How Did NBA Player Derek Fisher Change the Game on Treatment for Retinoblastoma?

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We received a call from Derek Fisher, who at that time was playing for Salt Lake City, who was in the playoffs, that his daughter had been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and it had been recommended to remove her eye. At that point, we had not yet published anything. We'd only treated nine patients, and he asked if his daughter would be a candidate.

We said, come to New York city and find out. I'm not a basketball fan, so I had no idea who Derrick was, and I had no idea that there were any NBA playoffs going on. And when he met me, he didn't tell me he was a basketball fan, although he was in better shape than most dads I'd met.

His daughter had retinoblastoma, and the suggestion to remove the eye was a reasonable one. We told him about our new treatment which was now a year old, told him that if he wanted, we would try to work this around his schedule that we could adjust the days or the day we treated her and he said, absolutely not, pay no attention to basketball, pay no attention to me this is about my daughter, all I want to know is what you can do for my daughter and it has no impact on me or what I'm doing.

We treated her, first treatment what I didn't know is that immediately after that, he and the family got in an aeroplane and flew to Salt Lake City where he came out on the court, he had missed the game before, no one knew why he had missed the game before. He came out to thunderous applause and needless to say did some terrific defensive and offensive things and they won the game, and when the reporter said to him, "Hey Derek, where were you yesterday? And where were you for this first half of this game? He started talking about retinoblastoma, the day after the game, as I was walking across Central Park, my phone started going crazy with people saying, are you treating Derek Fisher's child? Well I hadn't discussed it with anyone including my wife, but it was all over the news.

That's when I learned that more physicians watch sports than read the New England Journal of Medicine, because colleagues at the hospital contacted me and said, "hey I saw that on TV with the basketball player. " That was May of 2007 and it's public record, and Derrick had pointed this out in his book and has pointed it out many times including recently when they asked him about moving to New York as a next coach he said one of the advantages is his doctors visits will be shorter.

That opened up the floodgates and we then began and getting patients from everywhere in the world who heard about the basketball player. We had a wonderful episode where we had a Hasidic family from Jerusalem in the waiting room with an Arab family from East Jerusalem, the two obviously had never spent time with each other and when we asked them why they were there they said they had heard about the basketball player and I said I didn't know that you were basketball fans.

They weren't basketball fans but there was something magical about the way Derrik had spoken, his many interviews. Since may of 2007, we've heard on this more than 1000 times.