The Power of the Named Lecture

April 26, 2024

It is always an honor to be invited to deliver a named lecture — medicine abounds with these annual talks named for luminaries, historical figures, and prominent academics and clinicians.

Each June at Weill Cornell Medicine, our neurosurgery resident graduation tradition includes the annual Bronson Ray Lecture, which I inaugurated shortly after I assumed the department chair position in 2000. Bronson Ray (1904–1993) was the first director of neurosurgery at New York Hospital, long before there was a full-fledged department of neurological surgery, and he was a powerful figure in the field at the time. He was president of the AANS from 1958–1959, chairman of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgery from 1955 to 1965, and recipient of the AANS's Cushing Medal in 1981. When I became the first neurosurgeon-in-chief of Weill Cornell Medicine at the newly merged NewYork-Presbyterian hospital system, establishing a named lecture for Bronson Ray was one of my first priorities. Over the past two decades, the Bronson Ray Lecture has been delivered by such stars of neurosurgery as Ralph Dacey, Daniel Barrow, John Sampson, Nelson Oyesiku, and Richard Ellenbogen; the 2024 Bronson Ray Lecture will be delivered by Zoher Ghogawala, MD. It’s a time-tested way to preserve the legacy of the giants in our field.

Other notable named talks i­­nclude:

  • The Charles A. Elsberg Lecture is delivered annually at the New York Society of Neurosurgery. Dr. Elsberg (1871-1948) was a pioneer in spine surgery and one of the founders of the Society, and I had the honor of delivering that lecture myself in 2018.
  • Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery honors one of the founders of modern neurosurgery with the Harvey Cushing Lecture each year. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) is credited with developing some of the first surgical techniques in brain surgery as well as with the discovery of the endocrine disorder that now bears his name.
  • The Congress of Neurological Surgeons hosts two notable talks during its annual meeting. The Dandy Lecture is in honor of Walter Dandy (1886-1946) another one of the founders of neurosurgery, particularly for cerebrovascular conditions, so he’s a particular hero of mine. I have a special place in my heart for the other talk, the Michael L. J. Apuzzo Lecture on Creativity and Innovation. I have known the iconic Mike Apuzzo for decades, and I’m honored to have him working with our department now, mentoring young neurosurgeons, residents, and medical students.
  • Yale University also hosts an annual Apuzzo Lecture, which was delivered this year by James Rutka of Toronto SickKids on the topic of Leadership in Neurosurgery. The event was attended by a veritable Who’s Who in neurosurgery, honoring both Dr. Apuzzo and Dr. Rutka.

Apuzzo Lecture at Yale, 2024

All of these lectures give us the opportunity to carry the legacy of these giants to the neurosurgeons of tomorrow, so they understand the great footsteps in which they follow.

When a lecture is named for a colleague and friend, it becomes personal. I was saddened to have to miss this year’s Dean G. Lorich, MD, Memorial Lecture at Penn Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania, but glad to have received the video recording. Dean (1963-2017) was not just an excellent orthopedic surgeon and my colleague across the street at the Hospital for Special Surgery, he was also a friend. Dean was an undergraduate at Penn, went to medical school at Penn, and completed his residency there — he was a Penn man, to say the least. It seemed only right that the Dean Lorich Lecture was inaugurated there in 2021. He was admired — revered, even — by his students, residents, and peers, and his legacy lives on around the world, but nowhere as much at Penn.  This year, Gerard Slobogean, MD, MPH, delivered the Dean Lorich Lecture, with two of Dean’s family members in the audience. Dean left us far too soon, and I am so glad to see his name live on.

More blog posts


Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787