Removing epidermoid brain stem tumor gets professor back in the classroom

Joseph Balogun and Peter Warnke
Brain tumor patient Joseph Balogun with Peter Warnke, MD, professor of surgery

When doctors told Joseph Balogun he had a tumor on his brain stem and needed surgery, he considered his options carefully.

"I decided to be proactive and choose my doctor," he said. "I wasn't going to have just any doctor operate on my brain."

Balogun, 62, a distinguished university professor of biostatistics, research methods, alternative health care and physical therapy at Chicago State University, wanted the best surgeon he could find. He asked his sister-in-law, Titilayo Abiona, MD, a primary care physician and clinical instructor at the University of Chicago Medicine, for help, and she recommended Peter Warnke, MD. Warnke, a professor of surgery and director of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at UChicago Medicine, has performed more than 2,000 brain tumor surgeries, and after meeting him, Balogun knew he was in the right hands.

Balogun had an epidermoid tumor growing on his brain stem. These slow-growing, benign tumors are rare, accounting for about one percent of all brain tumors. Balogun first noticed something was wrong when he started having issues with balance, and by the time he was referred to Warnke, he could no longer drive.

Balogun CT scan
Pre-surgery CT scan (left) showing Balogun's brain stem tumor in white, and the post-surgery scan (right)

Warnke performed the surgery to remove the tumor in July 2016, without any damage to the brain stem. Balogun has since made a full recovery, and is back to teaching courses.

"This was a very complicated but delineated tumor that had grown into the brain stem," said Warnke. "But we were fortunate that we could remove it without the slightest damage."

Balogun says he is grateful to Warnke and his care team at UChicago Medicine, especially nurse Lisa Petrella, RN, BSN, CNOR, who he called "the best nurse I've ever met in Chicago."

"Any time I needed help, she was there," he said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."