We are saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime friend and colleague, neurosurgeon Dr. Joao “John” Antunes.
Dr. Antunes was originally from Portugal. He came to the United States to complete his residency in neurosurgery, then joined the Columbia University faculty. He was a staff member and teacher at Columbia for many years before returning to Portugal, where he became a leader in neurosurgery, both in his home country and around the world.
Those words sum up the facts of Dr. Antunes’ career but not the impact he had on his friends, colleagues and Columbia’s Neurological Institute itself.
Dr. Antunes was a young attending surgeon at Columbia when many of our current neurosurgeons were residents, including Dr. Donald Quest, Dr. Michael Sisti and Dr. Robert Solomon. He was an influential mentor to these young neurosurgeons, and he had a profound effect on their careers.
In fact Dr. Solomon, current Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, might never have come to Columbia if not for Dr. Antunes. When young Dr. Solomon was deciding between two residency positions, one at the Neurological Institute and one at a hospital in San Francisco, Dr. Antunes influenced him to choose Columbia. As Dr. Solomon remembers, Dr. Antunes called him at home and said, “Are you crazy? You can’t give up a residency at the Neurological Institute! Who wants to go out to San Francisco?”
“John Antunes was a great friend and mentor for many of us at the Neurological Institute,” says Dr. Solomon. “He was my first faculty adviser for my research work at Columbia and helped launch my academic career. His success as one of the leaders of neurosurgery in Europe was a great tribute to his tenure at the Neurological Institute, and he will always be in our hearts.”
Dr. Antunes will be remembered and missed by everyone who had the good fortune to work with him.
“He was gifted with a brilliant mind,” says Dr. Quest. “He was a superb doctor and surgeon, a revered teacher and a productive scientist. He was erudite, elegant, kind and charming. Though he departed from American shores more than 30 years ago, he was an esteemed friend of many Americans, and we honor his devotion and achievements. We will miss him dearly.”
Dr. Michael Sisti says Dr. Antunes “was an important part of the history of the Neurological Institute and a friend to many. He was a great man, and this is a great loss.”
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