University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dr. Dempsey Receives the WFNS Medal of Honor

World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) Medal of Honor

Dr. Dempsey receives the highest honor given in world neurosurgery. On March 14, 2022, Dr. Robert J. Dempsey, who is the Javid Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Wisconsin – Madison received the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) Medal of Honor. This award was given to Dr. Dempsey in commemoration of his lifelong contributions to changing the field of neurosurgery worldwide. It commemorates his contributions to surgical care and particularly mentions his contributions to research, teaching and humanitarian work with impact worldwide. This award, given by the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, is their highest honor. 

The World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) was founded in 1955 in Switzerland and is composed of 130-member societies representing five continental associations and the majority of all neurosurgeons worldwide. It has consultative status with the United Nations and exists to promote global improvement of neurosurgical care, promoting clinical care, training and research to benefit patients worldwide. 

Dr. Robert J. Dempsey receiving the 2022 WFNS Medal of Honor award.

The WFNS Medal of Honor is determined by worldwide nominations from the continental societies and was presented to Dr. Dempsey by the president of the WFNS, Dr. Nelson Oyesiku. 

While neurosurgery is small in number, their integral role in trauma systems, cancer care, care of pain, stroke and congenital disorders of children have made them integral and necessary for the development of complete systems of medical care in the low- and middle-income countries of the world. Dr. Dempsey’s dedication to these regions over the past three decades was particularly noted in this award. 

This award is voted on by the representatives of the continental societies and, particularly, recognized Dr. Dempsey’s contributions, not only in improving the techniques and training of neurosurgeons, but also his humanitarian activities as Chair of the Foundation of International Education in Neurological Surgery (FIENS), a foundation that supports the development and training of specialized surgical care in regions of the world where none exists. Dr. Dempsey’s work over three decades has assisted the establishment of organized training programs, trauma protocols, care for brain tumors, congenital defects in children, stroke and central nervous system trauma in regions of Africa, Central and South America, and Asia where none existed prior. By developing not only the training, but the infrastructure to support this work in hospitals, Dr. Dempsey assists critical care units, nurse training, radiology, pathology, along with surgical care. This enhances systems of care which elevate health systems worldwide. These programs have benefitted patients in over 27 sites of need around the world. The award given during the WFNS International Meeting is the federation’s highest honor for lifetime contributions resulting in improved care for patients in need. 

Dr. Dempsey was quoted during the introduction of the award, “that all work comes from patient care and the desire to make lives better for those we treat. From that comes the desire to do research to find better treatments and ways to deliver it. This becomes teaching to develop the next generation of surgeons and global neurosurgery to make certain that care is equitable throughout the world.” 

“My work impacts thousands, but the people we train may impact countless people worldwide, including those that are not even born yet, but will have needs. A teacher lives on through their students. A teacher’s work, if good, impacts far more than anyone can alone.”