Current Residents

Our current residents report that our rotations and electives, stimulating research opportunities and supportive faculty constitute a rewarding training environment.

PGY-7 Chief Residents

Michael Kogan, MD, PhD.

Undergrad: Temple University
Med School: Temple University School of Medicine

Michael was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and immigrated to Philadelphia at the age of five. He completed his undergraduate education at Temple University, having graduated with summa cum laude with a degree in psychology and a minor in molecular biology. During his undergraduate years, he also worked for two years at the Wistar Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Meenhard Herlyn studying the molecular pathogenesis of melanoma transformation. Subsequently, Michael attended Temple University School of Medicine for the combined MD/PhD program. During his PhD years, he investigated the molecular mechanisms of HIV-1 interaction with innate immunity via effects on NF-kB signaling in macrophages under the mentorship of Dr. Jay Rappaport. Michael continues to hold a strong enthusiasm in academics and his research interests in neurosurgery are in the fields of deep brain stimulation and computer-brain interface design. Michael is considering future specialization in functional, pediatric, peripheral nerve, endoscopic, spine, or skull base fields.

Ashish Sonig, MD.

Dr. Ashish Sonig came to the United States after completion of Neurosurgical Training from well-known National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India. To pursue his interest in skull base and cerebrovascular Neurosurgery, he completed his skull base fellowship with Dr. Anil Nanda, LSU-HSC Shreveport, Louisiana and Endovascular Neurosurgery Fellowship at University at Buffalo. During his fellowship period at Buffalo, Dr. Sonig won the prestigious Galbraith CNS award for best paper and also won the Shirley Dudek Demmer Chair of Research award from “Brain Aneurysm Foundation” for his work on micro RNA in cerebral aneurysms. Dr. Sonig has over 50 publications.

Kunal Vakharia, MD.

Undergrad: Pennsylvania State University
Med School: Thomas Jefferson Medical College

Kunal was born in Philadelphia, PA and was raised in State College, PA. He completed his undergraduate education at Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Biology. He continued his education at Thomas Jefferson Medical College graduating with his medical doctorate in 2013. His clinical interests include open and endovascular neurosurgery as well as minimally invasive spine. He continues to enjoy playing video games and traveling.


Justice Agyei, MD.

Undergrad: SUNY at Albany
Med School: Albany Medical College

Justice was born and raised in Ghana. He immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 13. In the United States, his family settled in The Bronx, New York where he completed high school. He completed his undergraduate education at SUNY at Albany with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He remained in Albany and obtained his medical degree at Albany Medical College. His clinical interests include pediatric neurosurgery and spine surgery. During his leisure, he enjoys exercising, movies, music, video games and spending time with friends.

Tim O’Connor, MD.

Undergrad: University of Florida
Med School: University of Florida

Tim O’Connor, MD attended the University of Florida for his undergraduate education, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Neurobiological Sciences. He received his medical degree from the University of Florida in 2014, where he graduated with Honors in Research and Honors in Academic Excellence. During medical school he received the C. Craig Tisher Faculty Award, was invited to join the UF medical school admissions committee, and was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society.

Dr. O’Connor is a graduate of multiple tactical medicine courses, and during his first year of medical school joined the Jacksonville Beach Police SWAT team. After graduating from the Basic SWAT Team Operations Course, he returned to Camp Blanding for several years to help train local and federal officers. He was an instructor for programs in the private sector that provided training in Tactical Combat Casualty Care to law enforcement, military personnel, and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. O’Connor completed his CAST accredited complex spine fellowship in 2019. During his fellowship, he was awarded the AO Discovery and Innovation Young Investigator grant by the AO Spine Foundation for his biomechanical research in junctional tethers and presented his work at multiple national and international conferences. He received the highest board score award in 2018, and received the resident of year award in 2018. In his free time, he enjoys snowboarding, flight training to become a private pilot, and spending time with his golden retriever.


Patrick Jowdy, MD.

Undergrad: University at Buffalo
Med School: Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at University at Buffalo

Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Patrick completed his undergraduate education summa cum laude at the State University of New York at Buffalo with a degree in the Biomedical Sciences. He continued on to complete his medical school education at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduating with his medical doctorate in 2015. During his medical school years, he was selected for a research internship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where he studied the impact of tumor microenvironment on tumor evolution. He has a wide range of clinical interests including vascular neurosurgery and brain tumors. During his free time, he enjoys biking, volleyball, and snowboarding.

