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Neurosurgery Fellowships

Thank you for your interest in Cleveland Clinic Neurosurgical Residency and Graduate Medical Education Program. Our program is fully accredited by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, meets or exceeds all ACGME requirements and is designed to train future leaders in neurosurgery.

Neurological surgery has a long and esteemed tradition at Cleveland Clinic. Nearly 75 years ago, W. James Gardner, MD, our first chairman in Neurological Surgery, established the department’s direction with his keen interest in teaching, research, and quality patient care. Today, Cleveland Clinic neurosurgeons remain dedicated to those same principles.

Our staff of 19 full-time surgeons sees one of the largest and most diverse patient populations in the country. Therefore, we offer training in all neurosurgical subspecialties. In addition to a wide variety of complex neurosurgical problems, our training program offers two years of research to prepare residents for a career in academic neurosurgery. Staff members from each subspecialty conduct their own research and coordinate their efforts with investigators from other sections and departments to ensure patients receive comprehensive, state-of-the-art care. Through a choice of elective rotations in clinical and research areas, we offer a flexible program that fosters individual interests. Residents are expected to participate in basic and clinical research projects and encouraged to present their findings at national meetings. The two year segment of training can be approached in many ways. The goal is to help the resident develop and mature an academic niche. Basic science research is one way this may be accomplished. Alternatively, clinical research and the pursuit of non-research, but academic endeavors, such as healthcare policies or training that augment academic potential are welcome.

Cleveland Clinic has always been committed to excellence in patient care and researching the diseases that affect our patients. We take special pride in training future neurosurgical practitioners and look forward to meeting and visiting with you.

Sincerely,

Richard Schlenk, MD
Residency Program Director

Edward Benzel, MD
Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery














Neuroendovascular/Interventional Neuroradiology (NES/INR) Fellowship

The Section of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery oversees patient care and postgraduate education in both basic and clinical research pertaining to the microsurgical or endovascular treatment of cerebrovascular disease. Post-graduate fellowships in endovascular and cerebrovascular micro-neurosurgery are offered. Unique to Cleveland Clinic is the integration of the cerebrovascular surgery and the endovascular neurosurgery departments, optimizing patient care. It represents a vital component of a multispecialty cerebrovascular center providing a seamless environment for interaction with diagnostic neuroradiology, neuroanesthesia, neurosurgical intensive care, stroke neurology, and radiation oncology clinical services and the basic neuroscience research group. Since the inception, both surgical and endovascular case volumes have increased steadily.

Endovascular fellows on the unified cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery service will find it both busy and challenging. Specialists in the section provide microsurgical and endovascular treatment for occlusive cerebrovascular disease, cerebral aneurysms, arteriovenous malformation and other extra- and intra-cranial cerebrovascular diseases. In addition to cerebrovascular disorders, additional experience is gained in the management of skull base lesions (pre-operative embolization and test balloon occlusions), as well as functional testing (WADA testing). Moreover, fellows will gain experience in other interventional techniques, including treatment of cranial facial vascular malformation, intra-arterial chemotherapy administration, and percutaneous therapeutic spinal procedures.

Section members view fellowship training education as an extremely important responsibility. The educational objectives include mastery of key interventional skills in cerebrovascular disease including management of patient data to provide unified care plans. In addition, there is an emphasis on real time development of problem-solving skills in the endovascular suite, intensive care unit ward and in the outpatient clinic. Routine interaction with the cerebrovascular surgeons allows the fellows opportunities to participate in a wide variety of microsurgical treatment options for patients with cerebrovascular disease.

The section has active clinical and basic research programs and fellows are strongly encouraged to participate in the cerebrovascular research laboratory under the supervision of the appropriate basic scientist or clinical faculty. Endovascular training is an ACGME-eligible endovascular neurosurgery curriculum.

All applicants must have successfully completed an ACGME-accredited residency program in the United States or RCPSC-accredited residency program in Canada in one of the following specialties: Neurology, Neurosurgery, or Neuroradiology. All International Medical Graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program. The program duration will be two-three years depending on the candidates background. The variation in the program length beyond two years is to accommodate applicants differing residency background.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Preparatory Experience
  • One year dedicated NES/INR experience.

The specialty requires significant clinical training in the logic of cerebrovascular therapeutics, and therefore, the program would include clinical (including NICU) experience, neuroimaging, medical physics, radiation safety; and catheter work in NES/INR.Training in NES/INR will be conducted primarily in the bi-plane angiography suite in the neuroradiology department, at the CCF neurosurgical operating rooms, as well as the investigational angiography suite in the animal vivarium at L10.

Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery

The Cleveland Clinic Department of Neurosurgery offers a one-year fellowship position in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. Areas of specialty training include surgery for the management of movement disorders (including Parkinson’s disease, tremor, dystonia, and spasticity), chronic pain, psychiatric disorders and other central nervous system disease states. Surgeons are also actively involved in peripheral and central neurostimulation, radiosurgery, surgical management of trigeminal neuralgia, intra-axial medication delivery and ablative procedures for pain.

