William P. Van Wagenen (1897–1961): pupil, mentor, and neurosurgical pioneer

Historical vignette

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  • Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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William Perrine (“Van”) Van Wagenen (1897–1961) was the first Chief of Neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), serving from 1928 to 1954, and was a leading figure in 20th-century neurosurgery. He was a devoted pupil of Dr. Harvey Cushing and helped to found the Harvey Cushing Society (now the AANS) in honor of his mentor and was elected as its first President in 1932. He served as the 27th President of the Society of Neurological Surgeons in 1952. Upon his death in 1961 he bequeathed an endowment for the Van Wagenen Fellowship, which has advanced the education of many leaders in American neurosurgery. His legacy of operative skill, his commitment to resident education and research in neurological disease, his inspiration for the foundation of the Cushing Brain Tumor registry, and his contributions to organized neurosurgery form the foundation of the legacy of neurosurgery at URMC.

Abbreviation used in this paper:

URMC = University of Rochester Medical Center.

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  • 1

    Mathews MS, , Linskey ME, & Binder DK: William P. van Wagenen and the first corpus callosotomies for epilepsy. Historical vignette. J Neurosurg 108:608613, 2008

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  • 2

    Rhoads CP, & Van Wagenen WP: Observations on the histology of the tumors of the nervous acusticus. Am J Pathol 4:145152.7, 1928

  • 3

    Van Wagenen WP: The Röntgenological localization of spinal subarachnoid block by the use of air in the subarachnoid space. Ann Surg 99:939943, 1934

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  • 4

    Van Wagenen WP: A surgical approach for the removal of certain pineal tumors; report of a case. Surg Gynecol Obstet 53:216220, 1931

  • 5

    Van Wagenen WP, & Herren RY: Surgical division of the commissural pathways in the corpus callosum: relation to spread of an epileptic attack. Arch Neurol Psychiatry 44:740759, 1940

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