News for members of the Western Neurosurgical Society

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Winter 2017


VARIAN is the sponsor of the WNS newsletter

2017 Annual Meeting

The 2017 Western Neurosurgical Society Meeting
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
September 8-11, 2017
For our 63rd meeting, the Western travels north to Banff, Alberta, Canada.  The 2017 Annual Meeting will be held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel which we last visited in 1987.  The hotel is in Banff National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This luxury alpine resort is a national treasure and is known as the “Castle in the Rockies”.  It is located 92 miles from Calgary International airport (1H 45 min drive) and is a short stroll from the charming town of Banff which has a selection of local galleries and museums, upscale shopping and restaurants, year-round Banff Lake Louise events, and popular local attractions including the Banff Gondola and the mineral rich Banff Upper Hot Springs (

The Fairmont Banff Springs ( has all the amenities of a world class resort, including stunning vistas, championship golf courses, classic cuisine and Willow Stream, a world class European-style spa (10% off for our group) plus a bowling alley. The daily room rate for meeting attendees is $269.00 CAD ($204 USD) which gets you a fairly small but adequate Fairmont room.  Considering the exchange rate, you might want to sign up for a more expansive and expensive room such as a Deluxe room for $309.00 CAD or a Stanley Thompson Deluxe for $369.00 CAD. A Junior Suite is $449.00 CAD per night.  To each daily rate will be added a $12 CAD daily service fee (to cover baggage handling on arrival/departure and tip for your room maid) and $25.59 CAD a day in taxes.  Complimentary Wi-Fi in each room.  The link to the WNS on line room registration is
There are very few $269.00 CAD rooms available before and after the meeting so reserve your rooms early.

There is a Hertz Rental office located in the hotel and cars can be arranged directly or through the concierge service.  Multiple shuttle options are available including the Banff Airporter ( - $120 CAD roundtrip) and The Brewster Shuttle ( - $130 RT, fancier bus)).  It will cost you $15/day to self park your car at the hotel.
Organized afternoon activities during the meeting will be forthcoming in the spring when the meeting registration form is posted.
Hotel contact information is below if you have questions.
405 Spray Avenue 
Alberta, Canada 

TEL + 1 403 762 2211 
FAX + 403 762 5755 

--C. Harraher, WNS Communications Committee

Medtronic, the sole Platinum Level exhibitor in Carlsbad, deserves the Western's thanks for making the meeting a success.

We hope our members will support the companies that support the Western.

1st Call for Abstracts

Andrew Little, MD, Scientific Program chairman for the 2017 meeting has issued the first call for abstracts.  He and his committee will welcome abstracts by members and guests, candidates for membership and residents.  Instructions for submitting abstracts are located on the WNS Website at:

In addition to the Cloward Medal talk and Ablin lecture (see below), Dr. Little plans invited talks on Trump and the Neurosurgeon by Katie Orrico,
Spine Outcomes and Databases by Matthew McGirt, controversies in Peripheral Nerve Surgery and controversies in Spinal Deformity Surgery plus the usual resident award presentations in basic and clinical science (which include travel and accommodations for the resident and spouse/friend).


