ASSFN Develops Priorities in Training, Research, and Advocacy

Emad Eskandar, MD, MBA

The American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN) serves as an affiliate joint section of the AANS and CNS, and remains deeply involved in a variety of educational, organizational, and advocacy activities on behalf of North American functional neurosurgeons and our patients.

The ASSFN recently held a very successful biennial meeting last spring in Chicago, Illinois, with the help of CNS staff. With over 500 attendees and industry experts, the 2016 ASSFN Biennial Meeting showcased the progress and current state of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery with a stellar list of invited talks and concurrent sessions. Konstantin Slavin was the meeting chairman and Joshua Rosenow was the local host. The topics covered were wide-ranging and included the most current approaches for the treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy, pain, and neuropsychiatric disease. The ASSFN Executive Council appointments for 2016- 2018 were announced during the meeting. New ASSFN President Emad Eskandar takes the reins from Aviva Abosch, Robert Gross was elected as vice-president, and Ron Alterman became the new secretary treasurer.

Members of the ASSFN/Stereotactic and Functional Section have taken great advantage of the recent BRAIN Initiative from the federal government. The Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA) has been a very generous supporter. One initiative of DARPA is the SUBNETS program to develop a closed-loop next generation neuromodulation device for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders such as PTSD, major depression, and substance abuse. Another is the RAM project to develop a neuromodulation device for enhancing memory. Members of the section are deeply involved in these projects and gave presentations at the recent ASSFN meeting on the progress toward what are likely to be the next generation of neuromodulatory treatments for many new indications.

Current ASSFN Membership numbers 375, including 36 residents and fellows. This number is the highest it has been in years, and reflects growing interest in our burgeoning multidisciplinary field. Society membership is now open and free to medical students. The section is financially healthy and investigating ways to support our priorities in training, research, and advocacy. The Roy Bakay Fund, which supports trainee research in stereotactic and functional, is one such example. We continue to work towards expanding our international footprint, and our section leadership was broadly represented on the program of the World Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (WSSFN) meeting in Mumbai, September 2015. In return, we encourage and actively solicit participation from the leadership and members of our international partner societies for our section sessions.

As part of ongoing efforts to promote the training and education of residents, fellows, and neurosurgeons in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery, ASSFN held its third annual Hands-on Training Course in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in November 2015. Industry sponsorship was generous, and we were able to offer the course free to residents. The 2016 course is being held November 4–6, at the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Convention Center in Colorado. With a registration cap of 30 people, the course is full and has generated a waiting list.

Finally, ASSFN leadership continues to look for ways to broaden and deepen the engagement between our society and our current key industry partners with respect to our shared priorities of (1) patient care and access, (2) advancing the field through research, (3) training the next generation of practitioners, and (4) the formation of joint task forces to tackle the obstacles associated with each of these priorities.

MEMBERS OF THE ASSFN/STEREOTACTIC AND FUNCTIONAL SECTION HAVE TAKEN GREAT ADVANTAGE OF THE RECENT BRAIN INITIATIVE FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.