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Training program

The neurosurgery residency program at Virginia Commonwealth University is designed to train physicians with the clinical and operative skills and experience needed for a successful practice, as well as to provide a foundation for further study and research.

The department features a team of experienced faculty and staff that is committed to creating an environment of clinical, educational and research excellence. Their dedication to compassionate care prepares residents to diagnose and treat patients with all types of neurosurgical diseases and perform a broad range of procedures.

Curriculum

The Virginia Commonwealth University neurosurgical residency program curriculum is designed around competency-based goals and objectives. | Download curriculum [PDF]

Residents have the opportunity to work with the program director to create an individualized learning plan that will enable them to earn a Ph.D. during residency. In addition, residents may take advantage of a variety of in-folded fellowship opportunities during their training.

Operative experience

With three fully equipped, state-of-the-art operating rooms dedicated to neurosurgery and an average of 8 to 10 major operative cases per day, neurosurgical residents have ample opportunity to gain valuable operative experience. | Download curriculum [XLS]

Stipends and benefits

Our residents earn competitive salaries in addition to stipends, book allowances, paid vacations and other benefits. For a complete list of benefits and resources, visit the VCU School of Medicine’s Graduate Medical Education Resources page.

Conferences

  • Every Monday: Faculty PD Conference
    (walking rounds, lecture, case review)
    5–6 p.m., NS conference room
  • First Wednesday of each month: Epilepsy Conference
    4–6 p.m., NS conference room
  • Every Thursday: Grand Rounds
    (M&M, EBM, faculty presentations, guest speakers, interdisciplinary conferences)
    7–8 a.m., NS conference room
  • Every Friday: AM Conference
    (journal club, operative skills, case review)
    7–8 a.m., NS conference room
  • Every Friday: Neuro-Onc Conference
    (case review)
    1–2:30 p.m., MMEC

Neurosurgical mission trips

Through pediatric mission trips to underdeveloped countries, residents have the opportunity to see patients in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

In these clinics, our pediatric neurosurgeons evaluate children who present with profound congenital abnormalities and are evaluated and provided with surgical repairs. Those children with more severe surgical needs that require intensive care are brought back to Virginia Commonwealth University for surgery.

The experience of seeing firsthand the medical environment in underdeveloped countries, coupled with the volume of patients seen and operated on, surpasses any case numbers or training that would be available during a typical residency program. In addition, caring for children with such significant disabilities, outside of what would be considered the standard of care in our country, teaches residents to be more compassionate and caring physicians. We believe this experience is unmatched in comparison to most residency programs today.

Eastern Shore neurology rotation

Another unique feature of the neurosurgical residency program at VCU is the opportunity to spend one of the three months in neurology on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, an underserved area with many unusual neurological cases.

Neurologist Robert Paschall, D.O., mentors this rotation. He holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Neurosurgery and has collaborated with the department to jointly manage patients from the Eastern Shore for many years. Paschall is well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of neurology and is a master of the neurologic examination. This knowledge, combined with an unbounded enthusiasm for teaching, is the reason so many neurosurgery residents rate this rotation as one of the most memorable of their medical training.

TTP: Transition to Practice

VCU’s residency program offers a Transition to Practice experience through the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. This program gives senior residents the opportunity to assume the role of an attending while still in training.

Educational support

The Department of Neurosurgery believes strongly in fostering the desire and direction of the academic neurosurgeon. As such, the department will support any resident wishing to complete a Ph.D. program during their residency.

The department provides financial support and protected time to complete coursework, as well as mentorship and support toward completion of all research requirements. With extreme focus and drive, the Ph.D. program can be completed during the formal residency; however, this is not an easy task and may require one additional year, PGY-8, to finalize and defend the Ph.D. The department will work with residents who require additional time and compose a plan to accommodate the residents’ needs outside of residency.

Clinical support

The Department of Neurosurgery is committed to optimizing the resident educational experience by relieving our residents of routine, service-oriented tasks. The department employs six full-time nurse coordinators, and five full-time and one part-time MLPs (NPs and PAs), all of whom assist faculty and residents with a wide variety of clinical issues. Their support in the areas of scheduling, arranging tests, performing history and physicals, outpatient follow-up care, OR scheduling coordination, and inpatient care coordination and discharge planning relieves the residents from these duties. The department also has two MLPs for similar assistance at the McGuire VA Medical Center.

Several OR nurses and special technicians, each with extensive experience in the field of neurosurgery, are assigned to neurosurgery service and aid the residents and faculty. The nurses and technicians provide assistance by performing phlebotomies and coordinating procurement of necessary equipment for surgery. One full-time nurse practitioner is also available to run a clinic five days a week, performing initial screenings for spinal patients, and a part-time nurse practitioner runs a clinic three days a week, completing histories and physicals.

Hospital orderlies perform routine patient transport, while the SEALS team, consisting of EMTs employed by the hospital, is responsible for monitored transportation of patients from the intensive care unit. Residents or faculty members accompany any unstable patients requiring transportation for studies or surgery.

VCU Medical Center also employs ICU intensivists to provide daily support to the residents by following up on patient orders and labs based on direction from the neurosurgery service. Two doctors of pharmacy assist with the pharmaceutical care of neurosurgical patients.

GME support

The GME Department at VCU provides residents on-site suites that include a computer lab with four computers available on a first-come, first-served basis; a kitchenette with full refrigerator, microwave and soda machine; a locker room; and restrooms with showers.

The office also provides a team/on-call room for the neurosurgery service, located adjacent to the neuroscience ICU to allow easy access to patients, especially during night float rotations. The room is outfitted with furniture for sitting and sleeping, a desk and hospital computers, a telephone, shower and bathroom facilities.

In addition to these facilities, the GME office provides a monthly stipend based on work and on-call hours. This stipend can be used at any time in the cafeteria or vending machines on campus.