Neurosurgery department chair receives AANS' highest honor

Joseph Cheng, MD, MS, receives Distinguished Service Award

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons recently awarded the University of Cincinnati's Joseph Cheng, MD, MS, with its Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors that is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of neurosurgery.

It's an honor to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before me

Joseph Cheng, MD, MS

Cheng, MD, the Frank H. Mayfield Endowed Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, received the award from his Cincinnati home office 18 months after its originally planned ceremony due to delays and conference cancellations caused by COVID-19.

Three men stand and smile with a plaque award

Joseph Cheng, MD, MS (center) holds DSA plaque between colleagues, Norberto Andaluz, MD (left) and Charles J. Prestigiacomo, MD (right)

In the virtual presentation, AANS leaders acknowledged Cheng’s commitment, dedication and influence to the field of neurosurgery. 

“He has research interests in health care policy, outcome science, spinal biomechanics and modeling, spine deformity and minimally invasive surgical techniques," stated Ann Stroink, MD, president-elect of AANS. "But, his expertise in socioeconomics is in CPT coding and the evaluation of RVUs (relative value unit) for RUC (RVS Update Committee) neurosurgical codes. He has worked on the neurosurgery CPT coding workgroup and has initiated team building by developing future and upcoming coding experts.”

Friends, family and colleagues gathered at Dr. Cheng’s Ohio home to watch the August 2021 presentation and celebrate his accomplishments.

Friends and family cheer and clap in a living room

Rebecca Bachschmidt, PhD, the wife of Joseph Cheng, MD, hosts an award viewing party at their home. Colleagues from the University of Cincinnati gather in the background

In his acceptance speech, Cheng said he was honored by the award and that it inspired him to do more.

“Our field has continued challenges; not only to the care of our patients, but things like pre-certification and insurance issues. Also, bilinear, how we practice and how we train the future generations," he said. "That’s one of the things we really need to focus on. As we continue to have compliance and regulatory issues, we still need to keep an eye on the mission and vision that we have as neurosurgeons: which is not only to take exquisite care of our patients, but really to ensure that future generations of those that follow will not only do the same, but do it better than we have overall.”

In the original 2020 announcement of the award, then-AANS President Christopher Shaffrey cited Cheng’s exemplary service to the speciality of neurosurgery as the basis of the award.

“Your statesmanship, leadership and devotion to the speciality of neurosurgery have been particularly inspiring for me and many others who have had the opportunity to work with you,” wrote Shaffrey.

Dr. Cheng sits at his desk in his home office accepting the award through a videoconference

Joseph Cheng, MD, MS, accepts the AANS Distinguished Service Award via computer from his home in Indian Hill.

Colleagues and friends throughout the industry reached out to AANS to acknowledge the worthiness of Cheng’s Distinguished Service Award.

Contributors noted:

“He has worked very hard as a neurosurgeon with great equanimity. He is very well known not to lose his composure even in the face of some very challenging situations.”

“Joe has touched the lives of all neurosurgeons; not just pocketbook issues, but the issues associated with the compliance of appropriate coding.”

Cheng concluded his acceptance speech by saying, “It's an honor to receive the Distinguished Service Award, and really it is an honor to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before me. Many of the things that I did, I did not come up with in isolation. I’m certainly following the example of the leaders who came before me.”

Featured photo at top: Dr. Joseph Cheng and colleague work in the operating room. Photo/University of Cincinnati