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Neurology Residency Program

An Early History, by Dr. Roy Wright


Query: When did the Department of Neurology train the first class of Residents?

          We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust's jars of preserves 
          in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized 
          with every act of recollection.

                                                                         -Oliver Sacks, Hallucination

​G. Milton Shy, MD ​Head of Neurology (under Medicine) ​1951-1953
​James W. Stephens, MD ​Head of Neurology (under Medicine) ​1953-1966
​James H. Austin, MD Head of Neurology ​1967-1974
​Chairman of Neurology ​1974-1983
​Steven P. Ringel, MD ​Acting Chairman of Neurology ​1983-1985
​Don Gilden, MD ​Chair of Neurology ​1985-1997
​Louise Baum Endowed Chair of Neurology ​1997-2009
​Kenneth L. Tyler, MD ​Reuler-Lewin Family Professor and Chair of Neurology ​2009-2017
​Louise Baum Endowed Chair of Neurology ​2017-
 
The first formal year of the University of Colorado Residency Program took place in 1953, when Dr. James Stephens came from Canada to be the Head of the Division of Neurology and started a formal Neurology Residency Program. Prior to that time, there is a vague history of occasional persons who were supervised by in-town clinical faculty physicians.

Dr. Milton Shy had been Head of the Division of Neurology before Dr. Stephens and very highly recommended him to be his successor. Dr. Stephens trained at Queen Square Hospital in London under Sir Charles Symonds. He then went to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, and later came to Denver.
 
At this point a favorable coincidence involving our Dr. Stuart Schneck and Dr. Stephens took place that is very important to our own history. Dr. Schneck was visiting Dr. Fritts, Head of Medicine at Denver General Hospital, for possible medical residency just as Dr. Stephens walked into Denver General to start his new job as Head of the Division of Neurology at the University Medical School. This meeting in 1953 resulted in Dr. Schneck becoming acquainted with Dr. Stephens, and eventually the two became fast friends.
 
After completing his Residency in Medicine and serving in the US Air Force as a Flight Surgeon for two years, Dr. Schneck returned to Denver for Neurology Residency under Dr. Stephens in 1957. Dr. Schneck completed his residency and became a faculty member in 1961, serving with Dr. Stephens. The two men were similar in many ways, and their collaboration resulted in an excellent Residency program. Both were superb teachers, highly respected clinicians, and both set high standards. Everyone I have talked to about this period of time has reported a very good experience and good rapport. These residents seemed to have enjoyed working with high caliber Neurologists.
 
In 1962, Dr. Stephens became Professor of the Division of Neurology. The Residents, under Dr. Stephens, included Drs. Michael Cherington, Peter Quintero, Don Ryan, B. Todd Troost, and Jonathan Walker. The faculty during those several years included Dr. Ralph Druckman. Dr. Ed Lewin came in January, 1963 to be the Chief of Neurology at the Denver VA Hospital, following the departure of his predecessor, Dr. Arnold Greenhouse, who left for the University of New Mexico.
 
Dr. Stephens died in 1966 at age 46. In his honor, the Stephens Visiting Professorship was founded by the Department of Neurology, and subsequently a Department library was also named for Dr. Stephens. Dr. Schneck wrote the obituary for Dr. Stephens.
 
Dr. Schneck became nationally recognized. He was selected as President of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He was highly regarded at Washington University, St. Louis, as I found out when I was applying for the faculty position here. He became a valued advisor for the Medical School, Medical Staff, and University Hospital. He was also widely considered as a top-notch Neurologist by other Neurologists and other physicians.
 
Dr. James Austin became Department Chairman in 1967. In 1968, Hans Neville and Michael Brooke joined the faculty for Neuromuscular Clinic, and Dr. Roy Wright joined the faculty as a general Neurologist. Later, Dr. Steven Ringel replaced Dr. Brooke. Dr. Mark Spitz became chief of the Epilepsy Clinic. At Denver General, Dr. Richard Beresford, Dr. Phil Yarnell, Dr. Mike Earnest, and subsequently Dr. Richard Hughes joined the faculty.

