354 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024
Please note: Surgery location only available in Encinitas
ABOUT THE DOCTOR:
Frank J. Coufal, M.D.
Board Certified Neurosurgeon
Medical Director of Neurotrauma, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla
Fellowship in Complex Spine Surgery
Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME)
Dr. Coufal is a proud native Texan, but has repeatedly over the course of his life been beckoned by the intellectual excitement and professional opportunities of California. His first experience of California occurred in the early 1980’s when he attended college at Stanford University. In his words, those were “my best four years”. From 1980-1984, he completed a double major (B.A.S.) in Biological Sciences and History, graduating with departmental honors and with distinction in both major fields. His areas of principle focus in the History Department included Late Antiquity, East Asian Studies, and historiography. Through the Biology Department he became inspired by the burgeoning field of molecular oncology. Moreover, he had the unique opportunity to be mentored in his undergraduate research by the late Dr. Henry Kaplan-a pioneering radiation oncologist at Stanford Medical Center who almost single handedly led to the cure of Hodgkin’s disease. Indeed, Dr. Coufal’s early research work at Stanford’s Cancer Biology Research Laboratory was to provide a foundation for further interest in the area of cancer treatment.
Perhaps feeling somewhat nostalgic for his native Texas, Dr. Coufal then returned home and completed his medical school training at The University of Texas. He was particularly proud of the opportunities afforded him at the renowned teaching facility, Parkland Hospital. The early “hands-on” approach to medical student education at Parkland in turn allowed more rapid acquisition of responsibility. It also provided his first exposure to the subspecialty of neurosurgery. He was particularly inspired by his clinical rotations with the renowned neurovascular specialist and chief of neurosurgery, Dr. Duke Samson – as well as the prominent pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Derek Bruce. Encouraged as well by his neuroanesthesiologist father, he then decided that neurosurgery would be his specialty.
Before beginning clinical residency, Dr. Coufal chose to expand upon his earlier research interests and was awarded an NIH (National Institutes of Health) research training grant at the Neuropathology Research Laboratory and Brain Tumor Research Center of the University of California, San Francisco. Under the preceptorship of Drs. Stanley Prusiner and Stephen De Armond he investigated the molecular biology of human prion diseases and the potential role of a unique astrocyte growth factor in their pathologic expression. This research led to the publication of several seminal papers for which Dr. Prusiner was ultimately awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in medicine.
After the completion of his two year research grant, Dr. Coufal then began his clinical neurosurgical residency at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. There he developed his special interest in head injury under the tutelage of his chairman, Dr. Lawrence Marshall. As a lead investigator for the National Traumatic Coma Data Bank and architect of San Diego’s trauma system, Dr. Marshall brought important clinical trials to UCSD from which his residents greatly benefited. In addition to this interest in neurotraumatology, Dr. Coufal also continued his research interest in the molecular biology of brain tumors via an in-training research program at La Jolla’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
A special component of neurotraumatology that also intrigued Dr. Coufal during his residency years was the management of spinal trauma with spinal cord injury. For additional research work he performed in this area he was awarded the 1996 Volvo Award for Spine Research. His interest also led him to pursue an extra year of fellowship training in complex spinal surgery once his residency concluded.
Dr. Coufal considers it a great honor to have been selected as one of Dr. Sanford Larson’s fellows at the Medical College in Wisconsin. Dr. Larson had been a pioneer in the development of spinal instrumentation for the reconstruction of complex traumatic spinal column injuries. He also helped launch the integration of the science of spinal biomechanics with surgical treatment strategies. While at Wisconsin, Dr. Coufal published articles on emerging spinal fusion devices, and gained tremendous insight during his research time at the Biomechanical Research Laboratory.
After completion of all residency and fellowship training, Dr. Coufal joined Midwest Neurosurgery Associates, a private practice group based in Kansas City with its own gamma knife unit serving a four state region. This practice setting afforded not only vital experience in the developing field of stereotactic radiosurgery, but a broad experience in all areas of neurosurgery. Dr. Coufal quickly became “board certified” by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, but then again was drawn back to California by professional opportunities for both he and his wife.
Returning to Southern California in 2001, he has gone on to create La Jolla Neurosurgical Associates, AMC. The practice is run through a new state of the art central office on the ScrippsMemorial Campus, adjacent to the hospital where Dr. Coufal serves as Medical Director of Neurotrauma and Neurosurgical Emergency Services. His group in fact has since 2004 provided exclusive neurosurgical emergency services for Scripps Memorial Hospital, and has led the way in bringing new technology to bear for the treatment of head trauma, skull base tumors, and spinal injuries. At the same time, Dr. Coufal has been a QME (qualified medical examiner) since 2002 and continues to provide spinal surgical services for a workmen’s compensation referral network extending from Los Angeles and Orange Counties to San Diego. Dr. Coufal’s considerable exposure to both degenerative disorders of the spine and acute spinal trauma has also led to his becoming a consultant for several companies involved with spinal surgical instrumentation/ device development. As such, he has lectured and instructed nationally on the new field of minimally invasive spinal surgical techniques. He has also participated, and continues to participate in important clinical trials of new spinal devices. Finally, Dr. Coufal will be a lead neurosurgeon using the new San Diego Cyber Knife unit to treat tumors and vascular lesions of the spine.
Though having been in clinical practice since only 1999, a number of Dr. Coufal’s surgical outcomes have attracted national attention. To date, he has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, several Discovery Health Channel dramatic recreations, “The 700 Club”, and “The Montel Williams Show”. One of his cases was also publicized in a Good Housekeeping article and he has been the subject of multiple segments/articles by local newspaper and television press.
Language(s): English, Spanish
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