Dr. Flaviu Romanul

Dr. Flaviu Romanul, who overcame persecution in communist Romania to become a noted Professor and Researcher at Harvard Medical School Department of Neurology - Neurologist and Neuropathologist - Professor at Boston University - Listed in Best Doctors in America- passed away at age 91.

Dr. Flaviu Romanul was born on December 25th,1925 in Cluj, Romania, the capital of the Transylvanian province. In 1929, at the age of four, he was forced to move to Deva to live with his grandparents, as his mother, who later became the celebrated opera star, Stella Roman, left for Italy on a singing scholarship. In 1940, he agreed to enter a government military school for a one year trial. Later that year, a law was passed forbidding anyone in military school from leaving the school, and forcing him into military service.

In 1943, he graduated from military high school, and entered the Academy of Officers of Artillery. In 1944, Romania was liberated by Russia from German occupation, and Flaviu was able to leave the military. In 1945, he entered the medical school at the University of Cluj. During a parade in Cluj to celebrate the armistice, violence erupted when Romanian students were protesting the Russian occupation by carrying the Romanian flag. Shots were fired by the Russian soldiers. Two days later, Flaviu received a call from his brother, Nerva, saying that he had been arrested because they thought that he was Flaviu. Flaviu went to the police to turn himself in so they would release his brother. He spent the next month in a cell so crowded that he couldn’t lie down, only crouch. During that month, no one spoke to him or questioned him. One day, the police came in and transferred him to a military prison, where he was court-martialed, sentenced to death for “Anti-Communist Activities”, and held for 6 months in solitary confinement, being questioned every single night at gunpoint. As for food, as he put it, “Twice a day I was given a gruel which was full of worms. At first, I started removing the worms, but I quickly realized that, as the worms comprised about half the bowl, that I was missing out on half the nutrition, so I just closed my eyes and swallowed.”

Escaping, after some intervention with a judge in Romania by his mother, who was by then living in New York City, and singing with the Metropolitan Opera, he boarded a plane for Paris. Police stormed the plane, put a gun to his head, and took him off for questioning. First saying that they wanted to “know everything” or they would shoot him, they then indicated that first he would tell them everything and then they would shoot him anyway. Realizing his life was in the balance, and that he was unlikely to get out of the situation alive, he started to holler, whistle, and act completely crazy. The officers, in frustration, beat him up and left him. Upon landing in Paris, he was so emaciated that his mother, who had flown from New York to surprise him, did not recognize him. He continued his medical studies briefly in Paris, Italy, and Switzerland, as he spoke the languages, and his mother was singing there.

On November 3rd, 1947, he arrived in the United States knowing only three words: Yes, No, and OK. While looking for a spot in a medical school, which was very difficult to find, because of the GI bill filling all the spots, he studied English and other subjects at the University of Cincinnati.

In 1949, he entered the Harvard Medical School. Graduating in 1953, he had his residency at Johns Hopkins with a specialty in Neurology, which included 2 years in the US Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Flaviu was naturalized in 1954.

In 1959, and for the next 13 years, he was a Neurologist and Neuropathologist at Harvard, briefly serving as interim Chief of the Neurological Unit at Boston City Hospital, having followed his brilliant mentor, Derek Denny-Brown. Flaviu became Associate Professor at the Harvard Medical School and did extensive research there, authoring 35 major papers in journals such as Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, Neurology, the American Journal of Neurology, and the Archives of Neurology. He did major research on the Polyoma virus causing brain tumors in hamsters, lesions and tumors of the brain, Whipples Disease, studies of strokes, Histochemical studies of enzymes in muscle, and arteries in the brain, and much other research.

In 1972, he left Harvard to accept a position of Professor of Neurology at Boston University Medical School, and neurologist and neuropathologist at Boston Medical Center and at the VA hospital. Every year from 1983 until 1993, Flaviu was the recipient of the “Best Teacher Award” by the graduating class of residents at B.U. In 1993, the “Flaviu C.A.Romanul Teaching Award” was established by the graduating class of residents, to be awarded every year to the best teacher in the Department of Neurology. The name of each recipient was to be engraved on a plaque on their conference room wall. In 1994, he was listed in “Best Doctors in America”.

He also served in 1978-79 as the President of the Boston Society of Neurology and Psychiatry, and in 1968 was appointed by the National Institutes of Health as a member of the American Delegation on Higher nervous Activities to visit the various Neurological Institutes in the Soviet Union, and also from 1968-72 to the NIH study section in Pathology. He mentored Roger Banister, the famous runner turned neurologist, bringing him on as a junior author in publishing 3 papers together. Dr. Romanul retired in 2000 at the age of 74.

Flaviu’s first wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1952, died in 1991. His brother, Nerva, died of Tuberculosis in 1946. His mother, whose ashes he will be buried with, Diva Stella Roman, died in 1992.

He survived by his wife, Dorothy Kushious, 4 Sons; Myron of Munich, Germany, Michael of Needham, Victor of Mansfield, and Alexander of Vermont, his 5 Grandchildren: Iliana, Devin, Nicholas, Emily, and Jeremy, and his 2 great-grandchildren: Jack, and Eleanor. His funeral and burial will be at the Swan Point Chapel and Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island on November 3rd at 12:00noon exactly 70 years to the day of his first arriving on American soil.

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Lori Davis - 10/30/2017

To Dorothy and family, I am so sorry for your loss. I am so glad that I was able to spend a Friday night with youboth Dorothy. It was such an interesting conversation the hours went by fast. He was a true Gentleman.
With Best Regards
Lori Davis

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