Dr. John Golfinos, chair of Neurosurgery (third from left), with three of his new recruits: Dr. Noel Perin (far left), Dr. Dimitris Placantonakis (second from left), and Dr. Chandranath Sen (far right).

Because It Is Brain Surgery...

The Department of Neurosurgery Adds Shining Stars to Its Already Brilliant Constellation

"We like to think we're building the New York Yankees of neurosurgery," says John Golfinos, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery and otolaryngology and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. "It's great to be in a department where you know that any case can be handled."

In a field with more than its share of large personalities, Dr. Golfinos is known for his down-to-earth demeanor, but his pride, in this instance, is understandable. For three consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals Rankings has placed our program in neurosurgery among the top 10 in America. Now, two world-renowned neurosurgeons will join what many already consider New York City's finest department of neurosurgery.

Chandranath Sen, MD, professor of neurosurgery and director of the Division of Skull Base Surgery and Cranial Nerve Disorders, specializes in meningiomas and other mostly benign tumors at the bottom of the brain. Because they tend to wrap around main nerves and blood vessels, these masses—often large and difficult to reach—are among the toughest tumors to operate on.

Dr. Noel Perin
Dr. Noel Perin

Noel Perin, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery and director of minimally invasive spinal neurosurgery in the Division of Spine Neurosurgery, has pioneered minimally invasive surgical techniques to remove spinal tumors. He is also among the few surgeons who perform thoracoscopic sympathectomies, in which sympathetic nerves are excised to alleviate hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).

Both surgeons, notes Dr. Golfinos, left leadership positions at other major medical centers in New York City to come here. "This is not a small move for them, and for the Medical Center, it's a huge acquisition of first-rate talent."

For Dr. Sen, who was chair of Neurosurgery at another Manhattan institution prior to joining NYU Langone Medical Center, the move was driven by his desire to concentrate solely on surgery. "Operating on a tumor underneath the brain typically takes 8 to 10 hours," he explains. "It requires keeping your focus for a long time, and to stay good at it, you need to operate often." Dr. Sen chose to join NYU Langone largely because of what he terms its "missionoriented" approach. "Dr. Golfinos wants to build the best neurosurgery department in the nation," he says. "I'm coming here at a good time to contribute to that effort. The momentum is here—I can feel it."

Dr. Chandranath Sen
Dr. Chandranath Sen

Dr. Perin and Dr. Sen can both handle virtually any case in their subspecialties, explains Dr. Golfinos, and Dr. Sen is known for tackling cases that other surgeons find too challenging—a skill that complements Dr. Golfinos's own expertise in skull-base procedures, particularly acoustic neuromas. "Between Dr. Sen and myself," he says, "we've become New York City's premier center for skull-base surgery."

NYU Langone now has about 20 neurosurgeons serving patients at Tisch Hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center, and the Manhattan VA Medical Center, including such master surgeons as Jafar Jafar, MD, professor of neurosurgery and director of the Division of Cerebrovascular Surgery; Jeffrey Wisoff, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics, and director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery; and Anthony Frempong-Boadu, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery. The Department of Neurosurgery has a long-standing reputation for excellence that encompasses surgery for brain tumors, brain aneurysms and vascular malformations, spine ailments, epileptic seizures, deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease (an area Dr. Golfinos hopes to augment), and a range of other conditions.

The department's research efforts also continue to expand, bolstered by the recent addition of two physician-researchers: Dimitris Placantonakis, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, and physiology and neuroscience, and Hae-Ri Song, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery. Dr. Placantonakis will divide his time between performing neurosurgery procedures at Tisch and Bellevue and investigating the role of microRNA molecules in motor neuron diseases and glioblastomas (a type of brain tumor). Dr. Song is studying the molecular mechanisms of a gene called nuclear factor I on the development of central nervous system tumors.

"We're making an extraordinary department even more extraordinary," says Dr. Golfinos. "Our goal is to be the place that other neurosurgery centers refer their really difficult cases to because we can get it done."

 

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