monkeys and humans.

Quotation: “[The CNS fellowship award] will provide me with invaluable experience in functional/restorative neurosurgical research and help me to establish my own laboratory in this fascinating field in the future.
Vaninder Chhabra, MD
CNS Cushing Fellowship

Dr. Vaninder Chhabra is currently a PGY-5 resident at Emory University Hospital. He received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Neuroscience from UCLA and his M.D. from the University of California San Diego. He has a keen interest in brain tumor biology and will be working with Dr. Nelson Oyesiku at Emory University on a translational research project investigating the natural history and molecular profiles for clinically aggressive pituitary adenomas. This project will be geared to develop a ten-year clinical database on pituitary tumors (approximately 600 cases) and melding these clinical data with those of microarray gene analysis to determine the molecular biological factors associated with aggressive biological behavior. Until recently, pathological classification of pituitary tumors had no molecular basis, and was reliant on anterior pituitary hormone histochemistry for hormones, or on electron microscopy, which is of limited utility. Unlike the functional pituitary tumors, there is no available effective medical therapy for the nonfunctioning tumors, and only a better understanding of the molecular biology of these tumors will provide needed medical treatment options.

Quotation: “I am honored to have been awarded the 2007 CNS Cushing Fellowship. I have a keen interest in brain tumor biology and appreciate the opportunity to continue my research with the support of the CNS. With the continuing advances in molecular technology, and the improved understanding of the pathology and the characterization of brain tumor markers, I hope to contribute towards even better therapies.
Isaac Yang, MD
CNS Dandy Fellowship

Dr. Isaac Yang is a resident in the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery. His interests in the brain started as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, where he majored in Molecular and Cell Neurobiology. As a medical student at the UCLA School of Medicine, he was mentored in the brain tumor lab of Linda Liau M.D. Ph.D. and found his passion for brain tumor biology and translational research. This led to a basic science immunotherapy investigation of the protein expression and the manipulation of MHC associated proteins in glioblastoma. Currently, as a neurosurgery resident in the brain tumor lab of Andrew Parsa M.D. Ph.D., Isaac has continued his commitment and passion for brain tumor immunotherapy and is dedicated to improving the care and treatment of patients with brain tumors. In his research proposal, he plans to test the hypothesis that immune status can predict clinical behavior in high-grade gliomas., which will hopefully yield some new insights into the relationship between immune responses and clinical behavior of high-grade glioma.

Quotation: “As a grateful recipient of the CNS Dandy Fellowship, I would like to deeply thank all of my teachers and mentors for all their support and will endeavor to contribute to the field of neuro-oncology in a manner worthy of this honor.
Patrick Hsieh, MD
CNS / DePuy Clinical Spine Fellowship

Dr. Patrick Hsieh received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biochemistry from UCLA. He then completed his medical education at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). He subsequently moved to Chicago for his neurosurgery residency at Northwestern University. During his residency, Dr. Hsieh also completed an enfolded spine fellowship in spinal deformity with Dr. Stephen Ondra and in advanced minimally invasive spine surgery with Dr. John C. Liu. He has focused his research in complex spinal reconstruction in spinal deformity surgery and presented his work at various national meetings. Dr. Hsieh plans to continue his education in spinal oncology and complex spinal reconstruction with the assistance of the CNS/DePuy Fellowship. He will train with Dr. Ziya Gokaslan at Johns Hopkins University during his CNS fellowship award period.

Quotation: “The CNS DePuy Clinical Spine Fellowship will enable me to obtain valuable clinical skills and training…
Ilya Laufer, MD
CNS / Synthes Spine Fellowship

Dr. Ilya Laufer completed undergraduate studies at Columbia College where he majored in Neuroscience and Behavior. As an I.I. Rabi Research Scholar, he worked with several academic mentors studying cortical circuitry and cerebrovascular disease and continued his research in translational and basic science as a medical student. Having graduated from SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine in 2004, Ilya started his neurosurgical training at the New York - Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical College, where he is currently beginning his fourth year of residency. During the upcoming year, Dr. Laufer plans to complete a Master’s Program in Clinical Research Methods offered by the Biostatistics Department at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. He will use the skills acquired in the classroom to conduct several clinical research projects looking at the role of bone metabolism in spinal surgery, as well as the role of surgical intervention and radiation therapy in metastatic spine disease.

