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Limbrick named T.S. Park, MD, Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery

Honored for surgical treatment of cerebrospinal fluid disorders

by Tamara BhandariJuly 8, 2019

Timothy Mudrovic

Pediatric neurosurgeon David D. Limbrick Jr., MD, PhD, a professor of neurosurgery and of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the T.S. Park, MD, Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The honor, bestowed by St. Louis Children’s through a gift from an anonymous donor, recognizes Limbrick’s expertise in studying and treating neurological conditions caused by disordered cerebrospinal fluid flow around the brain or spinal cord.

Limbrick leads a major clinical trial to assess ways to surgically treat infants with hydrocephalus, a condition in which excess fluid accumulates in the brain, causing developmental deficits and severe disability. He also leads the Park-Reeves Syringomyelia Research Consortium, a network of 42 pediatric centers, and the consortium’s randomized clinical trial. The trial studies surgical treatments for children with Chiari I malformation, a developmental abnormality of the base of the brain that is associated with headaches, balance problems and weakness; and syringomyelia, which can cause lifelong pain, weakness, loss of sensation, and spinal deformity.

“At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, we do what is right for kids – Drs. Limbrick and Park are shining examples of a commitment to innovation and patient-centered care,” said Peggy Gordin, the hospital’s acting president. “Their contributions in and beyond St. Louis have changed the lives of thousands of children, and we couldn’t be more grateful to them.”

Limbrick is also director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine and neurosurgeon-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s. Since 2009, he has traveled to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Uganda with Washington University colleagues every four to six months to treat children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. The group has treated more than 250 children with these and other conditions.

He has received the Public Service Citation for young neurosurgeons from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Humanism in Medicine Award from Washington University.

Limbrick earned his bachelor’s degree in 1992 from the College of William and Mary. After a brief stint as a musician, he enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia, where he earned his doctorate in 2000 in pharmacology and toxicology and his medical degree in 2001. He then came to St. Louis, where he completed a surgery internship, a neurosurgery residency and postdoctoral research, all at Washington University, before going on to a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship at St. Louis Children’s. He joined the neurosurgery faculty in 2008.

“The installation of Dr. David Limbrick as the first holder of the T.S. Park Chair of Neurosurgery has recognized two of the most distinguished pediatric neurosurgeons in the world,” said Ralph G. Dacey Jr., MD, the Henry G. and Edith R. Schwartz Professor and former head of the Department of Neurosurgery. “Dr. Limbrick is an excellent technical surgeon and a world-class educator and surgeon-scientist. His skill and compassion are widely recognized by his colleagues and the many patients he has treated in our region. Dr. Park, my longtime friend, established the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1989 and has trained the most outstanding pediatric neurosurgeons in the United States, including Dr. Limbrick. He has been a pioneer in perfecting an operation to treat children whose cerebral palsy makes it difficult to walk. In so doing, he has improved the lives of thousands of children around the world. It is fitting that Dr. Park’s great legacy has been honored by the establishment of this prestigious chair.”

The T.S. Park, MD, Chair in Neurosurgery was established to honor the distinguished career of Tae Sung Park, MD, the Shi H. Huang Professor of Neurosurgery and a professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine. One of the world’s leading pediatric neurosurgeons, Park is the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at the School of Medicine and former neurosurgeon-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s. Now vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, Park has made pioneering improvements to several neurosurgical procedures for children. Most notably, he refined and enhanced the selective dorsal rhizotomy, a surgical treatment for muscle stiffness associated with cerebral palsy.

Muscle stiffness, or spasticity, caused by damage to neurons in the brain and spinal cord can make movement difficult for people with cerebral palsy. In 1987, Park started a program at the University of Virginia to treat cerebral palsy spasticity with selective dorsal rhizotomies, and moved the program to St. Louis Children’s in 1990. The procedure, which can be performed on children and young adults, allows them to walk and move better, improving quality of life. He has performed more than 4,070 surgeries — more than any other neurosurgeon in the world — on patients from more than 75 countries. Sept. 9, 2017, was proclaimed Dr. T.S. Park Day by the governor of Missouri and the mayor of St. Louis, in recognition of Park’s accomplishments bringing out-of-state and international patients to St. Louis for the surgery.

Park received the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1999, and the H. Richard Winn, MD, Prize for Meritorious Research from the Society of Neurological Surgeons in 2008, the highest honor awarded to neurosurgeons. He also received the Distinguished Faculty Clinician Award in 2011 and Distinguished Faculty Award in 2013 from the School of Medicine.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.