Fellows in the program will receive training from three neurosurgeons in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic who specialize in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery operations. They will be involved in the outpatient evaluation, inpatient care and surgery throughout the 12 month period. In addition, fellows will also work closely with the multidisciplinary team needed to care for these patients.

Numerous opportunities for both clinical and laboratory research are available. Ongoing functional neurosurgery projects include research into mechanisms of deep brain stimulation, the development of brain computer interface prostheses and modeling spinal cord stimulation. A wide range of clinical studies are also underway including the study of deep brain stimulation for psychiatric disorders and pain, functional MRI in patients with implanted neurostimulators and evaluation of novel deep brain stimulation electrodes. Fellows are expected to participate in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery projects, present regionally and nationally and submit research for publication. Participation in didactic lectures, journal club, and patient management conferences is required. Our goal is to graduate fellows prepared to enter an academic environment with the expectation they will develop their own successful program in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery.

Interested applicants must have successfully passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV and cover letter
  • Letter from Residency Program Director
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Persons:
  • Katherine Henderson
    Department Coordinator
    Cleveland Clinic, Center for Neurological Restoration
    9500 Euclid Avenue, Mail Code U2
    Cleveland, OH 44195
    Phone: 216.444.2061
    Fax: 216.636.2518
  • Email: henderk3@ccf.org

Non-ACGME

Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery

Cerebrovascular neurosurgery is an ever changing discipline that continues to be increasingly complex and sophisticated. Special intra-cranial surgical techniques continue to evolve and are now being integrated with neuroendovascular techniques. Special expertise as a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon can be gleaned through fellowship training during which the fellow devotes full-time attention and scholarly activity to the diagnosis, management and academic research of these complex diseases and patients.

Concomitant with the increasing complexity of these procedures is the increase in the patient volume seen at Cleveland Clinic with cerebrovascular disease. Over the past five years, the number of patients being treated here with complex cerebrovascular disease has more than doubled. There is a plethora of patients from which both residents and fellows alike can benefit from.

Cleveland Clinic's Cerebrovascular Center offers fellowship training in Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery. The fellowship program is one or two years in length, depending on the individual fellow's academic and clinical needs. Interested applicants must have completed a residency in neurosurgery and passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Epilepsy Surgery

Cleveland Clinic's Epilepsy Surgery program exists as a unique collaboration between surgeons and medical specialists in the departments of neurosurgery and neurology. We exist to diagnose, investigate, and treat surgical epilepsy, which has become increasingly more complex as our referral base has grown to an international level. This complexity, together with our superb results has made Cleveland Clinic's Epilepsy Surgery program one of the best in the world. Our mission remains to alleviate suffering in those afflicted with epilepsy while furthering our understanding of the disease.

Fellowship participation may involve one year. Participation in the surgical and medical adult and pediatric treatment programs is required, as is clinical research. Basic research in epilepsy is available, but not required. A three month electrophysiology course is also required for all fellows.

More than 200 epilepsy surgeries are performed annually, including the adult and pediatric patient populations. Surgeries range from temporal lobectomy to complex invasive mapping and resective procedures to hemispherectomies. Palliative and investigational surgical treatments for epilepsy are also offered in a highly select group of medically intractable patients. Our state of the art facilities include an eight bed adult epilepsy-monitoring unit, a six bed pediatric monitoring unit, nuclear imaging, functional and anatomic magnetic resonance imaging, and new operative suites equipped with the latest neurosurgical technology.

Clinical research programs in both departments involve every aspect of epilepsy. Specific surgical research interests include patient outcome studies and multi-modality imaging and fusion display for intra-operative treatment of lesional epilepsies. Basic research programs include the characterization of molecular markers for malformations of cortical development and development of animal models studying subthalamic stimulation for epilepsy. Furthermore, resected epileptic tissue from surgery supports many neuroscience research studies across Cleveland Clinic's campus.

National activities include dozens of publications annually in peer-reviewed journals, papers and posters at national meetings, and a strong annual presence at the American Epilepsy Society meeting. Cleveland Clinic's epilepsy program hosts the Cleveland Clinic-Bethel Epilepsy Symposium every two years. This international conference focuses on a specific area of epilepsy and draws hundreds of participants from all over the world.

Interested applicants must have completed a residency in neurosurgery and passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Neurosurgical-Oncology-Neurosurgery Fellowship

Cleveland Clinic Department of Neurosurgery and the Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center offer fellowship positions in Neurosurgical Oncology. The Burkhardt Brain Tumor Center is a unique, stand alone department, which is comprised of neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists. Our surgeons perform about 600 major surgical cases and 350 radiosurgical cases each year. Clinical programs include gliomas, metastases, neuro-endocrine and skull base tumors. In addition to its own Phase I-III trials, the center participates in the New Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy (NABTT) NCI-sponsored consortium, South West Oncology Group (SWOG), Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACoSOG) and Children’s Cancer Group (CCG). Advanced novel therapies utilized by the BTI neurosurgical group include blood brain barrier disruption with IA chemotherapy, convection enhanced drug delivery, and intra-operative MRI. In addition to basic research in immunotherapy, apoptosis, molecular genetics, and angiogenesis, the program has recently embarked on large scale preclinical testing of novel agents for treating brain tumors with the aim of bringing these to clinical trials.

