He has devoted his career to helping kids with serious neurological conditions while supporting the parents who navigate through the challenges of these diagnoses.
Tonight, the Epilepsy Association will present its Legacy Award to Dr. Tom Enlow at a gala event in Cleveland. The award recognizes his outstanding support of children and families affected by epilepsy.
Dr. Enlow was drawn to the field of neurology because he has a sister with epilepsy. In medical school, his care for an otherwise healthy 25-year-old aerobics instructor who had suffered a stroke made him wonder, “What’s going on here?”
Dr. Enlow was working in pediatric neurology private practice when he was asked to join Dr. Margaret McBride in beginning Akron Children’s new hospital-based program in 1999.
“Tom is a very dedicated pediatric neurologist and very committed to kids,” said Dr. McBride. “He’s been a great colleague. He’s been at the forefront in the field whether that is a clinical trial or a new technology like vagus nerve stimulation. He is always a step ahead.”
When dealing with pediatric patients affected by epilepsy, Dr. Enlow has learned the importance of addressing the expectations of both his patients and their parents.
Some of his patients have relatively mild symptoms while others are dealing with hundreds of seizures a week.
“Parents never forget the fear and feeling of helplessness of watching their child’s first seizure,” he said. “There are a lot of misconceptions initially. Parents ask, ‘Will my child be confined to a wheelchair? How will he be able to go to school? Will he be able to marry and be independent?’”
Over the past few decades, great strides have been made in treatment, including surgery, and there have been major gains in public awareness and understanding.
“It used to be that if a fifth grader had a seizure in class, she would be immediately reassigned to a special needs classroom so other kids would not be bothered. Yet this child may never have another seizure,” said Dr. Enlow. “We can’t fix everyone but we can help them deal with their disorder and let kids live as normally as possible. We can’t keep them in bubble wrap.”
Dr. Enlow is known as the doctor who loves pirates and has one of the biggest collections of kid-friendly neckties. There’s nothing like Winnie the Pooh to break the ice with a nervous toddler.
“He is always looking for ways to get a smile,” said Dr. McBride.
“It’s rewarding to have these patients for years,” said Dr. Enlow. “We get to transition with these children through their teen years and as they go off to college. I am now treating the children of some of my first patients.”