History of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone

The Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone Health was established with the recruitment of Dr. Thomas I. Hoen in 1951. A tall, patrician, and imposing man who was an accomplished cabinetmaker and an excellent musician in addition to being a superb surgical technician, Dr. Hoen's academic credentials were impeccable: He attended medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by a Halsted fellowship in surgery, also at Johns Hopkins. He went on to do his general surgery and his neurosurgical training at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, under Harvey Cushing (considered the father of modern neurosurgery), then went on to get further neurosurgical training under Wilder Penfield at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Canada. After completing his training, Hoen accepted academic posts first in Montreal and then as professor of neurology and neurosurgery at New York Medical College, Flower and Firth Avenue Hospitals from 1931 to 1951.

Upon joining NYULMC in 1951, Dr. Hoen established the academic Department of Neurosurgery and initiated a formal training program in neurological surgery. When he retired in 1962, he was succeeded by Dr. Joseph Ransohoff, who was recruited from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Ransohoff, the son of a successful surgeon in Cincinnati, OH, was educated at Harvard, where he earned a degree in fine arts, and then attended medical school at the University of Chicago. He completed his residency at Montefiore and was awarded a fellowship at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Nevertheless, his "down-to-earth" persona fit in well at NYULMC, a school created for the "laboring class," and embodied the immense cultural and ethnic diversity that is New York City.

Consistent with his high energy level, Ransohoff had many scientific interests, ranging from head and spinal cord injuries to subarachnoid hemorrhage and vasospasm. He was particularly interested in intracranial tumors, including their surgery and postoperative adjuvant therapy, and developed a large neurosurgical referral practice that concentrated on brain tumors. In teaching his residents how to be neurosurgeons, he instilled in them an ethic of hard work, honesty, and scientific curiosity.

More than half of his trainees are still in academic neurosurgery. In addition, Dr. Ransohoff is at least partly responsible for the development of others who have remained and flourished in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone, including Dr. Jeffrey Wisoff, Dr. Anthony Frempong-Boadu, Dr. Howard Weiner, and Dr. Vallo Benjamin. In 1992, Dr. Joseph Ransohoff retired after more than 30 years as Chair of Neurosurgery.

In 1993, Dr. Patrick J. Kelly was recruited from the Mayo Clinic to become the Joseph P. Ransohoff professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery—a post he held until 2008. Dr. Kelly was also interested in the surgical treatment of brain tumors and added his own interest in glial tumor biology and minimally invasive approaches to intracranial neoplasms by computer-assisted stereotactic methods. Among other advances, Dr. Kelly brought to NYU Langone the computerized, interactive minimally invasive surgical techniques that he had developed earlier in his career in Buffalo, NY, and then refined at the Mayo Clinic.

Under Dr. Kelly’s leadership, computer-assisted, endoscopic, robotic, and neuroaugmentative techniques continued to evolve in collaboration with other clinical services and with the facilities available in the engineering, computer science, and robotics faculties of NYULMC. In addition, it became apparent that the Mayo Clinic style of efficient patient care delivery systems could be adapted to improve medical care delivery in New York City.


Dr. John Golfinos was named the fourth Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery in January, 2009. Dr. Golfinos has been a member of the NYU Langone faculty since 1995, having been recruited by Dr. Kelly from the Barrow Neurologic Institute in Phoenix—where he was trained by Dr. Robert F. Spetlzer—in order to expand NYULMC’s brain tumor and skull base practice. Dr. Golfinos’s principal clinical interests include the treatment of vestibular Schwannoma (acoustic neuroma), gliomas, and metastatic brain tumors, and he has published and lectured nationally in the field of neuro-oncology. Under his leadership, the department has continued to solidify its reputation as a leader in brain, skull-base, vascular, spinal, epilepsy and pediatric neurosurgery, while also adding new capabilities in minimally-invasive surgery and neuromodulation, and expanding its clinical and basic research activities.