Dr. Christopher J. Newman, 47, neurologist and runner

May 13, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Christopher J. Newman, a retired Baltimore neurologist and jogger who refused to stop running even though a brain tumor had claimed his sight, died Tuesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Hunt Valley resident was 47.

Dr. Newman was born in Ventura, Calif., and was raised in Weyland, Mass., and Rockville, where he went through high school in three years.

After graduating from Wooten High School in 1975, he attended Catholic University of America where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1980. He earned master's degrees in microbiology and immunology from the Medical College of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University in 1984.

Dr. Newman earned his medical degree in 1988 from Georgetown University School of Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine and neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center.

He established a solo practice in neurology at GBMC in 1993, and in addition to serving on the staff at the hospital, he also was on the staffs of St. Joseph Medical Center and Franklin Square Hospital Center.

"Neurology was a passion with Chris. He absolutely loved it and dealing with diseases of the brain. He was also an excellent diagnostician and a warm, caring and loving person," said Dr. Paul A. Valle Jr., a family physician and longtime friend.

"He was a very intellectual physician who dealt with practical issues and a level of medicine that was very precise and erudite," said Dr. Kenneth M. Green, an internist and friend. "He was a man who would consider many diagnoses. He was a very hard-working and a brainy diagnostician."

The brain tumor that ended his career was first diagnosed in 1998 and came at a time when Dr. Newman was helping establish a stroke center at GBMC.

"He was determined to make it one of the leading stroke centers in the area, and he was the first person to use clot busters at GBMC for acute strokes. He was determined to put the center on the map," Dr. Valle said.

"It was just about to be launched when he got hit by the tumor, and then he had to undergo five major brain operations," Dr. Valle said.

"There is lots of irony and paradox in Chris' life," Dr. Green said. "He knew what the information meant, but there were very few weak moments and [he] was never at a loss to deal with the problems that were thrown his way. He was never befogged and would ask his physicians, `What can we do?'"

His vision began to fail in 1998, and by 2005 he was essentially blind.

In 2001, in a case that brought national news media attention, Dr. Newman and his then-wife filed suit seeking damages from Motorola Inc. and several other wireless carriers.

They contended that the cellular phones he had been using in the early 1990s had caused his brain tumor.

In a 2002 decision, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in Baltimore rejected the scientific evidence that had been offered by his attorneys as being "too flawed or too weak to be admitted at a trial," reported The Sun.

Running had always been a passion for Dr. Newman and even though he had lost his sight, he continued to run five miles three times a week on the Northern Central hiking-biking trail with the assistance of two fellow jogging friends.

"When he lost his vision, he never complained," Dr. Green said. "Two weeks ago after an MRI showed that the tumor was growing in intensity, he went out for a run. He was able to live independently until the end of his life and with an unbelievable spirit."

William L. Fornoff, a friend and jogger who helped Dr. Newman train for several marathons, described how his friend ran: "At first, we tried to run close to him in order to give him directions, then we used a tether tied to his waist. That way we could keep him straight and he did pretty well.

"His goal was to try and run one more marathon," Mr. Fornoff said. "He already was battling the brain tumor when he ran his last one in November 2004 on the Northern Central trail, and it was his best time ever."

Dr. Newman ran one last time with his friends a few days before his death.

"He ran all during his chemotherapy treatments because he said it made him feel better," Mr. Fornoff said. "He was a most optimistic person and had a great attitude. He always said he tried to `Live each day to the fullest and give glory to God.' He also said there were people far worse off then him and that he was able to run, listen to music and be with his friends."

Ed Hewitt, a longtime local runner and former editor at The Evening Sun and The Sun, recalled his Tuesday morning runs with Dr. Newman.

"He'd say, `It's a great day to be out running,' and I'd think, it's cold and windy and not such a good day for running, but for Chris, it was a good day," Mr. Hewitt recalled. "And he always liked to quote poet Dylan Thomas: `Do not go gentle into that good night.'"

Dr. Valle said that religion played a major role in Dr. Newman's life.

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