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Neurosurgery Resident Training at UNC Health

The Department of Neurosurgery at the University of North Carolina has a longstanding tradition of excellence in clinical care and resident education. The UNC Neurosurgery Residency Training Program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). We currently offer a seven-year program and accept two residents per year. 

UNC Neurosurgery’s faculty and staff consists of 10 neurosurgeons, two neuro-oncologists, one neurosurgical oncologist, one PhD, and one physiatrist. We are also one of the very few neurosurgery programs to have a full time medical illustrator.

Our clinically-based program is designed to give neurosurgery residents a broad exposure to all aspects of clinical neurosurgery including:

  • Intra- and extracranial neurovascular disease
  • Neurosurgical oncology and radiosurgery
  • Complex spinal instrumentation for trauma, deformity, degenerative disease, and other spinal disorders
  • Neurotrauma
  • Stereotactic and functional neurosurgery
  • Pediatric neurosurgery
  • Endovascular treatment of vascular anomalies
  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Endoscopic and minimally-invasive neurosurgery
  • Neurocritical care
  • Intrauterine surgery

Neurosurgery residents must take the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS) written examination annually, until a passing score is achieved prior to completion of the training program. We prepare our residents to pass their ABNS by making sure our residents spend ample time learning in the OR, in various clinic settings, in our weekly skills lab, in required participation in neurosurgical research, and in the regular attendance of and participation in neurosurgery conferences. Two of our current neurosurgeons are also board examiners. 

UNC Neurosurgery Residency by Year

The following is a breakdown of our 7-year neurosurgery residency program:

PG Year 1: During the first year of neurosurgery residency, our PGY1 residents spend 6 months in neurosurgery, 3 months in neurocritical care, and 3 months in basic clinical neurosciences (neuroanesthesia, neuroradiology, radiation oncology, epilepsy,Dr. Carlos David instructing in the OR and functional neurology). The first year gives our residents a broad exposure to neurosurgery at UNC Health to help neurosurgery residents determine their interests.

PG Year 2: PGY2 neurosurgery residents spend their entire second year of residency at UNC Hospitals (UNCH) in clinical neurosurgery. This year will help neurosurgery residents develop their bedside manner by interacting with patients at the clinical level. PGY2 residents will also become proficient in common neurosurgical bedside procedures such as external ventricular drains, lumbar punctures, lumbar drains, shunt taps and reprogramming.

PG Year 3: PGY3 neurosurgery residents spend 9 months at UNCH in clinical neurosurgery and 3 months at UNCH in pediatric clinical neurosurgery.

PG Year 4: PGY4 neurosurgery residents spend 4.5 months at UNCH in clinical neurosurgery, 3 months of pediatric neurosurgery, 3 months in neuroradiology/neuropathology, and 1.5 months in neurointerventional radiology/endovascular neurosurgery.

PG Year 5: PGY5 neurosurgery residents spend 12 months in a resident-developed research/fellowship. This year can also be utilized to obtain an MBA, MPH, or pursue other academic endeavors that will contribute to future careers in neurosurgery.

PG Year 6: PGY6 neurosurgery residents spend 12 months at UNCH taking some chief call and expanding operative and leadership roles.

PG Year 7: PGY7 neurosurgery residents spend their final 12 months of residency as Chief Resident at UNCH in clinical neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery Residency Conference & Teaching Schedule

Weekly lectures and monthly skills labs enable our neurosurgery residents to learn and develop technical skills in a beautiful facility that has capabilities for both simulation and cadaver dissection.

Cadaver dissection and weekly skills lab didactic takes place in our state-of-the-art Skull Base and Spine Dissection Lab Simulation Center. In addition to weekly skills labs and lectures, our neurosurgery residents will also participate in the following: 

  • Weekly neurosurgery grand rounds
  • Neuropathology conferences
  • Journal club
  • Spinal biomechanics
  • Skull base conferences
  • Cadaver dissection
  • Neuro-oncology conferences
  • Epilepsy surgery conferences
  • Monthly skills lab didactic


Neurosurgery Residency Clinical Experience

UNC Health’s neurosurgery residency program offers neurosurgical training in both adult and pediatric neurosurgery. The 22-bed adult neurosciences ICU has a neurocritical care service staffed by neurointensivists and nurse practitioners who provide 24/7 care and management. Our routine patient care units are located in the Neurosciences Hospital, in close-proximity to the Stroke Center and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. 

