Dr. Joan Venes attended Downstate Medical Center of the State University of New York, graduating in 1966. During her surgical internship at Yale, she was strongly influenced by a tragic case of ventriculo-atrial shunt obstruction: “that was the moment … when I began my career as a neurosurgeon.”
Dr. Venes remained at Yale as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. William Collins. In 1972, she completed a residency in neurological surgery at Yale, as their first female neurosurgery resident, during which time she was awarded the McNeil Award in Surgery. Few people know that she also was a role model for women surgeons at a Hartford Hospital as a result of the rotations that the Yale residents did at Hartford Hospital. One of her fellow pediatric neurosurgeons, Dr. Norman Gahm, of Hartford Hospital and the University of Connecticut referred to her as an “outstanding neurosurgeon and person” whom he knew as a resident. As a Hartford resident, she trained under the direction of Dr. William Scoville. In 1973, Dr. Venes was awarded the Van Wagenen Fellowship, which she used to travel to various centers in Europe and America to study seminal work on intracranial pressure monitoring and control. In 1974, Dr. Venes became the third woman Diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons.
Dr. Venes has made significant contributions during her career, particularly in her chosen subspecialty area of pediatric neurosurgery. Her research has included laboratory and clinical work on shunt infection, intracranial pressure and monitoring, Reyes’ syndrome, tethered cord, craniofacial anomalies, and Chiari malformations. She is the author of many articles, book chapters and conference presentations on these subjects. In 1990, she was named Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery) at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Venes has held numerous leadership positions in neurosurgery. She was secretary and founding member of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons (ASPN) and Chairman of the Pediatric Section of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Dr. Venes has also developed an interest in health care policy. In 1988, she was named Pew Fellow in Health Policy at the University of Michigan. In 1990, she became a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow in Health Policy, working in Washington, D.C. on issues of quality and effectiveness in health care.