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James Garber Galbraith

The Department of Neurosurgery at UAB was initially founded by James Garber Galbraith, M.D. Neurosurgeons and residents within the department aspire to continue the traditions of clinical excellence, honorable conduct and dedication to their patients and residents, which Galbraith exemplified.

A Rich Heritage

In 1954, James Garber Galbraith, M.D., established the UAB Division of Neurosurgery within the Department of Surgery under the direction of Chief of Surgery Champ Lyons, M.D., serving as the division director on a volunteer basis. At the division’s initial foundation, Galbraith was joined by Griffith R. Harsh III, M.D., who served as an instructor under Galbraith.

Although Galbraith's main area of interest was the surgical treatment of meningiomas, he was one of the first neurosurgeons to perform carotid endarterectomy procedures, while Harsh specialized in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease and brain tumors. As compassionate providers, skilled surgeons and excellent mentors and instructors, Galbraith and Harsh contributed to the neurosurgical literature and were active in state and national professional societies.

In 1978, Department of Surgery Chair John Kirklin, M.D., appointed Harsh to succeed Galbraith as the division director of neurosurgery after Galbraith’s retirement. Harsh led clinical and residency training efforts in neurosurgery through October 1986. During his tenure as division chair, his recruitment efforts nearly doubled neurosurgical productivity at UAB.

In 1986, after a nationwide search, UAB Chief of Surgery Arnold G. Diethelm, M.D., appointed M. Stephen Mahaley, M.D., to succeed Harsh as neurosurgery division director. Mahaley's vision was to build a nationally distinguished multidisciplinary neuro-oncology service at UAB. Mahaley, who resigned due to illness in 1988, was succeeded by Richard B. Morawetz, M.D., as the division's director.

Although he was a general neurosurgeon for most of his career, Morawetz also had a keen interest in neuro-oncology. Like Mahaley, Morawetz was committed to building a multidisciplinary "Center of Excellence" in the field, integrating laboratory and clinical science. Favoring sub-specialization in neurosurgery, he recruited for and helped build nationally recognized, well-staffed programs in pediatric neurosurgery, vascular neurosurgery, spinal surgery and epilepsy surgery.

In 1995, Morawetz recruited neuro-oncologist James M. Markert, M.D. Markert, who completed his residency at the University of Michigan and a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, brought with him the concepts of molecular biology, viral vectors and gene therapy.

On Oct. 1, 2013, the Department of Neurosurgery became the 24th academic department in the UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Markert, who became the director of the Division of Neurosurgery in 2006, is now the inaugural chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. Under Markert’s direction, the department serves UAB Hospital, Children's of Alabama, Medical West, The Kirklin Clinic, UAB Highlands and the Birmingham Veteran's Administration Hospital, and performs more than 4,000 procedures annually.

Five years after the establishment of the UAB Department of Neurosurgery, the Department saw the development of its first division. On Oct. 1, 2018, the Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery was named a division within the Department of Neurosurgery. The now-Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery is the first-ever division to be named under the Department of Neurosurgery and is currently led by Director Jeffery P. Blount, M.D.