Fellowship Programs

Fellowship Program in Complex Spinal Surgery

Fellowship Director: Ziya L. Gokaslan, MD
Associate Fellowship Director – Dr. Adetokunbo Oyelese

The Brown Neurosurgery Spine Division is an academic multi-subspecialty program with 12 spine practitioners (of whom 7 are spine fellowship trained), 5 pain anesthesiologists/physiatrists and with subspecialization in degenerative, trauma, oncology, congenital, deformity, MIS, endoscopic and computer-assisted/robotic spine surgery.  The clinical program is split across 3 hospitals – 1 Level I Trauma Center and 2 Community Hospitals and accepts up to 3 spine fellows each year.  Fellows function as clinical instructors in neurosurgery with independent attending privileges and call responsibilities in general neurosurgery and spine and with mentored training in complex spine.

Aims and Goals

    1. To provide fellowship training for neurosurgeons interested in pursuing careers in academic spine surgery or specialized spine private practice
    2. As a fellowship/instructorship program, our goal is that graduates leave our program with competence in complex spine surgery (deformity surgery and spinal oncology), spine trauma, minimally invasive spine surgery, endoscopic spine surgery while also gaining significant exposure to congenital spinal disorders (tethered cord and Chiari malformation surgery) and computer-assisted navigation and robotic spine surgery. In collaboration with our radiation oncology colleagues, graduates also develop proficiency in spinal stereotactic radiosurgery treatment protocols.  Finally, fellows will have significant exposure to intracranial trauma management and general neurosurgical clinical management while on call.  This latter experience is helpful for those who sit for the neurosurgery board certification following training.

Clinical Structure

The curriculum is divided into three major blocks of total duration 4 (noncontiguous) months each:

    1. Complex (Spinal Oncology and Deformity) Spine Surgery:
    2. General (Degenerative and Trauma) Spine Surgery; Computer-Assisted Navigation and Robotic Spine Surgery:
    3. Outside Hospital Coverage and MIS/Endoscopic Spine Surgery/Research Block

Selection Process and Requirements:

    1. Applicants would be expected to have completed their neurosurgery residency at a US ACGME accredited residency program by the time of enrollment in the fellowship and be in good academic and professional standing
    2. Be considered board eligible by the ABNS
    3. Be eligible for a Rhode Island Medical License
    4. Submit an application that includes the following:
      • CV
      • Letter of interest and personal statement3 letters of recommendation, including one from the chair of their neurosurgery training program


Prior to starting the fellowship year, the fellowship director (Dr. Gokaslan) and associate fellowship director (Dr. Oyelese) will sit down with each fellow to understand their clinical and academic goals for the fellowship year and their professional goals thereafter based upon which an individual mentorship program will be put in place. Fellows will meet with Dr. Gokaslan quarterly and with their individual mentor monthly.  In addition, quarterly spine division dinners are held to provide a forum where fellows and faculty can exchange ideas.


    1. Conferences – We have several multidisciplinary spine conferences that we expect our fellows to participate in and help oversee
      • Multidisciplinary Degenerative Spine Forum – Mondays 7:30 AM
      • Combined Neurosurgery/Orthopedic Comprehensive Spine Conference – Mondays 8-9 AM
      • Fellows Complex Spine Conference – Mondays 4-5 PM
      • Multidisciplinary Spine Oncology Forum – Second Monday of the Month 3:30 PM
      • Monthly Spine Outcomes Research Meeting
  1. Teaching Responsibilities – Fellows will be expected to participate in teaching sessions for our residents and inpatient/outpatient midlevel practitioners
  2. Courses – Brown Neurosurgery has traditionally hosted a multi-institutional combined neurosurgery/orthopedic spine cadaver teaching lab for residents and fellows. We also host a hands-on cadaver lab typically at the beginning of the year for our incoming fellows to help increase their comfort level with certain complex spine surgical techniques
  3. Meetings – Our expectation and hope is that our fellows will submit and present their work at the national spine and neurosurgical meetings


    • Call Schedule:
      1. Primary Call – The primary call responsibilities in the department include general neurosurgery call and subspecialty call in spine, brain tumors, cerebrovascular neurosurgery and pediatrics. Call responsibilities are for 1 week (Monday to Sunday) at a time.  The spine fellows primary call responsibilities will include general neurosurgery call and spine subspecialty call for the same period.  The primary call frequency will be about one out of every 6-8 weeks.
      2. Backup Call – It is required that a neurosurgeon be on backup call and this assignment falls upon our spine fellows when a non-fellow neurosurgeon is on call and on one of our spine faculty when our spine fellows are on call. Backup call responsibilities include covering cases in the event of double emergencies (quite rare) and covering spine consults during the neurosurgery non-spine call week.

Past Complex Spine Fellows:

Hesham Soliman, MD, MSc – Assistant Professor; Director, Spinal Oncology Program; Associate Director, Spine Fellowship Program,  University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

Jared Fridley, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Clinical Director of Neurosurgery at Newport Hospital, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI

David Choi, MD – Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Surgery, University of Connecticut, Farmington CT

Thomas Kosztowski, MD – Neurosurgeon, Texas Back Institute, Plano, TX

Michael Galgano, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Director of Spinal Oncology, Director of Complex Spine Surgery, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY

Sean Barber, MD – Neurosurgeon, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX

Sanjay Konakondla, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Geisginer Health System, Danville, PA

Jonathan Nakhla, MD – Neurosurgeon, Mobile Infirmary, Mobile, AL

Joaquin Q. Camara, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI

Tianyi (Tim) Niu, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI

Kyle Mueller, MD – University of Pennsylvania

Zain Boghani, MD – Northeast Georgia Health System

José Fernández Abinader, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA

Patricia Leigh Zadnik Sullivan, MD – Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI

Ki Eun Chang, MD – Staff Neurosurgeon, Naval Hospital, San Diego, CA

Ken Maynard, MD – Staff Neurosurgeon, Portsmouth, NH

Sohail Syed, MD – Staff Neurosurgeon, University of Illinois, Peoria

Current Complex Spine Fellows:
Oluwaseun Akinduro, MD (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science)

Rafael De La Garza Ramos, MD (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)

For inquiries,
Please contact Krystyna Maxwell