Friday, March 12, 2010

In memoriam: Robert G. Ojemann, MD


Esteemed MGH neurosurgeon Robert G. Ojemann, MD, died March 3. He was 78 years old. Ojemann was known by his colleagues at the MGH and throughout the world for his work with brain tumors and cerebrovascular disease and was a beloved clinician, colleague and teacher.

Ojemann joined the MGH as a resident in neurosurgery in 1957, two years after graduating first in his class from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. He remained on staff of the Department of Neurosurgery for approximately 50 years.

Throughout his career, Ojemann taught students about the most complex of brain surgeries and how to be compassionate caregivers. He was known as a patient advocate and for his emphasis on the importance of postoperative care in determining positive outcomes. Ojemann was named a professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in 1979.

An expert in his field, Ojemann published approximately 225 articles and chapters, as well as several books, most notably the first book on the surgical management of cerebrovascular disease. He received numerous awards for his work, including the Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement from the University of Iowa, the Cushing Medal from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Neurological Surgery. Additionally, Ojemann was an honored guest of both the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) and the North American Skull Base Society.

Ojemann’s influence is further demonstrated by the number of professional and academic organizations for which he held leadership positions, including the AANS, the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, the CNS and the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

"Within the MGH, Dr. Ojemann and his wife Jean set a tone of collaborative interaction with other services that persists today," says Christopher Ogilvy, MD, an MGH neurosurgeon and first incumbent of the Robert G. and A. Jean Ojemann Professorship in Surgery in the field of Neurosurgery at HMS. Jean worked with her husband as a secretary in his office for many years.

"When I was a resident, Bob taught me how to be a neurosurgeon," adds Robert Martuza, MD, chief of the MGH Department of Neurosurgery. "As a faculty member, he taught me how to be a doctor. When I first joined the MGH faculty, I shared an office suite with Bob and got to know him at a personal level, and he taught me how to be a husband and a father. Bob was clearly dedicated to neurosurgery and patient care; however he was also very dedicated to his wife and children. He made many sacrifices to be able to spend what little free time he had with them. For me, he was a great teacher in all aspects of life."

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