Stephen HauserJul 1, 2023
The Face Laughs While the Brain Cries
The Education of a Doctor
St. Martin's Press 2023
Dr. Stephen L. Hauser and a patient named Andrea were both 27 years old when they met. He was an up-and-coming neurologist-in-training; she was a Harvard Law School graduate and White House aide whose brain was being ravaged by an explosive case of multiple sclerosis. It was the 1970s and Dr. Hauser had nothing to treat her with. She lost her ability to speak, swallow and breathe. At her bridal shower just before she was married, she was hooked up to a breathing tube and strapped in a wheelchair so she wouldn’t slump over. Dr. Hauser was so moved by her case he decided to devote his career to MS research.
The Face Laughs While the Brain Cries: The Education of a Doctor (St. Martin's Press, 2023) is a riveting memoir that chronicles Dr. Hauser’s 40-year quest to find a treatment for MS, the most common crippler of young adults and a disease that affects millions worldwide. Despite enormous pushback from his field, Dr. Hauser discovered a new culprit for MS, ultimately transforming our understanding of the disease and resulting in the development of a new drug that has dramatically improved the lives of thousands of MS patient.
Dr. Hauser, director of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California San Francisco, describes a colorful cast of characters who played roles in his upbringing and in his development as a tenacious researcher and compassionate physician. He provides moving stories of patients whose courage and optimism in the face of a debilitating illness were instrumental to the advances made in the fight against MS.
Over the course of his journey, Dr. Hauser met resistance from experts at the National Institutes of Health, who called his ideas “biologically implausible,” and the Food and Drug Administration, which put such strict limits on a critical proof-of-concept study he feared it was doomed to fail. Then, when victory finally seemed within reach, corporate takeovers threatened to scuttle the whole effort.
The Face Laughs While the Brain Cries is an inspiring, highly readable story that highlights the interplay between basic science and patient care and its crucial role in the quest for new medicines that fight disease and improve our lives.
Ron Winslow, a former long-time medical and science reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, is a freelance medical and science journalist. His story about Dr. Hauser’s research was published in STAT in March, 1917, when the drug based on the research was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.