At the Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) Medical School Anna and Vera Zeitlin’s schoolmates would often mix up the twin sisters. But it quickly became apparent that the twin sisters (Anna is profiled on the opposite page) more than just looked alike. Both were intensely diligent, both had graduated from their high school with special honors and both went on to become neurologists.
Born on Reshetnikovskaya street, Anna and Vera lived in a two-story house built in the 1920s by their grandfather, Ivan Matveyevich Ornatsky. Ornatsky was a graduate of the Imperial Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg—the best higher medical school in Russia at that time (Pavlov lectured there), which may account for the twins’ interest in and talent for, medicine. (Ornatsky later became a military surgeon in a field hospital during WWI.)
Upon graduation from medical school, Vera Grigorieva worked as junior, then senior, research fellow of the Chair of Neurology at Gorky Medical School. Influenced by her father (Naum Zeitlin, a professional astrophysicist), she developed a passion for radiometry. This interest helped her to apply to medical needs a new radiothermometer designed at the Research Institute of Radiophysics: Vera used the instrument to measure through a patient’s skull the temperature of central parts of the brain. She could then compare these temperatures for normal patients and for those with different neurological diseases.
Vera Grigorieva defended her dissertation on functional radiothermometry in early diagnosis of cerebrovascular diseases of the brain. In 1992, she became an assistant of the Chair of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Center for Retraining at Nizhny Novogorod State Medical Academy. Today Grigorieva has the official designation of Doctor-Neurologist of the Highest Category. In addition to her main specialization, she also possesses practical knowledge in psychotherapy, medical psychology, manual therapy and reflexotherapy. In 1996, she became chief rehabilitologist of the Nizhny Novgorod Health Care Department (sister Anna, meanwhile, is chief neurologist in the same department).
Grigorieva is also a widely published researcher. She authored a two volume Medical Guide on Rehabilitation of Neurological Patients and has to her credit over 100 scientific publications. While writing her doctoral dissertation, Grigorieva succeeded in identifying the individual specifics of patients with spinal pain, radiculitis, and vertabrealogical symptoms. She also established a link between the level of depression and the disruption of vital activities in patients with certain forms of cerebrovascular diseases. Yet, to defend her doctoral dissertation (“Psychological Disadaptation and Rehabilitation of Patients with Chronic Forms of Nervous Diseases”) she had to overcome quite a few obstacles: the theme was at the juncture of medical psychology and clinical neurology, so her original ideas were initially rejected by many of her colleagues. Only in 2001 was she able to break through and defend her dissertation at the Sechenov Medical Academy in Moscow.
They say each talented person is talented in everything. And sisters Vera and Anna are a good case in point. Not only are they both leaders in their specific (and related) scientific fields, but both have brought up two children, and meet the very pressing demands of housewives. They also both love to kayak the river Kerzhenets (a tributary of the Volga) and both vacation on a fabulously beautiful lake in Staraya Pustyn, where they have two little wooden houses.
It could well be that a combination of emulation and competition between these two sisters is one secret of their many achievements in life. In fact, it might make an interesting case study for Russian neurologists …
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