Passing the Torch

Brian Hoh, M.D., named chair of UF department of neurosurgery

By Michelle Koidin Jaffee

UF Health neurosurgeon Brian L. Hoh, M.D., an internationally known expert in the treatment of brain aneurysms, brain arteriovenous malformations, and ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, became chair of the Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery in the University of Florida College of Medicine on July 1. He succeeded longtime chair and neurosurgical pioneer William A. Friedman, M.D., who will continue on as a practicing neurosurgeon and faculty member.

Trained and educated at Stanford University, Columbia University and Harvard University, Hoh is only the third chair in the four-decade history of the department, following two giants in the field: Friedman, a pioneer in the early development of a now commonly used noninvasive neurosurgical treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery, and before him, the late Albert L. Rhoton Jr., M.D., considered the father of neurosurgical anatomy and microneurosurgery, a technique involving microscopes and microsurgical instruments Rhoton designed for maximum precision that are now used worldwide.

“I’m incredibly humbled and honored,” said Hoh, the James and Brigitte Marino Family Professor in Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery and current associate chair of neurosurgery. “I’m hoping to stand on the shoulders of these giants and create a department that my mentors would be proud of.”

When Hoh joined UF in 2006 after completing neurosurgery training and a fellowship in interventional neuroradiology at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard University, UF Health Shands Hospital treated only 150 stroke patients a year and didn’t have a stroke center. Hoh recruited a team of stroke neurologists and cerebrovascular/endovascular neurosurgeons to build what is now the UF Health Shands Comprehensive Stroke Center — certified by The Joint Commission — which treats about 1,000 patients a year from across the Southeast.

Hoh is a National Institutes of Health R01-funded principal investigator who studies the biological mechanisms of brain aneurysm formation and rupture and how to use tissue engineering technology to improve aneurysm treatment.

An award-winning teacher, Hoh has served as UF’s neurosurgery residency program director, one of the best of its kind in the U.S. He established and served as director of UF’s fellowship in endovascular surgical neuroradiology, one of only two in the U.S accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

As chief of the division of cerebrovascular surgery, Hoh oversees a team that treats ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, brain aneurysms, AVMs, carotid and intracranial atherosclerosis, cavernous malformations and moyamoya disease.

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., who stepped down in July as the senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health, said the department of neurosurgery has played a vital role in the academic health center’s rise in stature.

“Dr. Hoh’s knowledge and expertise will allow UF Health to successfully build on a foundation of excellence in providing premier care to patients suffering from brain disorders and to make scientific discoveries that will improve treatments for residents in the Southeast and beyond,” Guzick said.

Hoh is focused on elevating the department to Top 5 status nationwide for clinical care, research and education — an effort he terms “Destination UF Neurosurgery.”

“This means patients from around the world come to Gainesville for their neurosurgical care,” Hoh said. “It means students, residents and fellows will see UF as a destination to receive their training, and that we are the leaders in research and our research is translated to innovative therapies for patients.”

Among Hoh’s goals is to launch an interdisciplinary Comprehensive Spine Center for patients with back or neck pain. He also envisions continued growth in the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program led by Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., which attracts patients with brain tumors from across the country and the world to participate in clinical trials.

Additionally, Hoh foresees continued excellence from the Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases at UF Health — an interdisciplinary center combining the expertise of neurosurgery, neurology, psychiatry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, nutrition and speech pathology under one roof that is a leader in the treatment and research of Parkinson’s and other neurological and psychiatric diseases.

In the future, Hoh eyes the creation of a multidisciplinary stroke research center that will unite expert scientists and clinicians who will collaborate on basic science and translational and clinical research projects to create novel therapies and conduct first-in-human clinical trials for patients with ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

These types of programs draw international attention to UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, or MBI, which supports the immunotherapy program, the department of neurosurgery and research programs in age-related memory loss, neurodegenerative disorders, addiction and brain and spinal cord injury.