Recognition Awards

NASS has five awards available to recognize unique and outstanding contributions to the field of spine. Three of the awards were named for founding members of NASS who not only made outstanding contributions to the field of spinal disorder management, but also played key roles in the early success of NASS. In 2015 NASS added two awards: Spine Advocacy and Past President (Candidate must be 2 years removed from Presidency/Awarded every three years)

2022 Recognition Awards

Nominate an Exceptional Colleague

Current NASS Board Members are not eligible.
View the current list of NASS Board Members here.
2022 Nominations are now closed. Winners will be notified by Mid-Summer 2022.

Types of Awards

Henry Farfan Award

To recognize outstanding contributions in spine related basic science research.

David Selby Award

To recognize contributions to the art and science of spinal disorder management through service to NASS but has not been elected NASS President

Leon Wiltse Award

To recognize excellence in leadership and/or clinical research in spine care.

Past President Award

To recognize a Past President of NASS who has made exceptional contributions to the society and its mission following their presidency. (Candidate must be 2 years removed from Presidency/Awarded every three years)

Spine Advocacy Award

To recognize members of the North American Spine Society who have made exceptional contributions to the federal advocacy efforts on behalf of patients and members of the society.

Past Award Winners:

Year Award Winner
2020 David Selby Michael R. Klein, Jr., MD, FACS
2020 Leon Wiltse Richard D. Guyer, MD
2020 Henry Farfan Barbara D. Boyan, PhD
2020 NASS Spine Advocacy Jeffrey C. Wang, MD
2019 David Selby Gregory L. Whitcomb, DC
2019 Leon Wiltse Charles G. Fisher, MD, FRCSC, MHS
2019 Henry Farfan David J. Kennedy, MD
2019 NASS Spine Advocacy Neil Kahanovitz, MD
2018 David Selby Jerome Schofferman, MD
2018 Leon Wiltse Sohail K. Mirza, MD, MPH
2018 Henry Farfan Jeffrey C. Lotz, MD
2018 NASS Spine Advocacy John G. Finkenberg, MD
2018 Past President Jean-Jacques Abitbol, MD
2017 David Selby William Mitchell, MD
2017 Leon Wiltse K. Daniel Riew, MD
2017 >Henry Farfan S. Tim Yoon, MD, PhD
2017 NASS Spine Advocacy David A Wong, MD, MCs, FRCS
2016 David Selby Jim Reynolds, MD
2016 Leon Wiltse Keith Bridwell, MD
2016 Henry Farfan Makarand V. Risbud, PhD
2016 NASS Spine Advocacy Charles A. Mick, MD
2015 David Selby Donna M. Lahey, RNFA
2015 Leon Wiltse Frank J. Eismont, MD
2015 Henry Farfan James C. Iatridis, PhD
2015 Past President David A. Wong, MD, MSc, FRCS
2015 NASS Spine Advocacy Dr. Jeffrey J. Wise, MD
2014 David Selby Raj D. Rao, MD
2014 Leon Wiltse Ziya Gokaslan, MD, FACS, FAANS
2014 Henry Farfan Michael H. Heggeness, MD, PhD
2013 David Selby Marjorie Eskay-Auerbach, MD, JD
2013 Leon Wiltse Lawrence G. Lenke, MD
2013 Henry Farfan Michael G. Fehlings, MD, PhD
2012 David Selby Thomas Faciszewski, MD
2012 Leon Wiltse Marcel F. Dvorak, MD
2012 Henry Farfan Helen Gruber, PhD
2011 David Selby Joel Press, MD
2011 Leon Wiltse Kiyoshi Kaneda, MD
2011 Henry Farfan Gunnar Andersson, MD, PhD
2010 David Selby Serena S. Hu, MD
2010 Leon Wiltse Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD
2010 Henry Farfan Narayan Yoganandan, PhD
2009 David Selby Stanley A. Herring, MD
2009 Leon Wiltse Michael G. Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC
2009 Henry Farfan Avinash Patwardhan, PhD
2008 David Selby David A. Wong, MD
2008 Leon Wiltse Eugene Carragee, MD
2008 Henry Farfan Kenneth M. C. Cheung, MD
2007 David Selby Edward C. Benzel, MD
2007 Leon Wiltse Arthur D. Steffee, MD
2007 Henry Farfan James D. Kang, MD
2006 David Selby Hansen Yuan, MD
2006 Leon Wiltse Henry Bohlman, MD
2006 Henry Farfan Vijay Goel, PhD
2005 David Selby Scott Halderman, MD
2005 Leon Wiltse Harry Herkowitz, MD
2005 Henry Farfan Howard An, MD
2004 David Selby Tom Mayer, MD
2004 Leon Wiltse Edward C. Benzel, MD
2004 Henry Farfan James Weinstein, MD
2003 David Selby Steven Garfin, MD
2003 Leon Wiltse Scott Boden, MD
2003 Henry Farfan Bryan Cunningham, MSc
2002 David Selby Bruce Fredrickson, MD
2002 Leon Wiltse John Kostuik, MD
2002 Henry Farfan F. Todd Wetzel, MD
2001 David Selby Richard Guyer, MD
2001 Leon Wiltse John McCulloch, MD
2001 Henry Farfan Robert Gatchel, PhD
2000 David Selby David Fardon, MD
2000 Leon Wiltse Steve Garfin, MD
2000 Henry Farfan Hamilton Hall, MD
1999 David Selby Casey Lee, MD
1999 Leon Wiltse Thomas S. Whitecloud III, MD
1999 Henry Farfan Vert Mooney, MD
1998 David Selby J. Walt Simmons, Jr., MD
1998 Leon Wiltse Hansen Yuan, MD
1998 Henry Farfan Manohar Panjabi, PhD
1997 David Selby J. Elmer Nix, MD
1997 Leon Wiltse Charles D. Ray, MD
1997 Henry Farfan Tom G. Mayer, MD
1996 David Selby John P. Kostuik, MD
1996 Leon Wiltse Thomas E. Whitesides, Jr., MD
1996 Henry Farfan William C. Hutton, DSc
1991 David Selby W. H. Kirkaldy-Willis, MD

