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Spine Surgery Fellowship

Dr Steel offers a sponsored Fellowship in spine surgery in collaboration with St. Vincent’s Private Hospital and Concord Hospital.

The Fellowship usually consists of either 6 or 12 months and involves both clinical and research aspects of spine surgery.

The Spine Fellow receives education and instruction in all forms of spine surgery, including minimally invasive decompression and fusion techniques, disc replacement surgery and complex spine fixation for adult scoliosis spinal tumours and trauma.

Educational goals and characteristics

The Fellowship provides 6 to 12 months in-depth exposure to all aspects of adult spine surgery. There is a particular emphasis on minimally invasive spine surgery techniques.

Of the 500 surgical procedures performed by the supervisor, there is significant exposure to:

  • Minimally Invasive Decompression Procedures
  • Open, Mini-open and Percutaneous Spine Fusion
  • Disc Replacement (both cervical and lumbar)
  • Vertebral Body Reconstruction Techniques

Dr Steel has particular expertise in managing occipitocervical pathology and lumbar and vertebral body reconstruction techniques. The use of stereotactic navigation is widely employed at all levels in the spine.

The successful candidate is required to complete two research projects to the level of final draft during the tenure of the Fellowship. The Fellow would work at St Vincent’s Private Hospital and Concord Hospital.

All fellows need to be eligible for registration with the NSW Medical Board. Medical Indemnity for surgical assistance is provided.

Four weeks in six months is allowed for non-clinical time, such as holidays and meetings.


Applications, including a detailed CV and the names of three referees with whom the candidate has worked with must be received at least six months prior to the fellowship.

The fellowship is suitable for neurosurgical trainees undergoing their mandatory research or sub-specialty training year.

Dr Steel has a significant number of ongoing research projects that the fellow can be involved with to satisfy the research requirements of the Neurosurgery Society of Australasia.

The Fellowship also suits trainees in neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery who have recently completed their fellowship and who require advanced training in spinal neurosurgical techniques. Temporary registration can be facilitated for overseas candidates.

There is a stipend of $80,000 per annum as a base salary. Further income is available from private assisting fees and on-call payments for hospital work. The precise remuneration package will depend on the candidate’s seniority and is available from Dr Steel’s office.

Past Fellows

2004 – Dr Catalin Majer MBBS  FCS

Catalin was working as a senior registrar in the Department of Neurosurgery in Dubai when he came as a visiting Fellow in 2004. He returned to Dubai to complete his neurosurgery training, where he continues to practice today. Catalin’s areas of interest include minimally invasive spine surgery and spine fusion.

2005 – Dr Saeed Kohan MBBS BSc (Hons) FRACS

Saeed graduated from the University of New South Wales in 1998. He commenced his accredited senior neurosurgery training in Sydney in 2003 and went on to be awarded his Fellowship in Neurosurgery by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2007.

He underwent his Spine Surgery Fellowship at St Vincent’s and Concord Hospital in 2005. He completed research into the surgical management of symptomatic spondylolithsesis with deformity correction and minimally invasive fixation with pedicle screw instrumentation in thoraco-lumbar burst fractures. He presented his research at the College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Meeting in Perth and at the Neurosurgery society of Australasia in the Gold Coast.

He subsequently completed a Fellowship in paediatric neurosurgery in Istanbul, Turkey, with Prof. Memet Ozek (current president of European Society for Paediatric Neurosurgery) where he gained in-depth knowledge and skills in management of congenital spinal malformations, brain tumours and neuroendoscopy (keyhole brain surgery).

Saeed returned to Sydney in January 2009 as a consultant neurosurgeon and now works at St George Private and Public Hospitals, Sydney Children’s Hospital and Concord Hospital.

He has special interest in complex spinal pathologies, including degenerative pathology, trauma, and tumours involving spinal column and the spinal cord; complex congenital spinal malformations; neuro-oncology (tumours of the brain); neuro-endoscopy (keyhole surgery of the brain); and neurosurgical interventions for cerebral palsy and spasticity (including selective dorsal rhizotomy).

2007-2008 – Dr Michael Ow Yang MBBS (Hons) FRACS

Michael graduated from the University of New South Wales with Honours. He was accredited in neurosurgery in 2006 and is one of the most highly-respected neurosurgery trainees on the neurosurgery program.

He commenced a Masters of Surgery in 2007 as part of his Spine Surgery Fellowship training. His Masters of Surgery is being carried out in collaboration with the University of New South Wales and is co-supervised by Dr Allen Spiegelman, Professor of Surgery on the St Vincent’s campus.

Michael’s primary research topic has been a randomised trial of the effect of bone morphogenic protein (BMP) in lumbar spine fusion surgery. This research will be presented in 2011 and is the first such trial of its kind in the world. He has co-authored many publications and presented Dr Steel’s series of cervical disc replacement procedures at the Neurosurgery Society of Australasia annual meeting in Auckland in September 2008. He performed original research into stereotactic navigation in spine fusion surgery and its application to percutaneous and minimally invasive spine surgery.

Michael will complete his neurosurgery training in 2010. He has just passed his Fellowship examination and will be awarded his Fellowship in Neurosurgery in early 2011.

2009 – Dr Richard Laherty MBBS FRACS

Richard completed his neurosurgery training in Brisbane at the Princess Alexandria Hospital in 2008. He became the Clinical Research Fellow of the Queensland Cancer Fund between 2003 and 2006 performing research into brain tumour vaccines. For this research he was awarded the Peter Leech Prize for Neurosurgery Trainees in 2004 and will soon complete his PhD thesis for his original research.

After being awarded his Fellowship in Neurosurgery by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons he commenced his Spine Fellowship with Dr Steel in January 2009.

He completed research into minimally invasive spine surgery and the use of stereotactic navigation in percutaneous fusion surgery. He presented an original series of patients who had sustained spine fractures in boating accidents on Sydney harbour.  This study is the largest of its kind reported worldwide.  He presented his research at the Asia- Pacific Spine Symposium in Kobe, Japan in June 2009 and also at the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia (NSA) annual conference in September 2009.

He has returned to Brisbane to take a position as a consultant neurosurgeon at the Princess Alexandria Hospital with a sub-specialty interest in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery.

2010 – Dr Ellen Frydenberg MB BCh BAO LRCS/PI

Ellen obtained her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in Dublin and commenced her neurosurgery training in Sydney in 2008. She commenced her Spine Surgery Research Fellowship in 2010.

Ellen is enrolled in a Masters of Surgery Program in collaboration with the University of New South Wales. Her primary research will be to assess the biomechanical strength of the ultra-short segment fusion operation pioneered by Dr Steel in the use of thoraco-lumbar burst fractures.

She has so far published original work on a very rare brain tumour, the Rosette forming glio-neuronal tumour and the surgical management of osteoporotic spine fractures and Cushing’s Disease. She has presented two papers at the Spine Society of Australasia annual meeting in April 2010.

She presented original research work performed by Dr Steel in the use of stereotactic computer-guided navigation to improve the safety of percutaneous pedicle screw placement for minimally invasive spine surgery. She also presented a paper on the post-operative management of patients who had undergone disc replacement surgery.

2014-2015 – Dr Neil Cochrane