Alexander Khalessi Named President-Elect of Congress of Neurological Surgeons

This prestigious position recognizes Dr. Khalessi’s exemplary leadership in the complex and evolving field of neurosurgery

Alexander A. Khalessi, MD, MBA, chair of neurosurgery at UC San Diego Health, has been chosen as 2023 president-elect of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

University of California San Diego Neurosurgical Chair Alexander A. Khalessi, MD, MBA, has been named as 2023 president-elect of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the leading academic society for neurosurgical professionals with more than 10,000 members worldwide.

"This prestigious position recognizes Dr. Khalessi’s exemplary leadership in the complex and evolving field of neurosurgery," said Steven Garfin, MD, interim vice chancellor, health sciences and orthopedic surgeon at UC San Diego Health. "I have personally witnessed Dr. Khalessi's moving advocacy of patient-centered neurosurgical care and look forward to his leadership in furthering neurosurgical education and scientific exchange.” 

"Dr. Khalessi and his faculty partners have expanded and elevated the breadth and depth of neurosurgical sub-specialty care available to our patients locally and nationally,” said Patty Maysent, CEO, UC San Diego Health. “We are certain Dr. Khalessi will bring the same energy and expertise to lead surgeons, scientists, and educators in the worldwide treatment of neurological disease.”

A globally recognized board-certified neurosurgeon, Professor Khalessi specializes in complex cranial and endovascular neurosurgery for the treatment of cerebrovascular and oncologic conditions. He became chair of neurosurgery at UC San Diego in 2018 and was named the inaugural chair holder of the Don and Karen Cohn Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in 2021.

“Neurosurgery is about applying technology in a decisive moment to care for people. Today, we are saving lives and reversing disability from neurological disease considered inoperable just a decade ago,” said Khalessi, the first UC San Diego faculty member to hold the role. “To be trusted by my peers to serve as a steward for this future progress is a generational opportunity. Adding to this joy is the opportunity to bring deserved visibility to the incredible work being done right here in San Diego.”

Khalessi has served the congress for nearly a decade in multiple executive committee and officer roles. He has led scientific programming for the CNS Annual Meeting, served on the Washington Committee, and led CNS Foundation efforts in clinical guidelines, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), international and surgeon scientist programming pillars. Khalessi further represents neurosurgery on the Board of Governors for the American College of Surgeons.

Sharona Ben-Haim, MD, neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health, will join Khalessi in CNS leadership. She has been elected Member-at-Large to the CNS Executive Committee and was recently named chair-elect of Women in Neurosurgery (WINS) — a group dedicated to advancing women neurosurgeons.

Khalessi sees opportunities to create early awareness of the field among medical students and residents, especially women and members of underrepresented groups, and to spur innovation by inviting engineers and neuroscientists into the operating room.

“It’s important to give fellow neuroscientists, engineers and entrepreneurs visibility to the current limits of neurosurgical capabilities,” said Khalessi. “Through the Congress, we can ensure the best minds are working on techniques, surgical visualization, device implants, and delivery methods for neuromodulation and biologics to restore brain and spine health.”

Khalessi sees persistent harmful gaps in access to the standard of neurological care, especially in conflict zones and resource-constrained areas of the world. With a robust online education portfolio, Khalessi plans to proactively amplify CNS programs to offer easy access to the best surgical protocols to treat head and spine disease and injuries. The CNS is uniquely positioned to advance this work as the leading academic society for neurosurgical education and guidelines.

UC San Diego Health is ranked #1 locally and nationally ranked in 10 specialties, including 21st in the nation for neurosurgical care by U.S. News & World Report. It also ranks among the top ten academic medical centers in the U.S., according to Vizient, Inc.

UC San Diego Health holds every major neurosurgical sub-specialty designation including Comprehensive NCI Cancer Center Designation, Level 1 Trauma Center, and Level 4 Epilepsy Center.

In Khalessi’s sub-specialty area, UC San Diego Health became the third Comprehensive Stroke Center nationally. UC San Diego Health remains one of a select few systems nationally with multi-site designation in La Jolla and Hillcrest.

UC San Diego School of Medicine neurosurgery faculty are principal or co-investigators on $30 million annually in extramural grants. Its sister Neurosciences Department remains consistently #1 in the nation for NIH funding over the past decade.

To learn more about neurosurgery at UC San Diego Health visit


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