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Spine Neurosurgery Team

Vincent Traynelis, MD


Vincent Traynelis, MD, is director of the Spine Service within the Department of Neurological Surgery. He is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in complex spine surgery, spinal deformity, spinal arthroplasty, spinal reconstruction, spinal tumors, spinal cord tumors and minimally invasive spine surgery.

His research interests include cervical spine surgery, spinal infections, operative monitoring and spinal biomechanics.

He is past president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Cervical Spine Research Society, and past chairperson of the Joint Section of Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves. He is the chairman of the editorial board of the "Journal of Neurosurgery Spine" and serves on the editorial boards of other prominent journals.

Traynelis has published more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals, more than 65 chapters, four books and almost 200 editorials.

Gregory Bowman, RN

Gregory Bowman, RN, is a baccalaureate-prepared registered nurse who works with Harel Deutsch, MD, and John O'Toole, MD, MS in the Department of Neurosurgery.

Bowman graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University in 2010 and spent the first six years of his nursing career in family and internal medicine at Lawndale Christian Health Center and Rush University Internists. He joined the Rush spine neurosurgery team in March 2017.

Julia A. Clifford-Furlan, RN, MS, FNP-BC, CNRN

Julia A. Clifford-Furlan, RN, MS, FNP-BC, CNRN, is a nurse practitioner in the Department of Neurosurgery. Clifford-Furlan received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing at St. Xavier University in Chicago. 

She has extensive experience with the neuroscience patient population, having started in the neuroscience inpatient unit at University of Chicago Medical Center as a new graduate in 1997. Since that time, she has assumed leadership roles, including charge nurse and clinical preceptor, as well as case management for neurosurgery and otolaryngology patient populations.

Clifford-Furlan has supported the practice of Richard Fessler, MD, PhD, for the past 10 years.

Harel Deutsch, MD


Harel Deutsch, MD, whose subspecialty is spine surgery, is skilled in complex spinal procedures and spine tumor surgery. He specializes in the care of patients with degenerative and traumatic disease of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine with a strong emphasis on minimally invasive surgery.

He has a special interest in failed previous spine surgery and failed back syndrome. He is also involved in research on motion preservation technology and artificial disc technology.

A board-certified neurosurgery, Deutsch has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and has published abstracts and book chapters. His research interest is in the etiology of chronic back pain.

Richard Fessler, MD, PhD


Richard Fessler, MD, PhD, is internationally recognized for his contributions to spine surgery.  He was the first physician in the United States to perform human embryonic spinal cord transplantation, and he has continued to lead clinical research protocols in stem cell transplantation for the treatment of spinal cord injury. 

Fessler is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, with significant contributions in numerous areas of his field.  He is also dedicated to finding innovative methods to repair spinal cord injuries. 

Fessler has authored 25 books, more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and he has delivered more than 1,000 lectures nationally and internationally.

Ricardo Fontes, MD, PhD


Ricardo Fontes, MD, PhD, received his medical degree in his home country of Brazil at the University of São Paulo where he also received his PhD.

Fontes is a board-eligible neurosurgeon whose area of expertise includes complex and minimallyinvasive spine surgery, with a focus in pediatric and adult deformity, scoliosis and degenerative disorders of the spine.

His areas of interest in research also include pediatric and adult scoliosis, spine deformity, degeneration of the intervertebral disc and minimally-invasive spine surgery.

He has already contributed to more than 70 journal and book chapter publications, in both English and Portuguese.

Jamie E. Henry, RN, MSN, ACNP


Jamie E. Henry, RN, MSN, ACNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Department of Neurosurgery. Prior to working at Rush, Jamie received her bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Illinois-Champaign and her master's degree in nursing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

While working as a nurse in the surgical intensive care unit, she gained great experience caring for patients in a variety of areas, from cardio-thoracic to neurosurgical and trauma.

She has also taken on many leadership roles, including charge nurse, clinical preceptor and annual competency validator.

Henry works primarily with Ricardo Fontes, MD, PhD.

Vilija Kastl, RN, BSN

Vilija Kastl, RN, BSN, is a nurse clinician in the Department of Neurosurgery at Rush.

She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology in 2015 and her Bachelor of Science in nursing in August 2016, both from the University of Central Florida.

Vilija spent the first two years of her nursing career in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit in Orlando, Florida. She then moved to Chicago and joined the neurosurgery team at Rush. She works primarily with Vincent Traynelis, MD, and Richard Fessler, MD, PhD.

John O’Toole, MD, MS


John O’Toole, MD, MS, is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in spine tumor services (including spinal column and spinal cord tumors), minimally invasive spine surgery, complex spinal reconstruction, spinal arthroplasty and spinal radiosurgery.

He is the co-director of The Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Spine Tumor Clinic, which provides multidisciplinary care for patients with spinal tumors.

His research interests are clinical outcomes for spinal surgery, cost-effectiveness in spinal surgery, image-guided spinal surgery, evidence-based guideline developments, and the development of new spinal surgical techniques and devices.

O’Toole is a member of many national committees for neurosurgical, spinal surgical and independent research organizations. His work has generated more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and presentations.

Lauren Springer, RN, MSN, AGACNP-BC


Lauren Springer, RN, MSN, AGACNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner with nearly 10 years of neurosurgical experience within the critical care setting.

Prior to joining the Department of Neurological Surgery at Rush, Springer worked as a registered nurse in the neuroscience intensive care unit at the University of Illinois-Chicago Hospital Health Sciences System, as well as an advanced practice nurse in the surgical intensive care unit at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.

Springer obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Loyola University Chicago and her Master of Science degree in nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She has board certification as an adult-geriatric acute care nurse practitioner and is a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Springer works predominantly with Vincent Traynelis, MD.

Lauren Surges, RN, BSN


Lauren Surges, RN, BSN, is a nurse clinician at Rush University Medical Center in neurosurgery. Surges received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in May 2010 from University of St. Francis in Joliet.

She has worked as a surgical nurse with adults for more than five years. She has gained great experience caring for a variety of patients from orthopedic to general surgical and bariatric surgery. She has also worked in pediatrics, caring for patients on a neurology, endocrine and neurosurgical unit for three years. She has taken on many leadership roles including charge nurse and clinical preceptor.

Andrea Whedon RN, MSN, FNP

Andrea Whedon, RN, MSN, FNP, nurse practitioner, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Andrea Whedon RN, MSN, FNP, is a board-certified nurse practitioner with more than 10 years of neurosurgical experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., and completed her Master of Science in nursing at Rush.

Whedon is certified in neuroscience nursing and is the coordinator of the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Spine Tumor Clinic. 

She works primarily with John O'Toole, MD, MS.