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Then and Now: Barrow Celebrates 57th Anniversary

With a single operating room and a total of 52 beds, Barrow Neurological Institute officially opened its doors on Sunday, Sept. 23, 1962.

It began with a donation from Charles Barrow, a coal magnate whose wife received treatment from Dr. John Green for a malignant brain tumor. Dr. Green was Arizona’s first neurosurgeon and named the first director of the institute.

As one of only three neuroscience institutes in the country at the time, Barrow drew a variety of experts in the field. It opened with five divisions: neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neurobiology, and neuropathology.

Barrow reached notable milestones early on. In the 1970s, it added three stories to its original five-story wing, more than doubled its bed count, acquired the first computed tomography (CT) scanner in Phoenix, and earned the designation as the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Arizona for injuries to the head and spine.

A black and white photo of a woman operating a CT scanner

Barrow acquired a CT scanner in 1975, the first in Phoenix.

In 1983, Dr. Robert Spetzler joined Barrow as the first J.N. Harber Chair of Neurosurgery, which was established to further research and teaching at the institute. He immediately had an impact.

That same year, he and fellow neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Zabramski refined the cardiac standstill procedure to treat previously inoperable vascular abnormalities of the brain.

In 1985, Dr. Spetzler established the Neuroscience Publications department and the official journal of Barrow, known as the BNI Quarterly.

“He insisted that we have a Neuroscience Publications department,” said Dr. Volker Sonntag, who began operating at Barrow in 1978. “It’s very difficult to publish papers and books, but if you have an excellent publications department like we do, it makes it easier.”

The following year, Dr. Spetzler succeeded Dr. Green as director of Barrow.

“With Dr. Spetzler’s leadership, I think we really skyrocketed,” Dr. Sonntag recalled. “Barrow changed tremendously from a neighborhood, minimally known institution to having a worldwide reputation.”

During Dr. Spetzler’s tenure, Barrow opened several specialty neurology clinics, a 70,000-square-foot neuroscience research center, the largest epilepsy monitoring unit in the state, the first CyberKnife radiosurgery center in the Southwest, the first hypothalamic hamartoma program in the country, and one of the most comprehensive Parkinson’s centers in the world.

A photo of a newspaper clip from Barrow''s opening in September 1962

A newspaper clip from Barrow’s opening in September 1962.

Barrow became the largest neuroscience institute in the nation with the construction of the 430,000-square-foot Neuroscience Tower, later named for Dr. Spetzler. It opened with 64 intensive-care beds, 80 acute-care beds, 11 neurosurgical suites, 48 emergency bays, six trauma bays, and three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suites.

Dr. Spetzler retired from surgery and his leadership role in June 2017. A committee led by Dr. Sonntag conducted an extensive national search for Dr. Spetzler’s successor and ultimately chose Dr. Michael Lawton—a former Barrow resident who had built a large cerebrovascular practice in California.

With Dr. Lawton at the helm, Barrow remains at the forefront of neurological patient care, research, and education. The hospital continues to expand, with the opening of a 32-bed neuro-telemetry unit and work beginning on the Neuroplex—a new building which will serve as the heart of institute.

Barrow continues to offer the latest technologies to patients, including the world’s first ZAP-X radiosurgery system to treat brain tumors, a robot developed by Barrow neurosurgeons to improve precision in spine surgery, and a mobile stroke unit to rapidly treat stroke patients in the field.

Two new research centers have opened to translate laboratory studies into new bedside therapies: the Barrow Aneurysm and AVM Research Center and the Ivy Brain Tumor Center. Also taking shape is the Barrow Artificial Intelligence Center, which aims to transform the speed and accuracy of neurological diagnoses and treatment.

As we head toward our 60th anniversary, I am certain that our stature in the global neurosciences community will continue to rise as we embrace our creed: accept challenges, reject norms, and push boundaries.

-Dr. Michael Lawton, President and CEO of Barrow

Barrow continues to lead in academics, with physicians and scientists regularly publishing journal articles and book chapters. Medical professionals from around the world travel to Barrow for courses, conferences, and observerships.

Recently, Barrow partnered with Arizona State University to develop a new class of physician-engineers, who will utilize science, technology, and design to develop new therapies and medical devices to improve patient outcomes.