A fundamental goal of this two-year, combined clinical and laboratory research fellowship program is exposure to the design and operation of clinical trials, as well as contributing to the neuro-oncology literature. Among current trials are several ongoing clinical projects including use of convection enhanced delivery of immunotoxins for the treatment of malignant gliomas, blood brain barrier disruption for delivery of chemotherapeutic agents, as well as the molecular analysis of chemotherapy responsiveness in gliomas. Fellows are expected to participate in the design, IRB application process and management of new clinical trials during this fellowship, and to produce clinical presentations and reports.

Interested applicants must have successfully passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Pediatric and Congenital Neurosurgery

Members of the Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery deal with a wide variety of congenital and acquired lesions of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Approximately 5,500 children are seen in the pediatric neuroscience outpatient clinic, resulting in over 300 operative cases per year. The program includes multidisciplinary cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus brain tumor clinics and conferences. An active program in neuroendoscopic procedures includes tumor, cysts and congenital anomaly treatment in children and adults.

Neurosurgical residents usually spend two, three-month rotations as junior residents on the pediatric neurosurgery service. Fellows spend one year participating in surgery, and in- and out-patient care. During this time, they are encouraged to undertake a clinical or experimental research project for presentation and publication.

The following subspecialty programs comprise Cleveland Clinic's Section of Pediatric and Congenital Neurosurgery:

  • Pediatric Brain Tumors
  • Birth Defects
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy Surgery
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Neuroendoscopy

Interested applicants must have successfully passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Radiosurgery

Cleveland Clinic's Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center will offer a one year combined intracranial and spinal Radiosurgery fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to provide neurosurgeons interested in neuro-oncology with significant experience and up to date knowledge of radiosurgical decision making, treatment planning, patient management and research concepts as they relate to benign and malignant brain and spine tumors. The fellowship is intended to supplement the radiosurgical treatment training in neurosurgery providing advanced knowledge and skills with a higher level of expertise in stereotactic Radiosurgery including Gamma Knife Surgery and Spinal Radiosurgery. The rotation schedule will include a Radiosurgery outpatient clinic and a Radiosurgery Case planning and treatment over the course of the year with dedicated research time of ½ day per week. This fellowship is intended to include both clinical and educational training such that the following educational objectives are met.

  • Knowledge in basic radiosurgery science including principles.
  • Knowledge of the pathophysiology, natural history and epidemiology and clinical manifestations of various CNS tumors, in particular, metastatic brain tumors and spinal tumors.
  • Knowledge of indications, contraindications of stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • Sufficient training to be competent in the techniques of radiosurgical procedure.
  • Generation of more than one manuscript for publication based on a clinical, IRB-approved research project.

Interested applicants must have successfully passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:
Skull Base Surgery

The Section of Skull Base Surgery (SSBS) works as an interdisciplinary team in conjunction with specialists in interventional neuroradiology, otolaryngology, neuro-ophthalmology and plastic surgery. The SSBS consists of one of the largest meningioma programs in the country, evaluating over 200 new patients with meningiomas annually, of which approximately 100 operations are performed. In addition to meningioma surgery, the SSBS surgeons perform approximately 50-60 MVD procedures for trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasm in addition to a growing number of minimally invasive endoscopic procedures for selected anterior skull base pathology.

The primary goals of this fellowship is to train future academic leaders and clinical scientists in the subspecialty of skull base surgery by providing advanced training in the overall management of patients with complex skull base pathology. During the fellowship year, the fellow also actively participates in on-going clinical research in the areas of outcomes research, surgical technique refinement and elucidation of the natural history in meningiomas/schwannomas. Our past fellows and the current SSBS staff have won several prestigious awards from the AANS/CNS Joint Section on Tumors for their excellence in clinical research (Mahaley Award 2002, Integra Foundation Award 2006, Synthes Award 2007, Integra Foundation Award 2008, Synthes Award 2009).

Interested applicants must have successfully passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK and 2CS. Applicants requesting an H-1B visa must also have successfully passed USMLE Step 3. International medical graduates must have received a currently valid ECFMG certificate in order to apply to our program.

Interested candidates can apply for a fellowship position by submitting the following documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter from Residency Program Director in lieu of Dean’s Letter
  • At least two letters of recommendation from physicians whom have supervised you in a clinical setting
  • USMLE/COMLEX Score Reports
  • Medical School Diploma
  • Certified copy of your currently valid ECFMG certificate (applicable for International Medical Graduates only)
Contact Person:

Spine Medicine Fellowship

Overview

Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health offers a unique opportunity to receive spine medicine graduate training through our fellowship program. At Cleveland Clinic, you’ll have the chance to work with some of the country’s best spine medicine physicians, rheumatologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and orthopaedists.

Our orthopaedic surgery, rheumatology and neuroscience programs are consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation and No. 1 in Ohio by U.S. News & World Report’s annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Cleveland Clinic itself is ranked one of America’s top hospitals.

