Neurosurgeon Apuzzo to Receive Prestigious International Award

by Paul Dingsdale
Neurosurgeon Michael L. J. Apuzzo

MICHAEL L.J. APUZZO, holder of the Edwin M. Todd - Trent H. Wells Jr., Professorship in Neurological Surgery and professor of radiation oncology, biology and physics, will travel to Stockholm next month to receive the Olivecrona Award.

Established in 1986 and named after Dr. Herbert Olivecrona, one of the fathers of modern neurosurgery, the Olivecrona Award is traditionally presented at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden’s national center for research and higher education in medicine. Its reputation is such that Nobel Prize laureates in medicine or physiology are selected by the Karolinska’s Nobel assembly.

A central figure in the early history of world neurosurgery, Olivecrona was appointed professor of neurosurgery at the Karolinska Institute in 1935 - establishing its first neurological surgery service at that time. His scholarly contributions to the world literature of neurosurgery and technical innovations changed the practice of intracranial neurosurgery throughout the world, and the international reputation of the institute grew.

THE OLIVECRONA AWARD is presented to individuals who have made an important and influential contribution to the field of neurosurgery, and the list of previous honorees reads like a “Who’s Who” of international neurosurgery. In addition, only 18 awards have been presented in the Olivecrona’s 22-year history.

Apuzzo was to travel to Sweden Dec. 4, where the ceremony will be highlighted by his keynote lecture, “Surgery of Masses Affecting the Third Ventricular Chamber: Strategies, Technical Nuances and Factors in the Evolving Metamorphosis.” For Apuzzo, neurosurgery is about exploring how technology and the development of new ideas can push back the frontiers of accepted practice, a subject he will address in the Stockholm speech. He will also cover applications of minimally invasive techniques, as well as microsurgery and its role in treating brain lesions.

Apuzzo’s seminal work, Surgery of the Third Ventricle, is considered a modern classic of intracranial and intracerebral surgery. In fact, the second edition of the book - which came out earlier this year - has made such an impact that it was surely one of the main reasons for Apuzzo’s nomination for the award. Another factor is his prodigious output of papers and scientific volumes (he has now published about 400 scientific works). Apuzzo also became editor of the influential international journal Neurosurgery in 1992, further developing its presence.

WITH THIS AWARD, Apuzzo’s name is now among the pantheon of USC neurosurgeons who have furthered the frontiers of the discipline in recent decades.

“I feel flattered and humbled by the news,” he said. “But the award is really a tribute to the neurosurgery department’s tradition for innovation . . . and a climate here that welcomes, supports and fosters creative efforts,” he added. “It is fundamentally a recognition of the department and all the individuals associated with it over recent decades. The stimulating presence and support of my senior colleagues Martin Weiss, Gordon McComb and Steven Giannotta cannot be overestimated.”

Apuzzo pointed out that USC’s pioneering role in the development of concepts and practices that have changed the field of neurosurgery worldwide stretches back through the decades. He noted such seminal contributions as former surgery professor Theodore Kurze’s introduction of the operating microscope into the neurosurgery operating room in 1962, as well as Edwin Todd and Trent Wells’ important creation of the world’s most widely used stereotactic device in 1965.

But the news of Apuzzo’s award should come as no surprise, given the USC surgeon’s quarter-century of achievement in the field of deep brain surgery. Since coming to the USC School of Medicine from Yale Medical School in 1973, Apuzzo has led the way in the sub-specialty of image-directed stereotaxis - a way of mapping locations in the brain within a three-dimensional coordinate system and a principal element in the practice of minimally invasive surgery. It’s no exaggeration to say that the work of Apuzzo and his peers in the department of neurological surgery - who practice at USC University Hospital, LAC+USC Medical Center and USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center - have changed the way neurosurgery is practiced globally.

Apuzzo was recently honored by the World Health Organization and the World Federation of Neurosurgical Sciences in Madrid, where Queen Sophia of Spain presented him with the Sixto Obrador Medal. In 1999, he will receive the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery’s distinguished achievement award.