Meet Rick A. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the USC Acoustic Neuroma Center at Keck Medicine of USC, professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and division director of otology, neurotology and skull base surgery.
Dr. Friedman is a nationally recognized expert in the care of acoustic neuroma. Here’s what you won’t find on his resume:
He grew up in showbiz.
“I grew up in the movie industry. My brother is Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group (the same guys who brought you Twilight and The Hunger Games). I remember his first movie premier was The Exorcist. I was 12, and everyone told me I couldn’t go.”
Medicine wasn’t always his first career choice.
“I was always interested in science, but when I went to college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to medical school. I wanted to get into the entertainment business, so I thought about law school. I even joined a pre-law organization, but two months in, I found it to be very uninteresting. I remember talking to my mother one day, and she said, ‘You like kids. Why don’t you volunteer at a hospital?’ I eventually began shadowing a resident and became possessed with the thought of becoming a doctor.”
Music and mentors made a difference.
“I can’t say exactly what attracted me to this specialty. Maybe I wanted to be heard. I love music – the Foo Fighters are my favorite band – and I had a mentor in San Diego who allowed me to sit in on ear surgery. It was amazing.”
He’s treated more than 1,000 patients with acoustic neuroma … and remembers all of them.
“They have all impacted me in one way or another. Of course, a few really stand out. For example, I operated on a 12-year-old girl with bilateral acoustic neuromas. I removed both tumors and was able to save her hearing in both ears. That’s amazing to me – that this little girl was saved from a life of deafness. She’s all grown up now and works in nursing.
“I also operated on a member of a popular R&B group. Here was a woman whose face and hearing were an essential part of her career, and acoustic neuromas can cause everything from dizziness to hearing loss to facial nerve damage. She had a fairly large tumor, but I was able to successfully remove it without any impact to her hearing. As a musician, that was everything for her.”
He sees the beauty of hearing.
“The anatomy of the ear is gorgeous, and it’s an area of medicine where you can get immediate return on your investment. You can take someone with significant hearing loss and restore that sense, providing normalcy in his or her life.
“Imagine what it would be like not being able to hear anymore? I couldn’t imagine running without my headphones in, listening to the Foo Fighters. That’s why this specialty is so important. There are so many treatments that can change your quality of life in an instant.”
He believes in the power of humor.
“I want my patients to feel comfortable and safe. Often times, my patients are caught off guard by their diagnoses. One day they’ll be fine, the next day their worlds will be turned upside down. If I can tell a joke that will make them laugh, that helps. It provides a sense of relief that everything is going to be OK.”
He may be the nation’s leading specialist on acoustic neuroma care, and an expert in diseases affecting hearing and balance, but his ambitions don’t stop there.
“I’d love to understand the business of medicine better and where it’s going. I’d love to get an executive MBA and use that knowledge to help expand my department. I’d also love to evolve as a scientist. In science, every day I learn something new. I’m fascinated with genetics.
“Sometimes, I think about even opening a restaurant or a surf shop when I retire. I need to have more than one life.”
His priority in life, above all else, is his family.
“My family is absolutely the most important priority in my life.”
Dr. Rick A. Friedman is the director of the USC Acoustic Neuroma Center. For a free record review, please call (323) 442-4827.