Leading Neurosurgeon Named Acting Dean of Yale School of Medicine

President Richard C. Levin today named Dr. Dennis D. Spencer, the Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery and Chair of Neurosurgery, as acting dean of the Yale School of Medicine.

Spencer, who has an international reputation in the surgical treatment of neurological diseases causing epilepsy, will serve as dean until a permanent dean is appointed to succeed Dr. David A. Kessler, who today was named dean of the school of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

“I wish to thank Dr. Spencer for agreeing to serve as acting dean while the search for a new dean is conducted,” Levin said. “As a long-time faculty member and brilliant surgeon, he is well-respected among his colleagues and has a deep knowledge of the medical school. Under his leadership, the school will continue to pursue its ambitious plans for faculty recruitment and space renovation.”

A graduate of Washington University School of Medicine, Spencer joined the Yale neurosurgery faculty after completing his residency at Yale in 1977. He became chief of neurosurgery in 1987 and chair of the department in 1997.

He developed a widely used surgical approach for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and is a pioneer in stereotaxic cellular replacement therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Spencer directs the surgical arm of the Yale Epilepsy Program, one of the most established centers in the world for the comprehensive treatment of patients with epilepsy. The interdisciplinary program brings together neurosurgery, neurology, neuropsychology, psychiatry, social workers and neuroradiologists in a phased evaluation of patients who have diagnostic and/or therapeutic problems. The program successfully treats patients from around the world.

Spencer’s research has brought together basic scientists and research clinicians around a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program project grant concerning the neurobiological study of human epileptogenic tissue. Study techniques include high field MR spectroscopy, intraoperative C13 glucose turnover studies, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology and microdialysis, immunohistochemistry, confocal and EM microscopy and molecular biology. Spencer has also interacted with the cellular transplant program directing the human investigational arm of fetal tissue transplantation for Parkinson’s disease.

A member of many professional societies and boards, Spencer has received the American Epilepsy Society’s clinical research award, chaired the American Board of Neurological Surgery and served on numerous medical school committees.

Kessler, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was appointed dean in 1997 by Levin.

“David Kessler brought a unique array of talents and experience to the medical school,” Levin said. “The school has made dramatic progress during his tenure and I speak for the entire University community in thanking him for his dedicated service and wishing him the best as he takes on an exciting new challenge.”

A highlight of Kessler’s deanship was the opening in May 2003 of a new $176 million research and teaching facility for the medical school at 300 Cedar Street in New Haven. The state-of-the-art facility, with space for 700 researchers, is part of a $500 million investment in medical school facilities and programs announced by Levin in February 2000.

The Yale University School of Medicine is known throughout the world as one of the leading centers for biomedical research, education and advanced health care. Founded in 1810, the medical school has grown to include every modern medical discipline. Its faculty includes some of the world’s most respected scholars in medicine, public health and biomedical science.

Yale consistently ranks among the handful of leading recipients of research funding from the NIH and other organizations supporting the biomedical sciences. The medical school’s unique curriculum, known as the Yale System, promotes teaching in small seminar, conference and tutorial settings, and requires student self-evaluation, independent thinking and investigation.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326