The division of Neurosurgery at UAB was initially founded and nurtured by Dr. J. Garber Galbraith. Neurosurgeons and residents within the division today aspire to continue the traditions of clinical excellence, gentlemanly conduct and absolute dedication to his patients and residents that he exemplified.
J. Garber Galbraith was born in Anniston, AL in 1914. After studying at the University of Notre Dame, and St. Louis University, Dr. Galbraith trained at the Neurological Institute of New York. After his residency, Dr. Galbraith served on active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps (1943-46) and saw action in the Pacific Theater on the hospital ship, U.S.S. Tranquility. At the time of his return to civilian life the two year medical school in Tuscaloosa had just moved to Birmingham. Dr. Galbraith was instrumental in helping the fledgling institution attain its goals of becoming a four year medical school and evolving into a major academic medical center.
In 1945, Dr. Galbraith was named the first Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Alabama Medical Center. This position was a voluntary one as there was no formalized faculty or salary structure at that time. As such Dr. Galbraith enjoyed a private practice and steadily developed the infrastructure for a formalized training program. In 1954, Dr.Galbraith became the Division Director of Neurological Surgery at UAB. Dr. Galbraith was highly accomplished in organized academic neurosurgery. In a career that spanned three decades he served as president of the Southern Medical Association, Southern Neurosurgical Society, American Academy of Neurological Surgery, Society of Neurological Surgeons, and chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. He served as a member of the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons from 1974 to 1980. Dr. Galbraith was uniformly considered to be an outstanding clinical teacher and was beloved by his patients and residents. Even after retirement, Dr. Galbraith remained active the teaching preclinical and clinical medical students. From 1954-1978, Dr. Galbraith trained 28 neurosurgeons. In 1992, an endowed chair and an annual lectureship was established in his name at UAB. Organized neurosurgery honored his many contributions by in establishing the Galbraith award of the Congress of Neurologic Surgeons (for the best resident paper on a topic in cerebrovascular neurosurgery) and the Galbraith lecture at the AANS meeting.
Dr. Galbraith was the Honored Guest at the 1981 Congress of Neurological Surgeons meeting.
In 1978, Dr. Griffith R. Harsh III succeeded Dr. Galbraith as Division Director of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Harsh had a special interest in intracranial aneurysms and brain tumors. Under his tenure, he continued the tradition of academic neurosurgery, and continued to expand the residency program. Dr. Harsh continued the tradition of neurosurgery leaders at UAB occupying major leadership positions in organized neurosurgery in his service as chairman of the ABNS and the Residency Review Committee. In 2008, an endowed chair honoring Dr.Griffith R. Harsh III was established by the School Medicine.
Dr. Moses S. Mahaley was appointed Division Director in 1986. Dr. Mahaley came to UAB from the University of North Carolina with a primary research interest in brain tumors. His research resulted in the publication of multiple papers pertaining to surgery, radation and chemotherapy for brain tumors. He established the Brain Tumor Center at UAB, which served as the seed for a strong tradition of brain tumor research in the following two decades at UAB.
In 1988, Dr. Richard Morawetz was appointed Division Director. Dr. Morawetz's clinical interests included the surgical treatment of neurovascular disease, epilepsy, and brain tumors including pituitary surgery. He continued to foster Dr. Mahaley's program in brain tumors, establishing a research program in the novel treatment of brain tumors and outcomes analysis. Dr. Morawetz served as President of the Southern Neurosurgical Society and the Neurosurgical Society of Alabama, Vice-President of the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, and Vice-President of the Neurosurgical Society of America. During Dr. Morawetz's 19 year tenure, the neurosurgical faculty increased from 3 to 16 members, recruiting world renowned experts in the neurosurgical subspecialties. In 1991, Dr. Mark N. Hadley and Dr. Winfield S. Fisher, joined the faculty to establish spine and neurovascular programs respectively. In 1992, Dr. Barton L. Guthrie arrived to the faculty, to nurture the functional, stereotactic and radiosurgery programs at UAB. Also in 1992, Dr. W. Jerry Oakes arrived to direct the Section for Pediatric Neurosurgery, establishing it as one of the most academically respected pediatric programs in the country. In 1995, Dr. James Markert joined the Division, bringing the concept of molecular biology, viral vectors, and gene therapy to the medical center. Since then, the faculty has continued to grow.
Dr. Morawetz added to substantive gifts provided to the Reynolds Historical Library at Lister Hill Medical Library by his Division Director predecessors (Dr. Galbraith and Dr. Harsh) to establish the Galbraith-Harsh-Morawetz historical collection. This fine collection of Neurosurgical manuscripts and texts represents one of the finest collections available today.
In 2006, Dr. James Markert was named Division Director of Neurological Surgery. Currently, the Division performs nearly 4000 procedures, and significantly contributes to research in neurosurgical disease. The Division serves UAB Hospital, the Birmingham Veteran's Administration Hospital, Children's Hospital of Alabama, UAB West, and the UAB Highlands campus. In addition, The Division runs highly desired neurosurgical residency and fellowship programs. In 2009 Dr. Beverly Walters joined the faculty to coordinate clinical research efforts and spearhead the medical evidence component of the resident education curriculum.
From humble beginnings in the post World War II era to the contemporary world of minimally invasive surgery, molecular genetics and evidence based practice the UAB Division of Neurological Surgery continues advance a mission of compassionate patient care, education and research. The clinical service remains one of the busiest in the nation, the faculty continues to occupy positions of national leadership in Neurosurgery and the research productivity of the division continues to expand annually. Our residents and fellows are being sought by the best academic and private practice jobs and the feedback from them is that their training has suited them well to meet any challenges encountered in practice. Most importantly outcome and quality assurance data indicate that our patients' outcomes are substantially better than standardized and published norms across the practice of Neurosurgery.