Dr. Michael Lawton to Succeed Dr. Robert Spetzler as Head of Barrow

Barrow Neurological Institute announced today the appointment of Michael Lawton, MD, as the new head of the renowned Institute. Dr. Lawton will succeed retiring Barrow President and CEO Robert Spetzler, MD, under whose leadership the Institute has grown into one of the leading neurological medical centers in the world.

Barrow, located at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, performs more neurosurgeries annually than any hospital in the United States and is routinely listed by U.S. News & World Report as among the best hospitals in the nation for neurological and neurosurgical care. Many patients from around the world who have previously been told their conditions are untreatable come to Phoenix to undergo successful brain surgery at Barrow.

Dr. Michael Lawton

Dr. Lawton is currently the vice chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of California at San Francisco. He has served as chief of vascular neurosurgery at that institution for nearly 20 years, overseeing one of the busiest cerebrovascular services in the nation. Dr. Lawton is a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and in 1997 he completed his residency at Barrow that included a cerebrovascular fellowship with Dr. Spetzler.  He will assume the leadership role at Barrow in July 2017.

Barrow conducted an extensive national search, considering many of the foremost names in neurosurgery. Dr. Spetzler, 71, is often described as one of the best brain surgeons in the world and is credited with making Barrow the home of the largest neurosurgical residency program in the nation.  The search committee was led by  Volker K.H.Sonntag, MD, who retired as vice chairman of neurosurgery at Barrow in 2010.

Dr. Spetzler was named director of Barrow in 1986. Born in Germany, he attended Northwestern Medical School in Chicago. He completed post-graduate training at Wesley Memorial Hospital–Northwestern and a residency in neurosurgery at the University of California at San Francisco.

Dr. Spetzler has played a formative role in many advances in neurosurgery, including the use of the cardiac standstill procedure that stops the heart and blood flow, so surgeons can safely treat blood vessel problems deep in the brain. He is particularly known for his surgical expertise in cavernous malformations (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels) and his remarkable skill in treating aneurysms. Dr. Spetzler has performed more than 6,400 aneurysm surgeries at Barrow.

Dr. Robert Spetzler has performed more than 6,400 aneurysm surgeries at Barrow.

“I am forever grateful and humbled by my years at Barrow,” says Dr. Spetzler. “I have had the great fortune of working with an outstanding team and some of the best surgeons in the world. I have also had the great honor of helping thousands of patients from around the world. I know that Barrow will be in very good hands under Dr. Lawton’s leadership. We can all continue to look forward to great things from Barrow.”

“I am honored to have been chosen to succeed Dr. Spetzler and continue his neurosurgical legacy at Barrow,” says Dr. Lawton. “I share his commitment to technical excellence, surgical innovation, teaching the next generation of neurosurgeons, and making the very best neurosurgery available to patients from around the world. I look forward to returning home to join this extraordinary team. I also look forward to working with Dr. Jeremy Shefner and his neurology team to ensure excellence in all areas of the Institute and in treating the spectrum of neurological diseases.”

After retiring as head of the Institute, Dr. Spetzler may continue to see a limited number of patients. He will assume the title of Emeritus President and CEO and will focus his time on teaching and academic publishing. Says Dr. Spetzler: “I believe we are entering the ‘golden age’ of Barrow and the Institute will be at the forefront of finding answers to some of the most devastating medical conditions. Barrow’s story has just begun.”

Arizona Republic: Renowned brain surgeon to retire as CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute