Ben Cohen

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10 To Watch: Dr. Allan Friedman

Dr. Allan Friedman is a meticulous neurosurgeon who abides by only the strictest rituals. He runs the trail at the Washington Duke Inn three times a week and on Fridays, he loops twice. He does not mind the scorching humidity of early June, because that’s when the smell of honeysuckle is most intoxicating. He watches women’s basketball games from the front row under the Duke basket and mentors female athletes interested in medicine through a program he co-directs with another top neurosurgeon, Dr. Henry Friedman (no relation). He leads a biweekly, Socratic discussion for first-year medical students called “brain school.” He enjoys poetry and has a copy of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” on the corkboard behind his desk; he can even recite by memory the first, oft-quoted line.

Friedman operates three or four times a week, and he repeats the same process every time. He reviews the X-rays for his next day’s cases the night before and simulates the operations in his head. He considers the potential pitfalls and pauses at the trickiest parts. The routine June 2 was no different. He met with the patient for about an hour Sunday to explain the course of action, informing him and his family that there was a chance he could end up a “whole lot worse than when he came in,” as Friedman says. Then he studied the looming procedure Sunday night, slept for seven hours, woke up Monday morning, drove to work at Duke University Hospital and removed a malignant tumor from the brain of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

>>ONLINE

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