Neurosurgery Residency

Program Overview

The Neurosurgery Residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is a seven-year, ACGME-accredited program that admits two residents per year.

Program Details

We are particularly proud of the collegial, collaborative and supportive environment that exists among the faculty, residents, nurses and staff of Penn State Neurosurgery.

More than 20 full-time clinical faculty members in the Department of Neurosurgery perform about 4,000 neurosurgical procedures per year, including endovascular and radiosurgical cases. Neurosurgery residents at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center receive excellent clinical training in all areas of neurosurgery, including endovascular and vascular neurosurgery, epilepsy surgery, functional neurosurgery, neuro-oncology and skull base surgery, neurocritical care, neurotrauma, pediatric neurosurgery, peripheral nerve surgery, radiosurgery and spine surgery, under the direction of nationally recognized and fellowship-trained neurosurgery faculty members. 

The Department of Neurosurgery also has six fellowships (endovascular, functional, neurocritical care, neuro-oncology, peripheral nerve and spine) accredited by the Society of Neurological Surgeons’ Committee for Advanced Subspecialty Training (CAST). In order to assure that these fellowships do not dilute the operative experience of our own residents, with the exception of neurocritical care, they are offered only as enfolded fellowships to our own residents.

All required clinical rotations occur on Penn State Health’s campus. Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Children’s Hospital, the East Campus Neuroscience Clinic and the Hershey Outpatient Surgical Center are all on the Medical Center campus in Hershey, PA. Elective rotations can be done at our University Park and Wyoming Valley practice sites elsewhere in central Pennsylvania.

One resident per year serves as a registrar at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Australia if he or she so desires. Other, shorter rotations abroad at a variety of locations can also be arranged.

In addition to exceptional clinical training, neurosurgery residents have access to a robust neuroscience research program in neurosurgery. Eight full-time research faculty members have ongoing programs in a wide range of areas, including our neural engineering program, a joint program between Penn State Neurosurgery and Penn State Engineering Science and Mechanics. Penn State Health Neurosurgery has more than $8,000,000 in active grants and ranks among the highest neurosurgery departments in NIH funding nationwide.

An independent study year can be used for research in an area of the resident’s choice, and additional research time is available throughout the training.

We also have a vigorous clinical research program with a well-developed clinical trials group. More than 40 investigator-initiated or industry-sponsored clinical studies are underway.

Penn State Neurosurgery takes the resident education mission very seriously. Each Friday is devoted to resident teaching conferences from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional conferences occur on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before operations begin. Extensive training in biostatistics and clinical trial design are included as a routine part of every resident’s education.

Our residents finish their training fully equipped to enter the neurosurgical practice of their choice. They are well-trained in the preoperative, operative and postoperative care of all neurosurgical patients, with an excellent understanding of basic, translational and clinical neuroscience.

Our Team


It is the mission of the Penn State Neurosurgery Residency to:

  • Train neurosurgery residents in the profession of neurosurgery, providing for them an educational, clinical, operative, and research environment of the highest standard.
  • Prepare our trainees for the neurosurgical career of their choice.
  • Enable our trainees to successfully compete for the professional opportunities of their choosing, including those of academia.
  • Foster an appreciation among our residents and staff for the scholarly values and societal ideals that are the underpinnings of our profession.
  • Promote a responsible, productive, and healthy work ethic recognizing the needs of both society and the individual.
  • Further the knowledge of basic and clinical neuroscience through neurosurgical research.
  • Be active members in the regional, national, and international neurosurgical community.
  • Participate in the broader academic programs of Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State University for the benefit of undergraduate, medical, and graduate students as well as our colleagues and ourselves.
  • Ensure that both Penn State Neurosurgery’s goals and its individuals’ needs can be met in a working environment that is collegial, collaborative, facilitative, fair and personally rewarding.


The ACGME and Neurosurgery RRC have provided core curriculum and core competency standards that must be met at each stage of the neurosurgical residency. Each resident is expected to meet these standards on the appropriate schedule; faculty evaluations will include an assessment of each resident’s progress toward these goals. In response to this ACGME requirement for competency in these areas, all residents are expected to participate in core competency training as defined by the program.


The bulk of the educational conferences are held on Fridays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference schedule is meant to expose residents to all disciplines of basic and clinical neuroscience. Participation in multidisciplinary conferences with other specialties within the institution contributes to a sound educational experience for the residents.


The program offers a wealth of research opportunities within the department and the institution. All residents are expected to participate in a research activity during their residency. Time has been set aside during the rotations for this purpose and residents are expected to use this time wisely to work with a faculty mentor within the department, within the institution, or outside of the institution with prior approval. Residents should be planning their research time during the year preceding their actual research year to make optimum use of their time in the laboratory.

Residents should discuss their plans with the program director and the appropriate faculty members in advance, and obtain approval for their research projects. The resident is responsible for contacting an appropriate faculty mentor and setting up a research program consistent with their area of interest and experience. Each resident is expected to create a manuscript for publication on basic, translational or clinical research each year from PGY 2-7. 

Those residents who choose to do an enfolded fellowship during their independent study year are expected to make research a meaningful part of the fellowship experience.

Recommended Reading List

  • Winn – Youmans Neurological Surgery – provided by the department.
  • Blumenfeld – Neuroanatomy Through Clinical Cases – provided by the department.
  • Osborn – Diagnostic Neuroradiology – provided by the department.
  • Adams & Victor – Principles of Neurology
  • Escourolle & Poirier – Manual of Basic Neuropathology
  • Thieme eNeurosurgery access

Educational Materials

All neurosurgery residents are provided with:

  • Online textbooks access
  • Loupes
  • Lead clothing for use in the OR and during endovascular cases
  • SNS Boot Camps I and II
  • Chicago Neurosurgery Review Course


The Neurosurgery Residency clinical program is organized around four distinct services within Penn State Health:

  • Three adult neurological services:
    • Red service (with an emphasis on cerebrovascular surgery, endovascular neurosurgery, skull base surgery, and neuro-oncology)
    • Blue service (with an emphasis on complex spine surgery, peripheral nerve surgery and stereotactic and functional neurosurgery)
    • White service (with an emphasis on neurocritical care and neurosurgical trauma)
  • Pediatric neurosurgical service

Structured rotations on each of these services provide training in all areas of neurosurgical care.

