Benjamin Warf

Board Chair

Director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program at Boston Children’s Hospital

Benjamin Warf
Dr. Benjamin Warf

Dr. Warf is a pediatric neurosurgeon who has revolutionized the treatment of intra-cranial diseases in very young children, with a particular focus on hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). Many children with untreated hydrocephalus do not survive or suffer significant cognitive disabilities; such outcomes are common in parts of the world where access to neurosurgery is scarce. In 2000, Dr. Warf became medical director and chief of surgery at a newly established pediatric hospital in a remote town in eastern Uganda, where he encountered a high incidence of hydrocephalus. Because traditional treatment of hydrocephalus—insertion of shunts—is both prohibitively expensive and requires sustained medical monitoring beyond the reach of most children in the developing world, Dr. Warf pioneered an alternative, low-cost treatment. In carefully designed clinical trials, he demonstrated that a relatively straightforward, one-time treatment using modern endoscopic techniques (based on a surgical approach first attempted in the early twentieth century) results in outcomes that are at least as safe and effective as ventricular shunts, but requires far less medical infrastructure and post-surgical maintenance. As an adjunct to his clinical practice, Dr. Warf designed a training program and network for neurosurgeons throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, increasing exponentially the number of children who can now be treated using his method.

Dr. Warf received a B.S. (1980) from Georgetown College and an M.D. (1984) from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency (1985–1991) in neurosurgery at Case Western Reserve University. From 2000 to 2006, he served as medical director and chief of surgery at CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda, and in 2009 he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School, where he is currently a professor of neurosurgery and director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Warf is a recipient of the Humanitarian Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and, in 2012, was named a MacArthur Fellow, receiving the prestigious “Genius” grant for improving access to care and standards of that care. His research, teaching, and leadership in both Africa and North America continue to inform and benefit one another with the ultimate goal of improving access to optimal, evidence-based, and sustainable treatment for children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida everywhere.