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Internationally known professor and researcher delivers annual Teachenor-Williamson keynote

February 03, 2020

Anil Nanda, M.D., MPH, and Paul J. Camarata, MD
Anil Nanda, M.D., MPH, and Paul J. Camarata, MD

In a keynote address laced with candor and humor, Anil Nanda, M.D., MPH, delivered the 2019 Teachenor-Williamson Society Symposium lecture hosted by the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Nanda, professor and chair of neurosurgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and senior vice president for neurosurgical services at RWJ Barnabas Health, spoke to a crowd of about 100 faculty, residents and alumni; local and visiting neurosurgeons; and distinguished guests interested in the clinical neurosciences gathered at the InterContinental Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.

As part of his talk, "The Redemptive Strenuosities of a Neurosurgical Life," Nanda explored the intersection of art, literature and medicine and why it's such an honor to practice neurosurgery while touching on a range of themes, including calmness, failure, education, service, compassion and joy.

"This is a great craft and we are blessed to be practicing it," he said.

Calling it a great and humbling honor to be chosen as this year's Teachenor-Williamson Society keynote presenter, Nanda said educational activities like the symposium are the cornerstone of improvement.

"In this day and age, we have to improve our outcomes. It's for the safety of our populations. Our goal is to make it safe for patients and to have better outcomes. That awareness needs to be there among students, residents and colleagues," he said. "You're never too old to learn. That cycle is so important, so you learn, you implement and you have better outcomes. That's the cycle of improvement."

A well-known and respected researcher and teacher, Nanda also passed along advice for aspiring neurosurgeons.

"I always love Mother Teresa's line, ‘We're not here to do great things. We're here to do little things with great love.' I think compassion is so important. We all can be good doctors, but I think compassion is really what defines us," said Nanda, who also pointed to the words of James F. Keenan, a Jesuit priest, who defined mercy as a willingness to enter into the anarchy of another. "I think we do that every day and that is such a privilege, and to have that compassion defines all of us as human beings regardless of our faith, gender or race. It is the one thing that defines us and that's why this is a healing profession."

This year's Teachenor-Williamson Society Symposium was Oct. 11-12, and included a Friday evening dinner and keynote speaker followed by a slate of educational presentations on Saturday.

The annual event honors the department's tradition of excellence established by Frank Randall Teachenor, who founded the Section of Neurosurgery at KU Medical Center in 1924, and William P. Williamson, the program's first full-time head of neurosurgery.

Last modified: Feb 03, 2020
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