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Dr.Frank J Coufal

Frank J. Coufal M.D., FACS
Diplomate, American Board of Neurological Surgery,
Medical Director of Neurotrauma,
Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla
Fellowship in Complex Spine Surgery
Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME)
CA. lic. # A50766


more Credentials


Dr. Coufal is a proud native Texan, but has repeatedly over the course of his life been beckoned by the intellectual excitement and professional opportunities of California. His first experience of California occurred in the early 1980’s when he attended college at Stanford University. In his words, those were “my best four years”. From 1980-1984, he completed a double major (B.A.S.) in Biological Sciences and History, graduating with departmental honors and with distinction in both major fields. His areas of principle focus in the History Department included Late Antiquity, East Asian Studies, and historiography. Through the Biology Department he became inspired by the burgeoning field of molecular oncology. Moreover, he had the unique opportunity to be mentored in his undergraduate research by the late Dr. Henry Kaplan-a pioneering radiation oncologist at Stanford Medical Center who almost single handedly led to the cure of Hodgkin’s disease. Indeed, Dr. Coufal’s early research work at Stanford’s Cancer Biology Research Laboratory was to provide a foundation for further interest in the area of cancer treatment.

Perhaps feeling somewhat nostalgic for his native Texas, Dr. Coufal then returned home and completed his medical school training at The University of Texas. He was particularly proud of the opportunities afforded him at the renowned teaching facility, Parkland Hospital. The early “hands-on” approach to medical student education at Parkland in turn allowed more rapid acquisition of responsibility. It also provided his first exposure to the subspecialty of neurosurgery. He was particularly inspired by his clinical rotations with the renowned neurovascular specialist and chief of neurosurgery, Dr. Duke Samson – as well as the prominent pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Derek Bruce. Encouraged as well by his neuroanesthesiologist father, he then decided that neurosurgery would be his specialty.

Before beginning clinical residency, Dr. Coufal chose to expand upon his earlier research interests and was awarded an NIH (National Institutes of Health) research training grant at the Neuropathology Research Laboratory and Brain Tumor Research Center of the University of California, San Francisco. Under the preceptorship of Drs. Stanley Prusiner and Stephen De Armond he investigated the molecular biology of human prion diseases and the potential role of a unique astrocyte growth factor in their pathologic expression. This research led to the publication of several seminal papers for which Dr. Prusiner was ultimately awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in medicine.

After the completion of his two year research grant, Dr. Coufal then began his clinical neurosurgical residency at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. There he developed his special interest in head injury under the tutelage of his chairman, Dr. Lawrence Marshall. As a lead investigator for the National Traumatic Coma Data Bank and architect of San Diego’s trauma system, Dr. Marshall brought important clinical trials to UCSD from which his residents greatly benefited. In addition to this interest in neurotraumatology, Dr. Coufal also continued his research interest in the molecular biology of brain tumors via an in-training research program at La Jolla’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

During residency, Dr. Coufal married Dr. Sandra Isern - who he had met while they were both medical students in Texas.  While Dr. Frank Coufal was completing his eight year residency, Dr. Sandra Coufal joined Scripps Clinic Medical Group, and ultimately became division head of Internal Medicine. She has since left clinical medicine to enter biotech. At present, she remains biomedical advisor for Novartis, and has co-founded a new company named Ilypsa, with head quarters in Silicon Valley.

A special component of neurotraumatology that also intrigued Dr. Coufal during his residency years was the management of spinal trauma with spinal cord injury. For additional research work he performed in this area he was awarded the 1996 Volvo Award for Spine Research. His interest also led him to pursue an extra year of fellowship training in complex spinal surgery once his residency concluded.

Dr. Coufal considers it a great honor to have been selected as one of Dr. Sanford Larson’s fellows at the Medical College in Wisconsin. Dr. Larson had been a pioneer in the development of spinal instrumentation for the reconstruction of complex traumatic spinal column injuries. He also helped launch the integration of the science of spinal biomechanics with surgical treatment strategies. While at Wisconsin, Dr. Coufal published articles on emerging spinal fusion devices, and gained tremendous insight during his research time at the Biomechanical Research Laboratory.

After completion of all residency and fellowship training, Dr. Coufal joined Midwest Neurosurgery Associates, a private practice group based in Kansas City with its own gamma knife unit serving a four state region. This practice setting afforded not only vital experience in the developing field of stereotactic radiosurgery, but a broad experience in all areas of neurosurgery. Dr. Coufal quickly became “board certified” by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, but then again was drawn back to California by professional opportunities for both he and his wife.