Volker K.H. Sonntag, MD, FACS
Dr. Sonntag was born in Germany in 1944 but immigrated to the USA as a youngster and became a US citizen in 1965 while he was getting his B.S. degree from Arizona State University which he completed in 1967.  He moved cross state to rival University of Arizona for medical school and internship.  Taking an even bigger step, he went cross country to Tufts in Boston to train under Ben Stein in neurosurgery which he completed in 1977.  Too much an Arizonan, he returned home to Phoenix and did private practice until snapped up by the Barrow Neurological Institute in 1983 where he practiced and did research predominantly on spinal surgery until 2009 when he retired.
His years at the BNI fit him well as he eschewed administrative activities and paperwork and was allowed to do what he loved, namely spine surgery and clinical research and carved out a national reputation for spinal surgical excellence especially in the cervical spine.  He ended up authoring over 450 papers and 100 book chapters and editing 5 textbooks.  At a time when orthpods with one year of spinal surgical training were holding themselves out as God’s gift to the spine, through his complex spine techniques, novel instrumentation and writings and conducting educational courses at the AANS, CNS and Joint Spine Section, Dr. Sonntag led the charge to train neurosurgeons as premier spine surgeons capable of complex surgery of the entire spine.  He has been a force for creating neurosurgical subspecialization via his roles in the Society of Neurological Surgeons and on the Committee on Advanced Surgical Techniques.
Volker was a member of the WNS from 1992 until 1998 when he, because of his extremely busy schedule, could not make our meetings regularly and was dropped from membership, an occurrence that has since been changed so a member now can become inactive for a time rather than our losing him/her altogether.  Some of his busyness was due to his leadership roles in the North American Spine Society (President), AANS (Vice-President and Professional Conduct Committee), Academy of Neurological Surgeons (President), the ABNS (Director and chair of the Recertification Committee) and  Neurosurgery Resident Review Committee (6 years).  He was the Honored Guest of the CNS in 2002 and has been chairman of the JNS and JNS:Spine editorial board.
Retirement is a relative term when applied to Dr. Sonntag.  To this day he still serves on several editorial boards, teaches and lectures, gives courses and has been a visiting Professor at 73 institutions with more scheduled.  His wife Lynne has stuck with him for 43 years and bore him three children: Alissa (now 38 and living in Dana Point, CA with her husband Tyler and Volker’s two grandchildren), Chris (35) and Stephen (26).  Little surprise that the Sonntags have a home in coastal Dana Point to enjoy grandchildren and a clime a bit cooler than Phoenix in summer.
Volker has written a book entitled “Backbone” which is sub-titled “The life and game-changing career of a spinal neurosurgeon” with a scheduled publication on May 2nd, 2017 and available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.  No shock then that the title of his Cloward presentation at our meeting in Banff will be “The Journey of Spinal Neurosurgery in the US”.
ARBOR--Gold level support of the 2016 meeting
George Ablin Memorial Lecture 2017

The Ablin Lecture at each annual meeting affords the President the opportunity to present speakers on topics often unrelated to neurosurgery.  The lecture honors the memory of George Ablin and his contributions to neurosurgery in general and the Western in particular.  This year’s lecturer is Lucy Kalanithi, MD, whose reflections on her experience as a spouse of a neurosurgeon who succumbed to lung cancer hold some insights for us all, members and spouses alike.
Lucy Goddard Kalanithi did her undergraduate work at Dartmouth followed by 2 years as a research assistant then Medical School at Yale where she met her husband Paul; they married in their senior year.  She and Paul then were off to the bay area for her Internal Medicine residency at UCSF and him for neurosurgery training at Stanford.  Following her residency and 2 years as a Kaiser doc, she did a fellowship at Stanford on healthcare delivery innovation for CV disease then joined the Stanford faculty where she is today as a clinical assistant professor.
It was while she was in her fellowship that Paul, in his chief resident year, developed the cancer which took his life in March of 2015.  His account of the cancer experience is poignantly detailed in his book “When Breath Becomes Air” which was published posthumously in 2016 and spent some 22 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.  Lucy wrote the epilogue.
Dr. Kalanithi’s presentation at our meeting, “When Breath Becomes Air: Book by Paul; Reflection by me“ will be a short address followed by a moderated question and answer opportunity which she feels is a format that lets the topics range a bit more widely while bringing an intimacy to the presentation.
The book is available at Amazon and bookstores and certainly worth a read.  Those spouses who read the book and would like to submit a question for Dr. Kalanithi to address can send their query to this editor at

                                           Bill Kelly, MD      
                                      1927-December 18, 2016

William Albert Kelly was a mentor, a friend and a stalwart WNS member over the years and served as WNS Secretary/Treasurer from 1970-1972 and President in 1980.  He and his wonderful wife Joan were a constant fixture at WNS meetings for some three decades.  Like all too many of us as we age, Bill developed a number of physical infirmities that limited playing his beloved sport of golf and an ischemic stroke really slowed him down.  Post stroke, his mind and speech were clear and he still tended to his correspondence which included maintaining his Senior membership in the WNS.  He did not feel comfortable traveling so no more WNS meetings.  More recently he suffered from a failing memory that led to his failure to pay his WNS dues and so he was dropped from membership.  This writer refuses to let him go without an appropriate recognition of his passing by the neurosurgical society he loved so much.

