Gary Heit: Neurosurgeon and researcher

May 23, 2011

By Andrea Cohen 

Gary Heit

1977 Oakes College, individual major (psychology) graduate, Gary Heit pursued a career in neurosurgery and is currently a physician of neurological surgery and director of functional neurosurgery with Permanente Medican Group at Redword City Medical Center.

Before joining Kaiser Permanente in 2004, Gary Heit served as a member of the neurosurgery faculty and director of functional neurosurgery at Stanford University. While there, he founded the Functional Neurosurgery Program, which specializes in Deep Brain Stimulation as a treatment for chronic pain, movement disorders (such as Parkinson's and dystonia), and epilepsy, as well as other advanced therapies for pain and movement disorders. As a neurosurgeon, Heit is able to integrate his research with practical applications. He also co-founded Americare Neurosurgery International, a nonprofit that supports modern neurosurgery in developing countries.

As a UCSC undergraduate, Heit was inspired by legendary faculty like psychologist Bruce Bridgeman and biologists Léo Ortiz and Harry Noller—and he was also able to gain valuable hands-on research experience. After graduating from UCSC, Heit went on to receive his Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA and his M.D. from Stanford. He sums up his UCSC experience as follows: "Everything I learned back then is now outdated and useless. But my mentors had the wisdom to teach me how to think critically. That skill has sustained and enabled me through my career and all life endeavors—a true gift of education."

Heit received the 2007-08 Alumni Achievement Award.

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