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Ahmad Ozair, Vivek Bhat, and Anil Nanda

Surgical specialties, and particularly neurosurgery, have historically had and continue to have poor representation of female trainees. This is especially true of South Asia, considering the added social and cultural expectations for women in this region. Yet it was in India, with its difficult history of gender relations, that Asia’s first fully qualified female neurosurgeon, Dr. T. S. Kanaka (1932–2018), took root, flourished, and thereafter played an integral role in helping develop stereotactic and functional neurosurgery in the country. While a few biographical accounts of her exist, highlighted here are the lessons from her illustrious life for neurosurgical trainees and educators worldwide, along with the instances that exemplify those lessons, drawn from several hitherto unutilized primary sources. These lessons are consistent with the factors identified in previous systematic reviews to be contributing to gender disparities in neurosurgery. Many of the virtues that ensured her success are attributes that continue to be critical for a neurosurgical career. Additionally, the circumstances that helped Kanaka succeed have been recounted as considerations for those working to promote diversity and inclusion. Finally, her life choices and sacrifices are described, which are underexplored but relevant concerns for women in neurosurgery.

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Tina Lulla, Rosemary T. Behmer Hansen, Cynthia A. Smith, Nicole A. Silva, Nitesh V. Patel, and Anil Nanda

OBJECTIVE

Gender disparities in neurosurgery have persisted even as the number of female medical students in many countries has risen. An understanding of the current gender distribution of neurosurgeons around the world and the possible factors contributing to country-specific gender disparities is an important step in improving gender equity in the field.

METHODS

The authors performed a systematic review of studies pertaining to women in neurosurgery. Papers listed in PubMed in the English language were collected. A modified grounded theory approach was utilized to systematically identify and code factors noted to contribute to gender disparities in neurosurgery. Statistical analysis was performed with IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows.

RESULTS

The authors identified 39 studies describing the density of women neurosurgeons in particular regions, 18 of which documented the proportion of practicing female neurosurgeons in a single or in multiple countries. The majority of these studies were published within the last 5 years. Eight factors contributing to gender disparity were identified, including conference representation, the proverbial glass ceiling, lifestyle, mentoring, discrimination, interest, salary, and physical burden.

CONCLUSIONS

The topic of women in neurosurgery has received considerable global scholarly attention. The worldwide proportion of female neurosurgeons varies by region and country. Mentorship was the most frequently cited factor contributing to noted gender differences, with lifestyle, the glass ceiling, and discrimination also frequently mentioned. Future studies are necessary to assess the influence of country-specific sociopolitical factors that push and pull individuals of all backgrounds to enter this field.

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Michael T. C. Poon, Jorge Gaete-Villegas, Paul M. Brennan, and Jacques Fleuriot

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Michael T. C. Poon, Jorge Gaete-Villegas, Paul M. Brennan, and Jacques Fleuriot

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Bharath Raju, Fareed Jumah, Vinayak Narayan, Anika Sonig, Hai Sun, and Anil Nanda

The earliest evidence of man’s attempts in communicating ideas and emotions can be seen on cave walls and ceilings from the prehistoric era. Ingenuity, as well as the development of tools, allowed clay tablets to become the preferred method of documentation, then papyrus and eventually the codex. As civilizations advanced to develop structured systems of writing, knowledge became a power available to only those who were literate. As the search to understand the intricacies of the human brain moved forward, so did the demand for teaching the next generation of physicians. The different methods of distributing information were forced to advance, lest the civilization falls behind. Here, the authors present a historical perspective on the evolution of the mediums of illustration and knowledge dissemination through the lens of neurosurgery. They highlight how the medium of choice transitioned from primitive clay pots to cutting-edge virtual reality technology, aiding in the propagation of medical literature from generation to generation across the centuries.

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Kanwaljeet Garg, Ravi Sharma, Amol Raheja, Vivek Tandon, Varidh Katiyar, Chinmaya Dash, Rishi Bhatnagar, Mohan Kumar Khullar, Bharath Raju, Anil Nanda, and Shashank S. Kale

OBJECTIVE

Despite the rising trend of medicolegal challenges in India, there is an absolute dearth of literature from India on this issue. The authors conducted a survey, to their knowledge a first of its kind, to assess the perceptions of Indian neurosurgeons about the medicolegal challenges faced in everyday practice.

