Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, Chair of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern, Dies at 48

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Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD

[Dr. Parsa] was a pioneering neurosurgeon and an innovative investigator who pushed the boundaries of scientific understanding.

—Eric G. Neilson, MD

Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, the Michael J. Marchese Professor and Chair of the Departments of Neurological Surgery at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, passed away on April 13. He was 48 years old.

“We are all shocked and saddened by this great loss. Dr. Parsa was a distinguished scholar, an extraordinarily talented surgeon, and a dedicated mentor to students and faculty alike,” said Eric G. Neilson, MD, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean at Feinberg. “He was a pioneering neurosurgeon and an innovative investigator who pushed the boundaries of scientific understanding. His presence will be sorely missed within the Northwestern Medicine community and across the country.”

Pioneering Research

“He spent his whole life trying to solve the problem of treating brain tumors [and] glioblastoma multiforme,” Dr. Neilson continued. “He got interested in [glioblastoma multiforme in] medical school with one of his faculty members at that time, and he learned surgery could not cure this cancer. He began thinking how the immune system could be activated. It turned out to be an extremely novel approach.”

Dr. Parsa was renowned for his research in tumors of the brain and spine and was the principal investigator of the largest brain tumor vaccine trial funded by the National Cancer Institute. The study’s phase II ( Identifier: NCT01814813) results showed the experimental vaccine helped extend the lives of glioblastoma multiforme patients. The study is now in its third phase.

“Dr. Parsa’s dedication to his patients made him a role model not just among physicians, but for all of us who were privileged to have worked with him,” said Dean M. Harrison, President and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. “Though his legacy will continue to inspire us for many years, his passing has been felt deeply across Northwestern Medicine.”

Before coming to Northwestern in 2013, Dr. Parsa was Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University and his doctorate and medical degrees from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He completed his surgical internship and residency at Columbia University. He served on the board of several organizations, including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Society for Neuro-Oncology.

He performed about 300 surgeries per year, in addition to continuing his research, as well as teaching.

Dr. Parsa is survived by his wife, ­Charlotte Shum, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Feinberg School of Medicine, and their three children: Julia, Micheline, and Ismail. ■