Visual Tribute to Graduating Neurosurgery Residents

August 7, 2014

The poster says, “NI Game of Thrones.” A new television series? Not quite. It’s a gift from Neil Feldstein, MD, to this year’s graduating neurosurgery residents.

For the past 19 years, Dr. Feldstein, associate professor of neurological surgery and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Center, has created a collage in which he inserts the faces of residents who are leaving or moving up to chief. Recent collages have been based on movie and television themes such as Avatar, the Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and X-Men; earlier ones were take-offs on paintings by artists including Andy Warhol and M. C. Escher. Each year, Dr. Feldstein presents professionally framed copies of the collage to the residents at the department’s good-bye dinner.

One of this year's residents, Zachary Hickman, said,

The question was, what TV show or movie would he use as his inspiration? We had a strong hunch it would be Game of Thrones—or at the very least, one of the other shows that Brad, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Feldstein, and I watched religiously every week. We always reminisced and pored over the details of the latest episode at work the next morning. The gift is a great way to remember some of the best times during my residency at Columbia and the friends and colleagues that I shared them with.

Over the years, the collages have become technically more and more sophisticated—and time consuming—with the availability of new Photoshop techniques. Dr. Feldstein begins each project by collecting images from books and the Internet. He does rough drawings by hand, then lays out a grid to get a sense of proportion, scale, and position. “Photoshop,” he says, “allows me to use a technique called layering. I may have 30–40 layers for just one small character before I am satisfied.”

During the year, he gets to know the residents, their personalities and quirks. This helps him determine their role in the collage. “It is much like the Macy’s Day Parade,” he says, “where they start working on the next year’s parade the day after this year’s. Once I present the poster in June, I am already thinking about the next year’s.”

One graduating resident, Richard Anderson, MD—from the Matrix collage—stayed on as a full-time faculty member. The assistant professor of neurological surgery joined more than the department: For the past several years he has helped Dr. Feldstein with the collages.

Read about the 2013 poster: