Spine and Neurotrauma Fellowship

UPMC is a nationally certified Level 1 trauma center. It is one of the business trauma centers in the nation admitting between 11,000 and 12,000 adult trauma patients and 1,700 pediatric trauma patients annually. Fellows in the spine and neurotrauma track will receive advanced training across all aspects of spinal disorders, with a special emphasis on management of acute neurosurgical emergencies. In addition to a “transition to practice” format as a complex spine surgeon, fellows will also be integrated in, and with progressive experience help lead, our UPMC neurotrauma service. Fellows also have the opportunity to pursue additional training in sports neurosurgery, including concussion evaluation and management and care of sports-related spine and peripheral nerve injuries. Fellows can shadow program faculty with professional and collegiate sports teams in Pittsburgh.

Academic Neurotrauma and Spine
The fellow is funded for any neurotrauma and spine society meetings whereby research findings have been accepted for oral presentation. Fellows will be encouraged and supported to engage on a national level with the neurotrauma and academic spine community via annual conferences including, but not limited: National Neurotrauma Society, Neurotrauma Joint Section, and Spine Summit. Other opportunities for networking and research presentation include AANS, CNS, SRS, IMAST, CSRS, LSRS, ISASS, SMISS, or the North American Spine Society.

Translational Research
Translational neurotrauma research opportunities with exposure to clinical trials (BOOST3, TRACK TBI, CASPER). The amount of time dedicated for research is flexible. Weekly research meetings are held for the neurotrauma clinical trials center. Fellows will have access to prospective spine registry to conduct research studies. Opportunities to collaborate with University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine medical students and neurosurgery residents will be available. Fellows participating research will be well-suited for conducting independent studies and securing grant funding upon completion of the fellowship. Fellows have exposure to high level team science. Faculty are members of the International Spine Study Group (ISSG) and frequently collaborate. Applications for young investigator grant opportunities through AO spine, CSRS, LSRS, and Spine Summit will be supported. Additional funding is available for strong research proposals through several mechanisms including the internal department Copeland fund.

Education Experience
Multidisciplinary neurotrauma, critical care, and PMR rounds occur on a weekly basis. Fellows will actively participate in these. In additional, spine case conference occurs on a regular basis. Discussion and didactic lectures are provided to the fellows and residents to discuss complex cases and ongoing research.

Application Requirements
The fellow is given attending privileges as a Clinical Instructor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery. All fellows within Neurological Surgery must be eligible for work within the United States as well as a permanent Pennsylvania medical license and DEA license. Interested applicants should apply by sending a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and at least two reference letters. Fellowship typically fills three years in advance. Interviews are held in April each year.

Contact Information
The UPMC neurosurgery spine fellowship is accredited by CAST. Applications should be directed to Melissa Lukehart (lukeml@upmc.edu). Additional inquiries should be directed to David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD.

UPMC Presbyterian

Fellowship Director
David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD

Nitin Agarwal, MD
Thomas J. Buell, MD
Bradley Gross, MD
D. Kojo Hamilton, MD
David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD

Special Features
Faculty with Leadership in Organized Neurotrauma
Team Science Opportunities (TRACK TBI, BOOST3, CASPER)
Funded Research
Funded Conferences and Presentations
Clinical Research Coordinators and Fellows
Transition to Practice Fellowship Paradigm

Surgical Techniques
Neuroinvasive Monitoring Placement
Open and Minimally Invasive Deformity Correction
Navigation, and Power Screw Placement 
Minimally Invasive Percutaneous and Tubular Surgery 
Robotics Surgery
Lateral Access Surgery (LLIF, Lateral ALIF)

1 Year

July 1 through June 30

Research Funding and Moonlighting Opportunities Available

Committee on Accreditation of Subspecialty Training (CAST)

Past Fellows
Harry Mushlin, 2020-21
Jacob Joseph, 2019-20