Our fellows are trained comprehensively – we focus not only on procedural techniques, but also on spine wellness, surgical evaluations, imagery interpretation, pharmacologic therapies and more. Elective/selective opportunities include sports medicine, radiology, metabolic bone disease, chronic pain rehabilitation program, and integrative medicine.

Cleveland Clinic’s large patient population means you’ll be exposed to a diverse range of spinal disorders, providing you with a solid educational experience that you won’t find elsewhere.

Objectives of the Fellowship

The goal of the Cleveland Clinic Spine Medicine Fellowship is to train broadly competent, non-operative specialists in the evaluation and management of the full spectrum of spine disorders. The unique integration of non-operative and surgical specialists within the Center for Spine Health provides fellows the opportunity to develop outstanding clinical skills grounded in an evidence based framework. Scholarly activity is encouraged and expected. Fellows are active participants in clinical research and writing.

Curriculum
Program Details

Rotation:
Spine Medicine fellows rotate through medical spine clinics, surgical spine clinics and an interventional pain management clinic, as well as a variety of electives and research experiences. The majority of fellow’s time is spent in medical clinics and interventional training and supplemented by surgical clinics, selective/elective experiences, and academic activities.

Curriculum:
Our fellowship will offer you the opportunity to study all aspects of spine medicine care.

Spine Medicine
  • Learn the clinical skills necessary for evaluation and management of a wide range of cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine disorders
  • Learn what role diagnostic imaging, electromyography, laboratory studies and diagnostic injection play in the evaluation of patients with spinal disorders
  • Gain experience in the interpretation of imaging studies, including MRI, CT, CT myelography and radiography
  • Gain experience in the use of therapeutic injections (e.g., trigger point and bursae injections and the use of fluoroscopy)
  • Learn the appropriate role of psychiatric pain management in the management of spinal pain
  • Gain experience in the use of the wide array of pharmacologic therapies employed in spine management, including analgesics, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatory agents
  • Become familiar with the full range of active and passive physical therapy modalities available for spinal disorders
  • Be exposed to spinal manipulation techniques (manual medicine) and their role in the management of spinal disorders through clinic and twice monthly manipulation workshop/lecture
  • Be exposed to acupuncture or a useful modality in the management of spinal pain and associated symptoms
Pain Management
  • Gain experience in (remove basic) interventional pain management techniques including epidural steroid injections, trigger point injections, sacroiliac joint injections, piriformis injections, facet injections (intra-articular), medial branch and dorsal rami injections, radiofrequency ablation, intra-articular hip joint injections, and other peripheral joint injections.
  • Become familiar with the full range of procedural treatments for managing spinal pain, including indications, contraindications and potential complications of such treatments
Spine Surgery
  • Learn the indications for appropriate surgical intervention (surgical decision making)
  • Become familiar with the range of surgical options available for patients with a wide array of spinal disorders
  • Become familiar with the indications for referral to spine surgeons
Research/Elective
  • Develop and complete a clinical research project, working with your faculty adviser
  • Author or co-author at least one paper during the fellowship, to be published in an indexed medical journal

Conferences:
A weekly spine medicine conference includes case conferences, didactic lectures or a journal club. Interdisciplinary conferences (tumor conference, spine biomechanics course) also are available for interested fellows.

Requirements:
Applicants for the fellowship must have completed an accredited residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine, family medicine or subspecialty training in a medical specialty (e.g. rheumatology). All fellows must obtain an Ohio training medical license prior to beginning the fellowship.

Credentialing Standards:
The fellowship’s credentialing standards cover medical assessment and management, including clinical skills, spinal anatomy, infections, pediatric spinal disorders and therapeutics, and interventional spine care, including facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, radiofrequency ablation, lumbar epidural steroid injections, sacroiliac joint blocks and clinical pharmacology.

Meet the Faculty
How To Apply
Application Process

Download our spine medicine fellowship application. Once completed, fax a copy of the application, three letters of recommendation and your CV to Candice Cross.

Candice Cross
Coordinator
Spine Medicine Fellowship
Phone: 216.445.9234
Fax: 216.636.2040
Email: spinefellowship@ccf.org



If you have any questions regarding the fellowship or the application process, please contact:

Daniel Mazanec, MD
Associate Director
Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health
Co-Director, Spine Medicine Fellowship
9500 Euclid Avenue/S40
Cleveland, Ohio 44195
216.444.6191

Russell DeMicco, DO
Co-Director
Spine Medicine Fellowship
9500 Euclid Avenue/S40
Cleveland, Ohio 44195
216.444.0229

Santhosh Thomas, DO, MBA
Co-Director
Spine Medicine Fellowship
9500 Euclid Avenue/WL40
Cleveland, Ohio 44195
440.899.5516

Spine Surgery Fellowship

Program

Welcome to the Spine Surgery Fellowship at Cleveland Clinic. Our fellowship is a combined Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery experience that is one year in length, with an option to do an additional year of research for select candidates.

