What Drs. Ziya Gokaslan, Raj Rao & Michael Heggeness have in common

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

What do Ziya Gokaslan, MD, FACS, FAANS; Raj D. Rao, MD; and Michael H. Heggeness, MD, PhD, have in common?

All three spine surgeons were recognized with prestigious awards from the North American Spine Society at the annual meeting last week.


Ziya GokaslanDr. Gokaslan received the Leon Wiltse Award, which recognizes excellence in leadership and/or clinical research in spine care. He is the Donlin M. Long Professor of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He is also the vice-chairman of neurosurgery and director of the neurosurgical spine center. Dr. Gokaslan's clinical practice focuses on treating primary and metastatic spinal tumors, sacral neoplasms and spinal cord tumors. Throughout his career, he has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed papers and presented more than 200 national and international lectures.


"Dr. Gokaslan is a world-renowned expert in the surgical treatment of spinal column, spinal cord and sacral tumors. He has made numerous contributions to understanding the biology of these neoplasms and developed novel surgical resection and reconstruction techniques resulting in significant improvement in the outcome and survival of these patients," said Henry Brem, MD, who nominated Dr. Gokaslan. "He has helped define spinal oncology as a distinct subspecialty within spinal surgery. He can be best described as one of the most influential spinal tumor surgeons and clinical researchers in the world."


Dr. Gokaslan was previously the director of the neurosurgical spinal oncology section and deputy chairman of the department of neurosurgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He completed his medical degree at the University of Istanbul in Turkey and completed his residency in neurological surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. He completed a fellowship in clinical spine surgery in the department of orthopedics and neurosurgery at the New York University Medical Center.


raj rao useDr. Rao received the David Selby Award, which recognizes a NASS member who has contributed greatly to the art and science of spine care through service to NASS. He is the director of spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and serves on many national committees. Recently, Dr. Rao was appointed chairperson to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel on Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Devices where he leads the FDA advisory panel reviewing safety and efficacy of orthopedic- and spine-related devices for marketing in the United States. His research interests include biomechanics, spinal fusion and gait analysis in people with spinal disorders.


"As a committee member, chair and former board member, Dr. Rao has worked hard to improve the North American Spine Society and care for patients," said Charles A. Mick, MD, who nominated Dr. Rao. "His work in advocacy and international education has had a major lasting impact on NASS. During his time as the NASS Advocacy Committee Chair, NASS' influence grew among members of Congress and staff on Capitol Hill. Dr. Rao chaired the Alliance of Specialty Medicine's Physician Advisory Council, spearheaded the development of several issue papers used to educate Congress on NASS' key issues, and developed strong personal relationships with prominent lawmakers such as Rep. Paul Ryan on behalf of NASS."


Dr. Rao has served as associate editor of The Spine Journal and on the editorial boards of other national and international scientific journals. He completed his residency at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and completed a spine surgery fellowship at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.


HeggenessDr. Heggeness received the Henry Farfan Award for outstanding contributions in spine-related basic science research. Dr. Heggeness became the chair of orthopedics at Kansas University on the Wichita Campus in 2013 after serving as a professor of orthopedic surgery and chair of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Throughout his career, Dr. Heggeness has earned several awards, including one from the Cervical Spine Research Society, and served as president of NASS.


"Dr. Heggeness is an outstanding clinician, educator and scientist. He has authored more than 80 reviewed papers, holds numerous patents and has received prestigious extramural funding from many agencies, including the Department of Defense," said F. Todd Wetzel, who nominated Dr. Heggeness. "It is a great honor to bestow upon him the 2014 Farfan Award for his leadership and outstanding contributions to basic science in bone healing, neuroanatomy and physiology."


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