NREF Success Story: Dr. Maria Peris-Celda

In 2018, Maria Peris Celda, MD, PhD, Albany Medical College, was the first recipient of the Rhoton Young Clinician Investigator Award for Neuroanatomical Research.


With support from the Albert L. Rhoton Honor Your Mentor Fund through the NREF, Dr. Peris-Celda started her neurosurgical skull base career and established the Northeast Neurosurgical Anatomy Laboratory in Albany, NY. The lab started its activities in September 2018.

Until December 2020, they trained four (4) full-time surgical anatomy research fellows and the neurosurgery and otolaryngology residents in the department benefited from mentorship in training and research. The funding allowed them to purchase needed surgical instruments and material, that combined with the industry and department support lead by Dr. Alan Boulos, resulted in a functional and completely active laboratory with equipment for dissection, high definition photodocumentation, and publication. The funding was also utilized to cover the expenses for dissections and medical illustrations for the book published by Thieme along with Dr. Carlos Pinheiro-Neto in 2021 entitled “Techniques and Key Points for Endoscopic Cranial Base Reconstruction”. The Northeast laboratory is still active in training and research and its function is continued by colleagues and friends in Albany.

In January 2021, Dr. Peris-Celda was recruited to join the Neurosurgery Department at Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN to be part of the skull base neurosurgical oncology team working with Dr. Michael Link and Dr. Jamie Van Gompel. Dr. Robert Spinner, chair of the department, shared the vision to develop a Mayo Clinic Neurosurgical Anatomy Program. Remaining funds from the Rhoton award were invested in this project, that along with industry, department, and donor support, evolved in the officially named “The Rhoton Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology Surgical Anatomy Program” at Mayo Clinic.

Since 2018, Dr. Peris-Celda has worked in more than 50 surgical anatomy projects either published or ongoing, has one published book, more than ten (10) research fellows trained, three (3) North American Skull Base Society Rhoton Awards and hopefully many more projects to come.

Dr. Luciano Leonel, Anatomy PhD, along with Hunter Prouty, our program coordinator, have been outstanding additions to the team. Together, they organized the first CME accredited Skull Base Course at Mayo Rochester in June 2022, and offer research fellowships, short training programs and residency training. The Rhoton program team, along with other colleagues, is expanding and optimizing virtual reality for neurosurgical training and education, 3D printing and photogrammetry.

According to Dr. Peris Celda, the funds provided by the Rhoton Young Clinician Investigator Award, along with industry support, “are allowing us to have a fully functional anatomy laboratory to train fellows and residents with the goal to keep Dr. Rhoton’s legacy alive through anatomical research.”

Dr. Peris-Celda shared these thoughts about how the award had impacted her career:

“As a former fellow of Professor Rhoton from 2011-2013, this award was especially meaningful to me as I had the strong commitment to continue and expand his legacy through mentorship and research.

I will be eternally grateful to the generous donors who made this possible. The NREF award was the first impulse for this surgical anatomy project and strengthened the commitment to continue and expand Dr. Rhoton’s legacy. Teaching and mentorship are exponential, and I am extremely proud to know that my friend and Mayo graduate, Dr. Christopher S. Graffeo, who I had the privilege to work with and mentor during my clinical fellowship at Mayo years ago, is the well-deserving recipient of the 2022-23 NREF Rhoton Young Clinician Investigator Award. I am sure that he will develop his unique successful path in the study of neuroanatomy. This demonstrates, as Dr. Rhoton said, that ‘there is no finish line in the study of surgical anatomy’.”

Figure 1. Northeast laboratory at Albany Medical Center. Top left, Dr. Luciano Leonel, PhD in Anatomy who started as a research fellow at Albany Medical Center. Top right, with the skull base surgical team Dr. Tyler Kenning and Dr. Carlos Pinheiro-Neto. Bottom left, fellows Dr. Laura Salgado-Lopez, Dr. Adedamola Adepoju, Dr. Michael O`Brien. Bottom right, the research and training Northeast Laboratory at Albany Medical Center.

Figure 2. The Rhoton Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology Surgical Anatomy Program at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. Top left, Rhoton Program logo, with vision to expand to the Mayo enterprise; top right, image of the first Mayo Clinic Rochester Skull Base Course; bottom left, with part of the Rhoton Program team, Dr. Edoardo Agosti, Dr. Carlos Pinheiro-Neto, Dr. Luciano Leonel, Dr. Larissa Vilany, And Dr. Danielle Dang; with Dr. Michael Link; bottom right, virtual reality simulation, created by Dr. Morris and his team at Mayo Clinic.

Figure 3 With Dr. Christopher S. Graffeo in front of the surgical anatomy project of the posterior petrosal approach, Rhoton award at the 2019 NASBS meeting.


The NREF support has been essential in establishing the Northeast Professor Rhoton Surgical Anatomy Laboratory in Albany, NY. While it is still early to see the full extent and results of the research being performed, the great legacy of Dr. Albert Rhoton lives on in the work of Dr. Peris-Celda and other former residents and fellows around the world.

Dr. Peris-Celda and the leadership of the NREF are grateful for the generosity of donors to the Albert L. Rhoton Honor Your Mentor Fund who have made this endeavor possible.

Consider a donation to the NREF to create more stories like this one.

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