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California Association of Neurological Surgeons Archives - Neurosurgery Blog

Ann R. Stroink, MD, FAANS Retires from Neurological Surgery

By AANS Spotlight, CareerNo Comments

Ann R. Stroink, MD, FAANS, a neurosurgeon at the forefront of advocacy efforts, retired from neurosurgery practice at Carle BroMenn Medical Center on Nov. 22, 2023. Throughout her career, Dr. Stroink has been an indefatigable force in advocating — in the halls of Congress, before the Illinois state legislature, with health plans and within organized medicine — for sound health policy to ensure patients have timely access to care. Throughout her career, she held critical leadership roles within organized neurosurgery, including president of the Illinois State Neurosurgical Society, chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) Council of State Neurosurgical Societies, chair of the AANS/CNS Washington Committee for Neurological Surgery and AANS president.

Following her retirement from active neurosurgical practice, Dr. Stroink has taken on another crucial role, serving as the interim CEO of the AANS. “It’s an exciting opportunity to lead the most prestigious neurosurgical organization in the world,” said Dr. Stroink. “I’m really looking forward to my stint.”

Carle Health highlights Dr. Stroink’s dedication and contributions to their organization, pointing out that her affiliation with Carle BroMenn Hospital (then Brokaw Hospital) began when her father, Hans Stroink, MD, was a pathologist. Said Dr. Stroink,

I started working in the lab and that’s where I got the buzz. I performed autopsies with my father, but the first time I saw live tissue, I knew I wasn’t going to do anything else. I’m very happy to have served patients for years.

Dr. Stroink assisted her father from seventh grade until she left for college, maintaining a connection to Carle throughout her career, given the need for neurosurgical services in her community.

She also made her mark as a female neurosurgeon. Dr. Stroink attended Southern Illinois School of Medicine, the first U.S. school to enroll 30% of women. “Having already decided to make my career in medicine, I was acutely aware of the barriers to getting into medical school as a female,” states Dr. Stroink. On the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX in 2022, she shared her experiences on gender equity in neurosurgery in the California Association of Neurological Surgeons newsletter.

Dr. Stroink was the first woman to enter the neurosurgical residency program at the Mayo Clinic. “I’m really grateful to the Mayo Clinic because they didn’t have to accept a woman, but they did,” said Dr. Stroink. “I was very happy to be a resident. Even though it was a new experience for them to train a female resident, it was a benefit for them and me.”

In 1985, Dr. Stroink founded the Central Illinois Neuro Health Sciences practice in Bloomington, Ill. She spearheaded the creation of a neurosurgery resident program at the hospital and considers teaching doctors essential and one of her favorite parts of her work.

We wish Dr. Stroink all the best in her retirement from practicing neurological surgery.

Editor’s Note: We hope you will share what you learn from our posts. We invite you to join the conversation on Twitter by following @Neurosurgery and @NeurosurgeryRE and using the hashtag #Neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery Lost a Leader, and I Lost a Dear Friend — Randall W. Smith, MD, FAANS(L)

By Guest Post, Loss of LifeNo Comments

On Oct. 25, neurosurgery lost a leader, and I lost a dear friend. Randy’s accomplishments in organized neurosurgery, especially in California, are too numerous to list and have been chronicled by others in recent days. Today, I want to tell you the main lessons Randy taught me over our decade-long friendship.

  • Your biggest supporters may not be who you think. As a young female neurosurgeon starting in the California Association of Neurological Surgeons (CANS) and the Western Neurosurgical Society (WNS), Randy didn’t care who I was or what I looked like as long as I showed up and worked hard. Once I proved myself, he went to great lengths to support me and promote my career. This is the very definition of sponsorship, which I have found much more helpful than mentorship.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Randy could spot nonsense from a mile away and did not hesitate to call it out. I have met very savvy and politically correct leaders in my time who have done nothing to help foster diversity and inclusion in neurosurgery. When it came to supporting equality, he made the necessary changes in our organizations to make them better.
  • Work-life balance is best when you don’t try to separate them. Randy loved neurosurgery. When he retired from clinical practice in 2004, he was still very engaged in organized neurosurgery. In California, it is no secret that Randy was the backbone of the two influential organizations: CANS and WNS. He attended all the board and executive committee meetings and was part of every critical decision until his death. Randy was constantly curious about the advances in the field of neurosurgery and strived to make the lives of working neurosurgeons better. He involved his whole family — his wife Flo is like a surrogate mom to many of us. Randy taught me that I wouldn’t constantly feel like I had to choose by blending my life and family with my work. He has seen my children grow up and developed an independent friendship with my husband. It well-demonstrated that we are all happier and less likely to develop “burnout” if we feel part of a community.
  • Listen to your instincts. As the COVID-19 Delta variant surge was starting to wane in September, there was still considerable uncertainty about holding an in-person meeting for the WNS. After much planning and consideration, we decided to go for it and held the annual meeting in New Mexico. I do not regret that decision for one minute. It was an engaging, safe and productive meeting and allowed us to connect in person for the first time in nearly two years. This felt even more precious with my older colleagues. I didn’t know at the time that the picture you see here would be the last night I would spend time with Randy. I can just hear him saying: “Just go for it, kid.” Thanks, Randy. I will.

As we get ready to sit down with our families and friends for Thanksgiving, I encourage you all to reflect on how fortunate neurosurgery is to have had such an icon in our field. He will be missed.

Editor’s Note: An issue of the CANS newsletter that will be entirely dedicated to commemorating Randall W. Smith, MD, is planned for mid-December. You are encouraged to submit personal remembrances if you’d like them included in this issue. Please send your memories to or The deadline for submission is Nov. 28. Additionally, we encourage everyone to follow @Neurosurgery and @CaNeuroSurgeons.

Ciara D. Harraher, MD, MPH FAANS
Stanford Department of Neurosurgery
Dominican Hospital
Santa Cruz, Calif.