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John Corley VanGilder was born in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1935. He was raised in Sutton, West Virginia; earned his BA degree in 1957 and his BS degree in 1959 from West Virginia University, and later graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1961.
After medical school, he completed an internship and one year of general surgery training at the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, interrupted by two years in the armed forces, after which he completed his residency in Neurological Surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. VanGilder began practicing neurosurgery in 1970 at Yale University where he was an Instructor, Assistant and Associate Professor. He was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons in 1972. In 1976, he became Professor and Chairman of the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa; a position he held until he stepped down in 2001. He continued to serve as Professor of Neurosurgery until his retirement.
Throughout his career, he remained keenly enthusiastic about neurosurgery. He was well known and highly respected in his field. A member of multiple professional associations, he held officer positions in a number of societies. Dr. VanGilder served as President of the Iowa-Midwest Neurosurgical Society 1978-1979; Vice President of the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons 1994-1995; President of the Society of Neurological Surgeons 1997-1998; Chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons 1997-1998; President of the Neurosurgical Society of America 1998-1999; and Chairman of the Neurosurgical Residency Review Committee 1999-2001. He was also a consultant for the National VA Neurosurgery Council from 1998 until his death.
Dr. VanGilder served in the United States Air Force from 1962-1964, and worked as a general surgeon during this time in Izmir, Turkey. Throughout his career, he wrote and published hundreds of papers journal articles, book chapters and textbooks.
Dr. VanGilder's impact on the profession of neurosurgery and on neurosurgeons throughout the world is immeasurable. An educator of residents for over 35 years, he was a monumental role model as a surgeon and scientist. In honor of his achievements and contributions, the University of Iowa has established the John C. VanGilder Endowed Chair in Neurosurgery. The John C. VanGilder Chair in Neurosurgery will support research and teaching endeavors of early-career faculty within the department.