In 2002, Marnie A. Rose, M.D., stunned viewers of the nationally televised reality series Houston Medical by pulling off her wig to reveal that she was both a doctor and a patient. The 27-year-old pediatric resident at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital (part of UTHealth Medical School) had been diagnosed with and was fighting to survive brain cancer.
Marnie had agreed to be on the show because she thought it would help others and also wanted to draw attention to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, which she felt was overshadowed by other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. The next five episodes would chronicle her life as a first- and second-year resident who was determined to keep working despite her illness. Sadly, Marnie died on August 23, 2002, from complications of her cancer, just five weeks after the show’s final episode aired.
In March of her first year in residency, Marnie started having headaches and some discomfort in her foot, which were followed soon after by a focal seizure during the night. When Marnie was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was so horrifying to learn that brain cancer was under-recognized, the research was underfunded, and the prognosis had not changed in 50 years. Brain cancer was typically a disease of men in their 40s to 70s, and Marnie was a young female, a nonsmoker, who worked out and led a healthy lifestyle.
Marnie’s mission in appearing on Houston Medical was to raise awareness not just of the disease itself but also of its increased incidence among young adults with no risk factors. She made us all better people for having known her and died as she lived—helping others.