UNC and Duke University Neurosurgery Departments to Offer Joint International Fellowships

February 25, 2016

Allan Friedman (Duke), Matt Ewend (UNC) and John Sampson (Duke).

An innovative collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University has resulted in the creation of the Elizabeth Bullitt/Allan H. Friedman International Fellowship in Neurosurgery. The fellowship was announced on Feb. 9 at the Robert H. Wilkins Lectureship in Academic Neurosurgery held at the Carolina Inn.

The goal of this partnership is to foster collaboration between neurosurgery residents at Duke and UNC, and allow them to participate in international neurosurgery outreach. Through the fellowship, the first supported resident will to travel to UNC Project-Malawi in March, and two additional residents representing UNC and Duke will participate in a neurosurgical camp held in Uganda through Duke’s Division of Global Neurosurgery and Neurosciences in the fall. Residents will share their experiences of treating dramatic pathologies in a resource-limited setting to their respective departments upon returning home. Upon completion, the fellowship will have supported at least eight resident trips.

UNC’s Project-Malawi is a collaboration between UNC and the Malawi Ministry of Health. It is based on the campus of Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. The mission of UNC Project-Malawi is to identify innovative, culturally acceptable and affordable methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi through research, strengthening of health systems, prevention, training and care.  UNC neurosurgery residents will participate in the UNC Malawi Surgical Initiative under the direction of Anthony Charles.

Each year, Duke’s Michael Haglund leads teams of 25 to 30 medical professionals to Uganda and performs 25 to 40 surgeries along with the neurosurgery faculty of Mulago Hospital. The need for these additional resources is critical given that in 2007, there were only five neurosurgeons for Uganda’s entire population of 30 million people.

The fellowship is named for two physicians – husband and wife – whose personal connection has translated into a professional collaboration between UNC and Duke. Bullitt was a renowned professor of Neurosurgery at UNC, while Friedman is the past division chief of Neurosurgery at Duke.

UNC Drs. Liz Bullitt and Eldad Hadar

UNC’s Liz Bullitt and Eldad Hadar

Elizabeth Bullitt came to UNC in 1984 as a clinical neurosurgeon. As her career transitioned into research, her work in the intersecting fields of neurosurgery, radiology and computer science attracted significant National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. One of very few women in neurosurgery at the time, Bullitt’s skill and determination made her a leader in the field as she paved the way for the next generation of women in neurosurgery. At the time of her retirement in 2010, Bullitt was the highest funded female researcher in the history of the NIH.

Allan H. Friedman joined Duke University as an assistant professor in 1981. Friedman is an internationally recognized tumor and vascular neurosurgeon. His career-long interest in neuro-oncology, is responsible for more than 90 percent of all tumor resections and biopsies conducted at Duke. Friedman currently serves as The Guy L. Odom Professor of Neurological Surgery and deputy director of The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke.

This collaborative UNC and Duke fellowship is funded through the generosity of Michael and Sheila Wilkins in honor of his father Robert H. Wilkins. Wilkins has dedicated his career to neurosurgery serving on the faculty of both UNC and Duke Departments of Neurosurgery. Passionate about providing neurosurgery services to underserved populations, he participated in the second Uganda program in 2008, performing multiple complex neurosurgical procedures.

Wilkins was an early innovator in the field of neurosurgery. In 1977, he founded and served as editor in chief for Neurosurgery, the professional journal which continues to be the gold standard of knowledge and research for neurosurgeons today. He remains an active supporter of both the UNC and Duke departments of Neurosurgery.