President's Message

Alan M. Scarrow

What You Know Just Ain’t So

This is the time of year when the CNS staff and leadership are hard at work planning the Annual Meeting. What unfolds in 56 hours of meeting programming over five days takes thousands of hours to plan and coordinate. Thankfully, the CNS is blessed with a wonderful, hard-working staff and meeting service vendors that make a complicated orchestra of schedules, speakers, slides, sponsors, awards, meals, transportation, and entertainment appear quite smooth and organized. Having served as the Annual Meeting chair in the past, I assure you that the true strength of the CNS lies in its quiet teamwork and collaboration. Those are the things that not only make an organization strong and resilient over time, but also create great experiences for Annual Meeting attendees. As a leader in the organization, I am very grateful to both the CNS staff for perpetuating that culture of excellence and to you for being an attendee of past meetings. Your attendance provides the CNS with just over one-third of its annual budget and creates the best opportunity for us to put our new products and services on display.

It is the culture and tradition of the CNS that each year’s president selects a theme for the Annual Meeting, and is responsible for implementing changes to make the meeting better. For this upcoming 67th Annual Meeting of the CNS, that duty gratefully falls to me. It is often said that as organizations age, they tend to become more conservative, less bold, and less innovative because the leaders of the organization sense there is more to lose. After all, no one wants to be the captain of a trustworthy ship on the day it runs aground. In contrast, start-up organizations have none of the tradition and legacy to protect, and are just trying to make their mark on the world. This makes it inherently easier to take chances, try new things, and push the envelope of what feels comfortable. While any organization marking its 67th year of existence is no start-up, the CNS culture does not allow us to be anything but that. Each year we strive to be more relevant, more practical, and more accessible to you, our members. The CNS has worked hard over its 67 years to gain a reputation for doing just that, but we also realize it would take only one year to lose it. This realization keeps us focused on you and your contemporary needs. As such, when you attend this year’s Annual Meeting, there will be some things that feel familiar, and others that won’t. Such is the nature of lasting change—to transform into something better is only possible once we understand what truly made us successful.

This is the underlying premise for this year’s Annual Meeting theme, Transformation and Celebration. Without doubt, many of you sense we are in the midst of a moment in history when rapid change is the norm—when a combination of connectivity, technology, and culture feels quite disruptive. At the same time, to see what our profession has accomplished in terms of improved survival and outcome for neurosurgical patients over just the past few decades is remarkable and deserves to be celebrated. It is that paradox between all we have done and all that is left to do that drives us to become better. On October 7–11, in Boston, Massachusetts, you will hear from authors and scholars who will shine a light on what lies ahead and challenge your assumptions. Author Richard Susskind will describe how connected technologies are fundamentally changing how professionals such as physicians, lawyers, accountants, and architects are viewed and needed by our culture. You will also hear from Kathy McGroddy Goetz, PhD, vice president of Global Partnerships & Alliances Management for IBM’s Watson Health, who will describe how the remarkable computing power we now have at our fingertips is changing how medical diagnosis and treatment are made as well as altering the trust people have in technology and physicians. Cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty will talk about how he and his colleagues at Narayana Health in Bangalore, India, used innovative thinking and technology to deliver high-quality health care at ultra-low prices for people all over southern Asia, and are now branching into North America. Authors Jamie Holmes and Geoff Colvin will discuss how to make sense of these rapid changes and how to find our way in remaining meaningful and relevant as human providers in a world driven by inanimate technology and data. Finally, Professor Anders Ericsson, PhD, will present his research on how we take clinical and surgical skills and hone them through more than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to change and improve, in order to better serve those entrusted to our care.

But a steady diet of transformation and change can leave one feeling unsure—as if the foundations of what we trust and believe are no longer solid. Hence, you will also experience a healthy dose of what is truly great in neurosurgery and deserves to be celebrated. For the first time, the CNS will honor the authors of this year’s top papers published in Neurosurgery during the General Scientific Sessions in front of thousands of colleagues. These will be the papers judged as the best of the best by the editors of our field’s most rapidly growing and highest impact-factor journal, Neurosurgery. Authors from the subspecialties of cerebrovascular, spine and peripheral nerve, tumor, neurotrauma and critical care, pediatrics, socioeconomics, stereotactic and functional, and pain will be competing for best paper within their subspecialty, in addition to competing for an overall “Paper of the Year” Award.

We will also honor an individual or company with the “Innovator of the Year” Award. This prize will be presented to the creator of the innovation introduced this year considered to have the greatest impact on our profession. I think you will find this new feature of the Annual Meeting to be a great celebration of how the best and brightest of our profession are pushing the envelope of what is possible.

Mixed in with the Transformation and Celebration theme will be several talks by one of neurosurgery’s most innovative and waggish talents, Dr. Alan Cohen. “Big Al” is professor of neurological surgery and chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in addition to being the director of the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery and the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Anyone familiar with Al over his long and storied neurosurgical career knows his reputation as a surgeon is matched only by his sense of humor and flair for storytelling. I know many of us are looking forward not only to learning from his neurosurgical experience, but also having him share his gift of satire with us. As neurosurgeons, we may be a fairly serious bunch, but laughter, no matter how serious we may be, should never be a stranger.

Finally, I want to once again thank you for being a member of the CNS. Without you, your attendance at our meetings, and use of our services, our organization would cease to exist. Each member of the executive committee and staff is singularly focused on providing you the best neurosurgical education experiences possible. It is our intent to be your partner as you endeavor to become the best neurosurgeon you can be. Please let us know what we can do to help you on your journey. See you in Boston!