The Vanderbilt Department of Surgery was established in 1925 under the leadership of Barney Brooks, M.D. At that time all aspects of surgical care were coordinated within this one department. In 1952 H. William Scott, Jr., M.D., became chairman and served until 1982. As surgical advances progressed, the Department of Surgery was reorganized to include specialized divisions, including Neurological Surgery.
The Division of Neurological Surgery was formed in 1953 with William F. Meacham, M.D., a former Vanderbilt chief surgery, appointed chief of the division. Under Meachams supervision Neurological Surgery became one of the busiest services in the hospital. The clinical and academic programs expanded through the late fifties to include laboratory and clinical investigation. The residency program allowed for coverage with the Nashville General Hospital as well as the Thayer Veterans Administration Hospital .
In 1975 the Division became the Department of Neurological Surgery under the Section of Surgical Sciences. In 1984 George S. Allen, M.D., Ph.D. became chairman. Allen previously directed training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. An expert on pituitary transplants, he performed the first adrenal-brain transplant in 1987, and in 1988, he helped open the Vanderbilt Neurological Intensive Care Unit.
In 2010, Reid C. Thompson, M.D., succeeded Allen as William F. Meacham Professor of Neurological Surgery, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery, and Director of Neurosurgical Oncology. Dr. Thompson joined Vanderbilt as Director of Neurosurgical Oncology and Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center in 2002. He was named Vice-Chairman of Neurological Surgery in 2004. His expertise in skull base surgery and neurovascular surgery have positioned the Department of Neurological Surgery as a leader in research, education and patient care.
In 2012 a new division was formed dedicated to serve pediatric patients. Creation of the division lead to the appointment of Jay Wellons, III, M.D., MSPH, as chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurological Surgery. Wellons' keen clinical interest and extensive focus on novel innovations and research was key in recruiting him into the Vanderbilt faculty.