Skip to main content
Explore URMC
menu

Our Residents

James Towner, MD

James Towner

James Towner is a PGY-7 resident in neurosurgery. He is from Madison, Alabama and attended medical school at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile, AL. During his medical school career, he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society and elected into the Gold Humanism Honors Society by his peers. He was also awarded both the American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Prize for Excellence as well as the Donna B. Ledet Memorial Scholarship. Prior to entering medical school, James graduated cum laude from the University of Alabama with a bachelor degree in chemical engineering and minor in chemistry, having completed two research internships at NASA. His interests in neurosurgery include traumatic brain injury and neurocritical care. In his free time, he enjoys collecting and listening to jazz and rock & roll records, reading, watching Crimson Tide football and spending time with his wife, Mary, and their dogs, Franklin & Elly.

Audrey Grenga, MD

Audrey Paulzak

Audrey Paulzak is a PGY-6 resident in neurosurgery. She was born and raised in the Florida panhandle, and attended medical school at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. During her medical school career she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society and the Association of Pathology Chairs Honor Society. She also presented abstracts on neurotrauma clinical research at AANS and ACS national meetings. Before attending medical school, she graduated with a degree in Biophysics from the University of South Alabama at Birmingham, where she participated in medical nanoparticle research that included a summer funded by the National Science Foundation conducting research in Poland and the Czech Republic. In her free time she enjoys spoiling her three dogs, remodeling her Rochester home, playing the piano, traveling, and tackling a garage full of Pinterest projects. 

Thomas Pieters, MD

Thomas Pieters

Thomas Pieters is a PGY-6 resident in neurosurgery. He was born and raised here in Rochester, New York and attended The Pennsylvania State University for his undergraduate studies where he received a degree in Psychology with a focus in neuroscience. He attended medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. During his medical school career he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society. While there, he studied language and general cognitive functioning through cortical stimulation mapping, fMRI and electrocorticography. He also spent time involved in international medical outreach, working in hospitals in both Panama and China. His neurosurgical interests are in both epilepsy and pediatric surgery. In his free time, he enjoys going to the park with his dog, traveling, and spending time with family.

Redi Rahmani, MD

Redi Rahmani

Redi Rahmani is a PGY-5 resident in neurosurgery. He attended medical school at Dartmouth College and graduated in 2016. While there he published on outcomes-based research in neurosurgery. He started and led the AANS medical student chapter at Dartmouth. He also completed a research internship with Dr. Theodore Schwartz focusing on calcium dye imaging of the rat cortex during seizure propagation. Prior to medical school he attended Cornell University and graduated cum laude in 2012 with a degree in neurobiology. His research in college studied heat induced seizures in fruit flies with defective sodium channels. He also worked part-time/full-time as an EMT and Paramedic. Redi grew up in New York City after emigrating from Albania when he was 6 years old. He has a broad interest in neurosurgery. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and reading.

David A. Paul, MD

David Paul

David A. Paul is a PGY-5 resident in neurosurgery. He attended medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he also earned a M.S. in Neurobiology and Anatomy.  While in medical school, David studied visual plasticity in pituitary tumor patients, working in the laboratory of Dr. Bradford Mahon. Outside the laboratory, he was engaged in community service and was a co-founding member of the Minority Male Leadership Association. He is the 2015 recipient of the William and Charlotte Cadbury Award, a national award presented to one medical student in the nation for academic excellence, community service, and leadership. He attended undergrad, at Hope College, in Holland, MI, where he was elected Student Body President, and now serves as a member of their Board of Trustees. His hometown is Grand Rapids, MI. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife, and their dog, travelling, and spending time outdoors.​

Catherine Wassef, MD

Catherine Wassef

Catherine Wassef is a PGY-4 resident in neurosurgery. She studied Human Biology, Health, and Society at Cornell  University and was one of the founding members of the Dial of Ahaz Society. She received a USDA Hatch fund grant to research neural correlates of the fuzzy trace theory with neuroimaging in the Lab for Rational Decision Making. She graduated with honors in 2012 after completing her thesis on voxel based morphometry and personality traits. Catherine then studied at Temple’s St. Luke’s Program for medicine, where she volunteered at the Kenderton elementary school, volunteered with the Global Medical Brigades in Honduras, cofounded the pediatric interest group and helped publish on spinal cord stimulator infection rates. She finds all fields of neurosurgery interesting, and skull base surgery the most challenging. Her hometown is East Windsor, NJ. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, religious studies, movies, musicals, and road trips.

Rahim Ismail, MD

Rahim Ismail

Rahim Ismail is a PGY-3 resident in neurosurgery. He attended medical school at University of Central Florida and graduated in 2017. During his time in medical school, he published and submitted numerous abstracts on outcomes from stereotactic radiosurgery on metastatic lesions to the brain. Additionally, Rahim was the first research coordinator of UCF's student run free clinic, for which he was able to publish and submit abstracts on outcomes of the effect of volunteerism and medical student performance. During his time in medical school, he co-founded Lake Nona's first student run interprofessional healthcare organization, InterPro, resulting in curriculum development between multiple schools and conferences that brought together multiple health care related professional students throughout the state. Prior to medical school he volunteered with AmeriCorp through CityYear and worked in underserved schools in Miami, Florida. He attended the University of Florida and graduated cum laude in 2011 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (focus in Neurobiological Sciences). His research in college studied movement disorders in children with autism.

Nathaniel Ellens, MD

Nathaniel Ellens, MD

Nathaniel Ellens is a PGY-3 resident in neurosurgery. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI and received his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at Calvin College. He went on to attend Michigan State University College of Human Medicine where he was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Gold Humanism Honor Society. At MSU, Nate was involved in research and published papers about a variety of topics, some of which include spinal cord stimulation and barbiturate-induced neuroprotection. He has also served as a reviewer for the Medical Student Research Journal and as a leader of the Neurology, Radiology, and Surgery Interest Groups. During medical school, Nate taught as a lecturer and lab instructor for an MSU undergraduate anatomy course and as an instructor for the “General Surgery: Introduction to Concepts and Techniques” elective offered for medical students. His volunteer experiences also include a position on the planning committee for Camp Neuro, a camp organized to provide underprivileged high school students with exposure to careers in neuroscience. During his free time, Nate enjoys spending time with his wife and family, traveling, CrossFit, and wine tasting.

Gabrielle Santangelo, MD

Catherine Wassef

Gabrielle Santangelo is a PGY-3 resident in neurosurgery.  She is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry where she graduated with distinction in research.  Notably during medical school, she served as president of the surgery interest group and was awarded the AHA student scholarship in cardiovascular surgery.  Prior to medical school, Gabrielle graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts with a degree in neuroscience.  Her interests in neurosurgery are in cerebrovascular, skull base and neurotrauma.  In her free time, she enjoys squash, backpacking, family time and her cat, Bear.

Clifton Houk, MD

Clifton Houck

Clifton Houk is a PGY-2 resident in neurosurgery. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and received his bachelor's degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from Johns Hopkins University. After college, he conducted research on the human nuclear membrane protein Emerin. He then attended the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, Virginia. During medical school, his research focused on the vascular morphology and mural cells of the murine germinal matrix. He volunteered at the Bradley Free Clinic, which provides healthcare to working Roanokers who do not have health insurance, and served as the Secretary for his school's student chapter of the AANS. His interests in neurosurgery include endovascular techniques and traumatic brain injury. In his free time, Clifton enjoys reading histories and biographies, going for evening walks with his wife, and occasional trips to the arcade.

Gurkirat Kohli, MD

Gurkirat Kohli

Gurkirat Kohli is a PGY-2 resident in neurosurgery. He received his bachelor of science in Biology from The College of New Jersey. In college, he conducted research on the human yeast pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans to determine the role of inositol in the development of cryptococcal meningitis. Gurkirat then attended Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society his junior year. During medical school, he conducted and published research on the outcomes following open and endoscopic skull base approaches. He also volunteered in the local student-run health clinic and spent time mentoring and tutoring local high school students. His interests in neurosurgery include cerebrovascular and skull base. His hometown is Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In his spare time, Gurkirat enjoys playing tennis, hiking, reading, and spending time with his friends, family and dog.

Derek George, MD

Derek George

Derek D. George is a PGY-1 resident in neurosurgery. He was born and raised in Colorado and attended the University of Colorado School of Medicine. During his medical school career, Derek was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society and elected to the Gold Humanism Honor Society. He was also notably awarded the Hippocrates Award for being the student who most completely epitomizes the ideals and noble traditions of the Profession of medicine as selected by the graduating class. While at CU, Derek engaged in research on the subjective experience of fatigue in Parkinson Disease and on the use of stereoelectroencephalography in the work-up of surgical epilepsy. He also co-founded a peer-peer teaching program for medical students called Knowledge Base, which won the CU Anschutz Student Senate Award for Outstanding Student Organization. Prior to medical school, Derek attended Colorado State University, where he earned degrees in biological sciences and German and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He remained at Colorado State to earn an M.S. in Biomedical Science, during which time he served as an instructor of undergraduate and graduate students for gross anatomy and neuroanatomy courses. His interests in neurosurgery are broad and include epilepsy, functional, and neurotrauma. In his free time, Derek enjoys getting outside to rock climb, hike, and run. You can also find him exploring Rochester’s growing microbrewery scene in search of the perfect IPA.   

Taylor Furst, MD

Taylor Furst

Taylor Furst is a PGY-1 resident in neurosurgery. He is from Moravia, NY. Taylor graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2016 summa cum laude and as a University Honors Scholar with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and a minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology. While at UB, he performed research in human nutrition and athletic performance. He also played club ice hockey, winning a national championship in his Junior year. Subsequently, Taylor attended medical school at Upstate Medical University where he graduated cum laude in 2020. During medical school, he published outcomes-based research in a variety of neurosurgical topics and was elected into Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He is the recipient of the Robert Eich AOA Endowment and the Gustave P. Milkey Scholarship for being the academic leader following his first and second year, respectively. Highlighting his time in medical school was his cultural emersion trip to El Sauce, Nicaragua as well as playing ice hockey for his local men’s league. Taylor continues to develop his broad interests in neurosurgery and research. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and watching sports, time on the water, working out and spending quality time with his wife, Alyssa, and their dog, Layla.