John M. Tew, Jr., MD
John M. Tew, Jr., MD, a leader in his field and in his community, is a neurosurgeon with the Mayfield Clinic and Clinical Director of the University of Cincinnati (UC) Neuroscience Institute. On Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010, he was named a Great Living Cincinnatian by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
Like Dr. Mayfield, Dr. Tew earned international renown as a gifted and pioneering neurosurgeon, a compassionate doctor beloved by his patients, and a leader dedicated to excellence, continuous improvement, and the health and well-being of his community. Both Dr. Mayfield and Dr. Tew led neurosurgical residency training programs; both served as president of the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society; and both were at the forefront of technological innovations in their field.
Dr. Tew served as Professor and Chairman of UC’s Department of Neurosurgery for 20 years before co-founding and taking the helm of the UC Neuroscience Institute in 1998. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
He continues to maintain an active medical practice and, in the role of Professor of Neurosurgery, continues to play a vital role in the training of tomorrow’s neurosurgeons.
Dr. Tew grew up on a farm in North Carolina, where he was a 4H club leader and, at age 14, was crowned Cotton King. He learned his first surgical skills from his grandfather on the family farm. Encouraged by his mother, who was unable to attend college, and his father, who was unable to finish high school, Dr. Tew dreamed of a world beyond the farm and enrolled in Campbell Junior College, seven miles from home. He was unprepared for pre-med courses, but an organic chemistry professor saw promise and gave him a job sweeping floors and assisting in a laboratory.
Dr. Tew transferred to Wake Forest University for his final two years. After graduation he entered Wake Forest’s medical school, where he was named “best anatomist” in his freshman class. It was the first academic prize of his life and an acknowledgement of his dexterity with tissue and his ability to confront the insides of the human body.
Hands that heal
He performed his neurosurgical residency at the Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. In a life-changing development, he won the prestigious Van Wagenen Fellowship, which allowed him to train under Gazi Yasargil, MD, the founder of micro-neurosurgery, at the University of Zurich and Zurich Kantonspittal. There Dr. Tew learned to use the new operating microscope, which was making the treatment of deadly brain aneurysms predictably successful for the first time. Recruited by Dr. Mayfield, Dr. Tew joined the Mayfield Clinic and UC in 1969.
Dr. Tew further developed the science of microsurgery to treat disorders of the nervous system; he introduced non-invasive radiofrequency for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia and was the first to apply lasers in neurosurgery; he led the team that brought radiosurgery to North America for the treatment of brain tumors and vascular malformations; and he was part of the team that brought endovascular techniques to the treatment of vascular formations. Revered in his field, he has been elected President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, President of the Academy of Neurological Surgeons, and President of the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society.
Hands that build
Early in his career Dr. Tew dreamed of creating a renowned Neuroscience Institute for Cincinnati. Today, the 11-year-old UC Neuroscience Institute features 10 collaborative centers and programs, has achieved a rarefied benchmark with national recognition in 13 neuroscience specialties, ranks among the top neuroscience centers in North America, and treats thousands of patients from around the region each year.
Dr. Tew is a member of the board of directors of the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Museum Center, University of Cincinnati Foundation, University Hospital Foundation, University Hospital, Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Mayfield Clinic. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the UC Brain Tumor Center and Campbell University, a member of the Clever Crazes for Kids Advisory Board, and a member of the Literary Club of Cincinnati and the Commonwealth and Commercial Clubs of Cincinnati. He is a former member of the Xavier University Board of Trustees. He is a member of Bellarmine Parish at Xavier University and a Knight of the Order of Malta.
Dr. Tew has been a member of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Tocqueville Society since 2004 and was a member of the cabinet for the 2009 campaign. Concerned about the social, financial and neurological implications of the increasing prevalence of obesity, poor fitness, and chronic disease, he has become a passionate advocate for healthy living (view his lecture “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life“).
He received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, an honor by Pope John Paul and presented by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, in 1989. He has received the Health Care Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Court of Honor from the Dan Beard Council, the Daniel Drake Medal from the University of Cincinnati, the Distinguished Service Citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Leadership Medallion from Xavier University, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Wake Forest College of Medicine. He was an Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and he has earned honorary doctorates from the College of Mount Saint Joseph and Campbell University.
Devotion to family
He and Susan, his wife of 44 years, have three children and nine grandchildren. Meanwhile, Dr. Tew and his sister continue the family’s farming tradition in Linden N.C., where additional acres are being cultivated in beautiful long leaf pine as an active forestry program. In Cincinnati, Dr. Tew enjoys biking, strength training and yoga and spends innumerable hours teaching his grandchildren to enjoy athletics and the arts.