"As I reflect on a rewarding career, what matters to me most is the children I have treated and the doctors I have trained—it's a legacy I am proud of."

EDUCATION

Undergraduate Degree

  • Williams College , 1962 , Williamstown , MA

Medical School

  • Temple University School of Medicine , 1966 , Philadelphia , PA

Internship

  • Boston City Hospital , 1967 , Boston , MA

Fellowship

Research
  • National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke , 1969 , Bethesda , MD

Residency

Neurosurgery
  • Massachusetts General Hospital , 1973 , Boston , MA

Philosophy of Care

The decision to become a neurosurgeon was, in some ways, an obvious one for me. My father was a neurosurgeon and I remember making rounds with him and helping him prepare lectures. A friend wrote in my high school yearbook: "Good luck in your career in pediatric neurosurgery!"

Still, I thought long and hard about whether a career in medicine was the right path for me, since I have many other passions. I majored in English as an undergraduate at Williams College and at one point considered pursuing a Ph.D. I've kept up with that interest and recently took a course on James Joyce at Harvard. I'm a jazz piano player and perform with several bands, including a group of neurosurgeons who play at national meetings.

As I reflect on a rewarding career, what matters to me most is the children I have treated and the doctors I have trained. I cherish pictures sent to me by patients—now grown and thriving—of their weddings and their own offspring. I lead by example to teach doctors things that can't be found in books: how to talk to patients, how to conduct rounds, how to manage the operating room. It's a legacy I am proud of.

My dad died in 1979, but he was around for long enough to see me begin my career and he made rounds with me when I was a resident. So much of what we do now would have amazed him—his generation of neurosurgeons didn't even operate with a microscope, for example. The advances in technology and science that have taken place as I've practiced medicine have been extraordinary and have given me innumerable opportunities to make new discoveries for my patients and shape the next generation of leaders in the field.

PROFESSIONAL HISTORY

During my tenure as neurosurgeon-in-chief, I have helped to build the Neurosurgery Department at Boston Children's Hospital into a world leader. Together with colleagues, we have trained many of the country's top neurosurgeons. I am proud of my legacy of mentorship and clinical innovation.

In 1985, I made a clinical breakthrough in the treatment of moyamoya disease, a narrowing of the brain's blood vessels that leads to progressive strokes in children. I devised a new surgery, called pial synangiosis, in which I affixed a healthy donor artery to the affected area of a patient’s brain. Our studies have shown that pial synangiosis has proved to be an extremely effective long-term treatment of the condition. This ground-breaking procedure has been successfully performed on more than 500 patients since then, changing outcomes for children with moyamoya and turning our hospital into the leading center worldwide for children with this condition.

I have been fortunate in my career to practice at a time of rapid advances in imaging technology. The advent of CT scans allowed me, together with radiology and pathology colleagues, to diagnose and treat cavernous malformations of the brain. I collaborated with radiologists to use the new technology of MRI to describe and clarify for the first time the structural changes in the brain that occur in children with spina bifida and gain new understanding of their treatment.  

I've had a very fortunate and rewarding career at Boston Children's Hospital. I established the Shillito Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship in 1991, which every year supports an outstanding young neurosurgeon as he or she pursues intensive, post-graduate training in pediatric neurosurgery each year. Three of our most distinguished neurosurgical faculty -- Mark Proctor, Ed Smith, Ben Warf -- were trainees of our department.

I am Emeritus Neurosurgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children's Hospital, hold the Fellows Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery and am a Professor at Harvard Medical School. I completed medical school at Temple University and residency in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

I was honored to receive the Franc D. Ingraham Award for Distinguished Service to Pediatric Neurosurgery from American Association of Neurological Surgery in 2011 and the William Silen Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring from Harvard Medical School in 2012. I was the chairman of the American Board of Pediatric Neurosurgery from 2003 until 2008, am currently chairman of the council that accredits pediatric neurosurgical fellowships (ACPNF), and have sat on Boston Children's Hospital's Physician Leadership Committee and Council of Chiefs.

 

This clinician offers Virtual Visits (video consultations) for follow-up care in clinically-appropriate cases.

CERTIFICATIONS

  • American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery