October 27-November 3, 2002
By Vini G. Khurana, MD, PhD
RUNN Faculty and Neurosurgical Resident, Mayo Clinic
Continuing to fulfill its mission statement to provide a creative and inspiring opportunity for state-of-the-art neurobiological learning and discussion, this year's RUNN course enjoyed its highest attendance in its 21-year history. In keeping with its tradition, the course was held on the campus of the world-renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) located in the beautiful Cape Cod township of Woods Hole, MA, a ferry's ride from Martha's Vineyard. Over the last two decades since its visionary inception by Dr. Henry Schmidek, the course has continued to flourish through the generous sponsorship of the Society of Neurological Surgeons (in neurosurgical circles, affectionately referred to as the "Senior Society"), the dedicated leadership of Dr. Issam Awad and co-directorship of Drs. Bruce Andersen, Robert Dempsey, Allan Friedman, Charles Hodge Jr., and Edward Oldfield, the skillful administration of Ms. Catherine Awad, and the enthusiasm and diversity of its faculty-speakers and resident-attendees.
This brief report, constructed from the perspective of both a neurosurgical resident and first-time RUNN faculty member, can only begin to touch upon the unique nature of this extraordinary course. To begin with, it can hardly be a coincidence that a course which revolves around the reasoning, scientific methods, and discoveries of neurobiology relevant to neurological surgery should be held at the MBL, widely regarded as a premiere national center for biology. It also remains awe-inspiring that such a comprehensive neuroscientific curriculum, representing the hundreds of years of combined clinical and research experiences of the speakers, can be delivered so smoothly in such a relaxed and cordial atmosphere. Further, in serving to highlight the interdependence of basic science and clinical practice, the course paves a critical pathway facilitating the ongoing development of the field of neurosurgery through essential translational research.
The 2002 RUNN Course Curriculum continued to uphold its rich and diverse traditions. A score of faculty members delivered 90-minute lectures on topics that spanned the gamut of neuroscience and neurobiology, including memory, cortical plasticity, angiogenesis, molecular genetics, cell signaling pathways, neural transplantation and regeneration, stem cell biology and therapeutics, genomics and gene therapy, convection delivery to the brain, CNS tumor molecular biology, synaptogenesis, glial barriers and scarring, cerebrovascular smooth muscle ion channel structure and function, CNS viral infections, apoptosis, olfaction, history of the MBL (including cell cycle discoveries, and squid giant axon neurophysiology), evidence-based neurosurgery, biological and artificial microprocessor systems, and neurosurgical career development and grantsmanship. This year's honored speaker was the renowned neurosurgeon-neuroscientist, Dr. James Rutka, who delivered an enthralling talk on the molecular biology of brain tumors.
The social aspects of the course were as remarkable as its academic attributes. In addition to providing an opportunity for neurosurgical residents and faculty from all over the country (and some from outside the United States) to mingle in an informal and congenial environment, the abundance of food and beverages from morning to night, the opening and closing receptions (including the Clam Bake and Certificate Ceremony "finale"), and the ability to tour the MBL and the local sites during some "afternoons off" were all enjoyable and memorable. In fact, so were the late-night live music and spirits at Captain Kidd, by all standards a truly fine establishment despite its somewhat misleading name!
In short, it is not difficult to appreciate why so many consider the RUNN course one of the greatest jewels in the crown of American neurological surgery.