History of Neurosurgery

Dr. R. Eustace Semmes
Dr. R. Eustace Semmes

The University of Tennessee Department of Neurosurgery has a long history in the city of Memphis, the Mid-South region, and the nation. Dr. R. Eustace Semmes, a neurosurgeon trained by Dr. Harvey Cushing (the Father of Neurosurgery), was the first neurosurgeon in the South when he returned to his hometown of Memphis in 1912. He became the first Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee in 1932.


Dr. Francis Murphey
Dr. Francis Murphey

He subsequently trained neurosurgeon Dr. Francis Murphey who came to Memphis in 1934, and the two of them formulated the practice called Semmes-Murphey Clinic, whose physicians comprise the faculty of the UTHSC Department of Neurosurgery today.

Dr. James Robertson
Dr. James Robertson

Drs. Semmes and Murphey trained many neurosurgeons through the years, including Dr. James T. Robertson, who became Professor and Chair of the university department in 1973. While the training program of Drs. Semmes and Murphey was based at Baptist Memorial Hospital and the John Gaston Hospital (now the Regional Medical Center at Memphis), a second neurosurgery training program had also evolved at Methodist Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital under the direction of Drs. C. Douglas Hawkes and Nicholas Gotten. These two long-standing training programs merged under the umbrella of the university program in 1973.

Dr. Jon H. Robertson
Dr. Jon H. Robertson

Dr. Robertson headed the department from 1973 until 1996 when the chair was assumed by Dr. Jon H. Robertson, his younger brother, who had trained under him. Dr. Robertson created several divisions in 1997, and served as both chair and residency program director initially until Dr. Frederick Boop was named program director in 2008. In 2011, Dr. Robertson stepped down as chairman of the department, and Dr. Boop was elected to the position. Dr. L. Madison Michael II serves as the program director.

Dr. Frederick Boop
Current chairman Dr. Frederick Boop

Residents are trained in six institutions: the Semmes-Murphey Clinic, Baptist Hospital, Methodist Hospital, the Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, and the LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center.

residents in surgery

Contact Us

Department of Neurosurgery

847 Monroe Avenue, Suite 427
Memphis, Tennessee 38163
Phone: (901) 448-6375
Fax: (901) 448-8468