The pediatric neurosurgery service works out of the dedicated Children’s Hospital, which houses a 20-bed pediatric ICU with its own pediatric critical care team. This service has dedicated pediatric operating rooms and surgical staff.

We have two five-bed epilepsy monitoring units, both of which earned a Level 4 designation (the highest possible) from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. The units support our expanding multidisciplinary epilepsy surgery program.

All neurosurgery clinics are either held in the Children’s Hospital, the UNC Spine Center, NC Cancer Hospital, or UNC Hillsborough Hospital. The Spine Center, located just two miles from the main hospital, is a large multidisciplinary practice encompassing surgical and nonsurgical management of spinal disorders, where we are able to work closely with Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Anesthesia/Pain Management, Physical Therapy, and Radiology. Due to its new design and easy patient access, most Neurosurgery clinics are now located in the UNC Hospitals Spine Center.

When beneficial to patient care or research, we have access to the resources of the UNC Cancer Hospital, the Lineberger Cancer Center, the General Clinical Research Center, and the Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.


Neurosurgery Research

Participation in the discovery of new knowledge in the fields of neurosurgery and neuroscience is one of the core values of our department. The University of North Carolina is a remarkably rich environment for neurosurgery research and home to over $410 million in NIH funding annually. 

Neurosurgery residents are strongly encouraged to develop either clinical translational or basic science research interests, and to explore these in partnership with the world-class scientists working in the School of Medicine, in the UNC School of Public Health (one of the highest-ranked in the country), and with scientists throughout the university. 

UNC ranks in the top ten institutions nationwide for NIH funding ($379M). $257M of that goes directly to UNC School of Medicine. Institutional strengths that offer opportunity for neurosurgery include global health, oncology, head injury, neuro-imaging, gene therapy, and nanotechnology. 

UNC also belongs to three national neuro-oncology consortia: the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, the CERN Foundation (Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network), and the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative (BTTC). These alliances bring us clinical trials and the opportunity to participate more actively in national clinical research in neuro-oncology.

Our neurosurgery residency program is one of only a couple of programs staffed with a full time medical illustrator. Professional neurosurgical illustrations make complex neuroanatomy, pathology, techniques, and ideas more understandable and convincing, and can make manuscripts more desirable for publication by medical journals and textbook publishers. High quality figures draw readers into the articles and create a mental impression of the concepts. Neurosurgical illustrations and animations also greatly enhance presentations and education. Mark Schornak has a deep understanding of neuroanatomy, as well as advanced visualization, artistic, and digital media skills.

Some of UNC’s research programs and areas of interest include cerebrovascular disease, head injury research, and our robust brain tumor research program. During your neurosurgery resident interview, we would be happy to discuss with you the rich areas of research available in biomedical research, imaging, neuro-oncology, and in the neurosciences.

Dr. Dominique Higgins, Dr. Yasmeen Rauf, and Dr. Soma Sengupta along with Dr. Daniel Pomeranz Krummel research brain tumors and ways to improve quality of care for patients with malignant brain tumors, like glioblastoma. All are currently involved in various stages of clinical trials for brain tumor patients at UNC Health.

Dr. Vibhor Krishna’s research focuses on enhancing neuromodulation’s effectiveness through personalized medicine, decreasing its invasiveness by developing less-invasive treatments, and expanding its application through rigorous testing in clinical trials. Learn more about his research on the Krishna Lab website.

Read more about UNC Neurosurgery research.


Neurosurgery Education Team


Call and Vacation Scheduling

The UNC neurosurgery residency program maintains strict compliance to ACGME duty hour restrictions. Junior residents take progressively less in-house call during their training until they begin taking chief call. All resident call is taken at UNC Health’s main campus in Chapel Hill. Residents are given 15 business days of vacation per year.

If you are interested in applying to our neurosurgery residency program, please submit all required materials by September 29, 2024.

Questions regarding the neurosurgery residency application and interview process as well as general questions about our neurosurgery residency program may be directed to our residency program coordinator, Kelly Lanier, at

UNC Department of Neurosurgery
170 Manning Drive, CB# 7060
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7060