Dr. Batjer is the immediate past Lois C.A. and Darwin E. Smith Distinguished Chair in Neurological Surgery and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He is recognized internationally as a leading cerebrovascular surgeon. His academic pursuits and research in ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke and brain injuries have resulted in 467 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, as well as nine books. He has presented 54 endowed lectureships and served as visiting professor for 64 medical institutions worldwide.
Growing up in West Texas as a left-handed pitcher, he was a star on the San Angelo Bobcats team, where he caught the eye of Major League Baseball and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1970. His father encouraged him to decline this offer to pursue his education, so he instead accepted an athletic scholarship at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. After a rotator cuff shoulder injury, he left UT Austin early and matriculated at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, where he received his MD in 1977. He was still remembered in the baseball arena, though. In 2018, he was inducted into the San Angelo Central High School Bobcats Athletic Hall of Fame for his contributions to the success of baseball in San Angelo and for his leadership role with the National Football League (NFL). After training at his alma mater in neurological surgery under Drs. Kemp Clark and Duke Samson, Dr. Batjer accepted a faculty position, where he served until 1995. He was then offered and accepted the position of the Michael J. Marchese Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, where he served until September 2012. Dr. Batjer was recruited back to UT Southwestern to take over as chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery following Dr. Samson’s tenure. He retired from UT Southwestern on December 31, 2020.
Dr. Batjer has held numerous positions in organized medicine. He is a past-president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the Society of University Neurosurgeons, the Neurosurgical Society of America, the Society of Neurological Surgeons, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). He served as chairman of the AANS/CNS section on cerebrovascular disease in 2000 and was chairman of the Board of the Interurban Neurosurgical Society from 2001 to 2012. In addition to his leadership roles in many large-membership societies, Dr. Batjer has had the opportunity to serve as an advocate for public health and well-being. He is a past-director and past-chair of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. In that role, he testified before the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) and on Capitol Hill as a leading voice opposing severe restrictions on clinical work and education hours for surgeons in training that would have jeopardized public safety. He later served as a member and chair of the ACGME Review Committee for Neurological Surgery. In these roles, he participated as a leader initiating the ACGME’s Next Accreditation System for all specialties and worked with President and CEO Thomas Nasca, MD, MACP toward the development of a single accreditation system inclusive of osteopathic programs and institutions.
At the height of the national and international controversies surrounding athletic head trauma and the risk of permanent neurological damage, Dr. Batjer was named co-chair of the NFL Committee on Head, Neck, and Spine Injuries. In this role, he and his co-chair Dr. Rich Ellenbogen testified before Congress and at innumerable national and international public gatherings to further define this problem. Their committee, working with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Competition Committee, implemented more than 40 new rules and policy changes to protect the defenseless player. One of these rules advanced the restraining line on kickoffs by five yards and reduced concussions on kickoff plays by 40 percent.
In 2016, Dr. Batjer was nominated by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) to serve on the ACGME Board of Directors, and his term began February 2017. In 2019, he was elected to the ACGME Board’s Executive Committee and he became treasurer in 2020.
In 2011, Dr. Batjer was named Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and in 2016, he was the Medalist for the Neurosurgical Society of America and was awarded the CNS Founder’s Laurel. In 2018, he was named Honored Guest for the Eighth Academic Congress of International Chinese Neurological Sciences and the 53rd Rocky Mountain Neurosurgical Society. In April 2020, he received the Cushing Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the AANS.