Dr. E. Sander Connolly Jr. Named Neurosurgeon-in-Chief at Columbia
On August 1, 2020, E. Sander Connolly Jr., MD, became the seventh Neurosurgeon-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Connolly succeeds Robert A. Solomon, MD, who has held the position since 1997 and who continues in practice as a member of the Neurological Surgery faculty.
One of the nation’s leading experts in stroke, Dr. Connolly is also Director of the Cerebrovascular Research Laboratory and Surgical Director of the Neurological Intensive Care Unit. Working with a team of critical care and stroke neurologists, Dr. Connolly has focused his clinical practice on the microsurgical treatment of patients with brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, and spontaneous hemorrhages, as well as cerebral ischemia due to atherosclerosis and other vasculopathies.
“The patients who are most impacted here are those that nobody thinks will ever get better, and lo and behold, they walk into your office intact again,” says Dr. Connolly. “I find that quite impressive and humbling.”
Dr. Connolly, who was raised in New Orleans where his father was the Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Ochsner Clinic, completed his surgical internship, residency, and fellowship training in neurological surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. In 1997, he joined the faculty in the same year that Dr. Solomon moved into his role as Chair.
“There are very few places where I could have a practice like I have at Columbia,” says Dr. Connolly. “In the areas in which I work – stroke and critical care – my colleagues are among the most renowned in the world and have advanced the field in their respective specialties. It’s been very gratifying to be able to collaborate with them.”
“I am honored to lead this historic department with such a tradition of excellence and innovation. I’m looking forward to preserving those traditions and building on a strong foundation in clinical care, research, and the training of the next generation of neurosurgeons.” — Dr. E. Sander Connolly
Dr. Connolly’s clinical research efforts have been directed at improving the functional outcome of patients with cerebrovascular emergencies, as well as the cognitive outcome of patients undergoing cerebral revascularization with an emphasis on statins as potential neuroprotective agents. As one of the nation’s experts on stroke, aneurysms, and AVMs, he helped develop a scoring system to aid physicians in the management of unruptured intracranial aneurysms and American Stroke Association guidelines for treating such aneurysms. In addition, he has worked collaboratively on the genetics of familial cerebral aneurysms.
“We have a world-class neuroscience institute with a very broad research program in stroke,” notes Dr. Connolly. “We’ve developed agents that can reduce inflammation and potentially improve stroke outcomes that have gone to clinical trials and developed devices that have gone into the clinic. There are very few fields like neurosurgery where you have such a tangible and immediate effect on patients’ lives.”
Building on a Tradition of Excellence
“It was a lifelong dream to become Chair of such a great institution and to manage a group of the finest academic neurosurgeons in the country,” says Dr. Solomon. “My goal was to create an environment where patients can be helped no matter what they need, whether it’s endovascular treatment, stereotactic radiosurgery, or open microneurosurgery.”
Dr. Solomon began his long association with Columbia as a resident in 1980, followed by his fellowship in neurosurgery. He then joined the Columbia faculty under the leadership of Bennett M. Stein, MD, who was building a new kind of department comprised of subspecialists, a framework that Dr. Solomon expanded upon when he became Chair. Under his leadership, the department has grown from seven full-time neurosurgeons to 18 faculty members representing the full range of neurosurgical and neuroendovascular subspecialties.
Both Dr. Connolly and Dr. Solomon have influenced and continue to contribute to the field of neurosurgery with leadership positions in national organizations. Dr. Solomon served as Chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and he is a Past President of the New York State Neurosurgical Society, the Society of University Neurosurgeons, and the American Academy of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Connolly is immediate Past President of the Neurosurgical Society of America and also served as President of the Society of University Neurosurgeons, and as Director for the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American Board of Medical Specialties. Currently, he is a board member of the National Resident Matching Program and is on the editorial advisory board of Neurosurgery.