Department of Neurosurgery Hosts Symposium for Middle School Students

May 29, 2024 by

UVA Neurosurgery hosts symposium for under-represented youth.On Monday, April 29, 2024, third-year neurosurgery resident Cleresa Roberts, MD, MBA, and Ashok Asthagiri, MD, spearheaded a symposium hosted by the UVA Department of Neurosurgery aimed at attracting and motivating underrepresented students to the field of neurosurgery. In partnership with Starr Hill Pathways, eighth grade students from various local middle schools were invited to UVA Medical Center to learn more about neurosurgery, neuroscience, and oncology from UVA Neurosurgery residents, faculty and  guest lecturer Tiffany Hodges, MD.

Dr. Hodges, who is the director of the Surgical Neuro-oncology Program and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, opened the symposium in the Jane Conference Room with a presentation on her path into neurosurgery as a Black woman and the importance of bridging the gaps that exist in the representation of women and minorities in the field. She emphasized the inherent benefits of diversity in the fields of neurosurgery and oncology, and the impact and benefit to patients.

Students later moved to the Claude Moore Simulation Center to engage in hands-on activities. While using mock brains with tumors and aneurysms, mock skins, 3D printed skulls and spinal models, neurosurgery attending physicians Dr. Asthagiri, Mark Shaffrey, MD, Jason Sheehan, MD, PhD, Heather Spader, MD, and Juan Sardi, MD, along with neurosurgery residents Dr. Roberts, Mariam Ishaque, MD, PhD, Faraz Farzad, MD, Dayton Grogan, MD, Divine Nwafor, MD, PhD, and Jonathan Yun, MD, guided the excited students through various neurosurgical procedures including:  basic suturing, craniotomies and replating, clipping aneurysms, tumor resections, and navigated spinal instrumentation. Following the hand-on activities, the students attended a presentation by Sarah Kucenas, PhD, of UVA Brain Institute and left with goodie bags filled with neurosurgery and neuroscience learning materials, UVA gear, movie tickets, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream coupons.

Dr. Hodges concluded the event with the Grand Rounds lecture “When Outcomes Matter: Representation and Inclusion in NeuroOncology,” highlighting research into the importance of including women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minority populations in clinical research and the impact of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity on health and disease.

This important event was made possible through an educational grant provided by Medtronic and the UVA Department of Neurosurgery, in-kind support provided by Stryker, Nuvasive, UpSurgeOn and Medtronic, and hands-on support provided by UVA Department of Neurosurgery, attendings, residents, and administrative team.

Filed Under: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion