The UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory is formed by world-renowned Neurosurgeons and Otolaryngologists in the fields of skull base, neuro-oncology and cerebrovascular surgery. Every year, we welcome talented research fellows, who, with their work and commitment, are the heartbeat of the laboratory’s daily function.
We believe that our wide range of backgrounds, cultures, subspecialties and singular visions of operative Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology are our best assets, rather than our main limitations, to advancing in minimal impact Neurosurgery & Otolaryngology. Since its foundation in 2012, the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory has produced numerous publications to the most prestigious journals in our field; some of our publications have re-designed the surgical treatment for specific lesions and provided sound scientific basis for the best practices in operative Neurosurgery and otolaryngology.
The laboratory activities are meticulously designed for promoting surgical innovation. Our multi-million dollar laboratory is equipped with cutting edge surgical equipment to recreate any surgical procedure, enabling our researchers to simulate, design and test promising techniques aimed to answer the most complex cases in skull base, brain tumor or cerebrovascular surgery.
We believe in the potential of our team, especially that of our fellows. At the Skull base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we have engineered a laboratory setting that enhances the potential of our fellows. From personalized research coaching to supervised dissection in our surgical laboratory, our fellows integrate in a dynamic of learn-while-research that allows them to acquire a wide range of skills and to learn surgical anatomy thoroughly. We emphasize creating an inspiring and collaborative work environment in the laboratory, which has proven to be the key of our high quality research and unparalleled productivity.
It is a privilege and an honor to lead this laboratory. I wish to share this exciting adventure of discoveries with you.
Director, Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory
“We are inspired by the challenging cases, those with technical limitations, those we can’t answer with a single explanation.”
The skull base is a beautiful landscape of compartments, bony ridges and prominences, winding sutures, scattered foramina, and dural folds. This exquisite complexity is multiplied by relationships with cranial nerves, brainstem surfaces, posterior circulation arteries, and veins.
We, at the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, think that knowledge of skull base anatomy is a cornerstone of surgeon skill and the inspiration source for surgical research. Many consider manual dexterity to be the quality that makes a neurosurgeon skillful. Dexterity is what observers see as “great hands” in the operating room, but knowledge of anatomy guides the hands and gives the neurosurgeon the confidence to explore the surgical field and design surgical approaches to treat lesions deemed impossible to reach or highly risky. Mastery of anatomy is the cognitive skill that informs the neurosurgeon where to work, what to see, how to maneuver better, and what to protect. Comfort in the anatomical arena around the skull base translates to confidence in executing the surgical strategy designed for the patients pathology.
Confidence in the operating room is what observers see during surgery in “great surgeons” and it is the reason to study anatomy passionately. Analyzing anatomical relationships, practicing surgical steps, and committing learning mistakes in bloodless cadavers translate to better surgery on live patients. Repeating this search for excellence every day has the potential to change the whole concept of operative Neurosurgery, reaching beyond the limits of what it is theoretically possible to what science proves impossible. We are fuelled by our deep compromise to improve surgical treatment to patients suffering from neurological conditions. We are inspired by the difficult cases, those we cannot answer with a single explanation. We, at the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, invite the most talented neurosurgeons of the world to join our team and help us in our quest to improve patients lives.
At the Department of Neurosurgery’s Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we are true to the vision of UCSF “advancing health worldwide”. Our commitment to teaching neurosurgical anatomy and technique knows no limits. We deliver inspiring and engaging 3D lectures to a wide variety of health providers, including nurses, residents and attending neurosurgeons in both national and international venues. We open the doors of the operating room to more than 25 international observers each year, which are inspired to learn advanced techniques and improve patients care in their home countries.
In 2010 we started reaching out to countries with less favorable conditions to help local neurosurgeons tackle complex cases and save lives. Despite our continuous efforts to share the latest advances in neurosurgical care and share our knowledge and expertise in neurosurgical anatomy and technique, we want to reach a larger audience and inspire every neurosurgeon who may be interested in learning from us, without borders or limits. We believe we will be able to achieve this higher goal.
Minimal impact surgery is a concept that involves the use of cutting edge surgical techniques and advanced knowledge in surgical anatomy to design a unique and “best” surgical strategy for a particular patient (and lesion), and that aims to an efficient, maximally effective (e.g. extent of ressection, re-vascularization), and safe (protection of eloquent function) therapeutic impact.
A surgical three-pin head holder is critical to recreate patient positioning during our surgical simulations, especially when designing new surgical approaches.
We have a fully equipped endoscopic tower with the latest generation HD camera and recording system.
Our laboratory is equipped with a fully functional surgical table, which allows us to change patient positioning while doing a surgical simulation. This feature has been critical for designing simultaneous combined approaches.
The microscope is a natural extension of the surgeon. We have powerful surgical microscopes in the laboratory that allow us to view complex regions in detail and create high quality dissections.
Fine surgical instruments are the fingertips of great surgeons. Highly specialized surgical instruments allow us to efficiently dissect through complex anatomical regions and sometimes are the difference in reaching beyond apparent limits. This allows to simulate best any surgical maneuver. We have many complete skull base sets and several instruments for cerebral bypass.
A key concept of minimally invasive skull base surgery is to gain access to complex lesions by removing bone and minimizing brain manipulation. In our laboratory we have several highspeed drills and ultrasonic dissectors, which allow us to simulate a real surgical procedure.
The microscope is a natural extension of the surgeon. We have powerful surgical microscopes in the laboratory that allow us to view complex regions in detail and create high quality dissections.
We have a fully equipped endoscopic tower with the latest generation HD camera and recording system. A cutting-edge skull base laboratory must be equipped with an endoscope to research minimally invasive surgical approaches.
Navigation brings the power of stereotactic measurements into the laboratory. Instead of guidance, we use the latest innovation in navigation to obtain stereotactic coordinates. This is the technology we use to prove our hypotheses when comparing surgical trajectories or deﬁning new approaches.
3D is the most powerful tool for both teaching and surgical anatomy research. Our microscopes are coupled with a 3D system that allows us to record stereoscopic (3D) images of all procedures, which we use for both designing new approaches and teaching the next generation of surgeons.
Our commitment to advancing neurosurgical anatomy and technique has resulted in extensive peer-reviewed publications in major journals of our field. The inclusion of research fellows in the lab beginning in 2014 has played a major role in the quality and number of our publications.
Dr. Benet is director and principal investigator of the laboratory. He is an expert in surgical research, 3D photography, surgical simulation, minimal impact neurosurgical research, and neurosurgical anatomy. Dr. Benet oversees the activity of the laboratory directly, directs the laboratory meetings, and coaches the research fellows.
Dr. Lawton is co-director. He is an expert in the surgical treatment of cerebrovascular lesions and has written authoritative reports on cerebrovascular surgery. Dr. Lawton is a senior faculty member and oversees the cerebrovascular research projects of the laboratory.
Dr. El-Sayed is co-director of the laboratory. He is the Co-Director of the UCSF Center for Minimally Invasive Skull Base Surgery and a recognized and respected skull base surgeon. He is fellowship trained in Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery. Dr. El-Sayed is a senior faculty member and oversees endoscopic endonasal skull base research projects of the laboratory.
Dr. Berger is co-director of the laboratory. He is a renowned expert in the surgical treatment of intra-axial brain tumors and a major contributor to the clinical treatment and basic research of brain cancer. Dr. Berger is a senior faculty member and oversees the intra-axial tumor surgical research projects of the laboratory.
Dr. Theodosopoulos is co-director of the laboratory. He is a respected skull base surgeon with extensive experience in surgical anatomy and minimally invasive research. Dr. Theodosopoulos is a senior faculty member and oversees skull base research projects of the laboratory.
Dr. Feng is a former research fellow of the laboratory, recipient of the 2015 outstanding research fellowship award. Dr. Feng is a faculty member at the First center Hospital in Tianjin, China. With the support and guidance of the skull base and cerebrovascular laboratory, Dr. Feng is leading the creation of an advanced neurosurgical laboratory at First Center Hospital, which will be the first of its kind in China. Dr. Feng will continue the research program he started with us and establish a solid international collaboration.
Dr. J. Gonzalez is a former research observer (2013) and international volunteer (2014) of the laboratory. He is the director of the Neurosurgery residency program at the Hospital Clinic I Provincial de Barcelona, Spain. In his brief but very productive time in our institution, Dr. Gonzalez contributed to the production of several pivotal publications of the laboratory. Dr. Gonzalez is a very respected and versatile neurosurgeon, who is leading the institutional research collaboration between the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Barcelona and our laboratory, with exceptional results.
Dr. Rincon-Torroella is a postdoctoral fellow in neuro-oncology at the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery and a permanent research collaborator of the laboratory. Dr. Rincon-Torroella is a talented researcher whose collaboration with the skull base & cerebrovascular laboratory, which dates back to its foundation, has produced many publications. She leads a research project in surgical neuro-oncology, which has recently published a novel, minimally invasive approach to the ventricular system. Also the SBCV Laboratory is collaborating with Dr. Rincon-Torroella in the first edition of the book: Video-Atlas of Neurosurgery: Tumors and Contemporary Skull Base Surgery” a unique resource for neurosurgeons and residents.
Mr. McElroy is a senior embalmer and laboratory technician at the UCSF’s Willed Body Program. His outstanding embalming skills and creativity are pivotal to the development of cutting edge surgical simulation procedures and critical to the final quality of our dissections. Mr. McElroy has implemented successfully our novel embalming procedure for neurosurgical simulation in a large amount of cadavers and is currently developing a grading system to anticipate the quality of the specimens before dissection.
“Here, a unique anthology of knowledge, friendship, perseverance, mutual care, and teamwork makes the atmosphere! All gathered under the mentorship of the knowledgeable lab director (Dr. Arnau Benet)”
“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” –Mattie Stepanek
I, Ali Tayebi Meybodi, was born in Iran in 1977. After completing school, I entered the most renowned medical school of the nation (Tehran University of Medical Sciences). Being fascinated by the remarkable beauty of the anatomy of the nervous system, I chose Neurosurgery as my career. After obtaining the M.D. degree, I started Neurosurgery residency in 2005. I have always thought about the complex surgical anatomy of the brain as ‘the Labyrinth’ and the lesion as ‘the Minotaur’. I aimed to become ‘the Theseus’; hence surgical neuroanatomy became my passion. This caused me to spend a significant amount of time on cadaveric dissections. After graduation I was fortunate to be granted a research fellowship position at the Department of Neurological Surgery in University of California San Francisco.
Currently, I am mainly engaged in research projects regarding the surgical approaches for posterior circulation aneurysms, especially the VA-PICA complex. I am working on landmarks to simplify the exposure of the suboccipital vertebral artery. Also, I am trying to define certain criteria for PICA reimplantation as one of the elegant revascularizing techniques. Using the suboccipital vertebral artery as a donor to the intradural vertebral artery is another objective of my research projects. Meanwhile, I am working on a new approach to reach the lateral recess of the fourth ventricle.
Although equipped with extraordinary state of the art surgical amenities to simulate the neurosurgical suite, in my opinion, the most prominent feature of this laboratory is not its picturesque constellation of surgical paraphernalia. The lab members do not inhale oxygen only! Here, a unique anthology of knowledge, friendship, perseverance, mutual care, and teamwork makes the atmosphere! All gathered under the mentorship of the knowledgeable lab director (Dr. Arnau Benet), the fellows enjoy the exceptional educational ambience with devotion to continuous learning, teaching, and producing. Elegant research projects are proposed, discussed, launched and completed by the international team of fellows under the unique leadership of the director –all for one and only one purpose: promotion of patient care.
We enjoy dissecting, learning, writing and teaching using the sophisticated surgical equipment which also guarantees technical refinement. So, I can hardly name this place a mere laboratory! This is a university inside UCSF!
“I believe this lab is a greenhouse for growing the saplings of scientific creativity to strong trees of knowledge.”learn more
I am Pooneh Mokhtari. I earned my PhD degree in motor behavior from Tehran University (Iran). For years, I taught and carried out research projects at different universities and campuses in Tehran. As a teacher of motor behavior, exploring the factors and settings that improve motor learning and control has always been in the center of my research interests.
The field of motor behavior may initially seem completely unrelated to cerebrovascular and skull base surgery. However, I recently realized that some difficult, yet critical neurosurgical techniques, although excellently performed by expert surgeons, do not have a well-defined platform for step-by-step accomplishment. This lack of certain instructive guides transforms these techniques to unsurmountable challenges for residents and inexperienced neurosurgeons. Cerebrovascular bypass techniques are a tangible example in this field. Watching a master surgeon doing a bypass is usually the first step for learning the technique. However, the next steps of the learning process are mostly based on ‘trial and errors’, full of “rookie” mistakes. To fill this educational gap, and to help residents and young surgeons win this battle, I have started a project to define the learning curve of completing a microsurgical vascular bypass and delineate the critical (rate-limiting) steps of mastering this technique. I aim to analyze the motor and cognitive aspects of performing this task to facilitate future surgeons’ endeavors towards a flawless technique.
Taking a tour in the skull base and cerebrovascular lab at the department of neurological surgery at UCSF encouraged me to pursue my research interests in the field of cerebrovascular surgery. To my surprise, this lab is not only equipped with top-notch surgical instruments (transforming it into a full operating room), but also with an ambience of kindness, peace, empathy and everything a scholar would need to work hard and confidently. Most definitely, such a unique atmosphere could not be made without the supportive care of the director of the lab, Dr. Benet.
“Our lab lives in UCSF Medical
Center in San Francisco – a most charming, peaceful and beautiful place. You can get a distinctive learning experience here.”
I am a neurosurgeon from North China where I am Associate Chief Physician in the Department of Neurosurgery at China Rehabilitation Research Center (also known as Beijing Boai Hospital). Ten years ago I obtained my MD-PhD in Neurosurgery from Capital Medical University.
Very passionate about endoscopic neurosurgery, I pursued a visiting scholar position at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory at UCSF. My training and research focuses on endoscopic transnasal and transorbital approach exploration.
This laboratory is a library. There are all kinds of learning resources ranging from 3D courseware to the exquisite model specimens.
This laboratory is a palace of rich academic collaboration. We have lectures and forums, monthly research reports, and project meetings filled with abundant discussion and teamwork. The academic atmosphere is truly unique.
Finally, the director of the lab, Professor Arnau Benet is an erudite mentor. Professor Benet is always full of encouragement whose main goal is to cultivate talented people, to drive innovation, and to pursue knowledge through professional scholarship.
“The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Lab is an amazing and vibrant place to work due to the supportive and friendly members with various backgrounds pushing boundaries of the neurosurgery. The lab has the latest generation of equipment and access to pretty much anything you need for research. Finally, the great support and enthusiasm of Dr. Benet is what makes the lab truly special.”learn more
I am a doctoral student at the Mechanical Engineering Department at UC Berkeley and my research focuses on bio-implantable micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). I received an undergraduate and master’s degree from the Middle East Technical University, Turkey.
Here at the UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Lab, I am working with Dr. Benet to develop a sustainable power source for neural interfaces by harvesting available mechanical energy from the brain using MEMS technology. This will help in the realization of self-powered neural interfaces in order to eliminate unnecessary surgeries that patients with implants currently have to undergo.
The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Lab at UCSF is an amazing place to work. It not only has the top-tier tools that are required for cutting-edge research, but also contains a great team of doctors pushing the boundaries of the neurosurgery. As an engineer, I personally gain a lot from our discussions and research meetings. The lab is continuously in search of new tools and methods of neurosurgical procedures. This allows everyone in the lab to focus on innovation. All of this combined with the enthusiasm and support from Dr. Benet makes this laboratory a very productive, efficient, and exciting place to work.
“I recommend neurosurgeons to study here. It will be unimaginable wealth for your career.”learn more
My name is Ming Liu, a neurosurgeon from department of neurosurgery of Ningde municipal hospital, China. I have been a neurosurgeon for eight years, and now I am an associate professor. I’m able to conduct a lot of conventional brain surgery independently. In the past eight years, I have done surgery for traumatic brain injury, cerebrovascular diseases and brain tumors, accumulating over 2500 hours surgical experience.
Sponsored by Fujian Province Scholarship, I had the chance to study as a visiting scholar in UCSF. I was fortunate to be granted a fellowship position. In present, my research project focuses on clinic anatomy about CPA and brain stem.
The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory is a first-class. Professor Arnau Benet, the director of the lab, is very wise and passionate. I recommend neurosurgeons to study here. It will be unimaginable wealth for your career.
“Here, everyone who is a member of the UCSF Skullbase Lab is an intelligent researcher who has applied his knowledge, creativity, resourcefulness, common sense, and multiple disciplines in his research work. Professionally, he has proven himself to be a highly qualified neurosurgeon.”learn more
My name is Guanglong Huang. I am a Chinese neurosurgeon working in Nanfang Hospital, which is one of the largest tertiary hospitals in southen China. After obtaining an M.D., Ph.D, I found my major interest in neurosurgery specializing in skull base surgery. In clinical practice, I mainly focused on skull base tumor and endoscopic surgery. I am very interested in minimally invasive surgical approaches to remove tumors from complex anatomical regions in the skull base. I am comfortable performing endoscopic and microscopic anatomical dissection. I am eager to contribute my enthusiasm and skills to the UCSF skullbase lab. Here, a unique anthology of knowledge, friendship, perseverance, mutual care, and teamwork makes the atmosphere! We are all gathered under the mentorship of the knowledgeable lab director, Dr. Arnau Benet, who greatly helps us to improve!
“The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory is a crucible where passion, creativity, and knowledge are melted to obtain groundbreaking neurosurgical research.”learn more
Roberto Rodríguez-Rubio is a Neurosurgeon from Guadalajara, Mexico. He obtained his Medical Degree in 2010 from the University of Guadalajara. He successfully completed his Neurosurgery Residency at Hospital Civil de Guadalajara “Fray Antonio Alcalde¨ in February 2016. As a resident, he actively participated in Guadalajara’s Mission Brain with UCSF and Johns Hopkins Neurosurgical Team. He had the opportunity to attend several cadaveric courses in the US – further igniting his passion for cadaveric dissections in the hopes of improving results in the OR. He has an extensive observership experience from countries including the US, Germany, France, and England.
At the UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory, Dr. Rodríguez-Rubio´s research is focused on high-flow bypasses with novel techniques with the use of alternative donors, precise topographic localization of white matter tracts with conventional approaches, and virtual neurosurgical simulations using cutting-edge technology. He’s also a participant of Dr. Mokhtari’s microsurgical vascular by-pass program to improve the learning curve-line of this valuable technique.
The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory is a crucible where passion, creativity, and knowledge are melted to obtain groundbreaking neurosurgical research. The positive work atmosphere and Dr. Benet’s mentorship are constant catalysts to grow up in all aspects. I feel proud to be part of the team.
“Here, you can learn a profound amount of knowledge, discuss with great doctors, and made great friends – all in the spirit of teamwork.”learn more
I was born in 1975. I received my MD, Ph.D from West China University of Medical Science, and completed my postdoctoral training at Tiantan Hospital. Now, I am working in the neurosurgical department of Shanxi Province Hospital and have done about 1200 intracranial aneurysm clippings. The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF is one of the best neurovascular centers in the world, and I was fortunate to be granted a fellowship position. Currently, my research project focuses on understanding the PICA-PICA bypass treatment for unclippable PICA aneurysms.
“’Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,’ is the maxim that summates the day to day working of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Lab. The lab is based on the principles of teamwork and dedication. Dr. Benet is a great mentor who invests a lot of time and effort in all the lab members to bring out the very best in us and inspires us to push our boundaries to achieve perfection.”
I obtained my MD degree from Aga Khan University in Pakistan. My first exposure to Neuroscience was during my second year in medical school, when studying the complex neuronal circuitry and the elaborate relationships between different anatomical structures during the Neuroscience module. This piqued my interest in this field. To further delve into the intricacies of the three-pound conundrum known as the human brain, I undertook an elective in Neurosurgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and at University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. I was awestruck at my first sight of the human brain – the center of one’s existence and was impressed by the degree of precision and the level of patience required to expertly maneuver through the cranial vault and its contents. It was then when I decided that Neurosurgery was the path I wanted to pursue.
Both during and after the completion of medical school, I remained involved in Neuroscience research at the Aga Khan University, leading a project on developing a prospective database of all the patients presenting with complaints of low back pain and tracking the longitudinal outcomes of conservative vs. surgical management to compare the effectiveness of different treatment options.
Neuroscience is an ever evolving field and I wanted to fuel my passion for exploring this field further by being involved in Neurosurgical research in the United States before pursuing Neurosurgical residency training.
The human nervous system is unique in that it is seemingly simple, yet so complex and to unravel its intricacies is a challenge that I wish to undertake. My main areas of interest are Neuroanatomy, Brain Tumors and Traumatic Brain Injury. Thus I contacted Dr. Benet to become a member of this prestigious lab as the work done here appealed to my inquisitive nature and incited me to extend my scope beyond Clinical Neuroscience into research.
Currently, I am working on a number of projects, such as the utility of different three-dimensional imaging modalities in neurosurgical research and education and the Endoscopic Endonasal approach to the Meckel’s Cave. I am also involved in cadaveric dissections at the Lab under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Benet, which has enabled me to gain hands-on surgical experience along with increasing my knowledge of Neuroanatomy.
“…love, enthusiasm, and constant encouragement of exploring uncharted territories allows each of us to challenge each other to see beyond traditional ways of thinking in order to innovate. “learn more
Hello, my name is Sonia Yousef. I am a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. My work with non-profit organizations serving compassionate assistance to disadvantaged communities solidified medicine as the future for me. My fascination with the intellectual and technical pressures of surgically dealing with the brain has made the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Lab my second home for learning.
It is an absolute honor and privilege to be an addition to the team at Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory. Here, I have had the opportunity to be a part of several projects – and am currently assisting Dr. Tayebi and Dr. Rodriguez with the taking of 3D surgical photos, collaborating in the dissection of cadaveric heads for complex surgical techniques, and conducting literature reviews for project publications. Additionally, I am learning how to edit previously recorded 3D neurosurgical videos and writing research publications for the advancement of neurosurgical anatomy.
At the Skull Base Lab, the passion, curiosity, and inspiration of each of the team members to understand intricate neurosurgery techniques foster a constant growth environment. Dr. Benet’s and Dr. Tayebi’s love, enthusiasm, and constant encouragement of exploring uncharted territories allows each of us to challenge each other to see beyond traditional ways of thinking in order to innovate. There is nothing more stimulating and refreshing than opening each other’s mind to seeing boundless new possibilities. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity of working and learning side by side with the Neurosurgeons at the Skull Base Lab. I value the daily learning and challenges, and am eagerly looking forward to contributing to revolutionary neurosurgical research.
I have fallen in love with Neurosurgery. This experience would not have been possible without the passion and support displayed by Dr. Benet and each of the fellows.learn more
I am a second year at the University of California, Los Angeles studying neuroscience. After having a keen interest in the sciences from a young age, I decided to focus my interests in the medical field. I have always been enthralled by surgery, which prompted me to reach out to Dr. Benet to inquire about a shadowing opportunity in the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery Lab at UCSF.
During my time in the laboratory, I have assisted the fellows with various projects. I have worked mainly with Dr. Ali Tayebi Meybodi in researching the external carotid artery exposure through the posterior neck. This has included sitting in on dissections, taking measurements and high quality 3D images, researching through PubMed, and helping write the manuscript to be published. I have also had the incredible opportunity to assist Dr. Benet in a bypass surgery on a live rat.
After spending the majority of my summer in the SBCV lab, I have fallen in love with Neurosurgery. This experience would not have been possible without the passion and support displayed by Dr. Benet and each of the fellows. Not only have they allowed me to participate in complex Neurosurgery research far beyond my years, but they have focused on teaching me as much as possible in the meantime. For this reason, I avidly recommend students with an interest in Neurosurgery to come and learn as much as they can.
“The resources and expertise never fail to meet even the most extraordinary of ambitions.”learn more
My name is Peyton Nisson. I am a medical student from the University of Arizona College of Medicine. I joined Dr. Benet’s lab during my summer in between first and second year to pursue research in neurosurgery. I completed my undergrad at University of Arizona in 2013 and since have worked in pathology at the university hospital and entered the College of Public Health for a Master’s in Public Health before entering medical school.
Research has always been a passion of mine. I remember one of the first times I started doing research when I was a sophomore in undergrad, thinking how amazing it was to be put on a project that was referenced in a text book my classmates and I were just reading. The idea of contributing to science and being able to expand our learning as we try understand the natural laws on the universe is one of the most fulfilling things I can spend my time doing. I am interested in understanding if locations of aneurysms in the brain influence patient outcomes and how they might correlate with the different treatment modalities.
Working at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory has been such a powerful experience. There is a rich atmosphere of diversity, collegiality, and friendship. I consider myself so fortunate because being here really doesn’t seem like work. I think almost everyone who goes into medicine wants to make a difference. In this laboratory you really can do just that. The resources and expertise never fail to meet even the most extraordinary of ambitions.
“The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory is the compass to navigate the complexities and challenges of skull base anatomical landscape in order to maximize lives and livelihoods saved.”
Hansen Deng is a first year medical student at University of California, San Francisco. Prior to medical school, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in human biology and studio painting specializing in oil. At Mission Bay, he researched the pathophysiology of heterotopic ossification (HO) in murine model with traumatic impact to the spinal cord to further understand neuro-molecular cascade post spinal cord injury. He has a paramount interest in cerebrovascular surgery and in minimal approaches that are unique to the anatomy of the individual and pathology of the disease. Observing the poise and rigor of UCSF neurosurgeons in the OR further cemented his motivation for ongoing and future development.
He is enthused by the utilization of 3D imaging systems in tandem with state of the art surgical simulations to answer the current practical questions in cerebrovascular and neuro-oncological surgery. He is committed and excited to have the opportunity to learn alongside prominent neurosurgeons such as Dr. Arnau Benet and contribute to the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory’s vision of neurosurgical research.
He greatly appreciates Dr. Arnau Benet’s guidance and fully concurs that in order to consistently push the technical frontiers in neurosurgery and otolaryngology and solve the most difficult cases — as expected at UCSF — it is essential to have a team committed to minimal impact surgical research. This laboratory is the compass to navigate the complexities and challenges of skull base anatomical landscape in order to maximize lives and livelihoods saved. To him, there is nothing more invigorating than the opportunity to be part of such a team.
“What makes the UCSF Cerebrovascular Skull Base Lab so unique is the perfectly balanced dynamic of hard work and a friendly atmosphere, which provides an ideal environment for everyone to learn, grow, and be as productive as possible.”learn more
I am a pre-medical student majoring in neuroscience. I was exposed to medicine at a young age, creating an insatiable hunger for learning about it.
This only increased as I grew older. I knew I was interested in the brain, and I love working with my hands so my eyes were drawn to neurosurgery. I applied for the position, and showing my passion and energy for the field, I was granted the opportunity to work at the UCSF Cerebrovascular and Skull Base Laboratory.
My work in the lab mainly comprises of collaborating with Dr. Ali Tayebi in multiple studies and projects, such as the researching the anastomosis of the anterior temporal artery and the temporopolar artery, and researching about methods for treating Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. In the lab, my work has consisted of assisting Dr. Tayebi with cadaver dissections, taking 3D images, and taking measurements during these dissections. Outside of the lab, I have produced the format for data input for analysis after the data has been created.
Working at this lab has increased my passion and knowledge in the art and science of neurosurgery. Every day I learn so much more, and every day my interest and love for the field expands tremendously. This is due to the very unique quality of this laboratory, which is the fact that every individual contributes in some way to every other individual in the lab. While working in the lab, the fellows have not only been able to make great progress in their neurosurgical research, but also have been able to teach me a massive amount of information during this time. This is due to the powerful and passionate direction of Dr. Benet, who provides the central support to the dynamic of this amazing lab.
“Working at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory not only means performing cadaveric dissections and learn surgical neuroanatomy, but it also means be part of team who cares about the future.”
José Luis Sanmillán was born on July 5th of 1985 in Castelló de la Plana (Spain). After coursing high school in his own city, he obtained the Medical Degree in 2009 at the Universitat de València (València, Spain). Afterwards, he moved to Barcelona and coursed the Neurosurgery Residency Program at Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge (Barcelona, Spain) starting on 2010 and finishing it in 2015.
Currently he works at Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge (Barcelona, Spain) as neurosurgeon.
The main research performed by Dr Sanmillán at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory focused on the analysis, evaluation, and comparison of different skull base approaches for the treatment of neurovascular lesions. As Neurosurgery constantly evolves, the main goal of Dr Sanmillán research pointed towards the application of arising endoscopic procedures for the treatment of challenging neurovascular lesions. His research combined accurate surgical anatomy description of the surgical approach and trajectory, and analytic comparisons between both open and endoscopic procedures, in order to determine a safe and effective surgical route to reach and treat complex cerebrovascular lesions.
“Working at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory not only means performing cadaveric dissections and learn surgical neuroanatomy, but it also means be part of team who cares about the future. Be part of an international team formed by talented neurosurgeons and share with them knowledge, doubts and problems. It means to share actual problems found in the daily neurosurgical practice, discuss ways to solve them, and finally design a research project with the aim of improve the quality of the surgical procedures and the patient care. “
“Frankly, I feel very honored to be part of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory at UCSF. The atmosphere here is thought-stimulating, full of exploration, innovation and collaboration.”learn more
Xuequan Feng is a neurosurgeon and associate professor at Tianjin 1st Center Hospital in Tianjin, China. He received his medical degree at Nankai University in 2003. In 2009, he obtained his Ph.D. degree at Tianjin Medical University. Sponsored by China Scholarship Council (CSC) in 2014, he began his work as a visiting scholar and research fellow at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory in UCSF.
Dr. Feng is interested in the treatment of neurovascular diseases and is currently conducting research on extracranial to intracranial (EC-IC) bypass techniques, including a novel approach to locate and isolate the internal maxillary artery (IMA) for IMA-M2 highflow bypass, a new technique to harvest the superficial temporal artery (STA) for STA-MCA bypass, and ways to protect the middle meningeal artery (MMA) during craniotomy and its potential bypass usage. Adhering to clinical requirements, Dr. Feng aspires to evolve the conventional surgical procedures to be safer, more efficient and less invasive. Talented in brain anatomy, he shoots professional and exquisite photos throughout his meticulous anatomical work. For this reason, he gained a nickname “Leonardo da Vinci” in the lab.
“Frankly, I feel very honored to be part of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory at UCSF,” says Feng. “The atmosphere here is thought-stimulating, full of exploration, innovation and collaboration. With cutting-edge equipments such as Zeiss Pentero 800 microscope, Stryker and Medtronic drills, Truevision 3D system, Naviagion, Striker endoscope, Stryker sonopet ultrasonic aspirator and Mizuho surgical clamp, we are able to fully simulate all kinds of brain surgery. I love interacting with other fellows in the lab, working together and helping one another. We all have learned a lot from Dr. Benet, Director of the lab, who is an expert in the field of neuroanatomy and 3D techniques. To anyone who might be interested in joining the lab, I would like to offer a piece of advice: aside from a solid foundation in anatomical knowledge, you really need to have a strong desire to learn and stay committed to whatever you do. You will experience tremendous growth here!”
“Working in a neurosurgical laboratory in the University of California-San Francisco, fully equipped with the latest technology in the field, is an unforgettable experience.”learn more
After graduation from NODET* high school, I entered to the Tabriz University of Medical sciences in Iran. A year after graduation, I attended as a clinical observer for one year in the department of surgery, Imperial College of Medicine, London, United Kingdom. I continued my professional career as an independent researcher studying human neuroanatomy with pure concentration on forensic cases of head trauma and cerebral lesions. Concurrent with my neuroanatomy research, I had close cooperations with Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Research Center and Neuroscience Research Center of Tabriz University of Medical sciences. As a semi-professional classifier of disabled athletes for para-olympic and international competitions, I spent on one year of technical research for developing new neuro-rehabilitation devices for disabled patients with spinal cord lesions and making new concentric needles for EMG study. After two years of research in the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, I started as research fellow at the Department of Neurosurgery, University of California San Francisco.
Venous system of the brain is of my interest because of its special and complex identity. Meanwhile, even in the era of modern Neurosurgery after so valuable microsurgical studies, clinical importance of the cerebral venous system is highly neglected under the shadow of arterial system. My research focuses on the evaluation of microsurgical anatomy of the tentorial sinuses and related bridging veins, as challenging obstacles in some neurosurgical approaches, with more emphasis on defining practically, reliable, trajectories for safe surgical entry zones through the tentorium, which can be of high-yield clinical application for neurosurgeons.
Working in a neurosurgical laboratory in the University of California-San Francisco, fully equipped with the latest technology in the field, is an unforgettable experience. Our lab becomes unique not only for its sophisticated equipments but also because of creative minds, enthusiastic and dedicated enough to enlighten the way of glory to conquer formerly known indomitable fortresses of cerebrovascular pathologies and make no goal in the field of neurosurgical research unattainable. All of these have come into the existence under the leadership of a mentor with brilliant mind, inspiring and supportive spirit, an asset for the world of neurosurgical research; Dr.Arnau Benet Cabero.
*National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents
“The time I spent in the lab will be the most beautiful memory of my life.”learn more
LI Wei is an associate professor coming from Ear-Nose-Throat department of the first affiliated hospital of China Medical University. He studied in the otolaryngology department of UCSF as visiting scholar, and also works in the skull base and cerebrovascular laboratory.
Dr. LI is an expert in the sinonasal endoscopic approach to the skull base. He is conducting research on the regional anatomy of the internal carotid artery, including the definition of surgical landmarks for safe and efficient exposure of the posterior genu of the petrous internal carotid artery as well as trajectories to protect the V3 branches and the Eustatian tube during the dissection. Adhering to the clinical requirements, Dr. LI describes surgical procedures on recognizing the ICA using bony landmarks, and he also explores the variation of the landmarks, such as sphenoid spine of the temporal bone.
“As the only ENT surgeon in the skull base and cerebrovascular laboratory, I really learned a lot here,” says LI. “Dr. Benet builds up an anatomy simulation on the operation room, and the instruments are updated and even better than the ones used during real surgery. I enjoy the cadaveric surgery instead of doing anatomy experiment. All the colleagues coming from different countries work happily together. We not only share the ideas and knowledge with each other, but also the traditional foods and culture. The time I spent in the lab will be the most beautiful memory of my life.”
“Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.”learn more
My name is Dr. Kaiming Su. I am an associated otolaryngologist coming from the ENT department of Jiao-tong University Affiliated 6th Hospital, in Shanghai, China.
I graduated from the Department of Ophthalmology & Otolaryngology, Nanjing Medical University with an M.D. degree in 1996. I subsequently received a Ph.D degree from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2009. Till now, I have published about twenty papers as a corresponding author or first author, and have received six research grants, including recent funding from the National Natural Science Foundation. In recent years, I have dedicated my time to nasal-orbit-skull base related surgery; I am very interested in all these fields of study.
I am very grateful for Dr. Benet, who has given me the opportunity to conduct research in the UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory. My current project focuses on an endoscopic transorbital approach for the decompression of inner the wall of the optic nerve. This approach is an alteration of the traditional trans-cranial open surgical approach. The purpose of this is to diminish surgical trauma.
The enthusiasm of the team has empowered many fellows to develop new ideas which advances neurosurgical research. It is a great honor to be a part of this team and I look forward to my future in the laboratory.
“Ideal is the beacon. Without ideal, there is no secure direction; without direction, there is no life.” – Leo Tolstoylearn more
I am Xiaoming Guo, a chief physician at the Beijing 304th Hospital in China. As a neurosurgeon engaged in clinical work for more than 20 years, I am good at microsurgical operation and endovascular treatment for cerebrovascular disease and intracranial tumor. I have experienced not only a lot of success stories but also much failure and regret in my career. I have always had a dream — to have the opportunity to return to school to learn and update the professional knowledge, to master the more advanced technical skills – all of this to bring better care and pain relief for the patient.
I was lucky to come here. Now, I am studying the dissection about the middle cranial fossa and cavernous sinus, my projects are also associated with contents such as how to find landmarks and use them to protect cochlea in the Kawase approach, etc. In addition, I have also received training on how to better use the navigation system and endoscopy system, as well as bypass surgery training. I really enjoy working here.
Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Benet, the director of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory at UCSF, for his enthusiasm and encouragement. This experience at UCSF has left me with some of my best memories.
My friend, if you have a dream like mine, join us. This is a world class laboratory with some of the world’s top neurosurgery teachers. Here, your dream will come true.
“Every man hopes to one day find joy and purpose in his work. Neurosurgery, and in particular working in the UCSF Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory, offers no shortage of both.”learn more
“The belief that some lives matter more than others is the root of all that is wrong in the world.” – Dr. Paul Farmer
I am a 2015 graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts where I majored in Chemistry. After an elbow injury sidelined my pitching career, I began to see that there was more to life than baseball and directed my efforts to medicine. While in Haiti in 2014 and through my prior work with the global health non-profit Global Oncology, I began to hone in on the urgent need for rudimentary development and expansion of suitable neurosurgical facilities. Currently awaiting acceptance to medical school, I am taking a gap year working as a research analyst in the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory. This would not have been possible without the mentorship and amazing support of the whole team, especially Dr. Benet, Dr. Tayebi, Dr. Lawton and Dr. McDermott.
My long-term career goal is to help establish residency training programs for neurosurgery in low-resource settings. Thus, my work in the laboratory is directed towards the lab’s educational mission: to provide access to neurosurgical and neuroanatomy educational resources to medical students, residents and patients worldwide. In addition, I assist Dr. Tayebi with his ongoing research projects in order to become more familiar with neurosurgical technique and navigating the complex cerebral anatomy.