Our philosophy is simple. We strive to recruit the top candidates and provide them with superior clinical and surgical training. As a “hybrid” program comprised of four fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeons and five fellowship-trained Neurosurgeons, each fellow will gain ample exposure to a wide range of spinal pathologies ranging from degenerative diseases, infections, intra- and extra-dural tumors, deformity, and trauma. In general, the surgical techniques employed by Orthopaedic and Neurological surgeons vary, and as a Fellow in this program you will become proficient with all techniques, including deformity, microsurgery and minimally invasive surgery. A primary goal of our fellowship is to graduate fellows with a highly refined clinical acumen and surgical skill set that will allow them to most effectively treat any type of spinal malady. Approximately 1900 spine surgeries are performed annually at the Cleveland Clinic - providing an excellent opportunity to excel in spinal surgery, both technically and clinically.

Our yearly curriculum includes a very thorough series of didactic sessions provided by Staff and guest lecturers, fellow-directed case presentations, biomechanical and controversy conferences, in addition to monthly grand rounds lectures and journal clubs. The curriculum was designed to provide a strong evidence-based foundation on all topics pertinent to spine surgery.

Collectively, the Spine Surgery Staff surgeons have published over 500 articles in the peer-reviewed medical literature, over 400 book chapters and over 30 books in the field of spine surgery and related topics. All of the staff at Cleveland Clinic are involved nationally and internationally in teaching, and are members on numerous academic societies. This underscores our philosophy, enthusiasm and commitment to education as well as the breadth of experience among our staff. As a requirement in our Fellowship, each fellow must complete at least one project prior to graduation. There are a multitude of areas of research available to our fellows, including basic science, pre-clinical, clinical, and biomechanical research opportunities. We believe this is a valuable educational experience, and certainly astrength of this program.

Thank you for your interest the Spine Surgery Fellowship Program at Cleveland Clinic.

Curriculum

The Cleveland Clinic Spine Surgery Fellowship is focused on educating our fellows in a unique academic setting that encourages extensive training in the diagnosis and management of adult spinal disorders. There is emphasis placed on degenerative cervical, thoracic and lumbar disease, spinal deformity, intradural and extradural spinal tumors, spinal trauma, spinal infections, congenital spinal abnormalities, and complex reconstruction/revision cervical and lumbar pathology.

The fellows gain a substantial experience with a multitude of surgical techniques including image guidance, minimally invasive surgery and microsurgery. The primary goal of our fellowship is focused on training the highest quality orthopaedic and neurosurgeons on a personal and professional level, in order to prepare them for private or academic practice.

U.S.News and World Report consistently ranks our orthopaedic and neurosurgery programs among the top ten in the nation and number one in the state of Ohio. Both clinical and surgical experience is drawn from the nearly 1900 major spinal procedures performed by our fellowship trained orthopaedic and neurosurgeons each year. Our faculty actively participates in the fellows’ education, helping to provide a high level of proficiency in a variety of surgical techniques and approaches designed to effectively treat any type of spinal condition.

Our clinical education program is comprised of didactic lectures given by staff, conferences, faculty interaction and ambulatory clinics which focus on the evaluation, diagnosis, operative and non-operative decision making, along with results and complications for all spinal treatments.

Fellows are required to participate in core curriculum education throughout the length of the program, which entails weekly conferences occurring every Friday. Topics include general spine indications, core curriculum, controversies in spine care, and biomechanics.

In addition to weekly conferences, there are monthly journal club meetings, fellow organized grand rounds, and visiting professor lectures on various topics four times per academic year. Our weekly conferences consist of presentations directed by our spine fellows with faculty input relating to various spinal pathology and surgical treatment options. Our journal clubs are organized every month, with attendance by both faculty and fellows. Articles for journal club are selected by the presenting fellow, with discussion of content, methods, results and conclusions of each article presented amongst the group. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in the education and clinical teaching of residents in and out of the operating room throughout the year.

Research plays a vital role in our spine surgery fellowship. Fellows will have the opportunity to engage in clinical research with the intent to publish peer-reviewed articles under the direction of our faculty. Fellows will be expected to apply the principles of spinal research, with strong focus on the use of evidence-based medicine in their surgical decision making. Fellows will have access to our spine research lab at Lutheran Hospital which is minutes away from our main campus. Some of our research interests include biomechanics, biologics, spine kinematics, and spinal cord injury and clinical research. Each fellow will be required to complete and present one research project at the end of the year as part of their requirement for program graduation. These projects are then prepared for submission prior to completion of the fellowship and are expected to be submitted for publication.

Cases

Over 1900 spine surgeries are performed annually by the Staff Spine surgeons involved in the Cleveland Clinic Fellowship, and this volume affords a wide variety and breadth of surgical training for our fellows. Approximately 60% are non-fusion procedures, and the remainder involve some kind of fusion surgery. Of the total surgeries performed, about 30% involve the cervical spine, 60% involve the lumbar spine, and the remainder are thoracic surgeries.

