The Department of Neurosurgery will be the 12th at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, pending approval by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech/Ryan Anderson.

Neurosurgery department approved for Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has formally established a neurosurgery department.

Neurosurgery is not a new concentration at the medical school based in Roanoke, but the move solidifies local growth in the field.

Carilion Clinic has offered the neurosurgery specialty since 2003. When the medical school was integrated into Virginia Tech in 2018, neurosurgery was one of the 11 specialties in the department of surgery. 

“Over the past decade … Carilion Clinic expanded its neurosurgery program to include experts in adult, pediatric, endovascular, and complex spinal neurosurgery,” Dr. Lee Learman, dean of the medical school, said in a statement. “The program has now grown to the size that it can become organized as its own academic department, as is the case in most U.S. medical schools.”

Discussion about creating a separate department for neurosurgery started in 2018, according to materials provided to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, due to demand for the specialty both among medical students and among patients in the region. With its new status as a standalone department, students will have the chance to participate in expanded clinical rotations and electives, according to a press release from Virginia Tech on Thursday. 

The school also hopes to expand the number of neurosurgery residencies it can offer. Right now, a total of seven residents can be accommodated for the specialty, with just one position open per year. For the 2021 academic year, the medical school received 245 applications for that single spot.

The establishment of the department was approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its meeting on Tuesday, but the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia still needs to give the final sign-off.

Dr. John Jane Jr. will serve as the first chair of the neurosurgery department. Jane, who starts at the hospital later in June, is currently a neurosurgeon and professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at UVa Health. Carilion Clinic will fund the new department, including personnel costs.

Neurosurgery residency programs also are available at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Inova Fairfax Medical Campus.

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Nominations sought for 2023 Kendig Awards

Nominations are being accepted for the 2023 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses and organizations in the greater Roanoke region that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is 4 p.m. Aug. 15. The nomination form and other information can be found at  

Kendig Awards are presented in three categories: individual artist, arts and/or cultural organization, and individual or business arts supporter.

Individuals, businesses and organizations from the counties of Botetourt, Franklin and Roanoke; the cities of Roanoke and Salem; and the town of Vinton are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985-2012.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as the seventh president of Roanoke College and was an avid patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.

The Kendig Awards have been co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College since 2013. This year, the awards presentation and celebration will be held at Roanoke College on Oct. 2.

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Heart of Appalachia tourism group gets $50,000 to boost regional marketing

The Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority has received a grant of up to $50,000 to market tourism-related businesses and assets in its eight-locality region in Southwest Virginia.

The grant is from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund.

The grant will be used to pay for the printing of tourism marketing materials and to develop and revive the Heart of Appalachia Scenic Drive and Bike Route, which was established more than 20 years ago and stretches more than 100 miles though Tazewell, Russell and Wise counties, according to a news release from VCEDA.

Since 2001, not including the current grant, the authority has received grants totaling $310,000 from VCEDA. The funds have been used for operational and marketing costs as well as for equipment and for the authority’s destination center project in St. Paul, according to the release.

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Natural Bridge State Park dedicates new disc golf trail

Natural Bridge State Park has completed its newest trail, the Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail.

The new Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail at Natural Bridge State Park. Photo courtesy of Natural Bridge State Park.

The trail, a mix of fields and woods, is an 18-hole disc golf course with extensive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s designed for players of all skill levels, according to a news release from the park.

It was built on land that was cleared years ago for a golf course that was never built. Educational signs will be placed throughout the trail to help visitors understand how a forest comes back to life on previously cleared land, the release said.

Other course highlights include environmentally friendly tee pads that consist of 100,000 crushed glass bottles and a managed pollinator habitat. Additionally, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program designed scorecards that double as field guides to bird and tree species found along the course.

The course is located north of the Natural Bridge Visitors Center at the Blue Ridge Trailhead.

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Mill Mountain Theatre receives $15,000 grant from Schubert Foundation

Mill Mountain Theatre has received a $15,000 grant from the Shubert Foundation, the oldest professional theater company in the United States and the largest owner of Broadway theatres.

The Roanoke-based theater first applied for the grant in 2005. Contact with Schubert stopped during the theater’s restructuring from 2009 to 2013 but resumed in 2014, according to a news release from Mill Mountain.

Shubert Foundation funds can be directly used for operating expenses. Mill Mountain Theatre will meet with its board of directors to discuss how the unrestricted grant will be distributed, the release said.

In 2022, the Shubert Foundation distributed $37.6 million among more than 600 nonprofit organizations. Other Virginia theaters that have received grants from Schubert in years past include the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Richmond Triangle Players and Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond and Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk.