FAU Names New Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine

College of Medicine, Dean, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Neurosurgeon, Research, Scientists, Physician, Leadership

Julie G. Pilitsis, M.D., Ph.D., a leading neurosurgeon and physician scientist, will assume her role as dean effective February 2022. (Photo credit: Albany Medical College)

By gisele galoustian | 11/16/2021

Florida Atlantic University has named Julie G. Pilitsis, M.D., Ph.D., as the new dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. Pilitsis, who currently serves as division chief of functional neurosurgery and chair and professor of the basic neuroscience department at Albany Medical College (AMC) in New York, will assume her role as dean effective February 2022. AMC is an integral component of the Albany Medical Center, the only academic center in northeastern New York and western New England.

As dean of FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, one of 155 accredited allopathic (M.D.) medical schools in the United States, Pilitsis will build upon the success of the college’s innovative medical student and graduate medical education programs in partnership with a consortium of five Palm Beach County hospitals. In addition, she will spearhead the college’s vibrant research focus areas, which include healthy aging; geriatrics and neuroscience; chronic pain and opioid use; and genomics and precision medicine.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Julie Pilitsis to the Schmidt College of Medicine and to our FAU family as we embark on the next phase of success for our burgeoning medical school,” said FAU President John Kelly. “She has made significant contributions at the national level in medicine, education, advocacy and research and will be an outstanding leader and mentor for our students, faculty and staff. We are extremely grateful to Dr. Stella Batalama, chair of the search committee and dean of our College of Engineering and Computer Science; search committee member Dr. Michael Dennis, chair of our College of Medicine’s advisory board and a former member of the FAU Board of Trustees; and to all of the search committee members for their efforts on identifying our new medical school’s dean. We also extend our gratitude to Dr. Sarah Wood for serving as interim dean of the Schmidt College of Medicine.”

As chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at AMC, Pilitsis oversees departmental teaching programs, including graduate school, research and outreach programs such as community service, translational research efforts, alumni relations and development. Together with a colleague, she designed an inter-professional (M.D., Ph.D., nursing, allied health) team-based master’s degree curriculum in clinical investigation. During her tenure, the department’s grant funding has increased tenfold; academic productivity, as measured by publications, has increased fourfold; and graduate students who self-identify as underrepresented in medicine have increased by 40 percent.

In her role as division chief of functional neurosurgery at AMC, Pilitsis developed the service line of functional neurosurgery, a subspecialty of neurosurgery aimed at improving quality of life, which includes multidisciplinary pain/movement disorder teams. Currently, the group performs 650 operative procedures annually and are participating in several industry-sponsored device trials and investigator-driven trials. She also developed and directs a functional neurosurgery fellowship program. The philanthropic fund related to her specialty has doubled in size during her tenure. Further, she has worked with administration to develop a system-wide plan for multi-disciplinary chronic pain services across multiple hospitals.

Pilitsis is the co-founder and co-director of the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) at AMC, which assists in the academic development of faculty and supports professional and leadership development activities. In this role, she identified and recruited stakeholders needed to bring these programs to fruition, developed the curriculum and evaluation process, and co-directed the program. To date, 70 faculty have completed the program with 70 percent female graduates and in some classes as many as 20 percent of the graduates self-identify as historically underrepresented in medicine. For her efforts on the JFDP initiatives, she received the AMC Mentorship and Innovation in Clinical Education Award.  

A successful physician scientist and fundraiser through philanthropy, grants and contracts, Pilitsis is a national leader across multiple organizations including the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS), which has approximately 2,000 members. She has mentored more than 150 students through translational research projects and has more than 200 published articles to her credit including four textbooks. She currently serves as specialty editor of Frontiers in Pain Research: Neuromodulatory Interventions and has been recognized with the “Pain Paper of the Year” by the journal Neurosurgery for the past three years.

Her national leadership positions include serving as chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (AANS/CNS) Section Pain (2013-2015); the AANS/CNS Section Women in Neurosurgery (2013-2014); the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN) (Treasurer 2020-2022); North American Neuromodulation Society (Treasurer 2020-2021); Women in Neuromodulation (2014-2016); and International Neuromodulation Society Board of Directors. Pilitsis is likely to serve as chair of three of seven AANS/CNS sections – one of the first neurosurgeons to have done so. Further, she has directed national mentorship programs for medical students in Women in Neurosurgery and for residents and fellows in ASSFN.

Pilitsis has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2009 and has been a principal investigator on multiple grants exceeding $7 million. She received more than $2.5 million in grant funding from industry partners, and she holds three patents and two filed patent applications. She serves as chair of the medical board for Aim Robotics, a company founded around her NIH research. She is a frequent speaker at national meetings and at neurosurgical grand rounds across the country. Her TED talk, “So You Want to be a Neurosurgeon,” has had more than 250,000 views and led to an increase in the number and quality of resident applications at AMC.

Pilitsis received a B.S. in biology magna cum laude in 1996, and her M.D. with distinction from AMC in 1998. She participated in a six-year combined B.S./M.D. program with AMC Troy. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. in physiology from Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit and completed her residency and internship in the Department of Neurosurgery at WSU from 1998 to 2006. She completed a fellowship in functional neurosurgery from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago from 2006 to 2007. Pilitsis expects to complete an M.B.A. with concentration in health informatics from Fayetteville State University next month.

“I am very excited to join FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine and work alongside outstanding students, professors, staff members, supporters and community and hospital partners,” said Pilitsis. “I look forward to continuing the medical school’s legacy of accomplishments grounded in a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters teamwork, embraces compassion and patient-centered care, and advances cutting-edge translational research to improve quality of life.”