David Selby
David Selby

2021 Recognition Award Recipients

Henry Farfan Award

Matthew Smuck
Dr. Smuck is a 16-year member of NASS, and a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford University, where he serves as the Chief of PM&R.

His scholarly pursuits have been focused on two fronts. First, in alignment with his clinical expertise, he has led and contributed to numerous studies to improve outcomes and influence national treatment trends for people with low back pain. Second, recognizing the limitations caused by reliance on subjective self-reported outcomes in spine and musculoskeletal disease research, he has sought to define methods to objectively quantify alterations in real life physical performance using wearable technology. To this end, he founded and directs the Stanford University Wearable Health Lab with the goal of employing this transformative technology in monitoring, treating and preventing disability from musculoskeletal diseases.

To date he has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, winning annual publication awards from NASS/The Spine Journal, the journal PM&R, ISSLS, and the AAPM&R. Dr. Smuck has been at the forefront of efforts to develop objective and quantifiable methods to measure physical function in spine care using methods developed in his basic science aboratory to develop methods to provide new insights into the mechanisms of low back pain and of novel digital biomarkers of spine disease.

Due to his expertise in digital health and medical applications of wearable technologies, he teaches and mentors outside of the Stanford Medical School. For example, he has contributed to Stanford’s Biodesign Program as a lecturer, team mentor, and judge. He serves on PhD candidate advisory committees and as post doc supervisor for scientists in the Computer Sciences Department, Bioengineering and Bioinformatics. In total, he has supervised research by more than 50 students, residents, fellows, post docs and visiting scholars— resulting in their direct involvement in more than 60 original peer-reviewed publications. Residents and fellows he has mentored have won research awards at national and international meetings including the annual meetings of NASS, SIS, ISSLS, and the AAPM&R. Nearly 20 of his mentees are now enjoying their own successful academic careers at institutions across the US, with several establishing expertise in digital health-related basic science, and many more are productive members of NASS.

He has previously served as Deputy Editor of The Spine Journal, Co-Chair of the NASS Annual Scientific Committee, and as an at-large member on the NASS Board of Directors. He is currently a Senior Reviewer for the Coverage Committee and a member of the NASS Exercise and PPRC Committees.

Nominated by David J. Kennedy, MD

David Selby Award

Donna D. Ohnmeiss
Dr. Ohnmeiss is a 27-year member of NASS. She is a researcher and serves as President of Texas Back Institute Research Foundation. She has been involved with NASS since first submitting abstracts to the conference in 1987 and has attended every NASS Annual Meeting since 1989.

Dr. Ohnmeiss has enjoyed serving NASS in a variety of committee, section and leadership roles involving patient education, publishing, research, membership, Annual Meeting programing, and as a Board Member. She has served NASS in more than 30 different positions over her 27 years. She is currently a member of the SpineLine Editorial Board, TSJ Peer Reviewer, NASSJ Editorial Board and Compendium of Outcome Instruments Task Force.

Dr. Ohnmeiss has been a valued asset over the years and is working with NASS leadership to develop a volunteer/PhD engagement task force. She has many new ideas to get researchers more involved in NASS. She is very knowledgeable about NASS’ processes and has a strong understanding of the Board’s general viewpoints. She exercises diplomacy in sensitive and complex issues. She has served as a great liaison in building our relationships with other societies and groups.

As a nonclinician, she notes that it has been rewarding to impact spine care not just through her research, but also through NASS participation. She states, “Hopefully my background in mathematics and education as well as skills in computer science and technical writing have brought something unique to the society.”

