Alexander Khalessi, MD, MBA, is the chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery and professor of neurological surgery, radiology and neurosciences at UC San Diego. As a board-certified neurosurgeon, he specializes in complex cranial surgery, endovascular neurosurgery, stroke care, and neurological oncology. In 2021, he was named the inaugural Don and Karen Cohn Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Neurosurgery.
Under Dr. Khalessi’s leadership the Department of Neurological Surgery has experienced significant growth. The Department performs an average of 4,000 major cases annually and is one of few health systems in the nation to have two comprehensive stroke centers. The program is consistently ranked in the top 30 best neurology and neurosurgery services in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and—combined with its sister Department of Neurosciences—is perennially ranked #1 nationally in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Dr. Khalessi has also been named a “Top Doctor” by his peers in the annual San Diego Magazine “Physicians of Exceptional Excellence” survey.
Dr. Khalessi champions neurosurgical innovation through several national leadership roles. He is the vice president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the nation’s largest academic neurosurgical society, and co-chair of the CNS Foundation, which works to improve human health worldwide through neurosurgical excellence. Dr. Khalessi is in his second term on the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)/CNS Washington Committee and has held several past Executive Committee roles in the Joint AANS/CNS Cerebrovascular Section. Dr. Khalessi also sits on the Board of Governors for the American College of Surgeons (ACS).
Dr. Khalessi is a founding member of the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) that advises the FDA on early clinical feasibility for emerging neurovascular devices. He further serves on the NIH Interventional Advisory Panel for StrokeNet, which provides scientific oversight for federally funded research in neurovascular disease. Dr. Khalessi was selected by his peers to serve as vice chair of the UC Health Stroke and Cerebrovascular Consortium, which unites experts across all six UC campuses, and will chair the consortium in 2022.
A dedicated educator, Dr. Khalessi directs national and international training courses, including the intermediate resident course for the Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS). Dr. Khalessi served on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Residency Review Committee (RRC) for Neurological Surgery, and editorial board for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. He also participated in the authorship of the ACGME Neurosurgery and Endovascular Surgical Neuroradiology Milestone Projects.
Dr. Khalessi has published more than 150 peer-reviewed papers and monographs and more than 200 abstracts and presentations. He has served as principal or co-investigator of more than 25 clinical trials and grants. His research has spurred advances in the catheter-based treatment of ischemic stroke, endoscopic treatment of intracerebral hemorrhage, multi-modal treatment of cerebral aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), and complex surgical approaches to brain tumors.
Dr. Khalessi’s research interests include open surgical and endovascular therapies for intracranial aneurysms, large-vessel ischemic stroke, and intensive care management and prognosis in head injury. He is particularly interested in the intersection between physiology, engineering, and neurosurgical technique, and applying imaging, device, and technique advancements to surgical care.
Dr. Khalessi earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed his neurosurgical residency at the University of Southern California, including an enfolded endovascular neurosurgery fellowship at State University of New York Buffalo. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in public policy and master’s degree in health services research from Stanford University, and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management.
Outside of work, Dr. Khalessi enjoys spending time with his wife Sara, a lawyer, and their two young sons.