If I had only one word to describe the program for the 2015 Congress of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, it would be this: provocative. From the Latin, provocation is literally to call forth, challenge discussion, and stimulate thought. Provocation pushes us outside of our intellectual comfort zone and compels us to see issues through others’ eyes. Provocative thinking, if we allow it, will lead to analytical progress and to personal growth. The 2015 CNS special guest lecturers are great examples: former two-term New York City Mayor and Ronald Reagan Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Rudy Giuliani, and progressive journalist and Fox News analyst, Juan Williams. Already, friends and colleagues have asked me how these choices fit together. What theme, or message, was the CNS Scientific Program Committee trying to convey?
Both Giuliani and Williams are well-recognized public figures who contribute actively to important national discourse about topics that make a difference to all of us, from every aspect of modern American life, including health care. Both take unconventional and often surprising positions. One is a moderate conservative and the other a judicious liberal. Both have a reputation for speaking frankly and from a position of principle. Because of this, their respective political allies have, on occasion, excoriated each one of them for violating orthodoxy.
Juan Williams has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, Ebony, and Time Magazine, as well as appearing on NPR, Fox News, and in television documentaries (for which he has earned an Emmy). Williams’ award-winning books have focused largely on a progressive history of the American civil rights movement and ongoing challenges facing the African American community since that time. Fired by NPR in 2010 for his frank commentary, Williams made an impassioned defense of free expression in the public square, and was vindicated in subsequent weeks by the firings of the NPR news executive and CEO who had originally forced him out. Rudy Giuliani launched his political career as an effective anti-mob federal prosecutor in New York, and went on to earn praise as one of the most successful New York City mayors in a century. Giuliani’s defining moment, though, was his personal leadership of New York, and the nation, in the hours and days following the 9-11 terrorist attack on lower Manhattan. For this leadership, Giuliani was made Time’s Man of the Year for 2001, and an honorary Knight of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
Despite his broad national popularity, Giuliani suffered a ringing defeat in the 2008 Republican party presidential primaries, in large part because of his support of socially progressive causes, including immigration reform, gun control, and gay rights. Giuliani’s positions reflected his own beliefs and experience as the grandson of Italian immigrants who fought to make a place for their family in a sometimes violent and unwelcoming city. In the end, Giuliani and Williams bring various important messages to us in New Orleans: the value of free expression and individuality, the strength that results from diversity in our community, and the importance of principle as a foundation for the work we do. I expect all of us to draw both insight and wisdom from the stories they tell.
The 2015 CNS Annual Meeting will also present provocative surgery and science. Hot topics will include, for example, liquid biopsy, laser interstitial thermal therapy for epilepsy (LITT), personalized brain cancer care, and cost pressure budgeting under accountable care organizations (ACOs). We will debate controversial clinical decisions such as the optimal management of single brain metastases, spinal cord stimulation or re-do surgery for chronic pain, and shunt versus advanced endoscopy for hydrocephalus. We are also putting you back in the center of the operating room for three challenging and impactful live surgical cases using cuttingedge new technology.
Finally, I am excited that the Annual Meeting will explore in real depth the theme of Mentorship and the pivotal role it has played in our specialty since the foundation of neurological surgery. We will celebrate the legendary career of neurosurgical innovator, Walter E. Dandy, who broke away from his mentor, Harvey Cushing, while pioneering ventriculography, surgical hydrocephalus treatment, and aneurysm clipping. I will have the distinct pleasure of participating in the celebration of our 2015 CNS Honored Guest, Dr. Kim J. Burchiel, a world-leading functional neurosurgeon and educator, and my own neurosurgical mentor for the last 15 years.
We will also hear about one of the most celebrated mentorship stories in American music: Miles Davis’ guiding friendship with Herbie Hancock, the transformative jazz pianist. Hancock will tell us in person about his time in the Miles Davis Quintet and subsequent evolution into an independent musician who revolutionized jazz here and around the world. There is no city in America where this story can be better told than the traditional home of this consummate American art form, New Orleans.
It is my great honor and personal pleasure to invite each and every one of you to join me at the 2015 CNS Annual Meeting in New Orleans this September. Together we will share inspiring history, partake in provocative debates, and rekindle warm friendships and important mentorship connections. I look forward to seeing you there.