I believe it is a basic human right that everyone who needs it have access to neurosurgical care. The best way to carry this out is to establish neurosurgical residencies in areas without them and to equip the residents with the infrastructure, technology, and educational resources which will allow them to provide the highest level of care for their patients. In pursuing this goal I am committed to continue gaining experience in the neurosurgical field by emulating and learning from those who are highly skilled and extremely passionate about their work. The mentorship of Dr. Benet, Dr. Tayebi and the rest of the Skull Base team is second to none. The environment of the lab makes coming to work a real joy; the enthusiasm, passion and collaborative effort everybody brings to the table is life-giving and encouraging. One of my favorite aspects about the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Lab is that we remind ourselves each day that the real reason we work so hard is to provide better care for our patients. There is no greater motivation.
“To any undergraduate student keen on joining the team, she strongly encourages an eagerness to explore the daunting challenges that face neurosurgeons today.”learn more
Simar Singh is a Senior at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Integrative Biology as a Regents and Chancellor’s Scholar. She has had a strong inclination towards the medical field since high school, and is interested in pursuing a career in plastic and reconstructive surgery. While attending UC Berkeley, she also devotes her time contributing to the medical research at the University of California, San Francisco’s Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Lab, under Dr. Arnau Benet’s supervision.
Her work at the SBCV lab has involved anatomical dissections including the dissection of the facial and auriculotemporal nerves using a surgical microscope. Her background as an accomplished, hyperrealist artist has also allowed her to contribute various illustrations depicting complex anatomical regions and innovative surgical techniques designed by the laboratory. These illustrations have accompanied the lab’s research publications in neurosurgical journals.
The lab has been pivotal in solidifying her interest in the surgical field. To any undergraduate student keen on joining the team, she strongly encourages an eagerness to explore the daunting challenges that face neurosurgeons today.
Our research fellows are the heartbeat of the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory. We take pride on selecting the most talented and committed applicants, which we then provide with an optimal environment to develop and reveal their full potential. It is because we are very passionate about advancing operative Neurosurgery and otolaryngology that we enjoy teaching our fellows and commit to their professional development. Because training a new research fellow is not a light endeavor, we believe in working in small groups of highly selected individuals. This application is very competitive; the time from application to starting the fellowship with us (considering visa immigration process) may take months or years.
Letter of intent. Background of the applicant in both surgery and surgical anatomy (with specific examples). Personal motivations and career goals. Commitment to hard work.
English Proficiency & familiarity of the international anatomical nomenclature.
Curriculum Vitae with special emphasis to official training, publications and creativity.
Project proposal. Proposal of an area of study, innovative idea and relevance of the project in the field.
The research position in our laboratory will be offered to a highly qualified neurosurgeon with expertise in the field of surgical anatomy who is preferably experienced with research in the field of cerebrovascular and skull base surgery. Applicants with knowledge of 3D photography (routine to our research and educational projects) would have priority, as it will increase efficiency during the laboratory time.
A committee formed by Dr. Benet, Dr. Lawton and Dr. Berger will ensure a fair selection process.
The fellow will commit to a relevant research topic consisting of sequential projects of progressive scientific complexity. The research topic will be designed to finally cover a specific research area in the field of cerebrovascular and or neuro-oncological surgical anatomy with the aim of answering pivotal current questions or limitations in the field.
The progress of the projects and the performance of the fellow will be presented to the laboratory director during laboratory meetings.
The end product of the fellows work in the laboratory will include publication of the research findings in renowned peer-reviewed journals in the field.
Preparation of specimens for surgical simulation as defined in the research projects.
Mastering the techniques for 3D photography of anatomical dissections that are used for illustrative purposes in submitted research manuscripts to peer reviewed journals and national and international educational events.
Actively participate in teaching new fellows that engage in research projects in the lab approved by the laboratory. This includes teaching techniques of 3D photography for illustrative anatomical dissections.
Elaboration of an Internet-based resource to share the educational resources of the laboratory to the neurosurgical community.
Help develop a series of 3D neurosurgical anatomy video-lectures taught by our faculty and prepare them for worldwide divulgation.
At the UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we are committed to teach and share the cutting edge neurosurgical techniques to the widest audience we can reach. The laboratory produces an average of 3Gb of high-definition 3D photographs that depict complex anatomy and surgical approaches. We use the best photographs of our virtual library to generate highly educative 3D lectures, which take place in a monthly basis.
3D Neurosurgical anatomy series. Monthly. Directed to comprehensive study of the surgical anatomy relevant to a specific approach, including a stepwise review of the technique and critical structures. Faculty: Dr. Benet. Directed to Neurosurgery residents, Open to current research fellows.
Laboratory meeting review. The research innovations of the laboratory are thoroughly reviewed. The surgical anatomy, literature review and alternative techniques to the innovative approach are described. Lecturer: active research fellows. Closed to laboratory active fellows and observers.
3D Anterolateral Skull Base Surgery Course (hands-on). Once a year, the UCSF Skull Base and Cerebrovascular laboratory partners with Stryker to organize an international Hands-on cadaveric course for OHNS and Neurosurgery senior residents. Faculty: Dr Ivan El-Sayed, Arnau Benet, Philip Theodosopoulous, Michael McDermott, Michael T Lawton. Participants upon registration, Open to active research fellows of the laboratory.
3D Otolaryngology Head & Neck surgical anatomy series. Each quarter. The surgical anatomy of the Temporal bone and Endoscopic Endonasal approaches is reviewed thoroughly. Faculty: Arnau Benet. Directed to residents in OHNS. Open to the active research fellows of the laboratory.
One-to-one sessions. On demand. Review of complex surgical anatomy and less familiar regions of the head and neck, brain and vasculature. Faculty: Arnau Benet. Reserved to active research fellows and UCSF residents.