METHODS

An anonymous online survey performed using Google Forms was widely circulated among neurosurgeons practicing in India via email and social media platforms. The questionnaire consisted of 38 questions covering the various aspects of medicolegal issues involved in neurosurgery practice.

RESULTS

A total of 221 survey responses were received, out of which 214 responses were included in the final analysis, barring 7 responders who had no work experience in India. The respondents were categorized according to their working arrangements and work experience. Out of all of the respondents, 20 (9.3%) had ≥ 1 malpractice suits filed against them. More than 90% of the respondents believed that malpractice suits are on the rise in India. Almost half of the respondents believed the advent of teleconsultation is further compounding the risk of malpractice suits, and 66.4% of respondents felt that they were inadequately trained during residency to deal with medicolegal issues. Most respondents (88.8%) felt that neurosurgeons working in the government sector had lesser chances of facing litigations in comparison to those working in the private sector. The practice of obtaining video proof of consent was more commonly reported by respondents working in freelancing and private settings (45.1%) and those with multiple affiliations (61.3%) compared to respondents practicing in government settings (22.8%) (p < 0.001). Neurosurgeons working in the private sector were more likely to alter management and refer sick patients to higher-volume treatment centers to avoid malpractice suits than their government counterparts (p = 0.043 and 0.006, respectively). The practices pertaining to legal preparedness were also found to be significantly higher among the respondents from the private sector (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

This survey highlights the apprehensions of neurosurgeons in India with regard to rising malpractice suits and the subsequent increase of defensive neurosurgical practices, especially in the private sector. A stronger legal framework for providing for quick redress of patient complaints, while deterring frivolous malpractice suits, can go a long way to allay these fears. There is a dire need for systematic training of neurosurgeons regarding legal preparedness, which should begin during residency.

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Bharath Raju, Fareed Jumah, Omar Ashraf, Vinayak Narayan, Gaurav Gupta, Hai Sun, Patrick Hilden, and Anil Nanda

Big data has transformed into a trend phrase in healthcare and neurosurgery, becoming a pervasive and inescapable phrase in everyday life. The upsurge in big data applications is a direct consequence of the drastic boom in information technology as well as the growing number of internet-connected devices called the Internet of Things in healthcare. Compared with business, marketing, and other sectors, healthcare applications are lagging due to a lack of technical knowledge among healthcare workers, technological limitations in acquiring and analyzing the data, and improper governance of healthcare big data. Despite these limitations, the medical literature is flooded with big data–related articles, and most of these are filled with abstruse terminologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, artificial neural network, and algorithm. Many of the recent articles are restricted to neurosurgical registries, creating a false impression that big data is synonymous with registries. Others advocate that the utilization of big data will be the panacea to all healthcare problems and research in the future. Without a proper understanding of these principles, it becomes easy to get lost without the ability to differentiate hype from reality. To that end, the authors give a brief narrative of big data analysis in neurosurgery and review its applications, limitations, and the challenges it presents for neurosurgeons and healthcare professionals naive to this field. Awareness of these basic concepts will allow neurosurgeons to understand the literature regarding big data, enabling them to make better decisions and deliver personalized care.

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Bharath Raju, Fareed Jumah, Omar Ashraf, Vinayak Narayan, Gaurav Gupta, Hai Sun, Patrick Hilden, and Anil Nanda

Big data has transformed into a trend phrase in healthcare and neurosurgery, becoming a pervasive and inescapable phrase in everyday life. The upsurge in big data applications is a direct consequence of the drastic boom in information technology as well as the growing number of internet-connected devices called the Internet of Things in healthcare. Compared with business, marketing, and other sectors, healthcare applications are lagging due to a lack of technical knowledge among healthcare workers, technological limitations in acquiring and analyzing the data, and improper governance of healthcare big data. Despite these limitations, the medical literature is flooded with big data–related articles, and most of these are filled with abstruse terminologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, artificial neural network, and algorithm. Many of the recent articles are restricted to neurosurgical registries, creating a false impression that big data is synonymous with registries. Others advocate that the utilization of big data will be the panacea to all healthcare problems and research in the future. Without a proper understanding of these principles, it becomes easy to get lost without the ability to differentiate hype from reality. To that end, the authors give a brief narrative of big data analysis in neurosurgery and review its applications, limitations, and the challenges it presents for neurosurgeons and healthcare professionals naive to this field. Awareness of these basic concepts will allow neurosurgeons to understand the literature regarding big data, enabling them to make better decisions and deliver personalized care.

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Rosemary T. Behmer Hansen, Nicole A. Silva, Rebecca Cuevas, Samantha Y. Cerasiello, Angela M. Richardson, Antonios Mammis, and Anil Nanda

OBJECTIVE

Current data on fellowship choice and completion by neurosurgical residents are limited, especially in relation to gender, scholarly productivity, and career progression. The objective of this study was to determine gender differences in the selection of fellowship training and subsequent scholarly productivity and career progression.

METHODS

The authors conducted a quantitative analysis of the fellowship training information of practicing US academic neurosurgeons. Information was extracted from publicly available websites, the Scopus database, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments website.

RESULTS

Of 1641 total academic neurosurgeons, 1403 (85.5%) were fellowship trained. There were disproportionately more men (89.9%) compared to women (10.1%). A higher proportion of women completed fellowships than men (p = 0.004). Proportionally, significantly more women completed fellowships in pediatrics (p < 0.0001), neurooncology (p = 0.012), and critical care/trauma (p = 0.001), while significantly more men completed a spine fellowship (p = 0.012). Within those who were fellowship trained, the academic rank of professor was significantly more commonly held by men (p = 0.001), but assistant professor was held significantly more often by women (p = 0.017). The fellowships with the largest mean h-indices were functional/stereotactic, pediatrics, and critical care/trauma. Despite more women completing neurooncology and pediatric fellowships, men had significantly greater h-indices in these subspecialties compared to women. Women had more industry funding awards than men in pediatrics (p < 0.0001), while men had more in spine (p = 0.023).

CONCLUSIONS

Women were found to have higher rates for fellowship completion compared with their male counterparts, yet had lower scholarly productivity in every subspecialty. Fellowship choice remains unequally distributed between genders, and scholarly productivity and career progression varies between fellowship choice.

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Michael S. Rallo, Omar Ashraf, Fareed Jumah, Gaurav Gupta, and Anil Nanda

OBJECTIVE

Engagement in research and scholarship is considered a hallmark of neurosurgical training. However, the participation of neurosurgical trainees in this experience has only recently been analyzed and described in the United States, with little, if any, data available regarding the research environment in neurosurgical training programs across the globe. Here, the authors set out to identify requirements for research involvement and to quantify publication rates in leading neurosurgical journals throughout various nations across the globe.

METHODS

The first aim was to identify the research requirements set by relevant program-accrediting and/or board-certifying agencies via query of the literature and published guidelines. For the second part of the study, the authors attempted to determine each country’s neurosurgical research productivity by quantifying publications in the various large international neurosurgical journals—World Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurosurgery, and Neurosurgery—via a structured search of PubMed.

RESULTS

Data on neurosurgical training requirements addressing research were available for 54 (28.1%) of 192 countries. Specific research requirements were identified for 39 countries, partial requirements for 8, and no requirements for 7. Surprisingly, the authors observed a trend of increased average research productivity with the absence of designated research requirements, although this finding is not unprecedented in the literature.

CONCLUSIONS

A variety of countries of various sizes and neurosurgical workforce densities across the globe have instituted research requirements during training and/or prior to board certification in neurosurgery. These requirements range in intensity from 1 publication or presentation to the completion of a thesis or dissertation and occur at various time points throughout training. While these requirements do not correlate directly to national research productivity, they may provide a foundation for developing countries to establish a culture of excellence in research.