Where do brain tumors come from? Endowed chair holder and neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Handler sees potential in unanswered questions

Monday, Aug 11 2014

michael handler

Neurosurgeon and Children’s Circle of Care donor Dr. Michael Handler sees potential in unanswered questions. In a probing, cerebral manner appropriate for someone who studies the brain, he talks about what neuroscientists don’t yet know: Where do brain tumors come from? What causes the failure of the nervous system and spina bifida? Why do some people get epilepsy after a traumatic brain injury, while others do not?

Dr. Handler believes that if Children’s Colorado can continue to expand our research endeavor, we will join the top players in pediatric neurosciences and unlock more mysteries of the brain.

One of Dr. Handler’s many priorities as holder of the McMurry Seebaum Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery is developing a strong research program to answer these questions. By offering research support to faculty investigators, they can serve patients now by using what they do know, and serve patients in the future by finding answers to what they do not.

International reach, local impact

The McMurry Seebaum Chair is helping Dr. Handler grow knowledge inside our hospital and beyond. The gift enables Dr. Handler to attend international conferences, which raises Children’s Colorado’s profile and has had the direct effect of increasing the number of applications for our pediatric neurosurgical fellowship.

Exposure to new ideas from specialists around the world makes a difference for patients, too. “The chair allows us to seek out new knowledge that enhances the care we provide at Children’s Colorado,” Dr. Handler said. “I learned about a new procedure for treating epilepsy from the American Epilepsy Society meeting that is much less intrusive. We are now using that procedure.”

Expanding research activities

Chair funding supports a full-time research assistant in the neuro-oncology lab. Dr. Handler was also able to use chair funds to supplement the hire of two full-time clinical research associates.

One of the four neurosurgeons on staff was able to participate in a clinical studies program at the University of Colorado to formally learn how to do clinical research. Chair funds helped cover part of his time out of clinic, an investment Dr. Handler and his team believe will pay off, academically and clinically. Having a foundation in clinical research will further distinguish a  neurosurgery program that stands out for its innovation and collaboration across all the neurosciences subspecialties.

Think, delve and discover

Philanthropic gifts like the McMurry Seebaum Chair are crucial to give neurosurgeons the time to step back, think and develop research projects. Traditional funding sources for research, like National Institutes of Health grants, are harder to come by, and the clinical work of neurosurgeons keeps them busy. Time afforded by funds like this chair provide an invaluable gift to Dr. Handler and his colleagues as they work to find out what they don’t yet know.

Learn more about endowment gifts and our endowed chairs.

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