From the Chair
Frederick G. Barker II, MD, FAANS
Fellow Members: As all Tumor Section members know, Andy Parsa, MD, PhD, FAANS, the next chair of our section, died unexpectedly early in the morning of Monday, April 13. He would have started his term as chair in just three weeks.
When I heard the news later that morning, in the midst of a busy clinic, I stopped for quite a while to think about the many ways in which things would be changed without Andy. The weeks and months since that Monday have filled in the outlines of that picture. Andy was one of his generation’s leading tumor neurosurgeons. His fundamentally irreparable loss has left many gaps for us to try to fill. From the standpoint of the section, our bylaws gave no guidance as to the leadership succession in case of an officer vacancy due to death, resignation or disability. Past Chair Fred Lang, MD, FAANS, and I sought the advice of our Advisory Board and our parent organizations, formulated a plan which was ratified by the Executive Committee at AANS in May. Steve Kalkanis, MD, FAANS, who was elected to serve as Andy’s successor as secretary-treasurer, has now started that term of service, which will be shortened to a year, during which I will continue to serve as Chair. At AANS 2016, Dr. Kalkanis will become chair for a two-year term. His secretary-treasurer will be chosen by election this fall. Going forward, our section bylaws will be modified by bylaws chair, Jason Heth, MD, FAANS, to prescribe an orderly leadership succession plan for any unexpected vacancy in an officer position.
Andy had an amazing number of ongoing roles in tumor neurosurgery and in neurosurgery more broadly as well. At the section’s 11th Satellite Meeting this spring in Washington, D.C., with virtually no notice, many section members stepped up in his absence. Manish Aghi, MD, PhD, FAANS, took over as presiding officer for the meeting; Jim Markert, MD, FAANS, gave a much appreciated talk on regulatory matters in surgical clinical trials; and Mike Vogelbaum, MD, PhD, FAANS, took over Andy’s sunrise “meet-the-professor” session on becoming involved in clinical trials directed toward young neurosurgeons. Andy was the leader of our section’s update course at AANS; Mitch Berger, MD, FAANS, assumed that role this spring. In 2016 this course will be split into a morning session on gliomas and metastases, led by Dr. Berger and Nader Sanai, MD, FAANS; a complementary afternoon course on extra-axial, pediatric and spine tumors will be led by Michael Link and Dr. Aghi. Andy was a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgery; Randy Jensen, MD, PhD, FAANS, and myself have been chosen to serve in his stead. Andy was the PI of a multicenter, randomized phase II protocol of a heat shock protein vaccine for recurrent malignant glioma, run through the NCI-funded Alliance cancer cooperative group; Alliance leadership has selected Ian Parney, MD, PhD, FAANS, and Orin Bloch, MD, to serve as co-PIs of this important ongoing trial. At the time of writing, his successor as Chair of Neurosurgery at Northwestern has not yet been named.
Although Andy had over 300 publications, a SPORE project, an active clinical practice and a major neurosurgical department, his most important professional roles – the ways in which he was most unique – are harder to list. He was a mentor to countless residents and medical students during his years on staff at Northwestern and University of California San Francisco, helping his trainees to become better clinicians, researchers and residents and acting as a tireless booster of their subsequent careers. In 2010 he won the Mentor of the Year award from UCSF School of Medicine. He was a wonderful host, and national meetings in San Francisco always included a pre-meeting party at his beautiful home overlooking the city from the slope of Mt. Sutro. Andy never tired of predicting how much more fun the section’s receptions would be when he was chair, and I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t true.
Both inside and outside the profession Andy was a tenacious and valuable friend. I recognized this the moment I heard of his death: my first instinct was to wish I could call him and ask him for advice. At his memorial service in Chicago’s Standard Club, of which Dr. Aghi and I and many other Section members attended, a large ballroom was full to overflowing with people who had come from across the country to remember Andy. Speaker after speaker took the podium to talk about friendships going back to residency, to medical school, to college, to high school; teammates from Yale soccer remembered his unique work ethic; friends from high school (he was captain of both track and soccer) remembered him as being like another member of their family. Jeff Bruce, MD, FAANS, gave a heartfelt talk about Andy as a resident at Columbia, a talk that Isabelle Germano, MD, FAANS, told me was among the most moving she had heard at the Northwestern memorial earlier that week. Isaac Yang, MD, FAANS, described the privilege of being trained by Andy. Northwestern colleagues spoke of his interactions with all at his new hospital, how impressive it was to see him handle the head of the hospital and the night security guard with the same respect and dignity. A close family member left the stage without speaking, his grief momentarily too deep for words.
Andy left a young family: his wife Charlotte Shum, MD, a hand surgeon at Northwestern, and three young children, twins Julia and Micheline and their younger brother Ismail. His family requested that memorial contributions be directed to an education fund for his children (Dr. Aghi can provide details). His closest professional family, of course, is us, his fellow tumor neurosurgeons. His main goal as section chair, as he told me many times in the last two years, was to establish a financial foundation for the Section to fund its own research fellowship. Toward that end we have established an Honor-Your-Mentor fund in Andy’s name at NREF (www.nref. org), which is open for contributions from section members in his honor and to which the section will be contributing. In my mind, I think his advice to us might be this: work harder, work faster and stay close to what is important in your work. And even more so, stay close to friends and family. I will miss him.
From the Fall 2015 Newsletter
Andrew Parsa giving opportunities Parsa Children Education Fund Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org Or, for mail or wire transfer options, contact Manish Aghi Gifts are divided equally among the three children. Andrew Parsa Fund (NREF) Tumorsection.org – follow link to donation page Or: www.nref.org > Honor Your Mentor > Andrew Parsa Fund Credit card options including structured gifts.