Guest post from Kristopher T. Kimmell, MD
Neurosurgical Resident, University of Rochester Medical Center
For many people, encounters with physicians happen at times of crises in their lives. A grandmother is sick in the hospital. A cousin suffers serious injuries in a car accident. An aunt receives a devastating diagnosis. For many physicians, these encounters are the fuel that lights our professional fire. To meet people at their most vulnerable and to offer succor, and even hope, in their desperate hour, is one of the sacred honors of our profession. While some physicians may have had such a personal experience which inspired them to pursue medicine, fewer still have had such a personal crisis in the midst of their careers. Behnam Badie, MD, FAANS, FACS, is one of these few, and his experience serves as inspiration for his current clinical and research work.
Dr. Badie was born in Iran and immigrated to America in the late 1970’s. His initial plans to receive his education in America before returning to his homeland were altered by the Iranian revolution in 1979. After obtaining his undergraduate degree at UCLA, he went on to attend medical school there as well. During a rotation on neurosurgery as a third-year medical student, Dr. Badie knew he had found his calling. He was enchanted by the technical challenge of microsurgery. He pursued his neurosurgical residency at UCLA, and during his training, he became very interested in the treatment of brain tumors. Upon completing his training at UCLA, Dr. Badie moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he began a surgical neuro-oncology program and also continued his research efforts in neuro-oncology.
In May 2004, Dr. Badie’s life changed forever when his father came to visit him from Iran. His father did not appear well to Dr. Badie. Upon further probing, his father admitted that he had been experiencing arm numbness for several weeks. Dr. Badie implored his father to obtain an MRI; he could never have prepared himself for what was discovered. Dr. Badie’s father had an aggressive, invasive glioma located in the insula. A tumor in that area required the utmost technical prowess in a surgeon. Dr. Badie brought his father to the U.S. for treatment and began searching for the best surgeon to do his father’s operation. But, to Dr. Badie’s surprise, his father already knew who the best surgeon would be. It was his father’s wish to have his son remove the tumor. Such a decision was fraught with ethical concerns, but his father would not waver. After much consultation with colleagues, Dr. Badie granted his father’s wish, and with help from colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, he successfully removed the tumor. The final diagnosis of the tumor was glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain tumor. His father made a good recovery and lived for over a year after surgery before succumbing to the fatal disease.
In 2005, Dr. Badie made the decision to move his practice from Madison, Wisconsin, to City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and cancer and diabetes treatment center, in Duarte, California. He has served as chief of the Division of Neurosurgery and director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope since his arrival. Inspired by his experience with his father, Dr. Badie made this career change because he wanted to be at the cutting edge of new therapies for brain tumor patients. He still keeps a picture of his father on the wall of his office. At City of Hope, Dr. Badie has been involved in groundbreaking clinical work using new immunologic techniques in the treatment of the most aggressive types of GBM. A recent breakthrough at City of Hope has captured media attention. Using a patient’s own immune cells — specifically, a type of cell known as a memory T cell designed with a unique receptor called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) — Dr. Badie and colleagues have devised a technique that uses these cells to attack GBM cells. This approach has shown early success in a small number of patients with very aggressive and advanced forms of the disease. Much work still needs to be done, but Dr. Badie and his colleagues at City of Hope believe that this technique can be useful not only in GBM but in other disease processes such as tumors that metastasize to the brain from other parts of the body.
Dr. Badie has committed his career to clinical excellence and scientific discovery. He believes that the value of achievement in these realms is far more valuable than financial success. His story of turning personal tragedy into professional accomplishment is an inspiration to us all. We salute Dr. Badie for his efforts to improve the treatment of patients with devastating brain tumors.