By Robert Rennert
I am neurosurgery resident at UC-San Diego who recently had the privilege of rotating as a research fellow with Dr. Jonathan Russin at the USC Center for Neurorestoration. This elective, supported in part by donor funding, significantly increased my exposure to the technical considerations and ongoing innovations in complex cerebrovascular surgery. In this role, I studied the utility and clinical outcomes of novel revascularization strategies, imaging predictors and pharmacologic treatments of vasospasm, and intra-operative vascular imaging technologies. As a result of Dr. Russin’s unique focus and dedication to cerebrovascular innovation, as well as his streamlined research team including other research fellows, neurosurgical residents, and a professional medical illustrator, I was able to contribute to five first author works and 11 total publications to date during my six-month rotation (with nearly 10 additional manuscripts in review). Included in this work is the first clinical description of a pharmacologic prevention of cerebral bypass graft spasm, a significant risk factor for post-bypass stroke, as well as the development of a novel non-invasive MRI-based predictor of vasospasm following aneurysmal sub-arachnoid hemorrhage. The publication of these ideas, which are developed and implemented routinely at the USC Center for Neurorestoration, is critical to facilitate their spread to the larger neurosurgical community and improve the care of neurosurgical patients worldwide.
On a personal level, the importance of Dr. Russin’s and the USC Center for Neurorestoration’s work was reinforced for me during my recent participation in the LA Marathon fundraising event. At the post-race reception, former patients like Kathy Nguyen and their families came to celebrate not only completing the marathon, but quite literally their lives. Hearing their stories and the appreciation of their loved ones for the care they received at USC, as well as seeing their deep bond with Dr. Russin, was an unforgettable experience and a reminder of the lasting impact he has had on their lives.
My experience at the USC Center for Neurorestoration with Dr. Russin has significantly shaped my career trajectory, and I am extremely grateful to those who support the Center’s mission of improving outcomes in patients with complex cerebrovascular disease. Looking ahead, I not only hope to regularly participate in future fundraising marathons, but also return as a post-graduate fellow to continue my surgical training with Dr. Russin.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Robert attended the University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate studies and the Ohio State University for medical school. Prior to starting a neurosurgery residency at UC-San Diego in 2014, Robert performed basic science research for three years at Stanford University, where he performed single-cell analyses of stem and brain tumor initiator cells. Robert is interested in vascular and skull base neurosurgery, and plans to complete fellowship training in these areas after graduation.