High school student inspired to become a neurosurgeon after father passes away of aggressive brain cancer

MANHASSET, NY – While many high school students relish the summer to relax, Olivia Frischman, 16 and a rising junior, from Westchester, NY, decided to spend a portion of her summer at Lenox Hill Hospital shadowing John Boockvar, MD, neurosurgeon, director of the hospital’s Brain Tumor Center and professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

Since Ms. Frischman was in seventh grade, she had a keen interest in neurosurgery, even watching tumor resections on YouTube. In 2016, her interest in neurosurgery was further solidified on a personal level when her father was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of brain cancer – glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Even though Ms. Frischman’s father had surgical procedures to remove the tumor in New Jersey, he passed away this past March.

“Caring for my Dad definitely solidified my interest in neurosurgery,” said Ms. Frischman. “The lessons I learned through my Dad cannot be taught or replicated and those amazing lessons allow me to continue to be strong. My parents both inspired me to pursue my dream and at my mother’s advice, she suggested that I shadow a brain surgeon. As part of Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Summer Student Internship Program, shadowing Dr. Boockvar provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn more about my father’s illness. I was able to watch Dr. Boockvar perform surgery, consult with patients and read scans. It was inspiring to listen to Dr. Boockvar and view the way he goes into work every day — facing a dark problem with a goal in mind to defy the odds concerning glioblastoma.”

Ms. Frischman was one of five other students who participated in the summer program under Dr. Boockvar. As part of the program, students see first-hand, Dr. Boockvar perform an array of surgical procedures for brain tumors to head and neck cancers, as well as sit-in on pre and post-surgical care of patients in the office.

“Ms. Frischman’s personal connection to the hardships of having had a parent pass away of brain cancer, made her appreciate even more all that goes into caring for these patients who are facing this very difficult prognosis,” said Dr. Boockvar. “Mentoring young students like Ms. Frischman is one of the most special parts of my profession. It is so important to engage them at an early age to harness their ambitious drive to learn more about the field of neurosurgery. She is an inspiration to all of the young children who have lost parents to illness. She has chosen to actively grieve in this way. Her courage and composure are truly remarkable.”


About Lenox Hill Hospital

Lenox Hill Hospital, a member of Northwell Health, is a 652-bed, fully accredited, acute care hospital located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with a national reputation for outstanding patient care and innovative medical and surgical treatments. US News & World Report has ranked the hospital among the nation’s top 50 in Cardiology and Heart Surgery and among the top 10 hospitals in the state of New York with a total of 11 “high performing” designations for its clinical performance in Cancer, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology and Urology. For more information, go to www.lenoxhillhospital.org

About the Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the Feinstein Institute includes 4,000 researchers and staff who are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit FeinsteinInstitute.org.

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Heather E. Ball Mayer