Neurosurgery residents honored with Dunsker, Tew research awards

CINCINNATI – Ben Bixenmann, MD , a fifth-year resident in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, is the 2014 winner of the Ellen and Stewart B. Dunsker, MD, Award for Clinical Research.

Christopher Sanders Taylor, MD , a graduating resident, is the winner of the inaugural John M. Tew, Jr., MD, Award for Neuro-Oncology Research.

The awards were announced today during the 31st Mayfield Neuroscience Symposium at the UC College of Medicine. Each winner was awarded a $2,000 prize.

The event coincided with graduation ceremonies for three neurosurgery residents: Dr. Sanders Taylor, Vincent DiNapoli, MD, PhD, and Lauren Ostling, MD .

Dr. Bixenmann used a database of fetal MRI’s taken during pregnancy to study the incidence of syringomyelia – a cyst caused by the buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid inside the spinal cord -- within the fetal and postnatal population. In finding only two cases of syringomyelia among 2,362 fetal MRI exams and only one case among 109 fetuses with a spinal neural tube defect, he reported that syringomyelia is not a congenital embryonic condition but rather an acquired lesion, most likely resulting from the effects of abnormal cerebrospinal fluid flow.

Dr. Sanders Taylor, in a retrospective study of 55 patients, explored the question of whether cancer patients who have experienced a local recurrence of metastatic brain tumors do better when the recurrence is treated with traditional surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). He found that the incidence of a second recurrence was significantly lower for patients retreated with surgery. In conclusion, he stated that, where possible, patients should undergo surgery rather than radiation for recurrent brain metastasis.

Left to Right: Dr. John Tew, Dr. Christopher Sanders Taylor, Dr. Ron Warnick

Left to Right: Dr. John Tew, Dr. Christopher Sanders Taylor, Dr. Ron Warnick

Christopher Sanders Taylor, MD, (center) a graduating resident,
is the winner of the inaugural John M. Tew, Jr., MD, Award for Neuro-Oncology Research.

The Tew Award is sponsored by the Brain Tumor Center at the UC Neuroscience Institute to recognize contributions to the field of surgical neuro-oncology by Dr. Tew, a Mayfield neurosurgeon and Professor of Neurosurgery, Radiology and Surgery at UC. Dr. Tew served as Chairman of the UC Department of Neurosurgery for 20 years before co-founding the UC Neuroscience Institute in 1998. He led the Institute, a network of disease-focused centers committed to the collaborative treatment and research of brain disease and injury, for 15 years.

The Tew Award is intended to stimulate brain tumor research by neurosurgical residents at UC. It honors a resident whose work 1) focuses on primary or metastatic brain tumors and 2) involves either basic (laboratory) science or clinical research. Basic science research with the potential for translation to clinical trials is given special consideration. A significant portion of the work should be performed at UC.

Dr. Dunsker, Professor Emeritus of Neurosurgery and a retired Mayfield Clinic neurosurgeon, and his wife underwrite the Dunsker Award, which is given to a resident who has proposed and completed the most compelling clinical research project during the academic year. "I ask the residents to perform experiments not on their benches but in their brains,” Dr. Dunsker said Friday.  Asking the question “why” is not expensive and requires no NIH grant, he added. He encouraged residents to “Go find a better way.”

Dr. Dunsker, who retired as Professor of Neurosurgery in 2002 after a 31-year career with the Mayfield Clinic, played a role in developing spinal surgery into a subspecialty of neurosurgery. He was named Ohio Neurosurgeon of the Year in 1992 and received the Harvey Cushing Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, in 2003. He remains a familiar figure at department meetings and grand rounds.

2014 Dunsker Award entrants were judged by faculty members of the UC Department of Neurosurgery. Tew Award entrants were judged by faculty members of the department and the UC Brain Tumor Center.

Dr. Stewart Dunsker (left) with Dr. Ben Bixenmann Dr. Stewart Dunsker (left) with Dr. Ben Bixenmann, the 2014 winner of the Ellen and Stewart B. Dunsker, MD Award for Clinical Research