Amade Bregy, MD, PhD.

Undergrad: University of Bern, Switzerland
Med School: University of Miami, Florida

Amade was born in Switzerland, where he attended medical school and completed his PhD with summa cum laude at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He focused his research on sutureless tissue fusion for cerebrovascular bypass procedures before moving to the United States. At the University of Miami, Florida, he pursued research in the fields of traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury and epilepsy followed by clinical brain tumor research. His main clinical interest is vascular neurosurgery.


Justin Cappuzzo, MD.

Undergrad: Ramapo College of New Jersey
Med School: George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Dr. Justin M. Cappuzzo was born and raised in Northern New Jersey. He attended Ramapo College of New Jersey for his undergraduate studies, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (ACS Certified) in 2011. Dr. Cappuzzo spent the following year working as a chemistry teacher at Roxbury High School, where he attended high school just a few years earlier. Afterwards, Dr. Cappuzzo attended medical school at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, and graduated in 2016 with a Research Track specialization for which he earned the Health Services Scholarship for his research on the role of FoxD4 on neuronal differentiation. He was also elected by his peers as the Commencement Speaker for the graduation ceremony. Dr. Cappuzzo subsequently completed his internship in General Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, in 2017 before joining the Department of Neurosurgery the following academic year. Dr. Cappuzzo’s clinical interests include cerebrovascular/endovascular neurosurgery, as well as surgical education. He has a diverse research background including organic chemistry, physics, and neuroscience. He is also interested in using technology to improve patient care in healthcare. In his spare time, Dr. Cappuzzo enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with his family and friends.

Matthew McPheeters, MD, MBA.

Undergrad: Baylor University
Med School: University of Minnesota

Dr. Matthew McPheeters grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and completed his undergraduate education at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in health science studies. He received his Medical Doctorate and Master of Business Administration at the University of Minnesota, where he served as the president of the medical student council and worked as a health and medicine content creator at Khan Academy. His clinical interests include open and endovascular neurosurgery as well as minimally invasive spine surgery.

David Smolar, MD.

Undergrad: Emory University
Med School: Medical College of Georgia

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Dr. David Smolar attended Emory University for his undergraduate studies. He returned to Emory to earn his Master of Science in chemistry, researching therapeutics that modulate post-stroke inflammatory damage. David also worked as a chemist for an Atlanta biotech company producing biologically friendly methods to recycle paper. David earned his doctorate of medicine from the Medical College of Georgia. His clinical interests in neurosurgery are broad, but he is considering specializing in spine surgery. His research interests lie in improving care for patients with neurotrauma and closed head injuries.


Steven Housley, MD.

Undergrad: University of Tennessee
Med School: University of South Florida

From humble beginnings in rural eastern Tennessee, Dr. Steven B. Housley completed his undergraduate studies in Anthropology at The University of Tennessee. Prior to attending medical school, he completed a Master of Science and spent two years in Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative disease research at the University of South Florida. His specific research foci were frontotemporal dementia and similar tauopathies. During medical school at the University of South Florida, Dr. Housley completed a scholarly concentration in Law & Medicine, where he focused on analysis of the intricate medico-legal environment of today’s healthcare system. His specific interests on this front relate to healthcare management, cost-effectiveness, and the ever-increasing integration of healthcare law into medical practice. This has translated into several research projects involving the feasibility of Medicaid expansion and cost-effectiveness of Vagus nerve stimulation in the treatment of medically refractory epilepsy. Dr. Housley has diverse interests in the field of neurosurgery, and looks forward to a long and fruitful career. Outside of clinical practice, he enjoys time with family and being outdoors.

Matthew Recker, MD.

Undergrad: University of Pittsburgh
Med School: Drexel University College of Medicine

Dr. Matthew Recker grew up in Central Pennsylvania and completed his undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience. He earned his Medical Doctorate from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society for his academic achievements. He also received the Alpha Omega Alpha Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship for his work investigating the mTOR signaling pathway and its link to axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury.  Dr. Recker has a particular interest in providing surgical care to the developing world and is considering specialized training in pediatric neurosurgery, skull base neurosurgery, and neurosurgical oncology.


