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Neurological Surgery

“Since neurosurgery is a specialty focused on a physiological system rather than a specific anatomical region, neurosurgeons treat diseases that affect all types of patients in various parts of their bodies. For example, a typical neurosurgeon not only operates on the brain and spinal cord but may also perform procedures on the skull, face, neck, spine, arms, and legs. Neurosurgeons care for some of the youngest patients in the hospital, such as a premature infant with a congenital malformation, as well as young and elderly adults suffering from trauma, tumors, infections, vascular anomalies, or degenerative disorders.”

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 281.

M1 and M2 Students

 What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?

For M1-M2, I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in neurosurgery contact our faculty and begin a mentoring relationship.

 How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

Research experience is strongly encouraged for students considering a career in neurosurgery. Research within the neurosurgical domain is best but any research is better than none--particularly if you decide on neurosurgery relatively late in your medical school training. 

M3 and M4 Students

 What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

An internal 4 week sub-internship completed with the Department of Neurological Surgery at Feinberg during your 4th year of medical school is required.  We suggest that this be completed during your first month of 4th year to facilitate the completion of additional sub-internships at other institutions as well.


 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?


 If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?

Two are recommended. Some students do three. More than three is not recommended.

 If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?

Immediately upon completion of your sub-internship at Feinberg. Ideally, one would complete a sub-I here at FSoM in early summer and then immediately finish the summer and begin early fall with your away rotations. Plan to have your away rotations completed by the end of September if possible to facilitate getting letters of recommendation from your away rotations to include in your residency application.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

Some programs begin interviewing in October, most interview in November and December and a few interviews continue into January. If you intend to take time away from your rotations, we would recommend November or December as these are typically the busiest months for interviews.

 Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?

Our specialty clearly recommends that all letters of recommendation be written by members of our specialty.

 If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

The only reason to include a letter written by anyone other than a neurosurgeon is if you have earned a PhD and believe your PhD advisor can speak highly of your productivity and/or performance in the lab. Otherwise, letters should come from neurosurgeons (both faculty here at FSoM as well as from your away rotations).​

 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?


 Neurosurgery Specialty Session - Winter / Residency Application Information

During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend specialty sessions sponsored by the Department of Neurosurgery to learn more about the specialty and meet attendings and residents in the field.

Request a Neurological Surgery Advisor

Maciej (Matt) S. Lesniak, MD
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Nader S. Dahdaleh, MD
Residency Program Director
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S. Kathleen Bandt, MD
Medical Student Clerkship Director
Specialty Career Advisor
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Nate Arnold
Education Coordinator

For More Information

Department of Neurological Surgery
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
676 N. Saint Clair, Suite 2210
Chicago, IL 60611
Fax: 312-695-4075

Visit the Neurological Surgery website