Quotation: “The CNS Fellowship will provide me with the means to enroll in the Masters Program in Clinical Research Methods offered by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University… The knowledge base and practical experience [in conducting clinical trials] that I will gain during my CNS fellowship will allow me, in the future, to contribute Class I evidence about the efficacy and indications of neurosurgical interventions.
Sandi Lam, MD
ASAP Mikula CNS Fellowship

Dr. Sandi Lam is currently a Neurosurgery resident at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She graduated from Northwestern University Medical School and joined the Orthopedic Surgery residency program prior to pursuing training in Neurosurgery. Her interests include Chiari malformation, syringomyelia, spinal surgery, and international medicine. Under the mentorship of Dr. Ulrich Batzdorf and Dr. Marvin Bergsneider, her CNS / ASAP Mikula fellowship project involves a review of patients evaluated and treated for “failed Chiari syndrome”, whose symptoms persist even months after posterior fossa decompression. Specifically, she will investigate the relationship between intracranial vasomotor instability and MRI CSF flow dynamics with continued symptomatology.
Matthew McGirt, MD
ASAP Monkton Institute CNS Fellowship

Dr. Matthew McGirt is originally from Charlotte, NC, and he attended high school at Phillips Academy Andover, Andover, MA. He later graduated with a Bachelor of Science Magna Cum Laude from Duke University, Durham, NC in 1998. Matthew also obtained a medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC in 2003. He completed an internship in general surgery with the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, and is currently a fifth year resident in neurosurgery with the Department of Neurological Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is interested in pursuing a career in pediatric and spine surgery. Matthew is married and has two children.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Benjamin Carson and Dr. George Jallo, his CNS / ASAP Monkton Institute fellowship project proposes to determine the pattern or degree of CSF flow abnormality at the hindbrain or cervical spinal cord via cMR imaging to identify patients who will have symptoms refractory to current treatment paradigms.

Quotation: “I hope to use this CNS fellowship as the foundation of my future research efforts to become a leader in both the practice of pediatric neurosurgery and in the investigation of Chiari malformation and syringomyelia.
John H. Shin, MD
CNS Radiosurgery Fellowship

Dr. John H. Shin is a graduate of Brown University with a B.A. in Biology. He received his M.D. degree from Chicago Medical School and is currently undergoing neurosurgery training at the University of Illinois at Chicago under Dr. Fady T. Charbel. During his CNS fellowship research year, Dr. Shin plans to study the hemodynamic changes within AVMs following stereotactic radiosurgery using a quantitative MRA model (NOVA). With the guidance of mentors Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr. and Dr. Konstantin Slavin, this project will seek to assess the clinical implications of flow-related changes in feeding arteries and draining veins following stereotactic radiosurgery.

Quotation: “I am excited about this CNS fellowship, as it would provide support for independent study and potentially nuture greater interest in an academic career focused on stereotactic radiosurgery. I am grateful for the opportunity…
Rahul Jandial, MD
CNS Wilder Penfield Fellowship

Dr. Rahul Jandial is in the Division of Neurological Surgery, Department of Surgery at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. He is also Senior Research Associate & Fellow at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, as well as an Instructor for UCSD Division of Biological Sciences. He received his B.A. degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and his M.D. from the University of Southern California (USC). As part of his commitment to academic neurosurgery and basic science, Dr. Jandial has authored and is in the process of writing books on various topics including: neurosurgery, spine disorders, head injury, hospital procedures, neuroscience, and brain and spine regeneration. He has published over 25 articles and book chapters. For the CNS Penfield Fellowship, he will be working with Dr. Evan Snyder at the Burnham Institute on a project investigating the stem cell lineage of central nervous system neoplasia. Dr. Jandial lives in San Diego with his wife Danielle Jandial (a physician at Moores Cancer Center) and their three sons, Zain, Kai, Ronak.

Quotation: “It is a great opportunity to apply for the CNS Fellowship. My career has taken a natural progression to the inclusion of research as both my professional ambition and for the satisfaction of my commitment to help patients as best I can… My aim is to become an academic neurosurgeon, and the support of the CNS will be well utilized and is greatly appreciated.