October 9, 2009

Allen to step down as Neurological Surgery leader

Allen to step down as Neurological Surgery leader

He is an avid map reader and collector, so it is not surprising that George Allen, M.D., Ph.D., the William F. Meacham Professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery, navigated the construction and leadership of his department so well.

Allen, M.D., Ph.D.

Allen, M.D., Ph.D.

But now it is clear he was also adept at charting a course for the future of his department.

Allen is stepping down after more than 25 years as chair, effective Jan. 1, 2010, and Reid Thompson, M.D., professor of Neurosurgery, has been named to succeed him.

Reid Thompson, M.D.

Reid Thompson, M.D.

“George Allen hired Reid Thompson with the idea of this leadership succession plan,” said R. Daniel Beauchamp, M.D., chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences. “Once Reid got here and started working, it was clear he would be such a leader and could take on the role, so that it would be a very smooth transition.”

Thompson was trained at Johns Hopkins and completed a research fellowship in neuro-oncology there, before heading to Stanford University where he completed a fellowship in cerebrovascular surgery. From 1997 to 2002, he was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he directed neurosurgical trauma and co-directed vascular neurosurgery.

Then, in 2002, Allen invited Thompson and his wife, pulmonologist and researcher Lorraine Ware, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, to come to Vanderbilt.

Since then, Thompson has served in many leadership roles, including director of the Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, medical director of inpatient neurosurgery, serving on an enterprise-wide mortality review task force to focus on quality indicators and playing a major role in the development of a Clinical Neurosciences Institute at Vanderbilt.

Allen asked him to become vice-chair of the department in 2004, and provided Thompson with opportunities to connect regularly with leadership across the Medical Center and University campus.

“It's quite unusual for someone in an academic setting and in a surgical department to really pour themselves into mentoring like he has done with me,” said Thompson. “It will be a privilege to follow Dr. Allen in leading this department.”

“The question was always 'what is best for the department,'” said Allen. “Our culture is the bedrock of this department — and that is also true for the University. We consider our department, including the support staff, to be an extended family.”

“Dr. Allen's legacy is the large number of outstanding neurosurgeons he has trained who now work all over the country and the world,” Beauchamp said.

Allen graduated 45 residents in neurosurgery during his tenure. Each of them met or exceeded a personal requirement of Allen's.

“I asked myself if my daughter Katie (a first-year student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine) were to ever need a neurosurgeon, would I recommend them. If I wouldn't let you take care of my daughter, I wouldn't let you graduate,” Allen said.

The department, which began as a faculty of one (Allen), has grown to include 13 full-time faculty, 14 residents and four Ph.D. researchers.

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said Allen played a critical role in promoting superb outcomes in clinical care and in amplifying the impact of research in the neurosciences. He said Thompson is already continuing on that trajectory.

“Dr. Reid Thompson has emerged as an exciting leader and we are thrilled he is willing to accept this position and lead the Department of Neurosurgery into the future,” said Balser.

Allen, who is married to Shannon Hersey, M.D., associate professor of Clinical Anesthesiology and Pediatrics, will remain a member of the senior faculty and will serve on VUSM's admissions committee.