“In the end, it is the excellence of our talented care providers that makes Barrow so special,” Dr. Lawton said. “Leaders and innovators in neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neuro-rehabilitation, and neuropsychology make us who we are today. As we head toward our 60th anniversary, I am certain that our stature in the global neurosciences community will continue to rise as we embrace our creed: accept challenges, reject norms, and push boundaries.”

Here’s a look at some of the milestones at Barrow over the years:

A black and white photo of Charles Barrow, a coal magnate who made an initial donation of $500,00 to found Barrow Neurological Institute.
1958: Charles Barrow, a coal magnate, made an initial donation of $500,000 to found Barrow Neurological Institute after Dr. John Green extended the life of his wife, Julia, who had a malignant brain tumor. He made the donation in the name of his father, William H. Barrow.
A black and white photo of actor Vincent Edwards and Barrow
1961: The Barrow Neurosurgery Residency Program received accreditation from the American Board of Neurosurgery. "Barrow was, at that time, the only residency not associated with a university," Dr. Volker Sonntag said. "So that was a huge accomplishment for Dr. Green." In this photo, actor Vincent Edwards (left) is pictured with Barrow's first neurosurgical resident, Dr. David Scheetz.
A black and white photo of staff in front of the original Barrow Neurological Institute building
1962: A photo from the dedication ceremony for the Barrow Neurological Institute building.
A photo of a newspaper clipping promoting Barrow
Sept. 23, 1962: Barrow opened its doors to patients with one neurosurgical operating room and 52 beds. It was one of only three neuroscience institutes in the entire country. It had five divisions: neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neurobiology, and neuropathology.
A black and white aerial photo of Barrow
1972: Barrow expanded its facilities by adding three stories to the original five-story wing, increasing its bed count to 114.
A black and white photo of Dr. Robert Spetzler in the 1980s
1983: Dr. Robert Spetzler joined Barrow Neurological Institute as the first J.N. Harber Chair of Neurosurgery, which the J.N. Harber Foundation funded to further neurological research and teaching.
A photo of Barrow neurosurgeons looking at computers
1983: Dr. Robert Spetzler and Dr. Joseph Zabramski refined the cardiac standstill procedure for treating previously inoperable aneurysms deep in the brain. The patient's body is cooled until the heart stops beating, providing the surgeon with a bloodless field for clipping the aneurysm. This eliminates the risk of the aneurysm rupturing during surgery.
An image showing the cover of the first BNI Quarterly
1985: Dr. Robert Spetzler established the Neuroscience Publications office and the BNI Quarterly, the official journal of Barrow. “He insisted that we have a Neuroscience Publications department,” said Dr. Volker Sonntag. “It’s very difficult to publish papers and books, but if you have an excellent publications department like we do, it makes it easier.”
A black and white photo of Dr. John Green outside the operating room
1986: Dr. John Green (pictured) retired as director of Barrow and was succeeded by Dr. Robert Spetzler. “With Dr. Spetzler’s leadership, I think we really skyrocketed,” Dr. Sonntag recalled. “Barrow changed tremendously from a neighborhood, minimally known institution to having a worldwide reputation.”
Photo of the neurosurgery research laboratory
1988: The Loyal and Edith Davis Neurosurgical Research Laboratory was dedicated. Since opening, nearly 150 research fellows have been trained in the laboratory.
A photo of Dr. Volker Sonntag, Dr. Robert Spetzler, and Dr. Hal Rekate performing surgery at Barrow
1989: Drs. Volker Sonntag, Robert Spetzler, and Harold Rekate made international headlines when they successfully reattached a 10-year-old boy's skull to his spine and drained a large clot pressing on his brainstem. No one had been known to survive such a combination of injuries before.
A photo of the exterior of the Marian H. Rochelle Neuroscience Research Center
1997: A 70,000-square-foot neuroscience research center, now known as the Marian H. Rochelle Neuroscience Research Center, opened on the Barrow campus.
A photo of the CyberKnife radiosurgery device at Barrow
2003: Barrow became the first facility in the Southwest to have a CyberKnife. The CyberKnife combines robotics and advanced image guidance to target tumors, eliminating the need for the metal frame that is attached to the skull during other forms of radiosurgery. This frameless approach allows the device to be used to treat tumors anywhere in the body.
