W. Jerry Oakes was born and raised in DeSoto, Mo., and pursued his undergraduate university education at the University of Missouri. He completed his medical school training and neurosurgery residency at Duke University. During his residency, he spent a year in Toronto, first in neurology and then in pediatric neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children. Following the completion of his residency, he spent the next year in Europe; first at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London and then in Zurich with Professor Gazi Yasargil.
Returning to Duke, he spent the next 14years, developing the pediatric neurosurgical service. In 1992, he and his family relocated to Birmingham and the Children's of Alabama where he assumed the directorship of the Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Dr. Oakes is currently the Dan Hendley Professor of Pediatrics and Neurosurgery. In the past 24 years, he has served as the Section Head of Pediatric Neurosurgery, chief of staff of Children’s of Alabama and Chief of Surgery at Children’s of Alabama. Nationally he has served as the editor in chief of Journal of Neurosurgery; Pediatrics and president of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons. He served many years on the American Board of Pediatric Neurosurgery first as a director and then as vice-chair.