Bill was born in Cincinnati to Al and Margie Kelly and was always proud of his Irish heritage.  He was a successful athlete in high school, lettering in football, basketball and track in 1945.  After a brief stint in the Navy, he went on to Ohio Wesleyan University where he met Joan and they were married in 1952 while he was in medical school at the University of Cincinnati.  His neurosurgical residency was with Art Ward (another WNS President) in Seattle at the University of Washington following which he stayed on as a faculty member there until his retirement in 1990.  He served as Chairman of the Department after Dr. Ward stepped down until Dick Winn came on board.

Dr. Kelly was the consummate teacher and was responsible for introducing the operating microscope to his residents.  He and Joan were known for an annual St. Patrick's Day get together for faculty and residents at their home in Lake forest Park.  He was married to Joan for 61 years, a marriage that only ended with her death in 2013.

Though transplanted mid-westerners, Bill and Joan became inveterate Pacific NorthWesterners with Bill building a cabin near Steven's pass.  They both snow skied, played tennis and a whole lot of golf at the Inglewood Country Club in Kenmore near their home.

Bill and Joan had two sons (which the residents came to know during those St. Patrick's Day events), Tim and Craig, who survive them along with five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Bill's mind withstood the onslaught of his aging body but in the end the body outlasted his mind.
Godspeed old friend.

--R. Smith; Communications Committee

2016 Annual Meeting Program on Website
For those of you who were unable to attend the annual meeting last year, the program booklet is available on our Website ( as a pdf file you can download.

The program without the membership list is in the clear in the menu item "Meetings" under the 2016 listing.

If you want the complete program with all members listed with addresses and phone numbers and email address, it is located in the "Member Area Login" menu item.  The password to gain access to this menu item is "Western".

WNS Members In Print

JNS-Supplement December 2016
Michael McDermott, MD  Dosimetric characterization of hypofractionated Gamma Knife radiosurgery of large or complex brain tumors versus linear accelerator–based treatments
JNS-December 2016
Andrew S. Little, MD  Infraorbital nerve: a surgically relevant landmark for the pterygopalatine fossa, cavernous sinus, and anterolateral skull base in endoscopic transmaxillary approaches
Jeffrey G. Ojemann, MD  Editorial: Passive language mapping
JNS-January 2017
Bob Carter, MD, PhD   Editorial: Acute stress impacts psychomotor performance
Mitchel S. Berger, MD  Stereotactic probability and variability of speech arrest and anomia sites during stimulation mapping of the language dominant hemisphere
Nathan R. Selden, MD, PhD  Mentorship: service, education, progress. The 2015 CNS Presidential Address
Bob S. Carter, MD, PhD  Editorial: Health care reform and the uninsured: lessons from Massachusetts
Howard Yonas, MD  Cortical spreading depression occurs during elective neurosurgical procedures
JNS-February 2017
Andrew S. Little, MD  Incidence and predictors of dural venous sinus pressure gradient in idiopathic intracranial hypertension and non-idiopathic intracranial hypertension headache patients: results from 164 cerebral venograms
Edward H. Oldfield, MD  Cushing's disease: pathobiology, diagnosis, and management
Michael T. Lawton, MD  Clinical utility and cost analysis of routine postoperative head CT in elective aneurysm clippings
Michael T. Lawton, MD  Operating room waste: disposable supply utilization in neurosurgical procedures
JNS-Peds December 2016
Gary K. Steinberg, MD, PhD Surgical outcomes of Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism Type II with intracranial vascular anomalies
Hector E. James, MD Pediatric neurosurgery telemedicine clinics: a model to provide care to geographically underserved areas of the United States and its territories
JNS-Peds January 2017
Madjid Samii, MD, PhD  Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging in pediatric neurosurgery: safety and utility
JNS-Peds February 2017
Nathan R. Selden, MD, PhD  QuickBrain MRI for the detection of acute pediatric traumatic brain injury
JNS-Spine December  2016
David W. Newell, MD  Venous air embolus during prone cervical spine fusion: case report
JNS-Spine January 2017
Andrew T. Dailey, MD, Robert S. Hood, MD  Comparing clinical outcomes of repeat discectomy versus fusion for recurrent disc herniation utilizing the N2QOD
Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD; Philip R. Weinstein, MD  Neurological outcomes and surgical complications in 221 spinal nerve sheath tumors
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  Impact of poor mental health in adult spinal deformity patients with poor physical function: a retrospective analysis with a 2-year follow-up
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  The effect of posterior polyester tethers on the biomechanics of proximal junctional kyphosis: a finite element analysis
JNS-Spine February 2017
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD; Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD  Impact of obesity on complications and outcomes: a comparison of fusion and nonfusion lumbar spine surgery
Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD; Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  Utility of multilevel lateral interbody fusion of the thoracolumbar coronal curve apex in adult deformity surgery in combination with open posterior instrumentation and L5–S1 interbody fusion: a case-matched evaluation of 32 patients
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD, and Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD  Randomized controlled trials for degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis: which patients benefit from lumbar fusion?
Spine Journal January 2017
Christopher I. Shaffrey  Impact of cost valuation on cost-effectiveness in adult spine deformity surgery
Operative Neurosurgery December 2016
Lawton, Michael T. Microsurgical Management of Galenic Dural Arteriovenous Fistula: 3-Dimensional Operative Video
Couldwell, William T.  Left Transtemporal Approach for Resection of Cranial Nerve VI and VII Neurofibroma Tumors With Reconstruction of Cranial Nerve VII Using a Sural Nerve Interposition Graft:...
Couldwell, William T.  Interhemispheric Approach for Excision of Callosal Marginal Dissecting Aneurysm with End-to-End Anastomosis: 3-Dimensional Operative Video