A photo of the exterior of the Neuroscience Tower
2006: The 430,000-square-foot Barrow Neuroscience Tower opened, creating the largest neuroscience center in the nation. It opened with 64 intensive-care beds, 80 acute-care beds, 11 surgical suites, 48 emergency bays, six trauma bays, and three MRI suites.
A photo of Muhammad Ali cutting the ribbon at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center
2009: The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center expanded, making it the largest center for Parkinson’s disease treatment and outreach in the Southwest. Muhammad Ali attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony with his sister-in-law Marilyn Williams (left), wife Lonnie, and former St. Joseph's Hospital President and CEO Linda Hunt. The center was founded in 1997.
Dr. Robert Bowser and Barrow patient Doug Clough at a press conference
2016: Barrow Professor of Neurobiology Dr. Robert Bowser used artificial intelligence in the form of IBM Watson to identify five genes that had never before been linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Ribbon-cutting for the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit
2017: Barrow and the Phoenix Fire Department introduced the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit, a state-of-the-art mobile emergency room dedicated to treating stroke victims.
photo of barrow emeritus chair robert spetzler with new barrow ceo michael lawton
2017: Dr. Robert Spetzler retired as president and CEO of Barrow. He was succeeded by Dr. Michael Lawton, who trained under Dr. Spetzler as a Barrow resident.
A photo of Dr. Michael Lawton and Dr. Tomoki Hashimoto in a laboratory
2018: Dr. Michael Lawton established the Barrow Aneurysm and AVM Research Center. Dr. Lawton brought together faculty from the departments of neurosurgery, neurology, and neurobiology to form the center.
A photo of Barrow patient Jovanna Calzadillas and her husband, Frank, smiling at a press conference
2018: Thirty-year-old Jovanna Calzadillas addressed the public about her remarkable recovery at the Barrow Neuro-Rehabilitation Center after being shot in the head during the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Doctors in Las Vegas had suggested removing Jovanna from life support. At a Barrow press conference a few months later, she was walking with assistance and speaking to the crowd. "I want people to know that miracles do happen," she said.
A photo of Dr. Juan Uribe using a surgical robot in the operating room
2018: Barrow neurosurgeons began performing spinal fusion surgeries with the Globus Medical ExcelsiusGPS. Developed at Barrow, the device utilizes navigation technology, imaging, and robotics to increase precision and reduce recovery times.
A photo of Dr. Nader Sanai with a patient
2018: The Ivy Brain Tumor Center was established at Barrow to accelerate drug discovery for patients with glioblastoma and other aggressive brain tumors.
A photo of the neuro-telemetry unit
2018: Our new 32-bed neurotelemetry unit opened to patients on the 7th floor of the Robert F. Spetzler Neuroscience Tower.
A photo of Dr. Michael Lawton and Dr. Michael Crow signing a document on stage at Celebrity Fight Night
March 2019: Dr. Michael Lawton and Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow announced the Barrow-ASU Initiative for Innovation in Neuro-Engineering. The partnership will create a new class of physician-engineers, who will utilize science, technology, and design to develop new therapies and medical devices to improve patient outcomes.
banner image showing the barrow specialty neurology and neurosurgery hospital along with the us news and world report best hospitals for 2019 and 2020 award banner
July 2019: U.S. News & World Report ranked Barrow No. 11 in the country and No. 1 in the state for neurology and neurosurgery. Barrow has made this list for at least 16 consecutive years.
photo of the ADvance II surgical team
September 2019: Barrow became the first institution in the world to complete the implantation of a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) system in an Alzheimer’s patient as part of a Phase III trial, known as ADvance II.
A rendering of the Neuroplex
August 2019: Work began on the Steinegger Building to make way for the Neuroplex, which will serve as the heart of Barrow. "As we head toward our 60th anniversary, I am certain that our stature in the global neurosciences community will continue to rise as we embrace our creed: accept challenges, reject norms, and push boundaries.”

 

About Barrow Neurological Institute

Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.