A Landmark Gift
Date: March 1, 2008
After a Long Siege, A Landmark Gift
Early in 1998, when a loved one developed encephalitis and fell into a coma, Jeffrey and Harriet Legum found themselves spending up to 15 hours a day on the neuro critical care unit at Hopkins Hospital. For them, the NCCU became not a second home but a primary residence. The staff became like family; the doctor who managed the case, a personal friend.
That doctor was neurocritical care specialist Daniel Hanley, founding director of the Hopkins NCCU, one of the first of its kind in the nation. “Not once during those six months, did Dan ever give up,” Harriet Legum recalls. “He was positive and forthright. He didn’t speak in code. When he had questions, he consulted specialists all over the world. He tried absolutely everything at his disposal.”
Ultimately, those efforts paid off. The patient made a full recovery, even completing post-graduate education. The source of the infection, though believed to be a virus, was never identified. The case was considered a landmark of sorts because the outcome was so positive after almost six months of unresponsiveness.
Soon afterwards, the Legum family decided to endow the Jeffrey and Harriet Legum Professorship in Acute Neurological Medicine. It was formally dedicated late last year with Hanley as the inaugural recipient. T
he Legums were among the first to commit to endowing a professorship in Neurology, a department in which there are now six chairs. “For me, the chair has meant protected time and independence to focus on random, controlled trials of novel therapies for people with severe brain injury,” says Hanley, the Jeffrey and Harriet Legum Chair and Director of the Division of Brain Injury Outcomes and Acute Care Neurology. His group initially launched multicenter studies of acute brain injury and subsequently has added trials focusing on the mechanisms of brain recovery and rehabilitation after injury such as stroke.
For the Legum family, the professorship is in many ways a sequel to an earlier effort that Harriet initiated. In 1992, five years after being treated at Hopkins Hospital for breast cancer, she organized a group of 20 women who raised $2.5 million to endow a chair and fellowship in breast cancer research, the first of its type in the country. She is the longtime co-chair of A Woman’s Journey, the annual symposium featuring Hopkins faculty on contemporary topics in women’s health. Jeffrey Legum, too, has long ties to Hopkins, having served on several boards including the institution’s research review board (IRB), the Wilmer advisory council and the board of Johns Hopkins Medicine and its finance committee.
“Chairs are so important. They allow medical researchers to have enough free time to design and implement novel studies that can change the way we practice medicine,” says Hanley. “No one today is paying for that kind of creative freedom except for patient advocates like the Legums.”