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 (Awarded every three years)

2020 Recognition Awards

Winners will be notified by mid-summer

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. (Awarded every 3 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
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

2019 Recognition Award Recipients

Henry Farfan Award

David J. Kennedy
Dr. David Kennedy is a Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where his practice focuses on non-operative and interventional spine. He completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Washington in Seattle where he served as Chief Resident, and then a Spine and Sports Fellowship at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Dr. Kennedy’s research has focused on the safety and efficacy of interventional spine procedures. He has pioneered safe injection techniques and is an internationally recognized expert in interventional spine procedures. His definitive, randomized-controlled trial on particulate versus non-particulate steroids in transforaminal epidural injections has influenced practice patterns, which should reduce the complications (spinal cord injury and death) associated with these procedures. Similarly, Dr. Fisher’s study on facet injections versus radiofrequency ablation has had a substantial influence on practice patterns, resulting in better pain relief in spine patients. As a prolific researcher, he has been the recipient of numerous research grants and has published over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles, over 50 published abstracts, and over 20 book chapters. As a spine researcher, he has had publications in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and he is a frequent publisher in Pain Medicine, PM&R, and The Spine Journal (TSJ). His research has won research awards from The Spine Journal, the Spine Intervention Society (SIS).

In addition, Dr. Kennedy is a prolific lecturer. He has given over 100 lectures at national meetings, over 50 lectures at international meetings, and numerous local presentations and invited grand rounds. He is currently a Deputy Editor for The Spine Journal, and on the editorial board for Pain Medicine. He is on the Board of Directors for the Spine Intervention Society. He is also on the Board of Directors for the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AAPM&R).

Nominated by Scott Kreiner, MD

David Selby Award

Gregory L. Whitcomb
Dr. Greg Whitcomb is a 1981 graduate of Palmer College, a board-certified chiropractor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). .

In 1995, Dr. Whitcomb was among the lead team to conceptualize and launch a multidisciplinary spine program offering integrated surgical and non-surgical services at MCW where he became the first faculty-appointed DC in the institution’s history. This commitment to mutual cooperation of spine professionals has led to advances in patient care.

He continues full-professional effort practice at MCW SpineCare where he also spearheaded the development of a translational program for pregnancy-related axial pain in concert with the MCW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Whitcomb has chaired multiple CME courses and has presented both nationally and internationally on evidence-informed, gender-specific, interdisciplinary and psychologically-informed spine practice.

Dr. Whitcomb has been a member of the North American Spine Society since 1997 and has served as a member and chair of the NASS Interdisciplinary Spine Section as well on the CME Committee. The development of these sections has been critical for appropriate representation of the less prominent specialties within this society whose identify is epitomized by the multidisciplinary nature of its members and mission. The sections have evolved substantially from those early years to give NASS a broader and stronger collaboration of its members. This commitment to multidisciplinary care led Dr. Whitcomb to take a lead role in developing a pathway to active NASS membership status for non-medical spine specialists, which has since been incorporated into the NASS By-Laws. He was appointed to NASS’ Advocacy Council in 2018. He has further contributed to the mission of NASS by participation in numerous projects including panelist for development of AUC, Strategic Task Force on PhD & Allied Health, NASS delegate for Alliance of Specialty Medicine Advocacy Conference, and abstract reviewer for several annual meetings.

Dr. Whitcomb and his wife Mia have 5 sons and 6 grandchildren. He is a passionate fly fisherman and former competitive swimmer, who loves training in the pool and cycling.

Nominated by Charles Reitman, MD

Leon Wiltse Award

Charles G. Fisher
Dr. Charles Fisher is a Professor and Head of the Division of Spine Surgery in the Combined Neurosurgical and Orthopaedic Spine Program in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of British Columbia. He has demonstrated nationally and internationally recognized leadership in both clinical research and spine care throughout his career. During his first years in practice at an academic surgical spine practice, Dr. Fisher completed a Masters in Health Care and Epidemiology. This provided the expertise in the design and evaluation of clinical trials that he needed to establish a research center focused on spine trauma and health related quality of life outcomes. Dr. Fisher was an early proponent of the judicious use of evidence-based medicine in spine surgery and published and lectured on this topic.

Together with Marcel Dvorak, Dr. Fisher built the Combined Neurosurgical/Orthopedic Spine Program in Vancouver, one of the earliest centers to embrace the collaboration of the two specialties in the care of spine patients. He has mentored numerous spine fellows during his career, and many of them have gone on to lead programs both in North America and around the world. Dr. Fisher has led the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network. He has been a Co- Director of the Spine Oncology Study Group (SOSG). Most recently, he Chairs the Steering Committee of the AOSpine Knowledge Forum Tumor (AOKFT), a collaborative of spine care providers (including neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists) from high volume centers around the world. Of particular note, the efforts of the SOSG and AOKFT have led to novel scoring systems for neoplastic spinal instability, as well as novel tools for measuring health related quality of life and patient satisfaction. His leadership in these efforts was consequential. As a physician, he understands the disease, and as an MPH, he understands how to design and implement thoughtful research. This dual expertise has truly fostered the work of the groups that he has led.

With respect to clinical research, Charles CV speaks for itself. He has over 270 peer-reviewed publications, most of them focused on the practical aspects of patient care. These include surgical techniques, patient outcomes, quality of life, and adverse events. He is a gifted speaker with an approachable style, and he has delivered talks all over the world. He has presented his research at numerous conferences and symposia, typically giving his residents and fellows the opportunity to shine. Simply put, Charles research efforts have impacted the way patients with spinal trauma and spinal tumors are managed all over the world.

Nominated by Dino Samartzis, DSc, Niccole Germscheid, MSc, Ziya L. Gokaslan, MD, FAANS, FACS, Ilya Laufer, MD, MS, Michelle Clarke, MD, Michael G. Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS, James S. Harrop, MD, Laurence D. Rhines, MD, Chetan Bettegowda, MD, PhD, John H. Shin, MD, Dean Chou, MD and Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD, PhD.

Spine Advocacy Award

Neil Kahanovitz
Dr. Kahanovitz served as NASS President in 2002 and is widely considered NASS’ first real advocate – having pushed to establish the National Association of Spine Specialists. Dr. Kahanovitz got NASS involved in starting yearly Capitol Hill Days and also started “Spine Health Days”. During his Presidency, both The Spine Journal and SpineLine began. Further, Dr. Kahanovitz had many preexisting relationships with members of Congress and introduced NASS to several Congressmen and Senators as well as certain state legislators. He was awarded a Commendation from the United States House Physician’s Office for surgery performed on Members of the Supreme Court and Congress and frequently testified on health care issues at Senate and House hearings. He was also awarded the Order of the Supreme Soviet Medal of Personal Courage by Mikhail Gorbachev for his humanitarian work in the USSR. Dr. Kahanovitz has been a clear leader for NASS in this area – a trailblazer actually and also ran his own Center for Patient Advocacy. In 2017, he returned to his earlier passion and work in the circus no longer as a performer, but as Chairman and Executive Producer of the Big Apple Circus.

Nominated by Philip L. Schneider, MD