Matthew Howard was born on June 9, 1959 in Manchester, Connecticut. His father was a career Army officer and the Howard family lived in locations throughout the United States and Europe. As an undergraduate student at Tufts University, he was a member of the football and baseball teams, majored in biology and physics, was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated magna cum laude in 1981. While at Tufts, one of his physics professors, Allan Cormack, was awarded a Nobel Prize for research work that made possible the development of the CT scanner. Exposure to Professor Cormack and his innovative research influenced Dr. Howard’s decision to pursue a career in medicine with a particular emphasis on applying principals of physics to the challenges of medicine.
Soon after enrolling in medical school at the University of Virginia, he discovered that academic neurosurgery, as promulgated by Dr. John Jane and his trainees, was the answer to his career quest. As a medical student, he worked extensively with Dr. Sean Grady, a neurosurgery resident at the time, as well as Professor Rogers Ritter of the Department of Physics. Together, they formulated ideas and began research and development work on the concept of magnetic surgery, whereby devices introduced into the body are controlled with magnetic fields rather than mechanical means.
Dr. Howard received his neurosurgery training at the University of Washington under the directorship of Dr. H. Richard Winn. Throughout this period, he was engaged in research and medical device development projects with other members of the department, including Drs. Ralph Dacey, Marc Mayberg, and Sean Grady. His clinical training included a one-year rotation at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital in London, England, during which time he carried out clinical research with Professor Anthony Bell and Mr. David Uttley. As a resident, Dr. Howard developed a research interest in cerebral cortical physiology and was awarded a two-year NIH fellowship to conduct electrophysiologic studies under the guidance of Professors Dan Simons and Ed Rubel. He also received clinical fellowship training in epilepsy surgery with Professor George Ojemann.
At the completion of his residency in 1993, Dr. Howard joined the neurosurgery faculty at the University of Iowa under the direction of Dr. John VanGilder. In an optimally supportive academic and surgical environment, Dr. Howard and colleagues developed new methods for obtaining research recordings of brain activity in neurosurgery patients and established a multi-disciplinary human brain physiology research program. This NIH-supported collaborative enterprise involves investigators from around the world and is directed at examining basic brain mechanisms that enable humans to communicate and experience emotions. Medical device inventions have progressed in parallel, including the magnetic surgery system, and has evolved into a large-scale commercial development program under the leadership of Dr. Ralph Dacey. Dr. Howard is named as the inventor on more than twenty U.S. patents and serves as an NIH study section member.
In July of 2001, Dr. Howard was appointed Head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa and directs his leadership efforts towards creating an ideal environment in which to train and practice academic neurosurgery. His wife, Delia Ray Howard, is a University of Virginia graduate and children’s book author. They have three girls–Caroline, Susanna, and Lily–and a dog.