Warf speaks at the Robert H. Wilkins, MD, Lectureship in Academic Neurosurgery

Benjamin C. Warf, MD, was the distinguished lecturer at the Fourth Annual Robert H. Wilkins, MD, Lectureship in Academic Neurosurgery hosted jointly by the UNC and Duke Neurosurgery Departments on February 20 at the Carolina Inn. Ninety guests dined and later enjoyed Dr. Warf's talk titled, “Stumbling into Academia: The Unintended Adventure of a Missionary Neurosurgeon.”

Warf speaks at the Robert H. Wilkins, MD, Lectureship in Academic Neurosurgery click to enlarge Benjamin C. Warf, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School

The University of North Carolina Department of Neurosurgery and the Duke Department of Neurosurgery were pleased to welcome Benjamin Warf, MD, as the distinguished lecturer at the Fourth Annual Robert H. Wilkins, MD, Lectureship in Academic Neurosurgery held on Tuesday, February 20 at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC. Dr. Warf presented a talk titled, “Stumbling into Academia: The Unintended Adventure of a Missionary Neurosurgeon.”

Dr. Warf grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, met his wife, Cindy, at Georgetown College, and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1984. He trained in neurosurgery at Case Western Reserve University and returned to Boston in 1991 as the first fellow in pediatric neurosurgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Warf and his family returned to Kentucky in 1992, where he became Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Director of Surgical Education at the University of Kentucky.

In 2000, Dr. Warf, along with Cindy and their six children, moved to Uganda where he was the founding Medical Director of CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda, a pediatric neurosurgery specialty hospital supported by the Christian non-profit, CURE International. The hospital developed into a national and international referral center for pediatric neurosurgery in East Africa. While there, Dr. Warf was the first to describe post-infectious hydrocephalus resulting from neonatal ventriculitis as being the most common cause of pediatric hydrocephalus in the region. He developed a novel minimally invasive technique for treating infant hydrocephalus, which combines endoscopic third ventriculostomy with choroid plexus cauterization (ETV/CPC), and he has continued to investigate its efficacy. He also initiated a program to train and equip neurosurgeons from low- and middle-income countries in the technique.

Dr. Warf and his family returned to Boston in 2009. He is currently a Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and holds the Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida Chair at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he is the Director of Neonatal and Congenital Anomalies Neurosurgery. He serves on the Board of Directors for CURE International and is the Medical Director of CURE Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida, which to date has trained and equipped 30 neurosurgeons from 19 developing countries in the ETV/CPC technique.

Dr. Warf received the Humanitarian Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in 2007, and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. As the son of a physically disabled father, the father of a young adult with significant cognitive and physical challenges, and as one whose career has centered on children with disabling neurological conditions, Dr. Warf endeavors to advocate for people with disabilities at all stages of life in both the developing and developed worlds. He, Cindy, and their daughter, Sarah Grace, reside in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and are members of Park Street Church in downtown Boston.

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About Robert H. Wilkins, MD

This year’s lecture was the first held since the passing of Dr. Wilkins on March 31, 2017. His wife, Gloria Wilkins, along with their daughter, Betsy, and her husband, Neil Davis, attended the lecture to honor and continue the Wilkins legacy.

Dr. Wilkins had a long and distinguished career in neurosurgery, serving Duke University and its neurosurgery program from 1959 to 1961 as an intern and resident in general surgery, and then as a resident in neurosurgery from 1963 to 1968. Out of residency, Dr. Wilkins worked at Duke University as an Assistant Professor and Professor from 1976 to 2004, serving as the Chief of the Duke Division of Neurosurgery from 1976-1996. Upon retirement in 2004, Dr. Wilkins was promoted to Professor Emeritus. In 2012, he joined the UNC Department of Neurosurgery as Director of Academics and Professor of Neurosurgery until his second retirement in 2014.

While in retirement, Dr. Wilkins traveled with Duke’s Global Neurosurgery Program to Uganda, as well as to many other countries worldwide for humanitarian trips including Haiti, Kenya, Brazil and Indonesia. These trips were sponsored by various organizations including Hope Worldwide, Duke Global Health Institute and his church.

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