Alexander Becker, MD.

Undergrad: Ithaca College
Med School: Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Alexander Becker is a native of Buffalo and attended high school in Williamsville, NY. He went on to Ithaca College where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Exercise Science with a Medical Emphasis and Chemistry minor. He returned home to Buffalo to attend medical school at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.   In medical school, he served as president of the Neurosurgery Interest Group, a group that aims to enhance medical students’ exposure to the field of neurosurgery.

Dr. Becker is excited to continue his training with University at Buffalo Neurosurgery and be able to further treat patients from Western New York. His interests in neurosurgery are vast and include pediatric and skull base surgery, as well as research in quality improvement. In his free time Dr. Becker enjoys cycling, sailing and spending time with friends and family.

Jaims Lim, MD.

Undergrad: Emory University
Med School: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Dr. Jaims Lim was born and raised in Queens, New York, and he completed his undergraduate education at Emory University, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He then went on to complete his medical education at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine earning his Medical Doctorate in 2018. In medical school, Dr. Lim actively pursued research on hydrocephalus, traumatic spinal injuries, and stroke as a research fellow of the Surgical Outcomes Center for Kids at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Lim has particular clinical research interests in pediatric, vascular, and oncological neurosurgery. He enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and family.

Hussain Shallwani, MD.

Med School: Aga Khan University – Medical College

Dr. Hussain Shallwani received his medical education from the Aga Khan University – Medical College in Pakistan. Along with a passion for Neurosurgery, Dr. Shallwani developed an interest in academia during his early years in medical school. He was actively involved in a number of research projects and published a number of articles focused on outcomes and prognosis after surgery. He continued his academic endeavors as a research fellow at the Department of Neurosurgery at State University of New York at Buffalo, where he published extensively on the topic of endovascular treatment and its outcomes for stroke and aneurysms.

Dr. Shallwani is enthusiastic about his clinical training in Neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is motivated to continue his research, with emphasis on outcome-based studies. His interests include skull-base and cerebrovascular surgery, and neurosurgical oncology.


Ryan Hess, MD.

Undergrad: University at Buffalo
Med School: Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Born and raised in Buffalo, Dr. Hess attended University at Buffalo for both his undergraduate and medical education. As an undergraduate he majored in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology, graduating summa cum laude in 2015. He continued his education at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, ultimately earning his MD summa cum laude in 2019. Throughout his career Dr. Hess has received several awards for excellence in the basic sciences including the Merck Award for Excellence in Organic Chemistry and the Witebsky Award for Excellence in Microbiology. He was also among the first teachers nationwide trained by Kaplan to tutor for the new MCAT exam. Dr. Hess’ research interests include endovascular therapies, cost-analysis of medical treatments, and medical education. He hopes to earn an MBA in the future. In his free time Dr. Hess enjoys traveling, learning languages, cooking, and playing video games.

Moleca Ghannam, MD.

Undergrad: University of Michigan - Dearborn
Med School: Oakland University William Beaumont SOM

Dr. Moleca M. Y. Ghannam was born in Detroit, Mich. She graduated early, summa cum laude, from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a double major in biology and anthropology. There she researched miRNA markers in glioblastoma multiforme. She received her medical degree from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. Her interest in tumor research carried into medical school where she used novel brain imaging segmentation analysis to compare meningioma grade. She also looked at proteomics data and miRNA networks that impact neuronal growth and regeneration.

Dr. Ghannam has a strong interest in global neurosurgery. She spent time at Harvard University where she studied theories in globalization and development. She worked as a health advocate and researcher looking at the rates of tobacco and hookah use in the Arab and Chaldean American communities on a project sponsored by the Michigan State Department of Health. She founded Hakeemah, a virtual library of resources to improve positive health seeking behaviors in Muslim women by addressing the intersectionality of medicine and faith without compromising either.

Her clinical interests include central and peripheral nervous system tumors. In her free time, she enjoys traveling across the United States with her family. She has visited over 30 states and is working on seeing all 50. She also enjoys horseback riding and calligraphy.