Cornelius H. Lam, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Cornelius H. Lam

Contact Info

Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Chief of Neurosurgery, Minneapolis VA Medical Center

University of Colorado

Neurosurgery Residency, McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute

Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship, McGill University's Montreal Children's Hospital

University of Minnesota, Transport Phenomenon/Biomedical Engineering

University of Denver (Chemistry)


Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Lam received his undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and his MD from the University of Colorado. Following two years of surgery at Beth Israel Hospital of Boston, he completed his neurosurgical residency at McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute. During his training, Dr. Lam was the Preston Robb Fellow and performed research on excitatory amino acids and basal ganglia development. He went on to Montreal Children's Hospital for his pediatric neurosurgery fellowship before coming to the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Lam joined the university in 1998. He is a versatile neurosurgeon who works in several areas, including pediatrics, functional neurosurgery, and spine. Most of his time is spent at the Minneapolis Veteran’s Administration Hospital where he works with patients and runs the VA-funded Neuro-transport Lab. “I’m interested in the movement of substances in and out of the brain,” he said. 

Having received his PhD from the University of Minnesota's Department of Biomedical Engineering in the area of fluid transport, Dr. Lam likens this type of fluid movement to building a dam or to draining sewage. “For instance, hydrocephalus is a buildup of water in the head,” he noted. “We want to know how that water can be removed.” 

Dr. Lam’s research at the VA focuses on removing by-products of trauma from the brain such as debris, blood by-products, or dead tissue. “Military trauma motivates the VA’s interest in this work,” he noted.

Collaborations help open doors

To do his research, Dr. Lam works closely with other departments at the U, such as Mechanical Engineering. In addition to partnering with Dr. Walter Low of the Neurosurgery Department, Dr. Lam is currently working with Allison Hubel, Mechanical Engineering; Ching Yuan, Ophthalmology and Neurosciences, and Greg Vercelloti, Hematology and Oncology. Together, they are designing instruments that will allow them to quantify fluid movement – or substance kinetics – in a single cell. “When you isolate a cell, you reduce or remove any influences on fluid movement,” he said. “Then you can observe that movement from one side of the cell to another.”

Why is this important? According to Dr. Lam, if you have a blood clot in the brain it contains toxins and oxidants that should be removed before they can do any damage. Dr. Lam and his research associates want to figure out how to help the body do that. “Any sort of toxins, drugs, or poisons can be studied by the same paradigms that we use,” he added. “Our research is rather broad.”

Awards & Recognition

  • Hornbeck Academic Achievement Award, Denver University, 1980, 1981, 1982
  • Award for High Achievement in Independent Research, Denver University, 1983
  • Honors in Chemistry, Denver University, 1983
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1983
  • George B Packard Award in surgery, University of Colorado, 1987
  • Harris Yett Award in Clinical Orthopaedics, Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard University, Boston, 1988
  • Third Prize, Visiting Professor's Research Award, Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard University, Boston, 1989
  • Preston Robb Scholar, McGill University, Montreal, 1995
  • President, Montreal Neurological Institute Fellow’s Society, McGill University, Montreal, 1996
  • Penfield McNaughton Award for Outstanding Resident in Neurosurgery, McGill University Neurosurgery residency program, Montreal, 1997
  • Herz Foundation Faculty Teaching Development Award 2004
  • Regent’s scholarship, University of Minnesota, 2005 – 2011
  • Dr. and Mrs. Scott Augustine Endowment for the MDMS program, 2005 – 2006
  • Marquis Who’s who in Medicine and Healthcare, 2006
  • Nominee, 7th Annual Medical Staff Award for Clinical Excellence, Twin Cities Veterans Administration Medical Center, 2008
  • Mentor for Hydrocephalus Association Resident Presentation Award winner – Christopher G. Janson, MD, 2009
  • Mentor for VA Zieve Resident Research Award winner – Christopher G. Janson, MD, 2010


Research Funding Grants

  • 1/2013 – no end date, A Long-term Follow-up Study for the Evaluation of Patients Who Have Deep Brain Stimulation System for the Adjunctive Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, site co-investigator (PI: Barry Rittberg).
  • 1/1/12 – 12/31/12, Institute for Engineering in Medicine, Probing and Manipulating Vascular Endothelial Cell membranes using Nanowires; role: co-PI (along with Bethanie Stadler, PhD), Institute of Engineering in Medicine Seed Grant Program
  • 4/1/2012 – 3/31/16, VA Merit Review Application, CSF Clearance of Intracranial Debris from Traumatic Brain Injury; role: PI, 25%
  • 2/10/2013 – no end date, Institute for Engineering in Medicine, Nanotechnology Development and Applications for Clinical Neurosicence Applications; role: co-I (PI: Jian-Ping Wang PhD, Walter Low PhD


  • Romanova L, Hansen E.A., Janson C, Lam C.H. Generation and preliminary characterization of immortalized cell line derived from rat microlymphatics, Microcirculation 2014, 21(6): 551-61.
  • Lam, C.H., Hansen E.A., Hall W., Hubel A., Application of transport phenomena analysis technique to cerebrospinal fluid, J Neurosurgical Science, 2013, 57 (4) 317-26.
  • Lam, C.H., Hansen E.A., Janson C., Bryan A., Hubel A., The characterization of arachnoid cell transport II: paracellular transport and blood CSF barrier formation of arachnoid cells, Neuroscience 2012, 222:228-38.
  • Conway A., Wiernik A., Rawal A., Lam C., Mesa H., Occult primary medullary thyroid carcinoma presenting with pituitary and parotid metastases: case report and review of the literature, Endocrine Pathology 2012, 23 (2):115-22.
  • Norby K.E., Qaiser R., McKinney, A., Lam, C.H., A 12-year-old Girl with an Extraosseous Chondrosarcoma, J Neurology Research. 2012; 2(4):176-179.
  • Lam, C.H., Hansen E.A., Hubel A., Arachnoid cells on culture plates and collagen scaffolds: phenotype and transport properties, Tissue Engineering Part A 2011, Jul:17(13-14):1759-66.
  • Janson C., Romanova L., Hansen E., Hubel A., Lam C., Immortalization and functional characterization of rat arachnoid cells, Neuroscience 2011; Mar 17;177:23-34.



  • Pediatric neurosurgeryEpilepsyHydrocephalusSpina bifidaTethered spinal cordCraniofacial disordersBrain tumorsCysts in children