Honored Doctor a tribute to His Mentors

Doctor and mentee pose for picture in hospital

2010 Van Wagenen Fellow Andrew Grande, MD, left, with mentor John M. Tew, MD, who won the prestigious fellowship in 1969. Photo by Martha Headworth/Mayfield Clinic.

Andrew Grande, MD, is many things: smart, skillful, striving, idealistic. He is also the product of invaluable mentoring. His story of achievement reminds us of our responsibility to nurture potential within our midst.

Dr. Grande, a fellow in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Neurosurgery, has been named the winner of the 2010 William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship, a $120,000 award that funds a year of academic study abroad for a young neurosurgeon of great promise. It is arguably the world’s biggest prize for neurosurgeons who have recently completed their residency training.

Dr. Grande will study with Professor Magdalena Götz at the Munich Institute of Stem Cell Research (Helmholtz Zentrum München), where he will focus on neural (brain) stem cells. First discovered in the 1990s, neural stem cells have the potential to divide and produce new cells, a process called neurogenesis. Dr. Grande dreams that one day he will be able to help the brain replenish cells in areas that have been compromised by serious injury, such as stroke.

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Dr. Grande has long been driven to succeed in medicine. During medical school at the University of Minnesota, he would eye the door handle to the neurosurgical residents’ office, “as if it was a lock to this realm that I couldn’t possibly get into.” But he is also quick to “give credit where credit is due,” and he points to numerous mentors who helped shape his education and career every step of the way.

It was during his residency at UC, while working in the neurogenesis lab of Masato Nakafuku, MD, PhD, a professor in the Division of Developmental Biology, that he believed winning the Van Wagenen Fellowship was possible.  “Under Dr. Nakafuku’s tutelage I have learned that dreams can indeed come to fruition,” Dr. Grande says. “He has been instrumental in teaching me to be a good scientist with solid fundamentals and to enjoy the scientific method. He is demanding because he wants you to learn. He pushes you to be your best.”

Dr. Grande also credits John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of UCNI, and his current neurovascular mentors: Mario Zuccarello, MD, Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery; Andrew Ringer, MD, Associate Professor and Director of Endovascular Neurosurgery; and Todd Abruzzo, MD, Assistant Professor of Neuro-radiology.

Andy Grande reminds us of the importance of being available and supportive of young people as they strive to achieve their goals. The opportunity to be an impactful mentor is precious. While the mentor may help build an apprentice’s budding career, the apprentice may in turn extend his mentor’s legacy into perpetuity.

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