Neurosurgery December 2016
Ellenbogen, Richard Statements of Agreement from the Targeted Evaluation and Active Management (TEAM) Approaches to Treating Concussion Meeting Held in Pittsburgh, October 15-16, 2015
Neurosurgery January 2017
Odette A. Harris, MD, MPH  Guidelines for the Management of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, Fourth Edition
Andrew T. Dailey, MD  Fate of S2-Alar-Iliac Screws After 12-Month Minimum Radiographic Follow-up: Preliminary Results
Mitchel S. Berger, MD; Michael W. McDermott, MD  Indications and Efficacy of Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Recurrent Glioblastoma: 2 Decades of Institutional Experience
William T. Couldwell, MD, PhD; Andrew T. Dailey, MD  Occipitocervical Instability After Far-Lateral Transcondylar Surgery: A Biomechanical Analysis
Mark Linskey, MD  A History of the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies
Neurosurgery February 2017
Michael T. Lawton, MD  Blister Aneurysms of the Internal Carotid Artery: Microsurgical Results and Management Strategy
Michael W. McDermott, MD; Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD; Michael T. Lawton, MD
Comparison of Patient Outcomes in 3725 Overlapping vs 3633 Nonoverlapping Neurosurgical Procedures Using a Single Institution's Clinical and Administrative Database
Operative Neurosurgery February 2017
Michael T. Lawton, MD  V3 Vertebral Artery to Anterior Inferior Cerebellar Artery Bypass With Saphenous Vein Graft for Vertebrobasilar Ischemia: 3-Dimensional Operative Video
Nathan R. Selden, MD, PhD;  Assessment of the Interrater Reliability of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Microanastomosis Assessment Scale
Neurosurgery Focus January 2017
William T. Couldwell, MD, PhD  Editorial: Focusing on the future
J. Patrick Johnson, MD  Image-guided resection of aggressive sacral tumors
Neurosurgery Focus February 2017
Praveen V. Mummaneni, MD  Introduction: Cervical arthroplasty
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  A Novel Score Predicting Spine Sagittal Imbalance Based on a Lateral Cervical Plain Radiograph
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  Outcomes of Operative Treatment for Adult Cervical Deformity: A Prospective Multicenter Assessment with One-Year Follow-up
Andrew T. Dailey, MD, Joel D. MacDonald, MD  Should Asymptomatic Levels with MRI Abnormalities be Included in an ACDF Construct? A Long-Term MRI Analysis
Christopher I. Shaffrey, MD  Analysis of Successful vs. Failed Radiographic Outcomes following Cervical Deformity Surgery

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