Dr. Paul Brown Has Funny Stories with a Serious Message
There aren’t many people who have amusing stories to tell about urology, but Dr. Paul Brown is one of them. Thanks to his droll delivery, he entertains listeners with anecdotes about real-life events that were anything but funny at the time. A pathologist turned businessman, Dr. Brown launched the laboratory industry in 1967 by founding MetPath (short for Metropolitan Pathology), which offered automated and cost-effective clinical testing. The company, which he sold to Corning Incorporated in 1982, eventually became Quest Diagnostics.
He wonders whether the stress of building a business contributed to his being diagnosed, in 1975, with an enlarged prostate. He was in his late 30s and did not have symptoms. The condition, he says, was found during his annual physical. “For the next 13 years or so, I lived with it, though with increasing difficulty. I first had problems with it in ’88.”
That’s when he began having stories to tell about urology.
The First of Many Episodes
In 1988, he went scuba diving with a group of other physicians, 21 in all. They were on an isolated island in the Caribbean, attending a continuing education course in underwater medicine. “Because of diving, they tell you to drink a lot, but you don’t get to go because you’re in the water,” Dr. Brown says. Once he had the opportunity to relieve his bladder, he couldn’t. He had gone into retention.
Retention means that “you literally can’t urinate,” he explains. The kidneys, however, continue to produce 30ccs of urine per hour. “The bladder gets larger and larger. It can hold 600 to 700 ccs of urine if it’s a really stretched bladder.”
The pain was agonizing for Dr. Brown, and no one in his group had a catheter. One of the doctors, a surgeon, offered to puncture his bladder to give him relief, but luckily at that moment, “someone came up with a red rubber catheter not normally used for that purpose,” he says. The catheter worked, and the next morning he left the island. “It just shows how important it is to have a urologist available at all times,” he concludes wryly.
“I went back home and procrastinated. I took antibiotics. I would get occasional attacks and put a catheter in myself. That wouldn’t happen all the time, maybe once a quarter or every six months.”
The Process of Getting Better
Another time, he was in California to raise capital for his second business, HearUSA, now the third largest provider of hearing aids in the country. He went into retention on his way to the meeting. One of the investors to whom he was presenting met him at the emergency room to see how he was doing. “He expected that I would cancel and would want to go to the airport to head back home,” says Dr. Brown, who insisted on going ahead with his presentation. Investors want to gauge the commitment of the business owners in whom they invest, he points out. His presence at the meeting, despite everything, showed just how dedicated he was. Besides, he jokes, “I wanted to get as much sympathy as I could get.”
By 1991, having had enough of painful episodes, he underwent a transurethral resection of the prostate (also known as a TURP procedure) at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The procedure was repeated in 2000 at Cleveland Clinic.
A former New Yorker and now resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Dr. Brown first came to Cleveland Clinic because of his mother-in-law, who had open heart surgery performed by Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, now CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic. Favorably impressed with the care she received, Dr. Brown decided to get a second opinion about his prostate. He learned that he was among the 5 percent of men whose prostates grow back after a TURP. Elroy Kursh, MD, performed Dr. Brown’s second surgery and later, in 2005, treated Dr. Brown’s son, Richard, who developed a large prostate at age 40. Thanks to treatment advances in the intervening years, his son needed only a “simple laser procedure,” Dr. Brown says.
“I’m very grateful to Cleveland Clinic, for my mother-in-law, for myself, for my son,” he says. “I would go back to Cleveland Clinic. It’s an unusual place. It’s one of the few places that understand how important the quality of service is in addition to the quality of care.”
He and his wife Cynthia contribute to urology research at Cleveland Clinic so that treatment will continue to advance for prostate patients. “This is a common problem for the adult male,” Dr. Brown says. “It’s a major problem. Someday, somebody will solve it.”
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