John C. Oakley Fund

Fund Purpose: To support pain education and research.

John C. Oakley, MD, was born in 1946, he was the second of six children growing up in Seattle. He was an avid scholar all of his life, beginning his college career at the University of Washington in 1964. A year later, he transferred to Pacific Lutheran University to be with his life-long love and future wife, Shirley. In 1968, John graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in biology and chemistry, paving the way for his life’s work in medicine. He graduated from the University of Washington Medical School in 1972 and his work with Dr. Arthur Ward led him to pursue a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Washington.

During his residency, Dr. Oakley received the Upjohn Award for Humanitarian Concern and Clinical Skill. He spent two years at the National Institutes of Health before becoming a professor at the University of Arizona. While there, he developed an interest in the treatment of pain and neurostimulation and that became one of his focal points throughout his career.

In 1999, after 18 years of private practice in Seattle, he moved to Billings, Mont. and became a partner in Yellowstone Neurosurgical Associates and the director of Northern Rockies Regional Pain Center and president of the Board of Rocky Mountain Health Network.

Dr. Oakley’s principal areas of research and experience included electrophysiology of epilepsy, functional electrical stimulation of the nervous system and etiology and control of chronic intractable pain. His vast knowledge of the nervous system as applied to neurostimulation allowed him to achieve results that were superior to the ones of most experienced clinicians. His neurostimulation practice was one of the largest in the country and the amount of contributions to this clinical and scientific field has been unmatched.

Dr. Oakley was a member of many professional organizations, including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, the AANS/CNS Section on Pain, the American Medical Association, the American Pain Society and the North American Spine Society. He was also one of the founders of the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS).

Of all things important to him, teaching is where Dr. Oakley thrived. His compassion helped him become a teacher that all people could relate to and understand. Because of this skill, he published research in many articles appearing in scientific journals, contributed chapters to medical textbooks and lectured extensively.

Besides being a superb clinician, Dr. Oakley was an extremely compassionate physician and he was loved and respected by all his colleagues and patients. He was also a true Renaissance man. He was always in pursuit of his passions and lived his life the way most people dream.

He died while piloting his plane on April 17, 2006.

To view a list of all donors to this fund, click here.

NREF is the Philanthropic Arm of the AANS

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