The Penn State Health Neurosurgery Residency is flexible enough to accommodate each trainee’s individual educational needs and interests. Residents are advanced to higher levels of responsibility based upon performance evaluations. Elective rotations are scheduled throughout the program, and decisions on how to best use elective time is determined based upon the resident’s interests and experience. Elective time may be spent studying a subspecialty of neurosurgery or research.

Residents are required to participate in a research activity during their residency, and time has been set aside during the rotations for this pursuit. The department has a wealth of opportunities in basic, translational, and clinical research in all areas of neurosurgery. In addition, there are strong collaborations with researchers in other Penn State University departments both in the College of Medicine and the rest of the University.


  • 6 months Neurocritical care
  • 6 month general neurosurgery

PGY-2, PGY-3, PGY-4

Each year will encompass the following:

  • Two months red service
  • Two months white service
  • Two months blue service
  • Two months pediatric service
  • Two months off-service time (neuroradiology, neuropathology, clinical or research elective)
  • Two months elective time


  • Six months senior resident on red/white services
  • Six months senior resident on blue/pediatric services


All 12 months as chief resident.

  • Six months red/white services
  • Six months blue/pediatric/administrative


Independent study: This year can be used for a focused clinical training/enfolded fellowship or for basic, translational, or clinical research.

CAST-accredited fellowships: The Neurosurgery Residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center offers CAST-accredited fellowships in the following subspecialties. The fellowships are restricted to Penn State Neurosurgery residents.

  • Endovascular Neurosurgery Fellowship: Fellowship director is Kevin Cockroft, MD, MSc, FAANS, FACS, FAHA.
  • Peripheral Nerve Neurosurgery Fellowship: Fellowship directors are Kimberly Harbaugh, MD, and Elias Rizk, MD, MSc.
  • Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery Fellowship: Fellowship director is James McInerney, MD, FAANS, FACS, FRCSC.
  • Spinal Neurosurgery Fellowship: Fellowship director is G. Timothy Reiter, MD.
  • Neuro-Oncology and Skull Base Neurosurgery Fellowship: Fellowship director is Brad Zacharia, MD, MS.
  • Neurocritical Care Fellowship: Fellowship director is J. Christopher Zacko, MD, MS.

To Apply

The Neurosurgery Residency participates in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) and matches two residents per year as a categorical training program.

Concurrent with participating in the NRMP, neurological surgery programs use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). All applications are taken through ERAS only. We do not accept paper applications. All applications are considered without regard to race, religion, gender or national origin.

Steps for a Successful Match

  • Register with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). All our first-year residency positions are filled through the NRMP.
  • Register with the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). All applicants to our residency program must come through ERAS.
  • Application deadline: Due to the volume of applications we receive and the time constraints of individual interviews, we may not consider applications received after Oct. 1.
  • A completed application is required for review.

Application Requirements

The following items must be included in your ERAS application:

  • Personal statement
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation: At least three letters of recommendation from faculty members with whom you have worked, and at least one from a neurosurgeon. We will not review more than four letters of recommendation. We do not require a letter from your department chairman.
  • Dean’s letter
  • Medical school transcripts
  • USMLE Step 1/COMLEX 1 is required to be selected for an interview.
  • For international medical graduate students, ECFMG certification is required as a part of your application. Reminder, Penn State Health will only accept/sponsor a J-1 visa.
  • U.S. clinical experience is not required; however, neurosurgery electives and/or experience are preferred.

Non-U.S. Citizens

Applicants who are not U.S. citizens are responsible for obtaining a visa that permits direct patient care. Employment is contingent upon evidence of the appropriate visa and permission to work in the United States presented to a medical center official. We accept only J-1 training visas for non-U.S. citizens who are entering an ACGME training program.

Foreign Medical Graduates

All graduates of international medical schools must hold a valid certificate issued by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to be appointed as a resident or fellow. For details, contact ECFMG at or ECFMG, 3624 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19104-2685, USA.


Interviews are by invitation only. Once we have reviewed completed ERAS files, we will invite qualified applicants for an interview with faculty. It would be advisable to respond to the invitation for an interview as quickly as possible, as the interview dates are usually booked quickly.

We are fortunate enough to receive many applications. Therefore, we urge you to submit your application materials as soon as you possibly can! Applications must be received by the ERAS post office no later than Oct. 1.

Interview Day

Interviews will be conducted on Fridays with a dinner with our current residents on the preceding Thursday evening. Interviews will include a tour of the hospital campus and breakfast and lunch. Your day will begin at approximately 7 a.m. and will conclude by approximately 5 p.m., depending on the number of candidates attending on any particular interview date. A Friday evening dinner with Neurosurgery faculty members will also be held. We hope that you will find all of these interactions with those involved in our program to be beneficial in your search for the best program match for you.


The program does not pay for your lodging. We do, however, have a relationship with the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott located on Areba Avenue in Hershey, PA. The Fairfield offers a very reasonable rate specifically for our candidates. The location is minutes from the hospital and the Fairfield shuttle service is available upon request from the Harrisburg International Airport. Shuttle services have also been pre-arranged with the Fairfield to deliver you to all interview activities on time and without worry about finding your way or finding parking.


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