Lee A. Selznick, M.D
As a resident attendee at the 2003 RUNN course, I wish to express in this report the profound impact that it will have on the rest of my career in neurosurgery. More than just a research update in neuroscience for neurosurgeons, the course is an introduction to some, a reminder to others, that the field we have chosen is an exciting and ever-changing academic pursuit. By assembling a diverse and enthusiastic faculty at the world-renowned Marine Biological Laboratory in beautiful Cape Cod, the RUNN course offers an inspiring opportunity to neurosurgical residents in the early stages of their careers.
The research update for 2003 included talks from world-renowned neurosurgeons and neuroscientists on some of the more recent discoveries shaping the current practice and future direction of clinical neurosurgery. Whereas some of the 60 to 90 minute talks were strictly on basic neuroscience, others were on translational research and career development. Basic science topics included a review of molecular genetics and a brief history of the research conducted at the marine biology lab, particularly the breakthrough work on the giant squid axon. Angiogenesis, apoptosis, axonal guidance, cortical plasticity, and the molecular biology of brain tumors were also covered. Of particular interest were talks given by leading scientist-physicians detailing their breakthrough work in the lab and how it applies to what they see in clinical practice. The ability of stem cells to regenerate in the injured spinal cord was discussed by John McDonald using Christopher Reeve as an illustrative case report. Mark Simard reviewed smooth muscle physiology as it applies to cerebrovascular disease. Gene therapy, convection-enhanced delivery, and a special lecture by Henry Brem on brain tumor therapy were particularly enlightening. Perhaps the best part was the relaxed atmosphere and opportunity to discuss academic career development with some of the leading neurosurgeons in the world. Robert Dempsey and Issam Awad lead an entire session devoted to project design and grantsmanship. Vini Khurana and Robert Friedlander offered invaluable advice for pursuing a career involving translational research in neurosurgery.
The social aspects were as valuable as the scientific ones. Friendships were quickly forged among residents with nights out at the local bar (Captain Kidd's) and road trips into Boston. The RUNN course provided a golden opportunity for neurosurgical residents and faculty from all around the country to gather in an informal, yet collegiate environment. The enthusiasm of the faculty was infectious and made me think critically about the future direction of my career. Whether in a university setting or private practice, the field of neurosurgery is ever-changing, ever-improving; the impact of this course will be ever-lasting.