By: Melissa Toupin
A serious health concern for Rhode Island's Education Commissioner, Deborah Gist. The 45-year-old has a brain tumor, believed to be meningioma, and will have to undergo surgery.
"No body wants to have a brain tumor," said Dr. Suriya Jeyapalan, Director of Neuro-Oncology at Rhode Island Hospital. "But, honestly, if this is something that somebody gets diagnosed with, these generally aren't one's that are felt to be complicated, and generally tend to have a good outcome."
While Dr. Jeyapalan is not familiar with Gist's specific case, she says 80% of the time this type of tumor is benign, and not life-threatening.
The Department of Education says Gist's doctors recommended the removal of the tumor based on its location.
"With younger patients, because they do think that over decades the tumors will slowly grow to a point where they can become a problem, they'll consider taking them out even if they are small and a–symptomatic," said Dr. Jeyapalan.
Gist suffered a concussion in July while traveling for a conference. While placing her suitcase in an overhead airplane bin, Gist fell backwards and hit her head. That concussion revealed the tumor.
The Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, George Caruolo, released a statement saying, "On behalf of the Board of Regents, I wish Commissioner Gist a speedy and full recovery. Our thoughts and our prayers are with her."
Gist will continue to work up to her surgery, but on a limited schedule, as she recovers from the concussion.
She issued this statement saying:
"Thank you very much for your messages, your thoughts, and your prayers, which have helped me enormously in my recovery. I am also grateful for the outstanding team at RIDE that has been working hard to transform education and that will continue to lead these efforts during my recovery. Throughout my recuperation, it has been heartening to know that I have so many friends and colleagues who share with me a tireless commitment to improving the lives of students and families across Rhode Island."
Governor Chafee also released a statement wishing the Commissioner a speedy recovery.
Gist is scheduled for surgery in late September. Her recovery is expected to take 2 months. Deputy Commissioner, David Abbott, will run things until Gist can resume her role.