Residency by Year

PGY-1 (Intern Year)duke neurosurgery grand rounds

Applicants accepted to the neurosurgery residency at Duke are strongly encouraged to complete their general surgery internship at Duke.

The surgery internship at Duke includes rotations in neurosurgery, the neurosciences intensive care unit (NICU), neurology, as well as a mix of surgical sub-specialties.

Call varies with rotation, and the department maintains overall hours of work at 80 hours per week on average or less. Surgery interns are given two weeks of vacation, plus five to six days off over the winter holidays.

Dinner is provided without charge in the Duke University Hospital cafeteria for all interns and residents on call.

PGY-2, PGY-3 (Junior Residency)

Over these two junior years in the neurosurgical residency, each resident completes 20 months (in four month blocks) on the neurosurgical services at Duke University Hospital and one four-month off-service block rotating through the SICU, CTICU, neuro-oncology, and radiosurgery/neurointerventional radiology.

The order in which the rotations are completed varies, but the off-service block uniformly occurs during the PGY-2 year. Furthermore, residents act as the lead resident for the pediatric neurosurgery service during their PGY-3 year. Neurosurgical service rotations are completed with each resident spending four consecutive months as the junior resident for a given service to permit optimal learning through repetition and relationship building with faculty. The neurosurgical services are as follows:

Neurosurgery Services:

  • Spine (5 faculty)
  • Functional/Epilepsy (3 faculty)
  • Vascular (3 faculty)
  • Tumor (5 faculty)
  • Pediatrics (3 faculty)

PGY-4 (Academic Year)

After completion of the junior residency, each resident participates in at least one academic year. This year is designed to permit protected academic pursuits in any of a variety of arenas, limited only by individual resident interest of imagination. Recent endeavors have included basic research (all Duke University departments and faculty are available to residents); Duke programs in neuroinnovation; degree-granting (master's) graduate programs in clinical sciences, health sciences, public health, or global health; industry internships; political/policy internships; endovascular fellowship; and clinical research.

As noted, residents are not discouraged from working outside of the Department of Neurosurgery in the fourth year. For those residents choosing to conduct neuroscience research, however, the department does have one of a small number of NIH-funded R25 training grants in the nation designed for neurosurgery and neurology trainees. Dr. Fecci is the P.I. for this grant at Duke. Residents funding their salary PGY-4 year through this or other granting mechanisms receive financial support from the department (i.e. for a technician, etc) to continue their research in PGY-years 5 and 6, as a bridge until the PGY-7 transition to practice year, when residents have the option of resuming research directly.

PGY-5 (Senior Year)

The PGY-5 year is designed to build broad general neurosurgical autonomy in operatively heavy rotations at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DVAMC) (eight months), and Duke Regional Hospital (four months).

Durham VA Medical Center (DVAMC)
The DVAMC offers the only VA neurosurgery service in North Carolina, and is a destination neurosurgical site for the Southeast. It is located directly across the street from Duke University Medical Center and is staffed by Duke faculty neurosurgeons. The Durham VA has the only dedicated VA brain and spine tumor center in the state and the only VA epilepsy center on the East Coast.

Two senior residents together run the neurosurgery service at the VA, which has both a busy clinic and operating room running every weekday. Senior residents are responsible for the care of all neurosurgery patients during the rotation. Residents work with two full-time physician assistants, and staff operative cases daily with one of the Duke neurosurgery faculty.

The rotation offers an excellent opportunity for the residents to function independently in all aspects of patient management, from preoperative planning through postoperative follow up.

Duke Regional Hospital (DRH)

DRH is a private, Duke-owned hospital located 10 minutes away from the main campus. It is staffed by a full and talented battery of Duke faculty neurosurgeons. Current faculty members are recent neurosurgical graduates of Duke, MGH, Brigham and Women’s, Washington University, and Johns Hopkins. DRH offers the capacity for residents to gain broad general neurosurgical independence one on one with outstanding faculty in a busy practice, before returning to Duke University Hospital their chief year.

The DRH senior splits home call covering both DVAMC and DRH with his or her fellow PGY-5’s rotating at the DVAMC.

PGY-6 (Chief Year)

Once residents have gained operative independence in general neurosurgical arenas, the PGY-6 year offers them the capacity to expand that independence into sub-specialty arenas, a logical progression. The PGY-6 year is spent as the chief resident at Duke University Hospital. Chief residents spend four consecutive months each on the tumor, spine, and vascular/functional services.

The chief resident is responsible for oversight for all aspects of care of the neurosurgical inpatients, as well as administrative duties including daily operative and call assignments. The chief residents are treated as junior faculty and viewed partners by the faculty. Chief residents divide home call amongst themselves.

PGY-7 (Transition to Practice Year)

This year is designed for residents to develop the specific skillsets necessary for their intended practice type. Options are again limited only by individual interest or imagination and include the following:

Enfolded fellowship: In the following CAST-approved fellowships at Duke: Neuro-oncology, Functional, Spine, Endovascular, Neuro ICU.

Academic Practice: Learn with mentorship to construct a “50-50” practice combining surgery and research. Each week will include one to two OR days, one clinic day, and two to three lab days, to prepare surgeon-scientists for the challenges of balancing the various components of their practice before they are on their own.

Research Year: Residents may take a second full research year (making four continuous supported research years if they received funding PGY-4 year (see above)). Participants in this tract are expected to apply for K-award prior to completion.

Clinical Mastery: Residents may construct a custom clinical year aimed at garnering further sub-specialized operative skills (i.e. in skull-base, MIS spine, deformity, pediatrics, etc.) at any Duke site(s): DUMC, VA, Duke Regional, Duke Raleigh.

Typical 7-Year Program Schedule 





Neurosurgery, 4 months
Neuro ICU, 3 months
Neurology, 3 months
GSU/ENT/Ortho, 2 months


Radiation Oncology/Neuro IR, 1 month
Neuro-Oncology, 1 month
Cardio-thoracic Surgery ICU, 1 month
Surgical ICU, 1 month
Neurosurgery Functional Junior, 4 months 
Neurosurgery Pediatric Junior, 4 months


Neurosurgery Tumor Junior, 4 months 
Neurosurgery Vascular Junior, 4 months
Neurosurgery Pediatric Junior, 4 months


Academic year #1 (research, approved activities, etc.). Residents who gain funding for their salaries this year (ie. via R25) will be eligible for departmental funds toward a tech or other research need in years 5 and 6, until returning to their research in year 7.


Durham VAMC, 4 months
Duke Regional, 4 months
Neurosurgery Pediatric Senior, 4 months


Neurosurgery Spine Chief, 4 months
Neurosurgery Vascular/Functional Chief, 4 months
Neurosurgery Tumor Chief, 4 months 


Transition to Practice Year (Enfolded Fellowships, Academic Practice, Research Year, Clinical Mastery, etc)