Colorado physician named chair of neurosurgery department

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public relations | November 15, 2018

Image with caption: Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D.

Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D.

A University of Colorado neurosurgeon, Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D., has been selected as chair of the newly established Department of Neurosurgery in the UNMC College of Medicine.

The appointment, which was announced today by Bradley Britigan, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, is effective July 1 pending approval of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

"Dr. Abosch is an outstanding clinician-researcher and embodies what academic neurosurgery is all about," Dr. Britigan said. "We are delighted that she accepted our offer to lead this newly established department.

"With the population aging, the need for neurosurgeons continues to increase. She is excited to have the chance to build the department and further advance UNMC/Nebraska Medicine as a regional and eventually national destination center for neurosurgical care."

A native of New Haven, Conn., Dr. Abosch received her M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her neurosurgery residency at the University of California, San Francisco, which was followed by fellowships in epilepsy and functional neurosurgery at McGill and Toronto Western Hospital, respectively.

Following her training, Dr. Abosch has held faculty positions at three academic medical centers during her career -- Emory University (2002-2005), University of Minnesota (2005-2013) and University of Colorado (2013-present). At Colorado, she is professor (with tenure) of neurosurgery and neurology and vice chair for research for the Department of Neurosurgery.

For the past four years, Dr. Abosch has served as director of the Center for Neuromodulation and Neural Restoration (CNNR) and as director of the Fellowship Program in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Colorado.

"Several things are very appealing to me," she said. "It will be exciting to help launch a brand new department and to help build size and depth within the department, so that it can gain further national and international prominence. It's also an opportunity to set the vision for neurosurgery at UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, and Children's Hospital & Medical Center for the next decade or more.

"Academic medical centers take care of the neurosurgical patients with higher-level needs. We are committed to building a team with the breadth and depth to take care of these patients. I love the collaborative nature of academic medical centers and the advanced skills associated with them."

Dr. Abosch hopes to recruit a number of new faculty to the department. Her top priorities, she said, are recruitment of spine surgeons, as well as bolstering the expertise in tumor and skull-based neurosurgery, and pediatric neurosurgery, the latter in particular in collaboration with Children's Hospital & Medical Center.

She had high praise for the neurosurgery team she inherits at UNMC that was developed under the leadership of Ken Follett, M.D., Ph.D., and includes a number of community neurosurgeons who participate in the residency training program. Dr. Follett plans to remain an active member of the faculty after Dr. Abosch's arrival.

"The number of neurosurgery faculty at UNMC is small relative to other academic medical centers of similar size," she said, "but they are so solid..such special people in terms of their cohesiveness and clinical expertise. We need to expand, as the current compliment of neurosurgeons is bearing a huge clinical burden. We need to be sure that each faculty member also has time to pursue their academic interests.

"UNMC/Nebraska Medicine houses the only neurosurgery training program in Nebraska, and the Department of Neurosurgery does an excellent job of training the next generation of neurosurgeons. This is crucial for the wellbeing of the citizens of Nebraska and the surrounding region."

A surgeon who specializes in treating people with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, as well people with epilepsy, pain, and peripheral nerve problems, Dr. Abosch plans to continue to perform sub-specialty neurosurgery at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine.

In addition to her time in the operating room, she said, she will need to allow adequate time to perform the leadership and administrative duties required to develop and run the department.

Her husband, Joseph Dowd, and their two children -- Sam, 14, and Rachel, 12 -- are excited about the move to Omaha.

"Our children are in the ninth and seventh grades, so it's an important time in their development," she said. "The children tell me that they are 'up' for an adventure. We're a team, and the team's on board."