Brain Surgeon Receives Award, Alumni Celebrate at Congress of Neurological Surgeons 2022

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It was the first major in-person gathering of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) in three years, and the team from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine shone. Faculty members earned a coveted award for research, made several top presentations, and hosted a well-attended alumni reception at the CNS annual meeting, held in San Francisco in October.

Michael E. Ivan, M.D., M.B.S., director of research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Brain Tumor Initiative and associate professor of neurological surgery

Michael E. Ivan, M.D., M.B.S., director of research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Brain Tumor Initiative and associate professor of neurological surgery, received the Young Investigator Award for his basic research investigating brain cancer cells through the project “Controlling Glioblastoma Invasion In Vivo with CD 97.”

Dr. Ivan’s research looks at ways to stem and halt the growth of roots, hands, and legs from brain cancer cells by focusing on a new receptor that his team identified. The award came from the CNS, the Joint Section on Tumors of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and the American Brain Tumor Association. He will present his research at the Society for Neuro-Oncology later this month.

“You’re in the lab with your team every day, and it’s so rewarding when you present your work and it gets acknowledged by your peers internationally,” said Dr. Ivan of his project’s selection from hundreds of research abstracts submitted. “The next step will be to see if we can develop a drug that can be a targetable intervention, so we can stop the worst feature of this kind of cancer, invasion into the brain.”

This year’s CNS meeting was the first without mask requirements since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, and participants appreciated the chance for face-to-face camaraderie.

Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery and chief of neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital

“It’s been a long time since people have been able to get together and share stories,” said Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School, chief of neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and the Robert M. Buck Distinguished Chair in Neurological Surgery. He called the gathering “especially warm.”

The Miller School’s Department of Neurological Surgery, which boasts one of the largest training programs in the country, held its traditional alumni reception. The event attracted more than 60 former residents, fellows, and graduates who are now spread throughout the country and were recognized for their strides in neurosurgery.

Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A, dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, was the guest speaker at the reception and provided an overview of the Miller School’s new curriculum and major capital projects, including several new ambulatory centers, Sylvester’s new state-of-the-art cancer research building, and a new medical education facility.

The dean also mentioned the school’s impressive ranking with the National Institutes of Health—No. 1 in Florida and No. 4 nationally—and the University of Miami Health System’s gains in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals rankings, noting the Departments of Neurological Surgery and Neurology’s climb to 25th nationally.

(From left) Former Miller School neurosurgery fellow Yi Lu, M.D.; Dean Henri Ford; and Michael Wang, M.D., professor of neurological surgery and chief of neurosurgery at UHealth Tower

“I’m very excited about all that has taken place here at the Miller School, and even more so about the innovation of our faculty,” said Dean Ford. “All of these accomplishments clearly speak volumes about what our faculty are doing and the atmosphere that we’ve created to establish a more optimal learning environment.”

Dr. Levi, a renowned spine surgeon, made his presentation shortly before a talk by “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, a celebrity guest at the meeting.

The department chairman spoke on his three decades of research and clinical trials on Schwann cell transplantation. His work looks at ways to use Schwann cells found in the peripheral nervous system to help people with injuries or paralysis in their nerves or spinal cord. “The cells are retrieved via a biopsy that’s done in a nerve that supplies sensation in the leg,” said Dr. Levi. “You prepare the cells, and then you target the area of damage.”

Doctors from the Miller School participated in approximately 26 presentations and panel discussions at CNS. Among other meeting highlights, neurosurgery resident Roberto Perez Roman, M.D., received the CNS Council of State Neurosurgical Societies’ Paper of the Year.

"It was truly a great gathering in a great city," said Dr. Levi. "Our team networked, shared ideas, and learned more about the stellar work of our colleagues across the country."

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