There are a wide variety of cases with which our fellows are involved ranging from the less to the most complex. As a tertiary care center, the spine surgeons at Cleveland Clinic treat the most complex spinal pathology, including revision surgery, spinal deformity of many etiologies, primary spinal column tumors and metastatic disease, infections, as well as intra- and extra-dural tumors. While Cleveland Clinic is not a trauma center, we do evaluate and treat a variety of traumatic spine injuries and we believe this offers a substantial exposure to this cohort of patients for the fellows.

Our primary goal as a fellowship program is to deliver a broad, balanced, evidence-based exposure to the various surgical techniques used today in spine surgery. Integral to optimizing the surgical treatment of any patient is a need to understand the pathology, historical treatments and outcomes, and to develop sound and efficacious surgical skills. We firmly believe that by the end of the fellowship each fellow will be comfortable and very capable of treating any surgical spine issue, and will have had ample exposure to some of the more contemporary techniques including minimally invasive surgery, image guidance and microsurgery

View a gallery of images from our program. (Click each image for a larger view.)

Testimonials

John H. Shin, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2009-11 (Research/Clinical)
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA
“The fellowship did an excellent job of preparing me for an academic career in spine. The combination of orthopedic and neurosurgical spine training is invaluable and is what really made the fellowship a rich environment for learning. The didactics, including lectures and case presentations, were comprehensive and provided ample opportunity for discussion and debate. For anyone wishing to pursue spine as a subspecialty, I would recommend this fellowship without any hesitation or reservation. The numerous opportunities for research made this a very productive time.”

Frank Bishop, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2010-11
Northern Rockies Neurosurgical Associates
Kalispell, MT
“Having had a strong spine experience during my neurosurgery residency, I was unsure of the actual value of adding a spine fellowship to my training prior to starting. The year proved to be one of the best of my training experience. I was able to see a diversity of complex cases in clinic and the operating room, which has greatly enhanced my decision-making and technical abilities. Perhaps more importantly, Cleveland Clinic has a group of world-renown spine surgeons, from both neurosurgery and orthopaedic backgrounds, with whom I worked closely and individually, and was therefore able to see and discuss multiple ways of treating spinal disorders. My knowledge and armamentarium increased noticeably during the course of the year. The fellowship has transformed what I am able to do for my practice and patients.”

Elijah Hothem, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2010-11 (Research/Clinical)
Ohio State University
Columbus, OH
“The spine fellowship at Cleveland Clinic is a unique training experience. The combination of orthopedic and neurosurgical training sets you apart from the conventionally trained crowd. You are treated as a colleague and friend by the attendings. The educational didactics were excellent and by the end of the year I had a well read, evidence based, and objective approach to treatment of the spine.”

Fernando Techy, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2010-11
University of Illinois
College of Medicine at Chicago
Chicago, IL
“Overall it has been simply great. All attendings were always very patient and took their time to let us operate. Clinics were also great. Attendings took their time to discuss cases, go over indications and so on. Great clinical experience overall (from cervical to lumbar, to intradural pathology, to deformity).

Personally, as I am interested in Academics and publishing, and Cleveland Clinic was amazing in providing us with the opportunity. You can write a book chapter a month if you are interested. Every staff member is very involved with Societies and publishing and if you are interested in getting involved you can get a lot of help here. Clinical and biomechanical studies are always ongoing and help is always wanted. On the other hand, if research is not your thing, you only need 1 project done throughout the year.

The experience operating with Neurosurgeons and Orthosurgeons was very interesting to me. In the end I came to a conclusion that the indications and operations in this day and age are pretty much the same. I guess it does not matter at all what your background is, as long as you are well trained. You can take the lamina out with a drill or a Leksell, as long as you leave the dura in place the patient will be OK.”

S. Scott Lollis, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2009-10
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Lebanon, NH
"The Cleveland Clinic fellowship was a great experience. For me, the principal clinical benefits were in the areas of spinal deformity and tumor surgery. As a neurosurgical resident I had had no exposure to major deformity correction, and while I had certainly done laminectomies for tumors, I was not completely comfortable with the posterolateral approaches for thoracic tumors (costotransversectomy/lateral extracavitary with anterior column reconstruction). The diversity and volume of cases at Cleveland Clinic is exceptional, and this allowed me to develop competence in these two areas."

There is great value in the combined ortho/neuro fellowship, both in terms of learning new operative techniques and in terms of clinical judgment and pre-op decision-making. Because each fellow has a one on one experience with each faculty member, the fellowship offers a breadth of experience that is uncommon.

Lastly, I am really grateful for the friendships that I formed during my year in Cleveland. The fellowship’s greatest strength is that it brings together a large number of great people with a shared interest. Our class had a great time, and I expect these relationships to continue throughout our professional careers.”

William F. Lavelle, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2008-9
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Syracuse, NY
“I felt the combined orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery spine experience helped prepare me for my academic spine surgery career. I am currently Fellowship Director of the spine fellowship at SUNY Upstate Medical Center. My practice is a combined trauma, tumor, deformity and degenerative spine practice at an academic tertiary center. I felt well prepared for practice after my fellowship at Cleveland Clinic.”

Daniel Refai, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2009-10
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO
“I enjoyed working with the orthopaedic spine service and doing deformity cases. This was a huge asset. In addition, I definitely expanded my repertoire of skills from having great mentors in both neurosurgery and orthopedics.”

