The Johns Hopkins Hunterian Laboratory Philosophy: Mentoring Students in a Scientific Neurosurgical Research Laboratory

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Abstract

After over 50 years of scientific contribution under the leadership of Harvey Cushing and later Walter Dandy, the Johns Hopkins Hunterian Laboratory entered a period of dormancy between the 1960s and early 1980s. In 1984, Henry Brem reinstituted the Hunterian Neurosurgical Laboratory, with a new focus on localized delivery of therapies for brain tumors, leading to several discoveries such as new antiangiogenic agents and Gliadel chemotherapy wafers for the treatment of malignant gliomas. Since that time, it has been the training ground for 310 trainees who have dedicated their time to scientific exploration in the lab, resulting in numerous discoveries in the area of neurosurgical research. The Hunterian Neurosurgical Laboratory has been a unique example of successful mentoring in a translational research environment. The laboratory’s philosophy emphasizes mentorship, independence, self-directed learning, creativity, and people-centered collaboration, while maintaining productivity with a focus on improving clinical outcomes. This focus has been served by the diverse backgrounds of its trainees, both in regard to educational status as well as culturally. Through this philosophy and strong legacy of scientific contribution, the Hunterian Laboratory has maintained a positive and productive research environment that supports highly motivated students and trainees. In this article, the authors discuss the laboratory’s training philosophy, linked to the principles of adult learning (andragogy), as well as the successes and the limitations of including a wide educational range of students in a neurosurgical translational laboratory and the phenomenon of combining clinical expertise with rigorous scientific training.

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