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I have invested well over a decade in researching what makes the personal statement for medical residency or fellowship as effective as possible - particularly in the area of Neurosurgery. I invite you to fill out my Online Interview Form and send me your CV and/or rough draft for a free

How To Become a Neurosurgeon

Volunteer Through Your University

For over 10 years, members of the University of Michigan Departments of Neurosurgery, Anaesthesiology, Paediatrics and Operating Rooms have been going on surgical outreach missions to treat spinal dysraphism and hydrocephalus in Guatemala, an extraordinary country with some of the worst health statistics in Latin America. The project is called Project Shunt, and the team provides neurosurgical care to the indigent children of Guatemala.

Since neural tube defects are endemic in Latin American in general, and Guatemala specifically, and prenatal care is so scarce, Project Shunt receives a lot of young patients to perform procedures on. The team travels with as much equipment as possible. Two basic surgical trays are prepared: small trays for reparis of myelomeningoceles, diastematomylias, terminal myelocystoceles, meningoceles and lipomyelomeningoceles. For more information about how they learned to solve various problems by alternate means, go to the full article.

Also, before you choose an institution for your residency, check to see if they have an international rotation or run similar activities.

Neurosurgical Fellowships: What, When, How, Where? All you need to know.

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Statements of Excellence for Residency & Fellowship Positions on Behalf of Applicants in Neurosurgery

Neurosurgery Internship Personal Statement Sample

“You! You don’t touch my mother!” said this affluent businessman and the son of a 78-year old lady who was under our care during my elective rotation in neurosurgery. Twelve days after surgery for a meningioma, the patient arrived at our emergency department in an altered mental state due to an intraventricular hemorrhage. We expeditiously prepared the operating room for an external ventricular drain procedure, but the son refused to sign consent. He was adamant about first consulting with  his mother’s original neurosurgeon from a very reputed academic center.  Unable to reach the other neurosurgeon, the son finally consented for surgery but only after speaking to everyone involved in the case. When he found out that I was still a fourth-year medical student, he ordered me to be very careful.

Eleven centimeters behind the nasion and three centimeters to the right of the midline, Dr. XXXX identified the Kocher’s point. He deftly drilled a hole through the skull, teased open the dura and passed a slender catheter about six centimeters through the brain; the CSF poured out, rapidly decreasing the intracranial pressure. He handed the dribbling free end of the catheter to me and proceeded to staple it to the scalp. Instantly remembering the son’s words, I dearly held onto the catheter until he pushed in the last staple. The surgery was successful. Our patient quickly recovered in a considerably improved mental staes. She was swiftly transferred to her original hospital that same night.

I understand the weight of responsibility in the hands of a neurosurgeon inside the operating room and outside. They must make important clinical decisions and perform surgical procedures flawlessly. In caring for the sickest of patients, they must go over and beyond their duty. I aspire to be trained as a neurosurgeon so that I may have the privilege of caring for such critically ill patients with competence and utmost dedication.  My interest in neurosurgery steadily developed over a period of two years prior to entering medical school. At the University of California San Francisco, I befriended a neurosurgery chief resident who allowed me to shadow him in brain tumor resection cases. The day I first saw the human brain and the excavation of a hidden glioblastoma, I knew I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. Around the same time, my research was moving towards understanding the pathophysiology of corneal nerves in autoimmune disorders. I worked with mouse models and soon became very good at using microsurgical techniques to extract mouse trigeminal ganglion. While I toyed with the mouse brain, I was thinking much about the human brain. In medical school, I took advantage of an active surgery interest group that we started.  With the guidance of my anatomy professor, I organized a brain dissection workshop. For many of my friends, it was the first, and perhaps the last, time they would see the inner structures of the brain, the ventricular horns, and the choroid fronds. I knew I would see more. During my surgery core rotation, I received special permissions to rotate in the neurosurgical service. I regularly scrubbed into several cases involving AV malformations, hematomas, decompressive craniotomy, and spinal procedures. During my fourth-year elective rotation, I got increasingly involved in patient care responsibilities and came to a much better understanding of the reasons for the clinical decisions made. When evacuating an intracerebral hemorrhage, Dr. XXXX chose to leave behind a portion of the thrombus untouched. I understood that it was only to minimize potential bleeding from a freed artery that was once collapsed by the thrombus.