Returning to Southern California in 2001, he has gone on to create La Jolla Neurosurgical Associates, AMC. The practice is run through a new state of the art central office on the ScrippsMemorial Campus, adjacent to the hospital where Dr. Coufal serves as Medical Director of Neurotrauma and Neurosurgical Emergency Services. His group in fact has since 2004 provided exclusive neurosurgical emergency services for Scripps Memorial Hospital, and has led the way in bringing new technology to bear for the treatment of head trauma, skull base tumors, and spinalinjuries. At the same time, Dr. Coufal has been a QME (qualified medical examiner) since 2002 and continues to provide spinal surgical services for a workmen’s compensation referral network extending from Los Angeles and Orange Counties to San Diego. Dr. Coufal’s considerable exposure to both degenerative disorders of the spine and acute spinal trauma has also led to his becoming a consultant for several companies involved with spinal surgical instrumentation/ device development. As such, he has lectured and instructed nationally on the new field of minimally invasive spinal surgical techniques. He has also participated, and continues to participate in important clinical trials of new spinal devices. Finally, Dr. Coufal will be a lead neurosurgeon using the new San Diego Cyber Knife unit to treat tumors and vascular lesions of the spine.

Though having been in clinical practice since only 1999, a number of Dr. Coufal’s surgical outcomes have attracted national attention. To date, he has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, several Discovery Health Channel dramatic recreations, “The 700 Club”, and “The Montel Williams Show”. One of his cases was also publicized in a Good Housekeeping article and he has been the subject of multiple segments/articles by local newspaper and television press.

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Frank J. Coufal, M.D., FACS

La Jolla Neurosurgical Associates, AMC
9834 Genesee Ave. Suite 411
La Jolla, CA 92037

Professional Achievements

  • Board Certified, American Board of Neurological Surgery
    November, 2003
  • Fellow, American College of Surgeons
    October, 2006
  • Qualified Medical Examiner
    March 23, 2002-present
  • Fellowship in Complex Spinal Surgery
    June, 1999

Professional Employment

  • Medical Director of Neurotrauma and Neurosurgical Emergency Services at Scripps Memorial Hospital-La JollaSeptember 2003-present
  • Professional Neurosurgical Affiliation                               
    September, 2004-present
    Retains the exclusive neurosurgical trauma contract For Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla as well as hospital Staff privileges at 3 additional San Diego Hospitals
  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitionerSeptember, 2005-present
    Created La Jolla Neurosurgical Associates with a
    state-of-the-art private office encompassing X-Ray Services
    and customized orthoses, located at:
    9834 Genesee Ave. Suite 411
    La Jolla, CA 92037
    Ph (858) 677-1755
    Fax (858) 677-1771
  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner
    August, 2005-Dec 2006
    Independently contracted with Pacific Clinic at:
    2785 Pacific Ave. # A
    Long Beach, Ca 90806
  • Physician-Incorporated Solo Practitioner
    October, 2005-Dec 2006
    Independently contracted with Health Quest at:
    3605 Long Beach Blvd. #100
    Long Beach, CA 90807
  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner
    June, 2005-present
    Independently contracted with Orange County Medical
    Network at:128 N.. Harbor Blvd. #220
    Garden Grove, CA 92842
  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner
    May, 2005-present
    Independently contracted with Griffin Medical Group at:
    1650 Adams Ave.
    Costa Mesa, CA 92626
  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner   
    March, 2005-Januray 2007
    Independently contracted with Spinal Cerebral Medical Group,
    located at:
    17062 E. 17th St. #102-118

    Tustin, CA 92780

  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner
    October, 2004-September,2005

    Independently contracted with Sentinel Health Medical Group

  • Physician-Incorporated solo practitioner
    April, 2002-September, 2004
    independently contracted with Premier Medical
    Management Systems, Inc.
  • Physician-Employee
    August, 2001-March, 2002
    San Diego Neurosurgery and Spine Institute, A.M.C.
    561 Saxony Place, Suite 102
    Encinitas, Ca 92024
  • Physician-Employee
    July,1999-July, 2001
    Midwest Neurosurgery Associates, P.C.
    6400 Prospect, Suite T411
    Kansas City, Mo 64132


  • M.D. University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas
      • August, 1984-June, 1988
  • B.A.S. Stanford University
      • Double major: Biological Sciences and History
      • September, 1980-July, 1984

Post-Graduate Experience

  • Fellowship in Spinal Surgery, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    July, 1998-June, 1999

  • Neurosurgical Residency, Division of Neurosurgery, University of California, San Diego

    June, 1991-June, 1998

  • Surgical Internship, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Diego

  • June, 1990-June, 1991

  • NIH Research Fellowship, Neuropathology Research Laboratory of the Brain Tumor Research Center,
    University of California, San Francisco
    Stephen J. DeArmond, M.D., PhD,
    Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D. (1997 Nobel Prize Recipie
    July 1988-June1990

Clinical Practice

  • San Diego Site Director Synthes Prodisc-C Surgeon Training Program (Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla) 2012
  • Became an active member of CNS/AANS joint sections on trauma/critical care and spine/peripheral nerve surgery
  • Invited lecturer for several Japanese spinal surgical programs.
  • Participated in exchange program for Japanese and Chinese spinal surgeons.
  • Filmed for a 2005 program on the “Discovery Health” channel detailing the combined
  • Trans-cranial and trans-nasal surgical removal of a massive skull base tumor (at Scripps;Memorial Hospital)
  • Often instructed at satellite training courses around the country (minimally invasive spinal surgical techniques).
  • Worked as a consultant and medical advisory board member for multiple medical device companies.
  • Obtained certificate of completion of advanced training in the use of the Cyberknife. (February 2006)
  • Interviewed on the “Montel Williams Show” in February, 2004, for a television segment highlighting recovery following spinal cord injury
  • Appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” as part of a “Medical Miracles” feature in February 2003, as the neurosurgeon that reversed paralysis in a spinal cord injured trauma patient.
  • Interviewed on the “700 Club” in 2003 to discuss the physician’s relationship with a patient recovering from traumatic quadriplegia.
  • Filmed in August 2002, by Mike Mathis Productions on location at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri for a segment on the television show “Discovery Health” on the Discovery channel.
  • Featured in December 2000 “Good Housekeeping” article entitled “Living Miracles” regarding a patient of mine whom underwent surgical resection of a massive cervicothoracic junction tumor.
  • Obtained certificate of completion of advanced training in the use of the gamma knife. University of Pittsburg, September 1999.
  • Featured in multiple segments/articles in the local Kansas City newspaper and television press.

Neurosurgical Residency

  • Awarded University of California “Chairman’s Prize” for outstanding achievement as a  resident in neurosurgery from July 1, 1990-June 30, 1998.
  • Awarded 1996 Volvo Award for Spine Research for paper entitled “Perioperative Nutrition and Post-operative Complications in Patients Undergoing Spinal Surgery”
  • Completed twoyear in-training research program in molecular neurooncology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, La Jolla, CA.


  • Wolfla CE, Maiman DJ, Coufal FJ, Wallace JR.  “Retroperitoneal lateral lumbar interbody fusion with titanium threaded fusion cages”. J Neurosurgery. 2002 Jan; 96 (1 suppl): 50-5.
  • Coufal FJ, Huang H-JS, Cavanee WK.  “Molecular genetics of primary tumors of the central nervous system” in Genetic Influences in the Nervous System, D.Pfaff, editor, CRC press, 1997.
  • Coufal FJ, Linarelli L, James H.  “Case report:  suprasellar germinoma presenting as Cushing’s syndrome in a child”. Pediatric Neurosurgery, 1997.
  • Klein J, Hey L, Yu C, Klein B, Coufal FJ,  Young E, Marshall L, Garfin S.  “Perioperative nutrition and postoperative complications in patients undergoing spinal surgery”. Spine, Vol. 21, Nov.15, 1996.
  • Nagane M. Coufal F, Lin H, Bogler O, Cavenee W, Huang H-JS. “A common mutant epidermal growth factor confers enhanced tumorigenicity on human glioblastoma cells by increasing proliferation and reducing apoptosis”.     Cancer Research, Vol. 56, Nov. 1, 1996
  • Crouch K, Wong W, Coufal F, Gregory B, Hesselink J. “En plaque meningioma of the basilar meninges and Meckel’s cave: MR appearance”. AJNR, Vol. 16, April, 1995
  • Healy J. Coufal F. “Computed tomographic artifact simulating acute subdural hematoma”. Emergency Radiology, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1994.
  • Scott M, Foster D, Mirenda C, Serban D, Coufal F, Carlson G, DeArmond S, Westaway D, Prusiner S. “Transgene expression of hamster prion protein reduces scrapie incubation times and produces amyloid plaques in mice”. Cell, Dec. 1, 1989


  • “Decompressive Hemi-craniectomy”. Trauma Symposium , Scripps Memorial Hospital,La Jolla, CA, May, 2006.<
  • “A Shot in the Dark: Personal Reflection on the Management of Gun Shot Wounds of the Brain”. Trauma Symposium, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA, May, 2005.
  • “From Traction to Stem Cells: New Frontiers in the Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury”. Grand Rounds Speaker, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA March 5, 2002.
  • “An examination of extra cellular matrix alterations in an experimental model of human glioblastoma”.  Tenth International Brain Edema Symposium, San Diego, CA, October, 1996.
  • “Perioperative nutrition and postoperative complications in the surgical treatment of patients with spinal cord injury”. Annual Meeting of the Cervical Spine Research Society, Santa Fe, NM,  Nov. 29-Dec. 1,1995.
  • “Antitumor immunity following thymidine kinase-mediated killing of experimental brain tumors”. 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, San Diego, CA, April, 1994.
  • “Autoradiographic evidence of PrP-Sc binding sites in the Hippocampus”. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Neuropathologists, San Francisco, CA, June, 1990.
  • “PrP binding proteins and their tissue localization”. Fourth Annual Meeting of the National Institutes of Health Senator Jacob Javits Centers of Excellence in Neuroscience, San Francisco, CA May, 1989.
  • “PrP-Sc has characteristics of a potent astrocyte growth factor”. Third Annual Meeting of the National Institutes of Health Senator Jacob Javits Centers of Excellence in Neuroscience, Zurich, Switzerland, August, 1988.


  • Born: August 8, 1962, in Dallas Texas
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Children: Three


  • Upon request.


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