Fund Purpose: To honor the memory of the late Dr. Peter J. Jannetta and support research, education and innovation within the department of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh.
Peter J. Jannetta, MD, DSc, FAANS(L), was born in 1932 in Philadelphia, the oldest child of Samuel Benjamin and Frances Alfano Jannetta. He attended William Penn High School and graduated close to the top of his class. He played two sports, was an All-American in swimming and was vice president of the student body and president of the National Honor Society. He matriculated to the University of Pennsylvania, where he particpated in swimming, lacrosse and football.
After completing his time at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, he interned at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and went on to a surgical residency at that institution. He spent time with Solomon D. Erulkar in the pharmacology department at Penn, while he was a general surgery resident doing research on the vestibular system and learning the microscope.
On completion of his chief residency in general surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jannetta began a three and one-half year residency training program in neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles under Gene Stern. He had close association with Robert W. Rand and was fortunate to spend important time intellectually and operatively with Theodore Kurze, MD, the chief at USC. It was during his residency that he made his first observations on the anatomy of the trigeminal nerve and on the vascular compression of the facial nerve causing hemifacial spasm and of the trigeminal nerve for trigeminal neuralgia. The first microvascular decompression was performed by Dr. Jannetta on a patient with hemifacial spasm on June 1, 1966, and the first microvascular decompression for trigeminal neuralgia was performed three months later with Dr. Robert Rand.
After Dr. Jannetta’s training, he became associate professor and chief of the division of neurosurgery at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans. In 1971, he was called to be the chief of the division of neurosurgery and then chairman in 1973 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. At this institution, the concept of vascular compression of the cranial nerves and of the microvascular decompression developed rapidly, and a number of other contributions in cranial nerve pathophysiology were made. In July of 2000, Dr. Jannetta moved to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was the director of the Cranial Nerve Center.
Dr. Jannetta received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Washington and Jefferson College. In 1990, he was selected as Vectors/Pittsburgh Man of the Year in the Sciences. He is one of the recipients of the 1990 Horatio Alger Award. In 1983, he received the Herbert Olivacrona Award. In September of 2000, he was the recipient of the Fedor-Krause Medal of Honor, given to him by the German Neurosurgical Society. From 1976 to 1978 he was the Frances Sargent Cheever distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He was the Walter E. Dandy professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The University also established the Peter J. Jannetta Chair in Neurological Surgery in 1992.
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