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The Storyteller: Jay Wellons, MD, MSPH

Updated: Feb 4

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Jay Wellons MD, MSPH holds the Cal Turner Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery and is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. He is a Professor in the Departments of Neurological Surgery, Pediatrics, Plastic Surgery, and Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and is also the Vice Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. He founded SOCKS (the Surgical Outcomes Center for Kids) in 2015 and served as the Medical Director until 2022. He also served as the VUMC Section of Surgical Sciences Vice Chair of Clinical Research 2018-2022 and Department of Neurological Surgery Program Director for the Neurosurgery Residency Training Program from 2014-2018.


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Dr. Wellons received a B.A in English from the University of Mississippi in 1991, his medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical School in 1995 and completed his residency in neurologic surgery at Duke University Medical Center in 2001. This was followed by a one-year fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at the University of Alabama – Birmingham and the Children’s Hospital of Alabama. After his fellowship was complete in 2002, he remained on faculty at UAB for a total of 10 years, obtaining an MSPH during that time. He came to Vanderbilt in September of 2012.

Dr. Wellons has participated as a site investigator in two multi-institutional research networks centered on pediatric hydrocephalus and Chiari malformation surgical and patient-centered outcomes. While his past areas of interest include surgery for brain tumors, blood vessel malformations, and craniosynostosis, his current focus is on the surgical management of the Chiari Malformations, congenital neurosurgery, intrauterine neurosurgery, and lesions of the brachial plexus. This work has informed additional research endeavors evaluating health disparities, quality of life and in utero vs. post-natal surgery outcomes.

He has served on the editorial board of Journal of Neurosurgery – Pediatrics, Co-hosted the AANS/CNS Section on Pediatric Neurosurgery Annual Meeting in Nashville in 2018, and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons in the capacity of President-Elect.

In addition to his scientific writing, he has been a contributor to the New York Times Sunday Review, TIME, Garden and Gun Magazine, Fresh Air: NPR, and His book All That Moves Us: A Pediatric Neurosurgeon, His Young Patients, and their Stories of Grace and Resilience with publisher Penguin Random House debuted in June of 2022. His non-scientific writing focuses specifically on his specialty of pediatric neurosurgery, but also the broader field of medicine and the profound lessons learned from the children and parents that he has cared for over the last 30 years.

Dr. Wellons’s Prescription for Success: Number 1: It’s extremely important to work for someone who you believe in.

Number 2: Work along side the right people.

Number 3: You have a responsibility to those who work for you.

Connect with Dr. Wellons

Dr. Jay Wellons on Instagram Dr. Jay Wellons on Facebook

Notable quotes from Dr. Shah’s interview:

There’s something that our nurses do and many nurses do in operating rooms but if a stuffed animal comes in with the patient oftentimes the nurses if they have a moment will put a little head wrap on the stuffed animal or put a little sling on the arm or something that that’s similar to what the child is having so that when the child wakes up there’s their beloved buddy with a head wrap just like them. That’s really cool.
I say, all right, well, look, I want to ask you one more question, and that is that I’ve written some about patients, and I’d be honored if I had the opportunity to write about your child. And really, it’s just 100% of people just say, please do, just tell our child’s story or tell our baby’s story. It’s extremely important to work for somebody who you believe in.
I’ve learned a lot from my trainees, my residents, and my fellows.

Access the Show Transcript Here

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