Neurology & Neurosurgery Advances


Advances in Neurology & Neurosurgery

Donald O. Quest, MD, Honored for Lifetime of Service

image of Dr. Donald O. Quest

Dr. Donald O. Quest

The Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS) has awarded Donald O. Quest, MD, J. Lawrence Pool Professor of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University, the 2020 Distinguished Service Award for a lifetime of service to graduate and postgraduate education and research. SNS is the world’s oldest neurosurgery organization and the primary academic society in the field. It was just four years ago that the SNS selected Dr. Quest to be the inaugural recipient of its Medical Student Teaching Award, stating at the time, “No contemporary neurosurgeon has influenced so many people to choose a career in neurosurgery.” And four years before that, he received the Cushing Medal, the highest honor granted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons for his many years of outstanding leadership, dedication, and contributions to the field.

To the colleagues who have worked along side him since Dr. Quest began his career in neurosurgery in 1976 and the countless medical students and residents he has mentored and trained, the accrual of these and many other awards comes as no surprise. But Dr. Quest says that, to him, his greatest contributions to the field aren’t attached to an organization or a title but rather his “commitment to enhancing the field and educating people, and a devotion to what I consider the right things: empathy, caring for patients, using good judgment, and doing the very best work I can.”

“It has been a delight for me to have Don as a mentor, colleague, and friend since I first began my residency in 1984,” says Paul C. McCormick, MD, MPH, Director of The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York. “He personifies the values, principles, work ethic, and commitment to the science and practice of neurosurgery. For so many of us Don has been a role model and advocate, not just during medical school and residency but also throughout our careers. When asked why Columbia University is so successful in attracting medical students to pursue a career in neurosurgery, I answer in two words, ‘Don Quest.’”

Over the years, Dr. Quest has been active in national neurosurgical organizations and has held several leadership positions, including President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Academy of Neurological Surgeons, and most recently the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Through his interests in neurosurgical training and practitioner quality, he was elected a Director of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and went on to become the Secretary and Chairman. He was then appointed to the Residency Review Committee for Neurological Surgery, for which he served as a member and then Chairman for six years.

During his distinguished career, Dr. Quest specialized in carotid artery surgery and cervical and lumbar spine disease. He continues to see patients, who benefit from his decades of experience and, as an Assistant Dean of Students at Columbia, he mentors 30 medical students in each medical school class. “I’m their advisor, I’m their mentor, I’m their advocate, and that’s apart from teaching them neurosurgery,” says Dr. Quest, who is also Assistant Dean for Admissions. “I really love Columbia, and I love neurosurgery, so I try to give back to those coming into the field, and into medicine. I try to help them and guide them. That’s what my goals are now.”