Cloward Award Recipient

2019: Robert F. Spetzler, MD
Volker K.H. Sonntag, MD
Robert F. Spetzler, MD
The Society is most pleased to announce that Robert F. Spetzler, MD, has been chosen to receive the Ralph Cloward Award for 2019. He will receive the Cloward Medal and give a presentation on Sunday, November 10, entitled “My Journey in Neurosurgery”.

Robert F. Spetzler, M.D, attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois from 1963 to 1967 and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry. Before graduating, he spent a year at the Free University of Berlin on a scholarship. In 1967, he entered medical school at Northwestern University, where he obtained his M.D. in 1971 and completed his internship in 1972.

In 1972 Dr. Spetzler moved to the University of California at San Francisco where he trained as a resident under Charles B. Wilson, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery. It was there, under the expert tutelage of Dr. Wilson, that his interest in neurovascular surgery developed. His commitment to academic neurosurgery also was established at this time. Before finishing his residency, he had already published 15 articles in refereed journals, on 8 of which he was first author; had helped edit two books; and had made almost 20 presentations at national and international meetings. During the last year of his residency, he was awarded a Trauma Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He also received the Annual Resident Award at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

After completing his residency in 1977, Dr. Spetzler joined the Department of Neurosurgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio as an Assistant Professor. In 1980 he received his first major grant from NIH, developing a primate model of stroke that has since been used to test therapeutic treatments for stroke and cerebral ischemia. In 1981, he was promoted to an Associate Professor, holding that appointment until 1983.

In 1983 Dr. Spetzler was recruited by Dr. John R. Green to assume the J. N. Harber Chair of Neurological Surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) in Phoenix, Arizona. Two years later when Dr. Green retired, Dr. Spetzler became the Director of the BNI, and then its President and CEO, until his recent retirement in July 2017. Under Dr. Spetzler's leadership, the BNI has grown from primarily a regional center to an internationally recognized center of excellence that attracts both visiting healthcare professionals and patient referrals from around the world. The residency program has become one of the most highly sought programs because of the diversity of clinical experience and the emphasis on developing independent research projects. These accomplishments underscore why Dr. Spetzler was chosen as the Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in 1994--the youngest member ever to receive this coveted honor.

Among just a few of Dr. Spetzler's contributions have been the development of theories on normal perfusion pressure breakthrough and how the size of arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) is related to their rupture; the development of a heuristic grading system for AVMs; advances in the surgical treatment of complex cerebrovascular lesions based on hypothermia, barbiturates, and cardiac arrest; and the development of innovative surgical approaches for skull base surgery. Since the start of his career, Dr. Spetzler has treated more than 6000 aneurysms and published more than 600 articles in refereed journals, more than 200 book chapters, and edited or coauthored numerous books and neurosurgical atlases.

In recognition of his outstanding commitment to the education of medical professionals; neurosurgeons in particular, he was named Mentor of the Millennium in 2000, Teacher of the Year in 1986, 1987,1992-97 and in 2010. He was named Professor of the Year in 1983 and 1984.

It probably comes as a surprise to most of us that Dr Spetzler is both a very competitive and adventurous person! He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, skiing, sailing and horseback riding. He competes in many extreme endurance challenges. He instituted the traditional Barrow Department of Neurosurgery rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike each spring and the rumor is that he has never let a resident beat him out of the canyon! He believes that it is important to balance the rigors of a neurosurgical practice with extreme physical activity. This philosophy is a trademark of the Barrow Neurosurgery training program. Needless to say Dr. Spetzler has not slowed down since retiring.

In his home state of Arizona, Dr Spetzler was inducted into the Historical League as a “Historymaker” in 2017. He also received the Arizona Florence Crittenton Hope Award in 2012 and the Healthcare Leadership Award by the Arizona Business Magazine in 2009. He is the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2015.

Dr Spetzler currently is President and CEO Emeritus of the Barrow Neurological Institute and Saint Joseph’s Hospital as well as the Professor and Chair Emeritus of the Barrow Department of Neurological Surgery. He lives in Paradise Valley, AZ with his wife of 45 years, Nancy Baxley. He has two children, David, age 44, and Christina, age 42.

--William Ganz
WNS Communications Committee