I met Oscar in 1974 at the Third Child Neurology Society (CNS) Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. Professor Raymond W. M. Chun
was the Chairman of the CNS Scientific Selection and Program Planning Committee. We were Pediatric Neurology Residents at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. We had also in common Spanish as our primary language. He is from Cuba and I am from Venezuela. He presented a communication about the first twin occurrence of Miller Fisher Syndrome. I was impressed for the message but even more so when he told me that because patient transportation was not available, he evaluated the patients at home on his spare time until they completed recovery. We become close friends and I have been able to closely observe and recognize his achievements.
My dear friend was born on May 18th, 1942 in Regla, Habana, Cuba. His mother, Celia and his father, Oscar Zohrab were born in Cuba and Turkey from Catalan and Armenian backgrounds. For the last 54 years, he has had the privilege to be married to Mrs. Maria del Carmen Papazian, a brilliant and gentle woman responsible for many of his achievements. They have three daughters, Maria del Carmen, Varsenik and Nevart and five granddaughters, Varsenik, Annik, Sylvia, Clara, and Maria.
Oscar graduated from high school at Escuelas Pias Catholic School, In May 6, 1965, at the end of his fifth year at University of Havana Medical School, with only one course left to complete his degree, and while serving in the capacity of instructor in Neurophysiology, Oscar was expelled from the University of Havana Medical School from both his student and his faculty position because he was not supporting the communist regime. At that point, he continued his studies through hands-on experience by working under the supervision of Dr. Carlos RamirezCorria, a famous Cuban Neurosurgeon, and Oscar’s mentor until he and his family were allowed to move to Madrid, Spain on June 11 1969 as political refugees. He passed his USA medical foreign examination (ECFMG) in 1970. He obtained the degree of Doctor in Medicine of the Madrid Complutense University Medical School in 1971. He spent six months under the supervision of Professor Alberto Ravano Navas, Chief Neurologist, at Professor Vara Lopez Neurosurgical Service at San Carlos University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.
He and his family moved to Miami, Florida, USA in 1971, where he completed the first two years of Pediatric Residence at Variety Children’s Hospital (currently Nicklaus Children’s Hospital), under Professor Robert B. Lawson, followed by three years of Neurology Residency with Special Competence in Child Neurology at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital (UM/JMH) under Professor Peritz Chambers and Professors Stuart B. Brown and Robert F. Cullen, Jr. His mentor, Dr. Robert B. Daroff, introduced him in the field of Myasthenia Gravis.
At the end of Oscar’s pediatric neurology residency, in 1976, he was contracted by Professor R.F. Cullen, Jr., Director of the Neurology Division, Variety’s Children’s Hospital (currently Nicklaus Children’s Hospital) and joined Drs. R. F. Cullen, Jr. and Danilo Duenas. He was granted his request to open a neurology clinic in order to followup on his staff patients from UM/JMH at Variety’s Children’s Hospital. He also was granted his request to evaluate, pro bono, patients with special needs, such as Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophies, at his private office. He evaluated the Spanish speaking patients with seizures disorders through the Epilepsy Foundation on a monthly basis and had a bi-monthly Cerebral Palsy Clinic at the Miami Union Cerebral Palsy.
For his humanitarian services, Oscar was recognized by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the South Florida Epilepsy Foundation, the Miami Union Cerebral Palsy, the Costa Rica Neurodegenerative Disease Association and the Panama Neurodevelopmental Association (NEURODINA), and Miami Children’s Hospital (MCH) (currently Nicklaus Children’s Hospital) Medical Staff in acknowledgement of his “Many Years of Dedicated Service to the Children of South Florida”.
At MCH, he founded and was the director until 2012 of the Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory, Spasticity Clinic and Movement Disorder Clinic. Oscar also became the director of Neuromuscular Disorders Clinic after Dr. Danilo Duenas retired from MCH. Oscar was among the first in the USA to apply continuing evoked potentials of central and peripheral nervous system during surgery to prevent injuries in children. His clinical areas of interest are Cerebral Palsy, Brachial Palsy, Neuromuscular Disorders, Myasthenia Gravis, Neurodevelopmental disorders and, lately, Executive Function Disorders.
Oscar is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Special Competence in Child Neurology and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Qualification in Clinical Neurophysiology. He has published the results of his clinical research and expertise at peer review journals in both English and Spanish (24 original articles, 29 reviews articles, one book chapter and two periodical journal chapters).
Because of his medical services, he was recognized and named an Honorary Member of the Venezuelan Pediatric Society, APRONEP from Costa Rica, Ecuadorian Pediatric Society and Spanish Pediatric Neurology Society. He has also received the Miami Children’s Hospital Hall of Excellence Award and Santiago Ramón y Cajal Award from the Iberoamerican Academy of Pediatric Neurology (AINP).
Oscar was Associate Professor at Affiliated Institution, Department of Neurology, Miller Medical School, University of Miami until 2012. He is Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida International University. He has trained 11 Spanish speaking pediatric neurologist from different Iberoamerican countries in Clinical Neurophysiology and 24 among the other areas
of his expertise.
In spite of his busy schedule, Oscar was Editor-in-Chief of International Pediatrics for 10 years, and Director of the Child Neurology Postgraduate Course for 30 years, which featured national and international speakers. Every speaker, without exception, wrote a review article of his or her presentations, with references. Each review article was peer reviewed and published in a special supplement of International Pediatrics.
Oscar started similar courses in Spanish, Portuguese and/or English, once a year in different countries, including Spain, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panamá, Honduras, Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador. The success was such, that Oscar founded and acted as the first president of the Iberoamerican Academy of Pediatric Neurology (AINP). He was the Local Chairman of the Child Neurology Society’s Thirty-Second National Meeting held in Miami Beach, Florida in 2003.
Since 2012, he established his own practice. He is still caring for patients twice a week at his private office and performing neurophysiological procedures once a week at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. He is very active in helping grow the AINP. He dedicates more time than ever to his family. Just over four years ago, following his daughter Maria’s footsteps, Oscar proved his respect and love of all living beings by deciding to become a vegan. My friend tells everyone that he has never felt better on his life.
Oscar has demonstrated his skills and abilities in the medical field as a physician, teacher and a leader. But most importantly, he has lived a life of service to help educate professionals and families in order to enhance the life of children with neurological conditions.
As Oscar’s friend and colleague, I am grateful to the Child Neurology Society Award Committee for honoring him with the 2016 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award.