Robert M. Eiben, M.D. (1922-2013)
John M. Freeman, M.D. (1934-2014)

Announcement and Tribute by CNS President, Dr. Nina Schor

It is with great sadness that I comment on the loss, as we closed one year and began another, of two veritable luminaries of child neurology – Robert Eiben, M.D. on December 28, 2013, and John M. Freeman, M.D., on January 3, 2014.  In one way, they were polar opposites in temperament, style, outlook; but in another, they were the mission-critical bookends that defined our subspecialty of neurology and pediatrics and empowered and supported our community to do what it does best: help the people whom others have largely overlooked.

Robert (Bob) Eiben began life as a “blue baby” with a congenital heart defect. He began his professional career as an infectious disease doctor caring for patients with polio, and used that experience to become one of the veritable founding fathers of the field of child neurology.  He served his emerging discipline as a leader in every way, first as Acting Chief of Clinical Investigations and Therapeutics, Developmental and Metabolic Neurology Branch of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) from 1976 to 1977, then as Secretary-Treasurer (1978 to 1981) and President (1983 to 1985) – the first to hold a two-year term – of the Child Neurology Society.  As the Cleveland MetroHealth Hall of Honor website tells us, “Born frail, Eiben demonstrated the strength of resolve and dedication as he laid the groundwork for a recognized Neurology Department at MetroHealth while providing compassionate care for an untold number of young patients.”  Ever an optimistic and smiling presence at the Child Neurology Society meetings, he became a mentor and friend to several generations of child neurologists around the U.S. and the world.

John Freeman was, at the time of his death, the Lederer Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Epilepsy, Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, and a core faculty member of the Berman Bioethics Institute.  At various times during his career, he served as Founder of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at Johns Hopkins University, Director of the Division of Pediatric Epilepsy, and Director of the Birth Defects Clinic at Johns Hopkins.  While some know him best as a proponent and designer of ketogenic diet therapy for epilepsy, others remember him for the discussions he led regarding selection of children with spina bifida for surgical palliation.  He is described by some as a pessimist, but it was that so-called “pessimism” that gave him a way of pulling us back from wishes and dreams into a more grounded sense of what we actually could and should do for patients with neurological disorders in the here-and-now.  His legacy includes some of the most renowned clinician-investigators in epileptology and bioethics.  John was a winner of the highest honors his professional discipline bestows:  the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Hower Award of the Child Neurology Society.

In aggregate, at the dawning of a new year for the Child Neurology Society--a year that promises unprecedented realities and hope for children and families with neurological disorders--the family of child neurology has lost one mentor who cheered us up and on, and another mentor who kept us grounded in and attentive to the needs of and imperatives for today’s children. May their memories be a blessing and their legacy of kindness, compassion, and wisdom flourish among us.


Robert M. Eiben, MD: In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Ennis Court Chapel Fund, 13323 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, Ohio 44107 or the Robert M. Eiben Lectureship in Child Neurology Fund, MetroHealth System, 2500 MetroHealth Drive, Cleveland, Ohio 44109

John M. Freeman, MD: Contributions in his memory may be sent to The Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218