Michael Virk, M.D., Ph.D. is an award-winning neurosurgeon specializing in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery. He is committed to a patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach to treat patients with spinal disorders that might include deformity, tumor, trauma, spinal cord injury, and degenerative disease. Dr. Virk uses state-of-the-art minimally invasive techniques with intraoperative, computer-assisted navigation as well as spinal endoscopy. He also employs fundamental, open surgical strategies in patients who will benefit most from these.
Dr. Virk’s extensive research background in neuronal signaling has provided him with a unique understanding of how the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves function in normal and pathological states. His research interests are in spinal cord injury and pain, as well as in long-term outcomes following spinal surgery for deformity, tumors, and degenerative disease. As such, he follows his post-operative patients for long periods following surgery and continues to utilize a team-based approach during this period. Integrative care, of which surgery is but one component, is a cornerstone of his patient treatment philosophy. Dr. Virk’s ultimate treatment goal is to help patients regain function to the greatest extent possible with minimal pain and short hospital stays so that they can return to enjoying their lives.
Dr. Virk graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, California, before traveling east to earn an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a concentration in Biopsychology at Cornell University. He continued on to the Medical Scientist Training Program at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where he earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. He completed his residency in Neurological Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. During his residency, Dr. Virk completed a research fellowship at the Rockefeller University. Following his Chief Resident year, he returned to San Francisco to do a fellowship in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Virk has extensive research experience that has resulted in several publications. His Ph.D. thesis work was completed in the lab of John Williams, Ph.D., at the Vollum Institute of Oregon Health and Science University. This work focused on neuronal signaling in response to opiates and the neuronal mechanisms underlying tolerance and addiction to these pain medications. He also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship with Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard, Ph.D., and Michael Kaplitt, M.D., Ph.D., at the Rockefeller University. His work here centered on basal ganglia circuitry associated with reward seeking, depression, and pain. He is currently interested in translational projects involving dysfunctional neuronal signaling and circuits, particularly those associated with pain and traumatic spinal cord injury.
Dr. Virk is also highly involved in clinical outcomes research associated with spine surgery. These projects revolve around degenerative disease, spinal cord injury and minimally invasive, image-guided spine surgery. Dr. Virk’s research has been published in Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery Focus, the Journal of Neurosurgery, and the Journal of Neuroscience, PNAS, and he co-authored multiple chapters including a chapter on minimally invasive spine surgery for the 7th edition of Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery, a definitive neurosurgical reference.