In the recently published book “The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind,” Dr. Barbara Lipska provides a clear-eyed and very moving account of her battle with multiple brain tumors. Making her story particularly powerful is the unique perspective she brings as director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD, specializing in the impact of schizophrenia on the brain.
Also compelling is the role Special Doc Eugene Shmorhun, MD, a concierge physician in Fairfax, VA, played in initially diagnosing his long-time patient’s disease. Affectionately referred to by the author as “my wonderful family doctor of 30 years,” Dr. Shmorhun’s meticulous attention and expert wisdom was highlighted, as well as the close, personal connection nurtured through decades of caring for Dr. Lipska and her family. “Over the years, Dr. Shmorhun has saved our family from a variety of mini-disasters,” she writes. “He was with us when I had my first bout of cancer. Then in late 2011, he found a melanoma on the skin behind my ear that my dermatologist had missed. My first husband died of melanoma, so I was terrified by the diagnosis, but Dr. Shmorhun saw us through that storm too.”
His compassion when relaying the alarming results of her MRI to Dr. Lipska was evident in her description of the day that upended her life. She writes:
“’I am so sorry,’ Dr. Shmorhun says. ‘I don’t know how to even tell you this.’ His voice breaks; he pauses. ‘The scan found three tumors in your brain,’ he finally continues. ‘You have to go to the ER right away.’”
Miraculously, Dr. Lipska’s story has a happy ending. The immunotherapy treatment prescribed worked, and just eight weeks after her nightmare began, she returned to normal, able to remember her ordeal in clear detail…and give thanks to those who guided her back to health. We, too, thank Dr. Shmorhun for his exemplary commitment to his patients and his calling – a true Special Doc.