Honoring Women Leading the Way in Spinal Surgery

parrAnn M. Parr, MD, PhD, FAANS, FRCSC
Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery, and Director, Spinal Neurosurgery
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 

In light of our current Spine Focus as well as Women in History month, we would like to honor two prominent women who have demonstrated remarkable dedication, leadership and contribution to the field of spinal neurosurgery.

wangMarjorie C. Wang, MD, MPH, FAANS

Marjorie C. Wang, MD, FAANS, is a world-renowned spine surgeon and pioneer. Her career has embodied the quadruple presence:  clinical, research, leadership/advocacy and teaching. In 2017, Dr. Wang became the second female to hold the honor of chair of the AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves (DSPN). The DSPN is one of the largest national spine organizations with over 1,400 members including both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. The primary mission of this organization is, “to advance spine and peripheral nerve patient care through education, research and advocacy.” The Spine Summit 2018 (34th Annual Meeting of the Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves) focused on, “Restoring Alignment in an Era of Global Change,” between March 14-17 in Orlando, Fla. She is the epitome of a leader and her tenure will be a tough act to follow.

Dr. Wang completed her neurosurgical residency at the University of Colorado which was followed by a spine fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She also holds a Master of Public Health Degree from the University of Washington School of Public Health. From 2009 to 2012, Dr. Wang served as the Clinical Director of Spine Care in Milwaukee, Wis. She currently serves as Professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals in Milwaukee, Wis. as well as the Director of Community Neurosurgery, Vice Chair of Clinical Operations and Quality and Spine Fellowship Director at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

In addition to her leadership roles and clinical responsibilities, Dr. Wang is the author of more than 30 publications with a focus on spinal imaging, spine surgery outcomes and traumatic brain injury. She is also a strong advocate for Women in Neurosurgery and surgeon leadership in health care quality. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling and scuba diving and her best piece of advice for those coming after her is, “Find your own path and be creative in how you get there. Some of my best experiences have been unexpected or ‘nontraditional’ opportunities. The Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program is one example. At the end of my chief residency, I heard about this program from one of the neurology residents. I started to read about it and was inspired to apply. This program is one of my most treasured experiences, and I value the knowledge, mentorship, networking and friendship from the RWJ program to this day.”

miller_carole_annCarole Ann Miller, MD, FAANS

Carole Ann Miller, MD, FAANS, is a notable pioneer in neurosurgery with contributions and firsts that are almost too numerous to elucidate. Her work, especially in the area of spine surgery, served as the foundation for and complement to the remarkable work of Dr. Wang, having served as the first female chair of the DSPN.

Dr. Miller has held numerous leadership positions in the field of neurosurgery, including:

  • First female neurosurgeon to act as a guest examiner for the American Board of Neurological Surgeons (1987);
  • President of the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society (1989);
  • Interim Chair of Neurosurgery at Ohio State University (1988-1989 and again from 2003-2004);
  • President of the Neurosurgical Society of America (1991);
  • Neurosurgery Residency Program Director at Ohio State University; and
  • First female neurosurgeon elected to the Senior Neurosurgical Society.

She completed her Medical Degree at Ohio State University in 1971. After her internship at the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, she completed her neurosurgical residency at Ohio State University. Following this, Dr. Miller pursued a Research Fellowship at Ohio State University as well as a Neurophysiology Fellowship at Yale-New Haven Hospitals. Following residency, Dr. Miller served as the first female neurosurgery faculty at the University of Michigan for two years after which she became an Assistant Professor (and later a Clinical Professor) of Neurosurgery at Ohio State University.  She now holds the title of Professor Emeritus at this institution.

Dr. Miller was the first female member of the Neurosurgical Society of America and the fourth female to become a Diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery. She continues to serve the Senior Society of Neurosurgeons as an Appointed Representative of the American Association of Neurosurgeons to the Advisory Council for Neurological Surgery of the American College of Surgeons. She also serves as the Medical Director of the Ohio State Comprehensive Spine Center.

In addition to her considerable clinical work and leadership roles, Dr. Miller is the author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications and has received National Institute of Health (NIH) grant funding for her work. She has published on various topics including spinal trauma, spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve regeneration, smooth muscle physiology and management of intracranial aneurysms. Her most recent research focuses on magnetic resonance imaging of the spine as well as thoracolumbar trauma. She is considered to be an expert in thoracolumbar spine trauma as a result of her work with the Clinical Aspects of Thoraco-Lumbar Spine Trauma Research Center. In 2004, Dr. Miller was nominated by Deborah Pryce as a “Local Legend of Medicine,” due to her role as a pioneering neurosurgeon, researcher and teacher.

When asked about a life in medicine, Dr. Miller is unequivocal: “If you are interested in science and people, there’s no better place to be than in medicine. By medical school, you’ve crossed a lot of hurdles and should have the confidence to succeed. Most importantly, you need to be willing to work hard, pay attention and be honest with yourself.”

Congratulations to both of these groundbreaking women in spinal neurosurgery who demonstrate the qualities of leadership to which all neurosurgeons should aspire.

Editor’s Note: We encourage everyone to join the conversation online by using the hashtag #SpineMonth.

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