Nicole Wenger, MD, MBA

Resident, PGY-4 | Class of 2027

What drew you to the field of neurosurgery?
I've been interested in the brain and neuroscience since I was in middle school. In medical school, I discovered I loved working with my hands in the OR and couldn't imagine myself doing anything else.

Do you have a specialty area you plan to pursue?
I'm most interested in cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery right now, although I have interest in many of the specialties.

What are your research or professional interests?
I got an MBA in medical school and I'm very interested in quality and process improvement as well as how we systematically deliver healthcare. I'm also interested in aneurysms, from how they form to how we treat them.

What brought you to the University of Maryland?
When I interviewed and went to the pre-interview dinner, I immediately sensed the camaraderie that the residents had and felt that was critical when searching for a program. The University of Maryland is a strong training program and I knew that in seven years I would leave confident in my training to be a neurosurgeon. Specifically as someone interested in vascular neurosurgery, I knew that the vascular training here would be excellent.

What are you most looking forward to during your residency training?
Although overwhelming, I am looking forward to learning everything there is to learn about neurosurgery and being able to look back each year and see how far I've come in my training. I'm also looking forward to exploring Baltimore! There are lots of outdoor activities in the area, from great hiking to kayaking, which I am excited to do. I grew up on a pig farm in the plains of the Midwest, so my surroundings are a bit different now!

Is there any advice you would give to medical students interested in neurosurgery?
Don't be afraid to get involved in your neurosurgery department early, from learning how to conduct research projects to asking questions about what being a neurosurgeon is really like. On the interview trail, ask lots of questions to the residents and get their contact info; don't be afraid to ask them questions after the interview as they pop up. Residency is seven years of your life and it's a big decision! Lastly, neurosurgery is an incredible field and while it's hard work, let yourself enjoy it along the way.

Abdul Ahmed, MD, SM

Abdul Ahmed, MD, SM

Resident, PGY-6 | Class of 2025

What drew you to the field of neurosurgery?
The human nervous system is perhaps the most complex entity in the world. In neurosurgery, patients entrust you with their nervous systems, that which enables their sight, sensation, perception, memory, cognition, emotion, speech, and movement. It is such a heavy privilege to be able to preserve or salvage these precious faculties. You cannot match the reversal in outcome of emergently evacuating an epidural hematoma, removing a large vessel occlusion, or aborting a hand tremor. Neurosurgery is such a fulfilling way to impact lives.

What are your clinical or research interests?
My interests lie in spine surgery and functional neurosurgery. I am currently investigating the use of focused ultrasound in the treatment of movement disorders and pain. With Dr. Gandhi and Dr. Eisenberg, I am helping in clinical trials on focused ultrasound ablation for neuropathic pain, trigeminal neuralgia, and task-specific focal hand dystonia.

What are your aspirations for after residency?
I plan to complete a spine surgery fellowship under neurosurgery/orthopedic surgery mentorship in my PGY-7 year. After graduation, I will pursue a fellowship in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery. I hope to build a practice that spans neurotrauma, spine disorders, movement disorders, and pain.

How has the University of Maryland program prepared you?
The University of Maryland program is a gem. It's not hidden, and I think our alumni speak most to the value of our training. With the trust between junior resident, chief resident, and attending, and the variety and acuity-chronicity mix of pathologies we manage, I am confident I am set up to become the most capable, safe, and thoughtful neurosurgeon I can be. The Maryland program is also unique in that any career goals can be achieved here. Our neurosurgery department regularly ranks in the top 20 in N.I.H. funding nationally. We have an expansive university system with collaboration across disciplines, a world-class trauma program, busy and robust vascular, tumor, and spine services, a top 5 focused ultrasound program, and mentors who will go to bat for you. I speak from experience. I am involved in several focused ultrasound clinical trials since junior residency. You cannot help but to succeed here, whatever your goals may be.

What have you valued the most from your residency training?
The mark of my residency training is the culture of the program. The residents, from intern to chief, are all wonderful personalities to work with and be around, and we select future residents with that in mind. We often spend time with each other outside of work. There isn't a single attending I would hesitate to talk to for anything, and all of them love to teach in and out of the operating room. There is mutual respect and care for one another across the team.

What advice do you have for individuals preparing for residency?
Find your tribe. I cannot say it enough. Becoming a neurosurgeon is a long and taxing process, but it is also rewarding. The vast majority of programs will make you a good neurosurgeon if you put in the effort. Find a program in which you can see yourself. You want to surround yourself with people who will celebrate your success and lift you up when you falter. I have that here. Good luck with the match.

Harry Mushlin

Harry Mushlin, MD

Residency Alum | Class of 2020

Where do you find yourself now after graduating from residency?
I completed a Fellowship in Complex Spine and Neurotrauma at the University of Pittsburgh. Now, I have taken a position as Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Complex Spine and Deformity at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

How did residency at Maryland prepare you for your fellowship and future career in neurosurgery?
University of Maryland offers amazing training. In particular, the spine and trauma training are second to none. Not only was I was extremely well-trained in general neurosurgery, I also got world class expertise in spine surgery and neurotrauma working across UMMC and Shock Trauma.

What did you value the most from your residency training?
I valued the consistency of the training, the mentorship, and the bond among the residents.

What advice do you have for individuals preparing for residency?
Find a place that fits your needs and that will help you throughout your career. The University of Maryland did all those things for me and was an exceptionally wonderful place to train. I would do it again.

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