I zealously look forward to my first neurosurgery sub-internship at XXXX Clinic in Minnesota. There, I will work hard and take full advantage of the opportunity in preparation for residency training.  In the future, I see myself briskly involved in research and technical development in neurosurgery that will help provide excellent patient care. I look forward to bringing my dedication for patient care and professional foundation in research to your neurosurgery residency program.

The Humanitarian Side of Neurosurgery

One student doctor made the following comment on

“I am a M3 that really likes neurosurgery. I also would like to do international work a few months out of the year or more. However, I cannot find much on humanitarian opportunities and neurosurgery. Does anyone have any experience with this topic or know of any programs that offer such opportunities?”

Don´t worry “jdh19”, and any other budding neurosurgeons reading this. We have you covered. In fact, shortly before this comment was written, the official news magazine of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons issued a whole edition on the subject, called “Neurosurgery and Humanity”.

A few authors have even created a model for neurosurgical humanitarian aid, based on 12 years of medical trips to South and Central America!

How to Get Involved

Since there always seems to be war or civil war going on somewhere in the world, there are lots of opportunities to go into war settings and perform neurosurgical procedures.

Volunteer Through a Humanitarian Organization

As the Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery (FEINS) states on its website, there are more people in need of a neurosurgeon than neurosurgeons available. Volunteering through FEINS could help you become one of the best neurosurgeons in the world. Volunteers work in extreme conditions, teach with whatever materials are available, and improvise on the spot whenever they need to. Neurosurgery residents are welcome to apply to become volunteers. An economy airfare is provided to volunteers who spend four weeks or more in a host country. Basic accommodation and local transportation is usually provided by the receiving institution. For more information, take a look at this page.

Firefly, Miramed, Eagle Condor International and Jewish Healthcare International

Take Some Time off After Your Residency

Africa is one of the most need areas in the world, and many choose to take their skills there. After finished a long University of Virginia residency and another year of cerebrovascular fellowship, Dr. Dilantha Ellegala from Portland, Oregon, went on vacation. He aimed to travel, but he became an accidental neurosurgeon in a remote, rural region of Tanzania instead!

Tanzania has one of the lowest doctor-per-patient ratios in the world: there is one neurosurgeon for every 12.9 million people. Dr. Ellegala found himself at Haydom Hospital, on a high plateau between two branches of the Great Rift Valley and the Mbulu district of the Manyara region. Around 1.7 million farmers, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers live in the hospital catchment area. In 2006, 1392 major operations were performed and 11.082 patients were attended to. In early 2005, when Dr. Ellegala arrived, one of the four CT scanners in the country was there, but there was no one there to diagnose or treat the abnormal CT cscan findings that were being discovered. And referral was impossible for practical purposes, in many cases, because Dar es Salaam was three or four days away, if the roads were passable.

Dr. Ellegala had two options: perform the neurosurgery himself, or teach a local clinician with 2-3 years of technical school training to do it. Although traditional medical missions and temporary visiting doctors provide a wonderful humanitarian service, the unstable nature of their help has led to a cycle and a mindset of dependency. Dr. Ellegala decided to enlist a bright and motivated Tanzanian Assistant Medical Officer, and trained him in basic CT scan interpretation, neurologic examination, and emergency and primary neurosurgical operations.

He then went back to the U.S., and put together a team and formed the Physician Training Partnership (PTP), with the goal of working to give Tanzania some neurosurgical independence. In 2008, they expanded the basic neurosurgical capabilities to a second referral hospital in Tanzania.

As he was writing a piece for the official news magazine of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons about his experiences from Tanzania in 2008, the project was still well on its way, with strong support from other doctors and organization.