Characteristics and career outcomes of Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation research fellowship recipients

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The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation (NREF) provides ongoing competitive research fellowships for residents and young investigators. The authors sought to determine the characteristics and career tracks of award recipients.


The authors analyzed characteristics and academic productivity parameters of NREF resident and young investigator awardees in the United States and Canada from 1983 to 2017. Data were extracted from the NREF database and online resources (Web of Science, NIH reporter).


In total, 224 research grants were awarded to 31 women (14%) and 193 men (86%) from 1983 to 2017. Neuro-oncology (36%) was the most common research category. Sixty percent of awardees were in training and most resident award winners were in postgraduate year 5 (37%). Forty-nine percent of all awardees had an additional postgraduate degree (PhD 39%, Master’s 10%) with a significantly higher number of PhD recipients being from Canada in comparison to any US region (p = 0.024). The Northeastern and Southeastern United States were the regions with the highest and lowest numbers of award recipients, respectively. More than one-third (40%) of awardees came from institutions that have a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Research Education Grant (NINDS R25) for neurosurgical training. Awardees from NINDS R25–funded programs were significantly more likely to go on to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (40.4% vs 26.1%; p = 0.024). The majority of recipients (72%) who were no longer in training pursued fellowships, with a significant likelihood that fellowship subspecialty correlated with NREF research category (p < 0.001). Seventy-nine percent of winners entered academic neurosurgery practice, with 18% obtaining the position of chair. The median h-index among NREF winners was 11. NIH funding was obtained by 71 awardees (32%) with 36 (18%) being a principal investigator on an R01 grant from the NIH Research Project Grant Program.


The majority of AANS/NREF research award recipients enter academics as fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, with approximately one-third obtaining NIH funding. Analysis of this unique cohort allows for identification of characteristics of academic success.

ABBREVIATIONS AANS = American Association of Neurological Surgeons; NIH = National Institutes of Health; NINDS R25 = National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Research Education Grant; NREF = Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation; PI = principal investigator; R01 = grant from the NIH Research Project Grant Program.

Article Information

Correspondence Analiz Rodriguez: University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online February 8, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2018.10.JNS18859.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Distribution of NREF award winners by postgraduate year at the time of winning the award. Award recipients in postgraduate years 1–7 are residents; those in postgraduate year ≥ 8 are new investigators.

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    Research category at time of award. Neuro-oncology, functional, and spine comprised 73% of the award categories.

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    Relationship between mean publication number (upper) and h-index (lower) at the time of award and the number of awardees at the institution. *p < 0.05.

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    Percentage of programs compared with percentage of winners per each US geographical region and Canada. There are statistically similar numbers of programs per region (p = 0.006); however, there are significantly fewer award winners from the Southeastern United States compared with other regions (p < 0.001).



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