After this time and later, residents included Drs. Michael Ament, Bill Bentley, Alexander Feldman, Pat Fodor, Paul Foley, George Garmany, Neill R. Graff-Radford, James Grotta, Eric Hammerberg, Ian Happer, Scott London, Trevor McNutt, James Paskavic, Bruce Price, K. (Ravi) Ravilochan, Doug Redosh, Bob Scaer, Cliff Sebold, Don Smith, David Song, Marc Treihaft, John Towbin, and many others. Past residents who are now Department of Neurology faculty include: Drs. AI Anderson, Jeffrey Bennett, Timothy Bernard, Marius Birlea, Haley Burke, Christopher Filley, Lauren Frey, James Kelly, Drew Kern, Olga Klepitskaya, Benzi Kluger, Maureen Leehey, Edward Maa, Maria Nagel, Chantal O’Brien, Julie Parsons, Archana Shrestha, Teri Schreiner and Laura Strom.
 
Clinical Faculty were very helpful in all of these years, with Drs. Stanley Ginsburg, Sidney Duman, Ralph Round, and Don Smith at the Denver VA. The Neurology Clinic also had numerous Clinical Faculty teaching regularly. Dr. Malvin Cole came monthly from Casper, Wyoming to help!
 
Dr. Christopher Filley returned from Fellowships in Boston, and set up a Behavioral Neurology Clinic. Dr. John Corboy developed a Multiple Sclerosis Clinic. Dr. Maureen Leehey increased the Movement Disorders Clinic to include Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, in concert with Dr. Steve Ojemann and Dr. Olga Klepitskaya. Dr. Mark Spitz of Epilepsy added, with Dr. Ken Winston, Neurosurgery for treatment of Epilepsy. The EEG Laboratory expanded to Monitoring for Epilepsy. From 1991 to 2001, I had the pleasure of serving as the Practice Director of the Neurology Clinic.
 
Other specialties, such as Neuroradiology, with Dr. John Stears, and Neurosurgery, with Dr. Keasley Welch, Dr. Glenn Kindt and subsequently, Dr Kevin Lillehei and Dr. Bob Breeze, were part of the educational rotation for the Neurology Residents. Neurosurgery Residents also rotated through Neurology at times.
 
I have not reported at length on the Pediatric Neurology Resident Program, in part because of the overlaps involved. However, I did know Dr. Gerhard Nellhaus and understand he was the first chief. Dr. David Stumpf, Dr. Paul Moe, Dr. Paul Levisohn, Dr. Alan Seay, Dr. Kevin Staley and Dr. Julie Parsons were involved as Pediatric Faculty.
 
Dr. Schneck trained in Neuropathology at Columbia University School of Medicine and then returned to this position. Several years later, Dr. Bette K. DeMasters became head of the Neuropathology Division. Dr. Steven Ringel became Acting Chairman of Neurology (1983) until Dr. Don Gilden became Chairman (1985).
 
This Report concludes my efforts at giving information about the Residency Program. This era of the Program, from my point of view, ended in 2001, with my retirement. I have reviewed the large amount data for the continuing Residency Program, which is well-documented in the Neurology office. It includes the remarkable increase in the size and depth of the Department, under the direction of Dr. Don Gilden (Chair, 1985-2009) and, currently, under Dr. Kenneth Tyler (2009-), Professor and Chair.
 
The Medical School moved from the old Colorado and Ninth Avenue campus to the wonderful Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora in 2001.
 
I have enjoyed the opportunity of performing this task as requested by Dr. Al Anderson, Professor and Vice Chair of Education, Department of Neurology.
 
-Roy R. Wright, M.D., FAAN, Retired Clinical Professor of Neurology; Co-Founder (1973), Colorado Society of Clinical Neurologists. June 27, 2017
 
The information for this document came from two interviews with Dr. Stuart Schneck and one from Dr. Ed Lewin, as well as from the memories that pertain to my arrival at the Medical Center in 1968 and my following service. Dr. Anderson's request has given me a nice chance to pull up the recollections of this interval. Diane Strong, MBA, Executive Assistant to Dr. Kenneth Tyler, Professor and Chair of Neurology, was very helpful.