Young Neurosurgeons Committee: Is it Really a Training Ground for Future Leaders in Neurosurgery?

For years, involvement with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) was reserved for senior, well-established neurosurgeons. In 1991, David Kelly Jr., MD, FAANS(L), recognized the importance of eliciting the help of young neurosurgeons in order to promote a culture of early involvement in organized neurosurgery. As a result, he enlisted Roberto C. Heros, MD, FAANS(L), former co-chair and residency program director for the department of neurosurgery at the University of Miami, to create the Young Neurosurgeons Committee (YNC). The YNC, which is primarily composed of elected resident neurosurgeons or young attendings within five years of graduation, grew from a networking opportunity to a major voice for young neurosurgeons, with representatives sitting in all major committees, including the AANS Board of Directors. The YNC is the driving force behind an annual Young Neurosurgeons Luncheon and Young Neurosurgeons Research forum at AANS Annual Scientific Meetings and the Neurosurgical Top Gun Competition.

A recent report published by World Neurosurgery analyzed the past 168 members of the YNC to examine their subsequent careers within neurosurgery. The past members of the YNC demonstrated a high degree of involvement in organized neurosurgery and maintained many leadership roles in academic neurosurgery. Past members of the YNC come from 67 different residency training programs. There have been two past presidents of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS). Fifteen of the past YNC members have chaired one of the AANS/CNS Sections (Cerebrovascular, Neurotrauma and Critical Care, Pain, Pediatric, Spine and Peripheral Nerve, Stereotactic and Functional or Tumor). Two of the past nine chairs of the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies (CSNS) were former YNC members. Four YNC members have participated as officers of the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS), with two of those neurosurgeons participating as the chair of the ABNS. Additionally, 13 YNC members have served as a chair of a department of neurosurgery and 11 have acted as residency program directors. The Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS) membership includes 25 former YNC members, one of whom has served as president and one as president-elect of the Senior Society. Of the former YNC chairs, almost half are members of the Senior Society (46.7 percent), 26.7 percent have been program directors and 26.7 percent have been neurosurgery department chairs.

While there is certainly a level of self-selection in the membership of the YNC (only those young neurosurgeons interested in pursuing involvement in organized neurosurgery are typically nominated as a candidate for committee election), the YNC is unique in providing a training ground for future leaders in organized neurosurgery. As the YNC evolved to include liaison positions to interact with all of the major committees within the AANS, neurosurgeons at an increasingly young age were given a voice and an opportunity to prove their worth to senior neurosurgeons. As assignments are handed out and accomplished, young neurosurgeons begin creating an important network of future mentors and sponsors, while developing their own understanding of organized neurosurgery. Additionally, the chair of the YNC regularly interacts with members of the AANS Board of Directors, which provides an opportunity to not only demonstrate one’s leadership abilities, but to learn and emulate the leadership skills of giants in neurosurgery. The YNC offers a unique leadership experience by bringing together young neurosurgeons from a number of different residency programs to begin interacting with organized neurosurgery in a meaningful way early in their careers.

While there are certainly other ways to become involved in organized neurosurgery, the YNC offers a unique opportunity for young neurosurgeons to take an active role alongside prominent, senior neurosurgeons. As the YNC continues to expand and grow in prominence, involvement in the YNC will likely become a benchmark of early interest in organized neurosurgery and provide important early experience in national neurosurgery.

Joseph R. Linzey, MS
University of Michigan School of Medicine