Robert F. Spetzler, MD

Dr. Robert Spetzler of Barrow Neurological Institute.By the early 1980s, John Green, MD, who had devoted 20 years of his life to building Barrow Neurological Institute into a regionally known center for brain and spine disorders, began his search for a successor. He chose Robert F. Spetzler, MD, of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, who, in 1983, assumed the J.N. Harber Chair of Neurological Surgery at Barrow. When Dr. Green retired in 1986, Dr. Spetzler became director of the Institute. Under Dr. Spetzler’s leadership, Barrow has grown from a regional center into an internationally recognized center of excellence, attracting healthcare professionals and patients from around the world. The Institute is home to highly sought-after and diverse residency programs and a robust clinical and basic research program.

Dr. Spetzler’s many accomplishments include these noteworthy achievements:

  • Has been instrumental in creating the highly respected Barrow neurosurgical residency program, now the largest in the nation.
  • Has performed more aneurysm procedures than any other neurosurgeon—more than 6,200 as of June 2014.
  • Played a dominant role in developing the “cardiac standstill” into an effective surgical technique for treating large or dangerous cerebral aneurysms. He has performed more of these operations than any other surgeon in the world.
  • Has published more than 300 articles in refereed journals, 169 book chapters and 13 neurosurgical textbooks, and made more than 850 professional presentations.
  • Has helped develop surgical tools used in neurosurgical suites around the world.
  • Has developed new approaches to reaching lesions in the difficult skull-base area of the brain. Because of these approaches, many patients with previously inoperable lesions can now be treated. 
  • Was named Honored Guest by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in 1994, the youngest member to receive the prestigious award.

A former chief resident at Barrow praised Dr. Spetzler’s qualities as a surgeon: “His confidence, courage and inner strength are the qualities that emerge in the operating room and leave those around him inspired. His mentorship inspires young neurosurgeons to follow his example, to aspire to his level of expertise, and to perpetuate a difficult and demanding craft.”

Never one to sit around, Dr. Spetzler spends his free time with his family, mountain biking with Barrow residents or leading his colleagues in a rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon. He is an accomplished pianist and an enthusiastic swimmer, tennis player, skier and scuba diver.


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