2020 ThinkFirst Chapter Medical Director of the Year, Dr. David Cavanaugh

Dr. David Cavanaugh has practiced Neurosurgery in Shreveport-Bossier for 33 years. He provided support to ThinkFirst nationally for years prior to starting ThinkFirst of the Ark-La-Tex in 1996 with his wife, Donna. Dr. Cavanaugh has continued to serve as his ThinkFirst chapter’s medical director and has been awarded the honor of ThinkFirst Medical Director of the Year in 2020.

His time with ThinkFirst started at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) annual meeting where he discovered a need for a ThinkFirst chapter in his area. He accredits his trip to Missouri for his chapter training with his wife as one of his most salient moments with the organization. This set forth a path that would eventually lead him to serving on the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation Executive Committee and holding the position of Medical Director for the ThinkFirst Foundation Board where he served as Chairman of the Board from 2005 to 2007.

Dr. Cavanaugh’s motivations to continue his involvement are clear at the beginning of every ThinkFirst presentation his chapter gives—his passion for injury prevention. He remembers his young, healthy patients who led normal lives prior to spinal cord injuries that led to their paralysis, many of which that could have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt. He states, “An injured spinal cord or brain aren’t fixable, but through ThinkFirst, we show teenagers and other young people the importance of simple acts, like not texting while driving and buckling up, that can prevent life altering injuries.”

He attributes his chapter’s success to its motto--“Cooperation Over Competition.” Rather than establishing the chapter with one of the two competing hospitals in their area, Dr. Cavanaugh and his wife created an independent chapter and had ThinkFirst programs running out of both hospitals, allowing a wider population to be served. Donna Cavanaugh’s partnership with the Louisiana highway authority rewarded ThinkFirst of the Ark-La-Tex an annual Louisiana highway safety grant. Collaboration on national and international levels through the larger ThinkFirst board allowed the sharing of ideas to combat the national goal of preventing brain and spine injuries. Through investing time into training their organization’s workers toward a common goal, Dr. and Mrs. Cavanaugh have paved the way for their chapter’s continued success.

Dr. Cavanaugh’s recommendations for physicians looking for ways to be active in the organization is finding the level of involvement in ThinkFirst that fits their goals and schedules. For example, one can be a financial supporter of ThinkFirst and use the organization’s website to give information on injury prevention to the community they practice in. For those seeking deeper involvement, he recommends the ThinkFirst chapter training held at the ThinkFirst National Conference in conjunction with the AANS annual meeting. Networking with other neurosurgeons with chapters will provide key insight into running a successful organization. Finding a key person who can organize programs and identify and train individuals who suffered traumatic injury be speakers at these programs is essential. Most importantly, he emphasizes the need to be prepared to put in a lot of work initially to make sure the organization’s core is strong so you can provide excellent training to those who will help expand your chapter. Continuity is key for a ThinkFirst chapter to succeed, and Dr. Cavanaugh, his wife, and their team show and exemplary model of a ThinkFirst chapter.