Roger A. Brumback, MD — widely recognized for his research in both pediatric neurology and Alzheimer's neuropathology, his role as founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Neurology, and his mentorship to countless students and colleagues over the years — left behind a long list of accomplishments on May 14, when he and his wife Mary were found dead in their home; both were 65 years old. Perhaps the only neurologist to have a species of monkey named after him (A. brumbacki), Dr. Brumback was professor and former chairman of Creighton University's department of pathology (2001-2010) at the time of his death.
“He was one of those rare individuals who was obviously brilliant, but never made you feel inferior,” Charles T. Gay, MD, associate professor of child neurology in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, told Neurology Today. Dr. Gay said he was lucky to consider himself a friend, colleague, and mentee of Dr. Brumback. The two met while Dr. Gay was a pediatric fellow at Oklahoma University, where Dr. Brumback was teaching at the time.
He gave so much time to his colleagues and students, often participating with John B. Bodensteiner, MD, and others in evening journal clubs, Dr. Gay added. These evenings allowed the trainees “the unique opportunity to witness and participate as equals (though we were not) in unfiltered and often passionate discussions about matters of science, medicine, and life. That part of my training is what I treasure most, and for that will always be grateful,” he said.
In addition to his boundless curiosity and academic achievements, Dr. Brumback also had a great sense of humor, Dr. Gay recalled. At a particularly memorable meeting for the Child Neurology Society in Phoenix, “Roger hosted an outing to Pinnacle Peak, a well-known, popular, and very casual steakhouse whose only dress code rule was 'no ties allowed.' The server would cut off your tie if you wore one.” Thus, Dr. Brumback was determined to go — wearing a tie.
“When the waiter approached with a pair of scissors, Roger produced a cheap box camera, asking one of us to photograph the event. With a huge and cheesy grin on his face, Roger posed as the waiter performed surgery to remove his bad tie!” Dr. Gay told Neurology Today.
E. Steve Roach, MD, a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who most recently worked with Dr. Brumback on the Journal of Pediatric Neurology, had known the Brumbacks for 25 years; Dr. Brumback was the best man at his wedding. Dr. Brumback had a passion for writing and editing that went well beyond his occupation, he said. He liked medical history, was an amateur radio buff, and loved to travel with his wife, who herself was an accomplished individual. “And, of course, they doted on their three now-grown children,” he said.
Born in Washington, DC, Dr. Brumback grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. He completed his undergraduate education at Penn State University (where he met his wife Mary), graduating within two years and becoming the youngest student to enter the inaugural class of Penn State's new medical college in 1967. He then trained in general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (1971-1973), and subsequently moved to St. Louis for a residency in pediatric neurology. From 1975-1977, Dr. Brumback served as a clinical associate in clinical and experimental neurology, neuropathology, and clinical neurophysiology with the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD.
Dr. Brumback completed yet another training in 1982 — in pathology — at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, followed by a neuropathology fellowship. In 1986, he was recruited to the University of Oklahoma, where he would spend the next 14 years of his life. There, he created a research program in Alzheimer's disease, focusing specifically on its neuropathology. The Oklahoma Alzheimer's Association created the Brumback Award in his honor, awarded to those individuals who made outstanding contributions to Alzheimer's research.
Eager to lead a pathology department, Dr. Brumback moved to Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha in 2001, when he was appointed professor and chair of the department of pathology (until 2010).
Over the course of his career, Dr. Brumback authored or edited 14 books and textbooks, and more than 130 academic articles in neurology and pathology. He founded and edited the Journal of Child Neurology, and also served as editor-in-chief Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Dr. Brumback was a fellow of the AAN (member since 1974; fellow in 1996) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (1977), and a member of numerous medical societies, including: the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (1978), the American Association of Neuropathologists (1985), the American Neurological Association (1988), and many others. A self-described “born again conservationist,” Dr. Brumback also worked with the American Society of Primatologists on the conservation of primates (in particular, a certain species of owl monkey of his namesake).
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in honor of the Brumbacks to one of the following organizations: Child Neurology Society (childneurologysociety.org/support-cns); Philanthropic Educational Organization (peointernational.org); or to the Dr. Roger and Mary Brumback Alzheimer's Disease Memorial Scholarship at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine (giveto.pennstatehershey.org).