John M. Tew Jr., MD ::: A Legacy in Neurosurgery

John M. Tew Jr., MD ::: A Legacy in Neurosurgery

John M. Tew, Jr., MD, a leader in his field and in his community, stopped performing surgery at the Mayfield Clinic on June 30, 2014, after more than 45 years of neurosurgical service.

Dr. Tew’s legacy at Mayfield is internationally recognized. In addition to his extraordinary work as a subspecialist in cerebrovascular disease, brain tumors, trigeminal neuralgia, and Chiari malformations, Dr. Tew led the development of the University of Cincinnati Department of Neurosurgery and was the first Frank H. Mayfield Chair for Neurological Surgery. He served as Professor and Chairman of the department for 20 years before co-founding and taking the helm of the UC Neuroscience Institute in 1998. He also served as Medical Director of the Mayfield Chiari Center. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Ever young in his embrace of new challenges, Dr. Tew has been appointed to new executive positions that will direct the community outreach and philanthropic efforts of the integrative medicine program at UC Health and the UC College of Medicine. Tew will serve as the program's vice president of community affairs at UC Health and as executive director of community affairs at the College of Medicine. Tew also will continue to serve as a tenured professor of neurosurgery within the College of Medicine and focus his international clinical practice in neurosurgery by providing consultative services to patients and neurosurgeons.

Formative years

Dr. Tew grew up on a farm in North Carolina, where he was a 4H club leader and, at age 14, was crowned Cotton King. He learned his first surgical skills from his grandfather on the farm. Encouraged by his mother, who was unable to attend college, and his father, who was unable to finish high school, Dr. Tew dreamed of a world beyond the farm and enrolled in Campbell Junior College, seven miles from home. He was unprepared for pre-med courses, but an organic chemistry professor saw promise and gave him a job sweeping floors and assisting in a laboratory.

Dr. John Tew w/ TEW PSR Kit Dr. Tew developed the TEW curved electrode for Percutaneous Stereotactic Rhizotomy (PSR).

Dr. Tew transferred to Wake Forest University for his final two years. After graduation he entered Wake Forest's medical school, where he was named "best anatomist" in his freshman class. It was the first academic prize of his life and an acknowledgement of his dexterity with tissue and his ability to confront the insides of the human body.

Hands that heal

He performed his neurosurgical residency at the Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital. In a life-changing development, he won the prestigious Van Wagenen Fellowship, which allowed him to train under Gazi Yasargil, MD, the founder of micro-neurosurgery, at the University of Zurich and Zurich Kantonspittal. There Dr. Tew learned to use the new operating microscope, which was making the treatment of deadly brain aneurysms predictably successful for the first time. Recruited by Dr. Mayfield, Dr. Tew joined the Mayfield Clinic and UC in 1969. In 1993 he would become the first Frank H. Mayfield Professor, an academic appointment that marked the first endowed position in the UC Department of Neurosurgery.

Dr. Tew further developed the science of microsurgery to treat disorders of the nervous system; he introduced non-invasive radiofrequency for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia and was the first to apply lasers in neurosurgery; he led the team that brought radiosurgery to North America for the treatment of brain tumors and vascular malformations; and he was part of the team that brought endovascular techniques to the treatment of vascular formations. Revered in his field, he has been elected President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, President of the Academy of Neurological Surgeons, and President of the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society. He is an advisory board member for the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association, the Acoustic Neuroma Association and the Hemifacial Spasm Association.

Dr. Tew has published more than 300 papers and book chapters, has co-authored four books, including the Atlas of Operative Microneurosurgery, and has held 70 visiting professorships in the United States and around the world. 

Tew, Mayfield, Dunsker, Wilson, AringJohn Tew and Stewart Dunsker (standing) were both recruited in 1969. Seated are Frank Mayfield, Charlie Wilson, and Charles Aring.

Hands that build

Early in his career Dr. Tew dreamed of creating a renowned Neuroscience Institute for Cincinnati. Today, the 15-year-old UC Neuroscience Institute features 11 collaborative centers and programs, has achieved a rarefied benchmark with national recognition in 13 neuroscience specialties, ranks among the top neuroscience centers in North America, and treats thousands of patients from around the region each year.

Charitable living

Dr. Tew has been a member of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati's Tocqueville Society since 2004 and was a member of the cabinet for the 2009 campaign. He is a member of the board of directors of the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Museum Center, University of Cincinnati Foundation, Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Mayfield Clinic. He is an advisory board member of the UC Brain Tumor Center, Campbell University, and Clever Crazes for Kids, and he is a member of the Literary Club of Cincinnati and the Commonwealth and Commercial Clubs of Cincinnati. He is a former member of the Xavier University Board of Trustees. He is a member of Bellarmine Parish at Xavier University and a Knight of the Order of Malta.

atlas booksDr. Tew has written more than 300 journal articles and chapters and has co-authored 4 books.

Concerned about the social, financial and neurological implications of the increasing prevalence of obesity, poor fitness, and chronic disease, he has become a passionate advocate for healthy living.

Great Living Cincinnatian

Dr. Tew was named a Great Living Cincinnatian in 2010 by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. In becoming a Great Living Cincinnatian, Dr. Tew follows in the footsteps of Frank H. Mayfield, MD, the founder of the Mayfield Clinic who earned the honor in 1980.

Like Dr. Mayfield, Dr. Tew earned international renown as a gifted and pioneering neurosurgeon, a compassionate doctor beloved by his patients, and a leader dedicated to excellence, continuous improvement, and the health and well-being of his community. Both Dr. Mayfield and Dr. Tew led neurosurgical residency training programs; both served as president of the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society; and both were at the forefront of technological innovations in their field.

Additional Honors

He received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, an honor by Pope John Paul and presented by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, in 1989. He has received the Health Care Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Court of Honor from the Dan Beard Council, the Daniel Drake Medal from the University of Cincinnati, the Distinguished Service Citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Leadership Medallion from Xavier University, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Wake Forest College of Medicine. He was an Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and he has earned honorary doctorates from the College of Mount Saint Joseph and Campbell University.

Devotion to family

He and Susan, his wife of nearly 50 years, have three children and 10 grandchildren. Meanwhile, Dr. Tew and his sister continue the family's farming tradition in Linden N.C., where additional acres are being cultivated in beautiful long leaf pine as an active forestry program. In Cincinnati, Dr. Tew enjoys biking, strength training and yoga and spends innumerable hours teaching his grandchildren to enjoy athletics and the arts.

Susan and John TewSusan and John Tew.