Nominated by 2020-2021 NASS Executive Committee: Eeric Truumees, MD; Edward J. Dohring, MD; John G. Finkenberg, MD; David R. O’Brien Jr., MD; Zoher Ghogawala, MD, FACS; William J. Sullivan, MD; and Eric J. Muehlbauer, MJ, CAE

Leon Wiltse Award

Frank M. Phillips
Dr. Phillips is a 24-year member of NASS, Director Spine Surgery at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ronald DeWald Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Co-Director Spine Fellowship, and Head of the Section of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at Rush University Medical Center, as well as past Medical Director of the Spine Center at the University of Chicago. He has dedicated his professional career to managing patients with spinal disorders.

A prolific researcher, Dr. Phillips and his team have been active contributors to NASS’ annual presentation of clinical research in spine care. He has authored more than 300 clinical papers. He has been fortunate to have been at the forefront of minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped develop and pioneer a number of these techniques that have become widely adopted. Along with the development of these techniques, he has published quality scientific data evaluating these procedures (including the first study on use of lateral trans-psoas fusion for degenerative scoliosis and early studies on cervical disc replacement biomechanics and clinical outcomes). In recent years he has published extensively on value-based spine care.

Dr. Phillips has trained more than 50 spine fellows, many of whom have gone on to leadership positions. He has directed many educational courses, and has served as Annual Meeting Program Chair for CSRS, ISASS and SMISS. He has been involved in leadership roles with numerous spine societies and is the Immediate Past President of ISASS. He participated actively in NASS for many years and is proud of winning or being nominated for numerous Best Paper awards from the Society. He has served on several NASS committees including Research, Spine Advocates, Section on Biologics and Minimally Invasive Procedures and Section on Spinal Access Surgeons.

Nominated by Safdar N. Khan, MD

Spine Advocacy Award

Brian R. Gantwerker
Dr. Gantwerker is a 15-year member of NASS and a neurosurgeon working at The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles in Santa Monica, CA. Since joining NASS in 2006, he has been actively involved in a member role on the Advocacy Council, Legislative Committee, Political Engagement Committee and serves as a moderator/representative at many of NASS Advocacy events.

Dr. Gantwerker specializes in the treatment of degenerative and traumatic diseases of the spine through minimally invasive techniques, spinal cord and brain injury. He also treats many patients for concussion and its after effects and educates on its prevention. He is committed to providing newly advanced techniques for the treatment of brain and spine diseases. He is proficient in both minimally invasive and complex brain and spinal surgeries. He is diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

Dr. Gantwerker is a Chicago native who graduated magna cum laude with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in psychology. He received his medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago where he focused on peripheral nerve regeneration research. He completed his neurosurgical residency at University Hospitals of Cleveland and studied spinal cord regeneration with stem cells at Case Western School of Medicine, which included a dedicated Gamma Knife rotation. He completed his complex spine fellowship at the world-renowned Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009.

Dr. Gantwerker has authored several book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles, appeared on television and radio interviews, and has instructed undergraduate, medical students and residents in various neurosurgical topics and neuroanatomy. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Golden Key honor societies, and a member of the AANS, CNS, SMISS, NASS and the California Association of Neurological Surgeons, where he is serving as a codirector of the Southern California Region and a representative to the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies.

Nominated by NASS Advocacy Volunteer Leadership

Past President Award

Gregory J. Przybylski
Dr. Przybylski is a 22-year member of NASS, and the 2010-2011 NASS Past President. He is a Past Chair of the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, and Medical Director for Cigna Health Insurance.

He was recruited by 2007-2008 NASS President, Tom Faciszewski, MD, to join NASS’s educational efforts in coding and reimbursement. Dr. Przybylski chaired coding courses, the Operative Coding Committee, and headed up the Socioeconomic Council with 2012-2013 NASS President, Charles Mick, MD. Ultimately, this board position fostered his desire to lead NASS as the primary organization representing spine care professionals of all disciplines through several board positions culminating in his presidential term.

Since ending his term as NASS President, he has continued his involvement and support with NASS and its mission. His Cigna Medical Director position only further enhanced the unique relationship that NASS holds with Cigna and others. Because of this relationship, NASS is able to discuss coverage policies and members concerns, fostering mutual understanding and efforts to improve our ability to care for our patients in an increasingly regulated environment.

Dr. Przybylski’s strengths and background in health policy have been the cornerstone of his service to NASS. He stays involved by helping NASS’ Coding Committee. As previous Chair of this committee along with his experience at the RUC and with Health Policy, he has proven to be a valuable and instructor at these courses. He has been supportive and involved with NASS Advocacy efforts. He has attended several advocacy events and fly-ins to Washington, DC, to educate members of congress and represent NASS members’ and patients’ best interests. His other involvement after his presidency has been via the Coverage Recommendation Committee, TSJ Peer Reviewer, Political Engagement, Professional Compliance Panel and Ethics Committees. Throughout his service to NASS, he has made every effort to serve as mentor and encourage the participation of others, particularly those from nonsurgical backgrounds, emulating the mentorship of Tom Faciszewski, MD.

Nominated by Ronald D. Karnaugh, MD and David R. O’Brien Jr., MD