BNI Celebrates 50th

From pioneering spinal procedures to identifying genes responsible for devastating brain disorders, Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has been at the forefront of medical advances since its inception in 1962. And, as the Phoenix facility celebrates its 50th anniversary, Barrow doctors believe the most significant accomplishments are yet to come.


Barrow Neurological Institute in 1962


Barrow is consistently ranked among the top 10 hospitals in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. Its expertise in brain and spine disorders draws patients from around the world. Barrow performs more brain surgeries and trains more neurosurgeons than any other hospital in the United States.


Barrow doctors refer to the institute’s 50th anniversary as the start of their “golden age.” They predict that the next 50 years will bring answers to some of the most challenging neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and malignant brain tumors.


“Our surgeons will largely put themselves out of business in the coming years,” says Robert F. Spetzler, M.D., director of Barrow. “Rapid advances in minimally invasive surgery and gene and stem-cell treatments will mean that the traditional role of the brain and spine surgeon will disappear.”


More than 40 full-time medical researchers work at Barrow to develop effective treatments for a wide range of brain and spine disorders. Several procedures pioneered at Barrow have become part of standard medical practice around the world.


For example, Barrow neurosurgeon Curtis Dickman, M.D., developed spinal thoracoscopy, a method of operating on the spine through small incisions in the chest. Barrow neurosurgeon Joseph Zabramski , M.D., and former Barrow researcher Eric Johnson, Ph.D.,  discovered the gene responsible for the inherited form of cerebral cavernous malformations – an irregular cluster of blood vessels in the brain – and developed a blood test to identify the gene.



Dr. John Green, left, and Charles Barrow, right


John Green, M.D., moved from Chicago to Phoenix in 1947 because he recognized the need for neurological services in the Southwest. He was Arizona’s first neurosurgeon. Green partnered with Charles Barrow, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, and Sister Mary Placida, the administrator of St. Joseph’s, in opening Barrow Neurological Institute in 1962. Charles Barrow contributed $1.1 million to the effort as thanks for the care his wife, Julia, received from Green.


Dr. and Mrs. John Green with Dr. and Mrs. Robert Spetzler

at a tribute dinner for Dr. Green


“Barrow has a rich and bold legacy that comes to life every day in patients who come from all over the world for our extraordinary medicine,” says Spetzler.


Photos courtesy St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

Story by Sarah Padilla



50th Anniversary Celebration




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