Alan Nogen, M.D. The Pediatric Neurologist

If Dr. Alan Nogen of Fort Worth never listened to his patients or only treated the disease instead of the whole person, many children with epilepsy would probably never know what it’s like to ride a horse or swim in a lake.

As the founder of Pathfinders, the first camp in the nation for children with epilepsy, Nogen has introduced his patients to activities that have always been off-limits. While discovering the joys of camping, the youngsters share their feelings about epilepsy and learn the importance of taking their medication.

“We’re not trying to turn these kids into little neurologists,” says Nogen, who attended Johns Hopkins University, interned at Western Reserve and did his residency at Northwestern Medical School. “We want to emphasize what they can do and show them that there are a lot of achievers in this world who happen to have seizures.”

His point, he says, is to show kids that epilepsy doesn’t have to be a deterrent to their aspirations. Through medication, about three-fourths of his patients become either seizure-free or show significant improvement.

Eight years ago, Nogen, 46, began channeling much of his seemingly endless supply of energy into the camp. Parents, who were often told that a child’s seizures would prohibit him from outdoor activities, didn’t readily accept Nogen’s idea. But Nogen persisted, personally recruiting all 30 campers that first year.

“After 17 kids who had never been allowed to go swimming took their first dip,” says Nogen, “their smiles proved it was all worth it. The ego boost such an experience brings to the kids is hard to argue with.” Today, the camp is one of several educational tools Nogen uses to help children and improve the public’s awareness.

Several years ago, he wrote a book to help professionals who work with children understand epilepsy and teach them how to react when a child has a seizure. Nogen, who has served as president of the Texas Neurological Society and the Tarrant County Epilepsy Association, encourages other physicians to form similar camps.

His commitment to education extends to other areas. Last year, he began hosting a cable television show in which physicians address topics ranging from herpes to hip replacements.

Although he admits that he thought neurology was boring in medical school, Nogen says he discovered that child neurology is a rewarding specialty. “Pedi-atric neurology intrigued me, because kids don’t come to a doctor unless they’re sick,” he says, “and I saw that as a good sign.”

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