Todd J. Stewart, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2002-03
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO
“The Cleveland Clinic Spine Fellowship provides outstanding training in the full breadth of spinal pathologies from routine degenerative cases to complex cervical reconstructions, tumor resections and scoliosis. The opportunity to train under opinion leading surgeons from both neurosurgery and orthopaedics makes this a top fellowship program.”

Daniel Shedid, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2004-2006
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“I did a combined fellowship of 2 years. After more than 5 years in practice, I can honestly say that I did a tremendous training at Cleveland Clinic. For me as a neurosurgeon, I had an excellent opportunity to work closely with orthopedic surgeons. This has helped me to understand and master all the aspects of the spine as a whole. I can proudly say that my fellowship at Cleveland Clinic made me where I am now as a spine surgeon.”

Robert Talac, M.D, PhD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2008-2009
Advanced Spine Institute, PLLC
Jackson, TN
“I have been a spine surgery fellow between the years 2008-2009. In my opinion, Cleveland Clinic spine surgery fellowship is one of the top fellowships in the country. The depth of the program provides a unique opportunity to learn how to handle any spine pathology from a simple one to the most complex. The entire program is well balanced. A fellow has enough independence to facilitate his/her transition into the practice. At the same time, s/he has enough support to learn from experienced staff. Should you need any more information about my experience please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Dhruv B. Pateder, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2006-07
Town Center Orthopaedic Assocs.
Reston, VA
“I am very thankful for my spine fellowship experience at Cleveland Clinic. It was a very comprehensive educational and operative experience and instrumental in preparing me for academic/private practice. The interactions with the attendings as well as the other fellows were a very valuable component of this well-rounded fellowship. It was a perfect combination of the orthopaedic and neurosurgical experience as well as "routine" and "big" cases. I honestly believe it is the best fellowship in the country.”

L. Brett Babat, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2001-02
Premier Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine
Nashville, TN
“I was a Cleveland Clinic fellow, class of ’01-’02. I am now in private practice in Nashville, TN. My year in Cleveland was perhaps the most valuable of my entire education. I left there fully confident in my ability to handle the entire range of adult spinal surgery, from simple disc herniations to complex deformity. Furthermore, I had gained enough of an understanding of the degenerative spine to facilitate continued learning and technical advancement. I am convinced my Cleveland Clinic fellowship provided the best possible grounding and experience.”

Richard Schlenk, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2002-03
Director, Neurosurgery Residency Program
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland, OH
“The fellowship was truly an experience that shaped and molded my clinical and surgical skills. It was a tremendous opportunity to work with both orthopedic and neurosurgeons in a meaningful manner not available in any other fellowship program. It certainly helped prepare me for a career in academics.”

Eric Klineberg, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Assistant Professor
Director, Spine Fellowship Program
Adult & Pediatric Spinal Surgery
University of California, Davis
Sacramento, CA
“The Cleveland Clinic fellowship allowed me to further my understanding of spinal surgery with both Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery. This experience has allowed me to learn from both sides of the fence and take the best of both specialties. I have used this knowledge and now have an academic practice at UC Davis, in which I provide care for complex fracture, tumor, cervical deformity and scoliosis patients. In addition, I now count Cleveland Clinic staff as close friends and we talk often about cases, and collaborate on research projects. I would recommend this fellowship highly.”

Sharad Rajpal, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2009-10
Boulder Neurosurgical Associates
Boulder, CO
“One unique aspect of this program is the breadth of training afforded by the combination of Orthopedic and Neurosurgical specialties. The excellent teaching in both the operative and clinical settings provided me with the tools to help me be successful and confident today in my treatment decisions by analyzing difficult and complex spine problems with perspectives from both specialties.”

Cristian Brotea, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2006-07
Westchester Spine Institute
Specialty Orthopaedics, PLLC
Harrison, NY
"I feel that the Cleveland Clinic Spine Fellowship program provided me with a very thorough, complete experience which prepared me very well for my private practice. It provided me with the tools to approach any type of cervical/thoracic/lumbar case. The program provides the fellows with a wide variety of cases and working on them with residents was particularly rewarding. I found it was particularly insightful to work with neuro- and orthopaedic surgeons and I learned a lot from both specialties."

Christopher Kager, MD
Neurological Surgeon
2000-01
Neuroscience & Spine Associates
Lancaster, PA
“My spine fellowship experience was outstanding. It provided me with comprehensive training in all aspects of spinal surgery. One outstanding feature was the collaboration with both orthopedic and neurosurgery spine specialists, providing an interesting hybrid experience. The facilities at Cleveland Clinic are excellent, in both clinical and research areas, and many opportunities to be involved in research projects in both arenas. The program also maintains a strong collegial feel as well, with great relationships between the fellows and the faculty and residents.”

