Dr. Allan Levi Named Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery

Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D., has been named Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Levi, who holds appointments in neurological surgery, orthopedics and rehabilitation medicine, joined the Miller School in 1997. “Allan’s career has been a model of excellence in every aspect of academic neurosurgery — clinical care, research, teaching and administration,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth.

“He is the ultimate surgeon-scholar. I know that with Allan at the helm, the Department of Neurological Surgery will continue to grow exponentially and to deliver world-class performance at every level.”

Levi became Director of the Neurosurgical Spine Fellowship Program and Co-Director of the Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1998, and Chief of Neurospinal Services at JMH in 1999. In 2007, he was promoted to professor and named Chief of Neurosurgery at University of Miami Hospital. He is one of the leading researchers at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and in 2012 he received the Robert M. Buck Distinguished Chair in Neurological Surgery.

“It is with great pride that I pass the baton of leadership of the Department of Neurological Surgery to my internationally respected and brilliant colleague Allan Levi,” said outgoing Chair Barth A. Green, M.D. “I have worked with Allan for the last 20 years, since he began his voyage as a neuroscience graduate student with a stellar academic record. Early on it was obvious to all of his mentors and colleagues that Allan had extraordinary leadership skills and a tireless energy for achieving excellence.

As Allan’s career as a spine surgery specialist evolved, it became clear that being a talented physician and surgeon was not enough as he not only excelled in the operating room, but established an important role as a clinical scientist for The Miami Project.”

Levi received his M.D. degree in 1986 from the University of Ottawa and completed his residency in 1995 at the University of Toronto. During his residency, he spent three years at the Miller School to earn the first Ph.D. granted in neuroscience at UM in 1994. This was followed by spine fellowships at the University of Toronto and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

“I entered my residency when I was 24, and I started my first job when I was 35,” he said, “but it taught me the value of specialization. If you want to make an impact in a medical field, then you have to specialize.”

Levi’s own specialization was the result of having been mentored by some of the giants in the field of neurosurgery — Dr. Volker Sonntag at the Barrow Neurological Institute, Dr. Charles Tator at the University of Toronto, and Drs. Barth Green and Roberto Heros at the Miller School — as well as having had a world-class neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Bunge, as his Ph.D. thesis advisor.

“Dr. Levi is a dynamic physician and researcher who is adored by his patients and respected by his colleagues,” said Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System. “Under the leadership of Dr. Barth Green, Jackson has become one of the world’s leading medical centers for the most complex, groundbreaking spine and brain surgeries — and I know Dr. Levi will continue building upon that solid foundation.”

Levi says that helping to move the field of neurological surgery forward — finding novel treatments that can incrementally improve the lives of patients living with spinal cord injury — has been the most rewarding part of his career.

“Allan’s research enables him to bring exciting findings from the laboratory to the clinical arena,” Goldschmidt said. “His work with the human Schwann cell as a biological tool to help repair a severed spinal cord exemplifies this type of translational approach. In the past eight years, he has had the opportunity to bring basic science findings in cellular transplantation and neuroprotection discovered in our laboratories to patients with spinal cord and peripheral nerve injuries.”

“Dr. Levi has been an integral part of The Miami Project and our neurosurgery family for decades, and he is leading many of our cutting edge FDA-approved clinical trials,” said Marc Buoniconti, President of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. “I cannot think of a person better qualified to step into the role pioneered by Dr. Barth Green, who saved my life and those of countless others. The department is in great hands moving forward.”

Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., professor and Olemberg Chair of Neurology, said, “I look forward to continuing the long tradition of collaboration between our departments with Allan at the helm. We have many exciting opportunities to elevate the Miller School of Medicine neuroscience service line and advance our outstanding clinical, research and education programs.”

Levi is also a dedicated teacher in one of the largest neurosurgical programs in the country. This includes teaching clinical care and techniques of spine and peripheral nerve surgery to medical students, residents and spine fellows. Under his leadership, the neurological spine fellowship program has grown and now trains an average of three to four spine fellows each year. During the past 19 years, the program has trained 50 external fellows and 15 infolded fellows.

“It was no surprise when Allan assumed a leadership role in national neurosurgical education as director of the official board examination preparation course for all residents across our nation,” Green said. “Truly a renaissance man, Allan is an athlete who competes in marathons and triathlons and has led our departmental team of residents, fellows and faculty to national championships in sports as well as academics. He has contributed in a major way to our top 10 NIH ranking among the more than 100 neurosurgical residency training programs. His graduate school mentor, the world famous Richard Bunge, and Miami Project senior scientist Mary Bunge predicted Allan’s future as he excelled in so many ways, in each case achieving his goals with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.”

Levi is an elected member of two of the most prestigious neurosurgical societies — the American Academy of Neurosurgery and the Senior Society of Neurological Surgeons.

He is married to Teresa Rodriguez, an internationally known, award-winning news anchor for Univision. Between them they have four children – David, Jessica, Julian and Victor – ranging in age from 20 to 28.

“We were very lucky to be able to recruit Allan to be our Chair of Neurological Surgery,” Goldschmidt said. “He was sought after by top programs around the country.”

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