A Life Immersed in “the Wellspring of Humanity” Earns Drake Medal for Joseph Broderick, MD

Joseph Broderick, MD, Professor and Chair in the Department of Neurology and Research Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, was recently honored with the Daniel Drake Medal, the most prestigious award given to living faculty and alumni of the UC College of Medicine. Dr. Broderick, an internationally known stroke researcher, led studies that resulted in the approval of t-PA for the treatment of acute ischemic stroke.

The following is a transcript of Dr. Broderick’s remarks upon his acceptance of the Drake Medal:

As a native Cincinnatian and a graduate of the UC College of medicine, I am  honored to be a recipient of the Daniel Drake Medal. I am the fifth, if not the least, neurologist to receive the Drake Medal since its inception 25 years ago. Dr. Charlie Aring, who founded the Department of Neuorlogy at UC in 1947, was the first. I am very likely the only Drake Medal recipient who majored in classical languages and philosophy in college.  In fact, I didn’t decide to enter medicine until late into my junior year in college and had to take organic chemistry at UC over the summer just to meet the required course work.

Although much has been made of the fact that I come from a family of physicians, when I was child, the only doctor in our family was my father, a general internist and family physician in Greenhills. My father remains the best role model of a physician, father, and man that I know and is the reason, along with my mother – one of the most selfless and empathetic persons that our family has known – why there are now so many Broderick physicians.

Brimming with interest about the brain from my college years, I entered medical school thinking that I would be a psychiatrist, until I learned that psychiatrists at UC at that time rarely touched their patients. I then set out to be an internist like my father, until I had an awful first six weeks in internal medicine at the beginning of my third year. My medical school experiences illustrate that our frustrations and disappointments often direct our life’s journey as much as our role models and passions.  It wasn’t until I did a neurology rotation at the beginning of my fourth year with Fred Samaha, the former chair of Neurology at UC, that I found my place in medicine which combines the greatest challenge in medicine and biology and the wellspring of our humanity, our brains, with the long-term patient relationships that my father enjoyed as a family doctor.

One lovely byproduct of such an evening is the opportunity to say a few words to people who mean a great deal to me. People who know me best know that I view the world from the standpoint of family and community. Families know your strengths but have no illusions concerning your limitations. They can laugh as they recount the stupid things you have done – as when I, a brand new driver, put in the wrong fluid into the wrong hole in our family car. They give you special gifts like the handwriting decoder ring that my nurse research coordinators gave me as a Christmas present during my early years at UC. Families are kind but firm when they deliver bad news, as when Iva Dean Lair, affectionately referred by the medical students of my generation as “I’m the Dean” Lair, told me as a second-year medical student to move our running bridge game from the tables in front of the Dean’s office because medical student applicants would get the wrong impression about our work ethic at the College.

Our lives are also defined by the families and communities to whom we belong.

To my patients and their families that I have cared for: I am amazed by your ability to bear terrible diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, and ALS with such courage.  I see this same courage in the willingness of stroke patients and their families to participate in a clinical trial while facing the strong likelihood of severe disability and death, no matter what the therapy. Patients with neurologic disease often come to the neurologist like Dorothy and her friends entered the throne room of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz – full of desperate hope and faith that the all-knowing and powerful physician will know how to restore what has been lost or broken.  While current technology, such as brain imaging, is at first glance awe-inspiring, the reality is that we physicians are often like the well-intentioned but small man hiding in the tiny room who is separated from the patient only by a thin curtain of current medical knowledge. To all our patients, thank you for what you teach us about medicine and about being human.

To our recently formed community of UC Health: Our success will depend upon how we well we care about each other as well as the community we hope to serve.

To my colleagues and friends in the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute, and particularly the Department of Neurology: we have grown and accomplished a lot but we have an even greater future ahead of us. I am proud to work with such a dedicated group of people every day.

To my close friends and colleagues in our stroke team at UC: you have changed the way stroke is understood, prevented, and treated throughout the world. Working and laughing with you every day for the past 23+ years has been one of my life’s best experiences as well as fun.

To my parents, in-laws, and brothers and sisters: the greatest honor and gift in my life, is being a member of two terrific families. I have never needed to look very far for my role models.

To my children: find your passion and follow it.  Learn fro

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