Attendees of the 2013 Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner will have the pleasure of hearing from renowned author and neurologist Oliver Sacks. NPR’s Diane Rehm will interview Dr. Sacks for a special program during the dinner.
Dr. Sacks is known for his books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, and Musicophilia, which describe patients struggling to live with conditions such as parkinsonism, Tourette’s syndrome, autism, musical hallucinations, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and Guam Parkinson-dementia complex.
“Dr. Sacks brings a unique creativity and passion to neuroscience,” said Amy Comstock Rick. “We are excited to have him share his experiences at one of the most important events for the Parkinson’s community. His insights into living with Parkinson’s have enlightened millions, and bring a renewed hope that better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease are possible.”
Dr. Sacks’s 1973 book Awakenings described a unique group of patients, survivors of the epidemic encephalitis lethargica of the 1920s who later developed an extremely severe form of parkinsonism. Though they had been frozen in near immobility for decades, Dr. Sacks was able to “awaken” them with the then-new drug l-dopa. The Awakenings story has captivated millions of readers, and inspired Harold Pinter to write a play, “A Kind of Alaska,” in which Judi Dench played a newly-awakened patient. In 1990, “Awakenings” was produced as a feature film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, which received three Academy Award nominations.
Dr. Sacks has been called “the poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times, and in 2002, Rockefeller University awarded him the Lewis Thomas Prize, which recognizes “the scientist as poet.” Yet the ease with which his science is often turned to art does not take away from the impact he has made on the world of neurology. His work is used in medical schools around the world, and his compassionate insights into living with various neurological conditions have encouraged a more patient-centered approach in medicine.
“Dr. Sacks has long been interested in music therapy, especially for people with Parkinson’s disease. Describing his patients, he said, “These were people who were so deeply parkinsonian that they often could not move, could not speak. But music, more than any drug, could release them and give them a flow. So these people, who ordinarily could not take a step, could dance with the right music, and those who could not speak, could sing. The power of music to release people with Parkinson’s is very remarkable and very fundamental.”
More from Oliver Sacks:
Music On The Mind: Oliver Sacks' 'Musicophilia' 
NPR | October 3, 2008
What hallucination reveals about our minds: Oliver Sacks on TED.com 
TED Blog | September 17, 2009
Oliver Sacks on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 
Comedy Central | June 29, 2009
Date originally posted: August 15, 2013.