Dr. Leonard I. Malis received his medical education at the University of Virginia and his neurosurgical training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, under Dr. Ira Cohen, a former associate of Dr. Charles A. Elsberg. He then did a fellowship year in neurophysiology at Yale University under Dr. John Fulton. In 1970 he became Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1991. He was Professor of Neurosurgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine until he retired in 1994.
Dr. Malis was a pioneer innovator in microneurosurgery in the 1960s, developed the first practical course in microneurosurgery and contributed considerable repertory of the optical and manual instrumentation for this discipline. His neurosurgical career was devoted to developing the Department of Neurosurgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical School in New York City, pursuing a vigorous and highly innovative practice as Chairman for almost 25 years. Dr. Malis was exceptionally gifted in advancing and teaching clinical neurosurgery. He designed and built two different successful versions of large film cassette changers for cerebral angiography in the 1950s to improve on the limited resolution of the Fairchild camera small format. In that same period he devised and constructed bipolar coagulation forceps, eventually leading to the design and manufacture of the electronic components for what has become standard neurosurgical instrumentation today. His name is associated with numerous instruments of his invention in common use in modern microsurgical procedures.
His surgical expertise was exceptional, particularly in the field of acoustic nerve tumors, clivotentorial and parasellar tumors, intramedullary tumors of the spinal cord and arteriovenous malformations of the brain and cord. With the use of technical innovations he had helped to develop and advance, he achieved an unusual number of total tumor resections in difficult locations and preserved hearing in many patients with angle tumors.
When Dr. Malis became Chair and Chief of Neurosurgery in 1970 he instituted a policy of video recording of microsurgical procedures, resulting in a valuable extensive collection of video documentation of the techniques and pitfalls of difficult cases; most extensively of his success in dissecting tumors from the eighth nerve while preserving acoustic, vestibular and seventh nerve function. After his retirement from operative practice he wrote an extensive monograph covering his experience with cerebello-pontine angle tumors that became a classic in the field.
The selection of VHS format video recordings and case reports was prepared and partially edited by Dr. Malis and posthumously digitized for VCR format and organized by his son Larry and his wife Vickie, who coordinated the material together with case reports, drawing upon her many years as Dr. Malis' nurse clinician. The final selection of digitized exemplars from the vast collection was coordinated at the suggestion of Dr. Neil Martin, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA, for the purpose of providing an in-depth resource of teaching material for neurosurgical training, freely available globally from a dedicated page on the worldwide web. These examples of cases for which Dr. Malis was the principal surgeon serve as a memorial to an unusually gifted pioneer of modern neurosurgery whose ambidextrous skill and three-dimensional anatomical sense deserves a platform of special recognition.
The UCLA Department of Neurosurgery gratefully acknowledges the cooperation and generous assistance of the Malis family and of Dr. Malis' longtime friend and collaborator, UCLA Professor Emeritus of Neurobiology, Lawrence Kruger, for enabling and supporting various components of this tribute to the historical contributions of Dr. Malis. The final selection of this webpage was organized with the assistance of Ulrich Batzdorf, M.D. and Jean-Philippe Langevin, M.D. (Chief Resident) Department of Neurosurgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and with the help of Monica Sapo, webmaster of the UCLA Teaching Site.