Saad B. Chaudhary, MD, MBA
Orthopaedic Surgeon
2007-08
Spine Surgeon
Assistant Professor
UMDNJ - New Jersey Medical School
Newark, NJ
“The Cleveland Clinic Spine Surgery Fellowship was outstanding. It was enriching to work closely with experts in spinal surgery from both the Orthopaedic and the Neurosurgical disciplines. I had a tremendous operative experience with the nine faculty members; covering a wide variety of pathology from simple disc herniations and degenerative disease to complex spinal deformity and spinal tumors. I was exposed to both traditional open surgery, and to cutting edge minimally invasive surgical treatments. This fellowship not only equipped me with the tools needed to excel as a private practitioner, but also prepared me for a career in academics. In my opinion, the Spine Surgery Fellowship at Cleveland Clinic is easily in the top 3 best programs in the country.”

Meet The Faculty
How To Apply

Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery applicants to Cleveland Clinic's Center for Spine Health Fellowship follow two different processes.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

All Orthopaedic trained surgeons must apply through the SFMatch. The timeline for the match is as follows:

  • July 15, current year: SFMatch begins accepting registration for the Spine Surgery Fellowship Match. Applicants can view the Program Directory once registration is concluded. It is recommended that you check this directory on a regular basis since it is updated by programs year round. Please note the individual deadline dates of each program to which you will apply.
  • September 15, current year: SFMatch Central Application Service becomes available to all Spine Surgery Fellowship Programs around the country.
  • December 15, current year: Cleveland Clinic Spine Surgery Fellowship Application Deadline date
  • January and February, current year: Interviews take place
  • April 29, current year: Interview period ends
  • May 3, current year: Rank List Submission Deadline
  • May 10, current year: Match results are available

Please note: These dates may vary, as will the deadline dates of each individual program.

Neurological Surgeons

Applicants must send their application directly to the Program Coordinator via e-mail or fax.

A personal statement, CV, and three letters of recommendation must accompany the application. Neurosurgery applicants are encouraged to apply before September 30th to be included in the interview day scheduled each year in autumn.

Applications are processed two years in advance and accepted year round.

Candice Cross
Coordinator, Spine Surgery Fellowship
Ph: 216.445.9234
Fax: 216.636.2040
E-mail: spinefellowship@ccf.org





International Medical Graduates

To qualify for a Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic you must be able to obtain a permanent Ohio Medical License. To qualify, International Applicants must have passed the US-MLE Step 3, and must hold an H1 Visa or equivalent. (A J1 Visa will not suffice.)

Commitments to excellence in patient care, innovation and education have long been integral components of Cleveland Clinic’s mission. As a part of that overall commitment to education, the Neurosurgery Department takes special pride in training future neurosurgical practitioners who practice putting patients first to deliver the highest quality of medical care. Below are the recognized current neurosurgery fellows - the future leaders in neurosurgery.



2014-2015 Clinical Fellows

Functional & Restorative Neurosurgery
Biji Bahuleyan, MD

Medical School: 1997 University of Kerala Medicine College
Residency: 2005 Neurosurgery, Christian Medical College, India
Fellowship: 2012 Spine Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass. Fellowship: 2014, Neurosurgical Oncology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

Pediatric Neurosurgery
Hayder Jaffer, MD

Residency School: 2004, Neurosurgery, Al-Jerhaat Teaching Hospital, Iraq
Experience: 2005-2008, Attending Neurosurgeon, Al-Sadder Teaching Hospital; Al-Jerhaat Teaching Hospital; and Al-Bashir Teaching Hospital; Iraq
Research Fellow: 2011-2014, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

Radiosurgery

Year 2

Mahmoud Abbassy, MD

Medical School: 2006 Alexandria University, Egypt
Residency: 2011 Neurological Surgery, Alexandria University, Egypt

Epilepsy Surgery
Saksith Smithason, MD

Medical School: Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
Residency: Currently a fifth year Neurosurgery Resident at Cleveland Clinic

Neurosurgical Oncology
Mithun Sattur, MD

Residency School: 2007, Neurosurgery, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India
Experience: 2007-2014, Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery, Karnatka Institute of Medical Sciences, Karnataka, India
Experience: 2007-2014, Consultant Neurosurgeon (private practice)

Danilo Silva, MD

Medical School: 2005 Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil
Residency: 2011 Neurosurgery, Restauracao Hospital, Brazil
Fellowship: 2012 Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, N.Y.
Fellowship: 2014, Functional & Restorative Neurosurgery, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

Spine Surgery
Ryan Brennan, MD

Medical School: 2009, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
Residency: Currently a sixth year Neurosurgery Resident at Cleveland Clinic

Colby Fagin, MD

Medical School: 2009, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Residency: 2014, Orthopaedic Surgery, Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, New Jersey

Andrew Torre-Healy, MD

Medical School: 2009, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Residency: Currently a sixth year Neurosurgery Resident at Cleveland Clinic

Matthew Karek, MD

Medical School: 2009, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – East Lansing, Michigan
Residency: 2014, Orthopaedic Surgery, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan

Paul Porensky, MD

Medical School: 2007, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
Residency: 2014, Neurological Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Sina Pourtaheri, MD

Medical School: 2009, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana
Residency: 2014, Orthopedic Surgery, Seton Hall University/St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Paterson, New Jersey