by Kat Stromquist / March 2019
Little Rock surgeon Dr. Ali Krisht has been named this year’s winner of an international award that’s sometimes referred to as the “Nobel prize of neurosurgery.”
The Herbert Olivecrona Award has been awarded most years since 1976 to recognize contributions in the field of neurosurgery. The Karolinska Institutet, a prestigious Swedish medical school, presents the award and hosts the committee that selects Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine.
Krisht, who leads the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute at CHI St. Vincent, is the third neurosurgeon who has practiced in Arkansas to receive the award. The two previous recipients were Dr. M. Gazi Yasargil, who received the prize in 1978, and Dr. Ossama Al-Mefty, who received it in 2011. He counts them as mentors.
“It’s surprising because when I think of the people who received it … I am not sure I can be compared to them,” Krisht said.
Krisht is being recognized specifically for expertise in cerebrovascular, pituitary and skull base surgery, according to an award letter. He’ll travel to Stockholm, where the Karolinska Institutet is located, to receive the award and deliver an accompanying lecture in May.
The Olivecrona Award is named for a professor who taught at the school until 1960 and is thought of as the father of modern neurosurgery in Sweden.
Krisht was born in Nigeria to a Lebanese family. He attended medical school at American University in Beirut and completed residency at Emory University in Atlanta, according to a 2017 High Profile article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
He came to Arkansas in 1994 in part to learn from Al-Mefty and Yasargil, who were then working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Krisht and Al-Mefty went on to found the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute in Little Rock in 2009.
“Don’t underestimate Arkansas — there’s a lot of great people in this state,” Krisht said. “Names don’t mean anything, like in terms of famous places and institutions. Famous places have bad [doctors], and non-famous places have good [doctors].”
Though he often hosts training sessions for aspiring and mid-career surgeons from around the world, Krisht said he has trouble seeing himself as someone with unique abilities, relative to other doctors or students.