Obituary: Patricia B. Jozefczyk / Trailblazing neurologist had a big heart

Oct. 7, 1949 - Dec. 6, 2013

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For more than 15 years, Audrey Wicks drove almost 200 miles every three or four months for just 30 minutes with neurologist Patricia Jozefczyk.

Dr. Jozefczyk of Allegheny Neurological Associates was a trailblazer in her field, those closest to her said, a gentle, attentive doctor and an ideal colleague.

"She explained very clearly so that I had a better understanding of what was happening to my body," Ms. Wicks, 77, of Randolph, N.Y., said. "She wasn't an alarmist. She explained it so I was comfortable with it and trusted what she said."

Her patients loved her.

Her family knew why.

"The size of Patty's intellect was only dwarfed by the size of her heart," said her brother, William Jozefczyk of Irwin.

Dr. Jozefczyk, of North Huntingdon and formerly of Upper Saint Clair, died Friday of complications from acute leukemia. She was 64.

Born to a steelworker father and housekeeper mother in North Charleroi, Dr. Jozefczyk graduated from Mon Valley Catholic High School, where she was valedictorian of the Class of 1967.

From as early as William Jozefczyk could remember, his sister wanted to be a doctor, even in an era when men dominated the field.

She excelled at science and liked helping people, adorning her room with models of the brain, eye and other organs, some that she had painted herself.

"Going into her bedroom was like going into the anatomy lab at the University of Pittsburgh medical school," he said. "I swear that by junior high, she knew about every body system and what it did."

Dr. Jozefczyk earned her bachelor's and medical degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and, following her residency, joined Allegheny Neurological Associates in 1980, working out of Allegheny General and satellite hospitals in the region. She also worked at UPMC for a time.

She never wed, her brother said, because she "was married to the practice of medicine."

One of the few female neurologists in the country at the start of her career, she later focused on rehabilitation, said her longtime colleague Jon Brillman, becoming among the first to use Botox as a way to loosen muscles after strokes, spinal cord injuries and the like.

"She just had a very inquisitive mind and saw how it was being used for cosmetic reasons, and she figured maybe she could use it for neurological [problems]," Dr. Brillman said.

She also was among the pioneers using the injections as a treatment for migraines, he noted, now considered standard practice.

In the early 2000s, Ms. Wicks, 77, who suffers from cervical dystonia, a muscle movement disorder affecting her neck, tried seeing a doctor closer to home for the Botox injections she needed.

When that didn't work out, she called the office of "Dr. Pat" and asked if she could come back.

"It was not pleasant to have that done, but she was just such an exceptional professional doctor and so warm. She knew me," Ms. Wicks said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Jozefczyk collapsed at work. She was diagnosed with cancer in late May or early June, her brother said.

In addition to her brother, Dr. Jozefczyk is survived by a sister, Francine Zdrale of North Huntingdon.

A Mass will be celebrated at noon Thursday in Immaculate Conception Church in Irwin.

Before her death, Dr. Jozefczyk requested that donations could be made in her name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Be the Match-National Bone Marrow Donor Program, the National Ataxia Foundation, the American Brain Foundation or the American Academy of Neurology.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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