Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Lost Friends

Recently, I and all of neurosurgery lost two friends.  No death is ever easy but some losses are felt more acutely and for me this is true for the deaths of both Robert Ojemann, MD and Ilona Quest.  
Robert Ojemann
I only had the honor and privilege of interacting with Dr. Ojemann on a few occasions.  He was the quintessential gentleman, scholar and teacher.  During my training, his name was up there in the stratosphere. He was a master surgeon, researcher and administrator; one of the few to hold the top position in nearly all of neurosurgery's national organizations.  So when I encountered him,  I was prepared to be "brushed aside"-quite the contrary.  He went out of his way to comment on a recent talk he had heard me give and to compliment me!  It was obvious that he was still keenly interested in all that was neurosurgery and held respect for those who worked seriously and tirelessly to move the specialty forward to better help our patients.  For all his dedication, hard work, and enormous success, I showed me honest respect that helped propel me forward in my career. What a great role model. We will all miss his wisdom, intelligence and honesty.
Ilona Quest
No one I know that ever met Ilona Quest, the lovely and gracious wife of Donald Quest, MD (past-AANS president, ABNS, RRC, Senior Society, Professor Columbia), ever walked away feeling anything less than cherished. She was an amazing woman who provided the foundation that allowed her husband to flourish and succeed as a world class neurosurgeon.  But Ilona was more than just the woman behind the great man. She worked tirelessly to enrich our meetings in a multitude of ways.  I firmly believe she was also a great force behind her husbands unfailing support for women entering neurosurgery (for which he was recognized with the coveted "Friends of WINS Award" (Friends of WINS Award).  It was a cruel twist of fate that she succumbed to a neurosurgical emergency.  I last saw her in New Orleans-we hugged and talked while Don performed his jazz on-stage.  I was again struck by her ability to recount details about my family who she had never met and talk about the state of my career.  She made me feel very special-that is a great gift.  My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. Tonight I said Kaddish for her.


  1. I am so sorry to hear of the passing of both Bob Ojemann and Ilona Quest. I was privileged to get to know Dr. Ojemann quite well during my six years in Boston. He was always the consumate gentleman, kind, thoughtful, open, engaging, a deeply dedicated teacher and a generous colleague. His accomplishments and gifts will live on in all who had the good fortune to spend time in his presence and experience his extraordinary spirit.
    I only had the pleasure of meeting Ilona Quest once at a New York Neurosurgical Society dinner but in that one encounter she made an indelible impression upon me. She was graceful, charming, engaging and obviously extremely bright. She clearly had a great interest in truly getting to know the people she met even if only briefly. My thoughts are with Donald in this most difficult time.

  2. Thank you for your poignant thoughts.