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15th Anniversary of Columbia’s Neuro Charity Softball

There’s nothing like summer in the city: the air, the energy, the hundreds of neurosurgeons playing softball.

That’s right. This year, more than 600 neurosurgeons from across the United States and Canada will come together in Central Park for the annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament, organized by the department of neurosurgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. They’ll enjoy camaraderie and compete for the chance to take home a one-of-a-kind trophy: a golden softball inside a model of a skull.*  But the main reason for this gathering of neurosurgeons is to raise money for the Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation, which was set up by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) “to support research and education efforts that enhance and confirm the critical role neurosurgeons play in improving lives”.

The event was established 15 years ago by Dr. Ricardo Komotar, then a first-year resident in Columbia’s Department of Neurosurgery, and Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, Columbia neurosurgeon and Residency Program Director. In its first year, the tournament was a friendly competition among four New York City neurosurgery departments: Columbia, Cornell, NYU and Mount Sinai. The following year, four more teams from the region participated: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. Today, 40 teams come to compete in what is one of the largest annual events held in Central Park and among the largest organized events in neurosurgery.

The Neuro Charity Softball Tournament has been covered by ABC, CBS, NBC and even ESPN. It’s been written up in The Wall Street Journal and on Huffington Post. Now, for the 15th anniversary, it’s been noted in the scientific literature, too: The Journal of Neurosurgery published an article about the event, written by co-founders Dr. Komotar and Dr. Bruce and current Columbia neurosurgery resident Dr. Hannah Goldstein.

The June 2018 cover of the Journal of Neurosurgery features an image of the championship trophy, as well as the team from the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Miami.

The authors describe the tournament’s history as well as its philanthropic mission (the all-important “charity” in Neuro Charity Softball). The New York Yankees were the tournament’s first sponsor, and the team continued to support the tournament throughout then-Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s life. Today, corporations in the medical industry are the major sponsors. In addition, all teams pay an entry fee. After the cost of the event is covered, the rest of the money raised goes to support research and education efforts. To date, the tournament has raised nearly half a million dollars.


In addition to its charitable giving, the event has other benefits as well. Prominent neurosurgeons including Dr. Bruce teach a Continuing Medical Education course the evening before the tournament begins. CME credits are important for neurosurgeons throughout their careers as they stay up to date with developments in the field. The CME course is followed by an informal discussion… and then a night of rest before the tournament. The tournament itself fosters a sense of friendly competition among teams, while individual teams benefit from camaraderie outside the workplace, fostered by after-work practices, group travel to the event and team play.

This summer’s tournament is set for Saturday, June 9, 2018, and all area welcome to come cheer the teams on. Play ball!

* The wonderful description of the tournament trophy in Journal of Neurosurgery: A wooden block was obtained from the hospital’s maintenance division and subsequently buffed and polished, and an engraving plate affixed to the front. [This is where the winning team’s name is engraved each year.] A skull and cervical spine model was attached to the wooden block, with a gold-painted softball glued into the posterior fossa. The award was designated as “The J. Lawrence Pool Memorial Trophy” in tribute to the legendary, pioneering former Chairman of Neurological Surgery at Columbia’s Neurological Institute, who was also a passionate and accomplished sportsman (Fig. 1). The trophy is traditionally housed for the year at the tournament winner’s institution and has become a coveted item for friendly bragging rights.

Learn more about Dr. Bruce on his bio page here.

Learn more about Dr. Goldstein on the resident page here.

patient journey

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