To support the neurosurgery community in these unprecedented times, the CNS is offering complimentary online education. Learn more.

  • Vanessa Holanda:
    Honing my Subspecialty Focus to Change Patients’ Lives

    Author: Vanessa Holanda, MD

    Changing someone’s life is the greatest privilege. This is the real meaning of neurosurgery, more precisely functional  neurosurgery.

    Most people do not know that during my functional neurosurgery fellowship in Brazil, one patient changed my life forever. During deep brain stimulation  (DBS)  surgery,  he mentioned that he was very sad ON stimulation. Our team decided to move the DBS lead posteriorly and laterally and the patient suddenly improved his tremor and rigidity without the side effect of sadness. That experience made me want to learn more about the subthalamic nucleus (STN) connections and relationships.

    This drove me to travel to Gainesville, Florida, and to ask for a fellowship position with Dr. Albert L. Rhoton Jr., the father of microneurosurgery. I was very honored when Dr. Rhoton accepted me as a microsurgical anatomy fellow and even helped me to get a functional neurosurgery fellowship  position with Dr. Kelly Foote.

    I am very grateful for these two great mentors and for having my work published in Neurosurgery, the most important journal in neurosurgical field. This has been the most important influence the Congress of Neurosurgeons (CNS) had on my practice. Helping me to share the knowledge through Neurosurgery and Operative Neurosurgery, which will help many other patients around the world.1,2 Besides that, the connections I made over the last four years of membership helped me getting invitations for presentations at the CNS Annual Meetings and conferences in Latin America, even before this happened in my own country. I will always be grateful for that.

    In Brazil, similar to other countries around the world, women usually have to work and study harder, complete more fellowships, and/or receive more degrees to be recognized as an equal to their male counterparts, although there is little or no public pay disparity between men and women. The number of women in neurosurgical residency keeps rising. Many of them need inspiration and strength to keep working harder every day. If all this hard work helps to save or change one patient’s life, all the hard work will be worth it.  


    1. Holanda VM, Okun MS, Middlebrooks EH, et Postmortem Dissections of Common Targets for Lesion and Deep Brain Stimulation Surgeries. Neurosurgery. 2019.
    2. Holanda VM, Gungor A, Baydin S, Middlebrooks EH, Danish SF. Anatomic Investigation of the Trajectory for Stereotactic Laser Operative neurosurgery (Hagerstown, Md). 2018;15(2):194-206.

We use cookies to improve the performance of our site, to analyze the traffic to our site, and to personalize your experience of the site. You can control cookies through your browser settings. Please find more information on the cookies used on our site. Privacy Policy