Prominent on the wall directly opposite his desk – and therefore prominent in his eyeline – are posters with two words that have come to define his journey to becoming a top neurosurgeon: “Vision” and “Focus.”
“To achieve success, you can’t try to be a ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ You have to focus,” the Accra, Ghana, native said. Having a clear vision of where you want to go and applying a focused effort to get there are needed.
To be true, Boakye wears many hats. He is: the Ole A., Mabel Wise & Wilma Wise Nelson Endowed Research Chair, Director of Spinal Neurosurgery and Director of Outcomes and Translational Research with the Center for Advanced Neurosurgery and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville; an attending neurosurgeon at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center and at Frazier Rehab Institute; a practicing physician with University of Louisville Physicians; and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery in the UofL School of Medicine.
Despite whatever title might be appropriate for him on a given day, Boakye’s vision and focus remain the same: healing that most complex human system, the brain and spinal cord. The complexities and challenges are what he loves, he said.
“One of my most interesting cases was a patient who suffered an internal decapitation or the separation of the cranium from the cervical spine,” he said. Known in medical terms as “atlanto-occipital disassociation,” the condition is usually fatal. This patient’s condition was further complicated when a blood clot was discovered in her spinal canal.
Boakye and his colleagues, however, were able to stabilize the patient, remove the clot and repair the injury. Today, that patient has “almost normal strength,” Boakye said. She walks normally and even has had a baby.
A father himself, Boakye and his wife have two children, a son aged 11 and a daughter aged 7. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Rutgers, his M.D. degree at Weill Cornell Medical College and trained at SUNY-Upstate, Emory and Memorial Sloan-Kettering. In December, he earned a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins and recently enrolled in an executive MBA program for physicians at the University of Tennessee.
The extensive education and training, he said, helps in achieving the goals and growing the neurosurgery department. “I want to help my department chair (Jonathan Hodes) to develop the Department of Neurosurgery, particularly outcomes research,” which examines health-related quality of life, cost effectiveness and health economic evaluations after neurosurgery.