Thomas J. Buell, MD

  • Assistant Professor

Thomas J. Buell, MD, joined the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery in January of 2022. A native of Texas, he attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, graduating with high honors and earning the W. C. Dusty and Doris Duesterhoeft Endowed Presidential Scholarship. His early engineering research focused on designing algorithms to advance parallel and distributed processing. After graduation, he worked as an electrical engineer before attending Baylor College of Medicine, earning his medical degree in 2013.

He completed his neurological surgery residency at the University of Virginia in 2020. There he completed an enfolded CAST-accredited complex spine fellowship under Justin Smith, MD, an enfolded CAST-accredited endovascular fellowship, and an international fellowship at Auckland City Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. He then attended Duke University for a combined orthopedic and neurosurgical AO Spine adult and pediatric complex spine and oncology fellowship training program under Isaac Karikari, MD, and Christopher Shaffrey, MD.

Dr. Buell specializes in complex spinal reconstructive surgery for treatment of all spinal deformities of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions. He is a high-volume surgeon, performing over 300 operations per year. His clinical philosophy is conservative believing, in many cases, non-operative treatment options improve patient symptoms. He provides individualized, patient-engaged, compassionate care and focuses on maximizing outcomes with the least invasive approach.

Dr. Buell has been actively engaged in clinical research, both prospectively and retrospectively, to evaluate which treatments provide greatest clinical benefit while minimizing complications. His research interests focus on clinical outcomes after spinal surgery. He is a prolific academician, having published over 110 papers in peer-reviewed journals such as Neurology, Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurosurgery, JNS Spine, Spine Deformity, and Stroke. He is also an assistant editor for Operative Neurosurgery and has recently accepted an editorial board position for Spine Deformity. He has authored and edited over 20 textbook chapters.

Dr. Buell is a new member of the International Spine Study Group, a multi-center non-profit research foundation that studies clinical and economic outcomes resulting in best practice guidelines for adult patients with spinal deformities. This is a consortium of spinal deformity specialists and researchers at over 20 top academic centers in the United States and Canada with collaborators in Europe and Japan. Since the inception in 2009, the International Spine Study Group has presented over 2000 scientific abstracts and has published over 300 peer reviewed manuscripts. 

Dr. Buell's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Spine surgery

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
UPMC Mercy
UPMC Passavant
UPMC Presbyterian
UPMC Shadyside

Professional Organization Membership

American Association of Neurological Surgeons
International Spine Study Group Foundation
North American Spine Society

Professional Activities

Assistant Editor, Operative Neurosurgery
Editorial Board, Spine Deformity

Education & Training

  • BS, Electrical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, 2005
  • MD, Baylor College of Medicine, 2013
  • Neurosurgery Residency, University of Virginia, 2020
  • Neuroendovascular Surgery Fellowship, University of Virginia Health System, 2017
  • Enfolded Fellowship, Adult & Pediatric Spine Deformity Surgery, University of Virginia, 2020
  • Clinical Associate, Fellow, Duke University, 2022

Honors & Awards

  • Early-Career Spine Surgeon Grant, Masters in Spine Surgery Seminar, 2024
  • Resident & Fellow Research Award, North American Spine Society, 2020
  • Whitecloud Award for Best Clinical Abstract, International Meeting on Advanced Spine Techniques (IMAST). 2020
  • Best Presentation Abstract Award, AANS/CNS Joint Spine Section, Spine Summit, 2018
  • John A. Jane, Sr. Neuroanatomy Award, University of Virginia, 2017
  • Crutchfield, Cage, and Thomson Award, 2nd Place Clinical Research, Neurosurgical Society of the Virginias, 2017
  • Crutchfield, Cage, and Thomson Award, 1st Place Basic Science, Neurosurgical Society of the Virginias, 2014
  • Mission Connect Neurotrauma Research Award, Institute for Rehabilitation and Research Foundation, 2011
  • Medical Student Research Scholarship, Baylor College of Medicine, 2004
  • Distinguished College Scholar, University of Texas at Austin, 2004
  • W. C. Dusty and Doris Duesterhoeft Endowed Presidential Scholarship, University of Texas at Austin, 2003-2005