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February 15, 2024

From a Rare Brain Tumor Diagnosis to Law School: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle

by Brianna Rauchman

Janna was 21 when her college journey took an unexpected detour. She experienced severe and sudden hearing loss in one ear. An MRI scan revealed that she had a left vestibular schwannoma, also known as an acoustic neuroma. A rare brain tumor, these benign growths are highly treatable, with care from experienced neurosurgeons.

The Turning Point in Janna’s Medical Journey

Initially overwhelmed by the diagnosis, Janna and her family considered consulting various specialists for opinions. However, their first visit to the Pacific Neuroscience Institute® (PNI®) marked a pivotal moment in her journey. “I knew immediately that PNI was the place for us,” says Janna.

“The unparalleled level of care and compassion we received during our first consultation cemented our decision to pursue my treatment exclusively at PNI.”

Beyond Treatment: The Compassionate Care Team at PNI

The path to recovery was arduous, involving two intricate brain surgeries and radiation therapy. These procedures were crucial in stabilizing and gradually improving Janna’s condition. Along the way, a significant aspect of her experience was the extraordinary empathy and support she received. She recalls with appreciation the dedicated commitment of her surgeons, Daniel Kelly, MD, and Garni Barkhoudarian, MD, and the invaluable support from nurse practitioners Amy Eisenberg, MSN, ARNP, CNRN, and Natasha Cueto, MSN, APN, AGACNP-BC. Neurotologist and lateral skull base surgeon Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, continues to provide support, education, and information about the hearing loss sustained due to the tumor.

The best thing about the PNI team is they made us feel secure. They walked us through every step of the surgery, called my parents with updates during surgery and answered every single question my family had.


Janna’s experience highlights the vital role her healthcare providers played in both treating her medical condition and fostering resilience and hope during challenging times. The care Janna received at PNI has had a lasting impact on her beyond physical recovery.

Achieving Milestones After Treatment: Janna’s New Beginning

After completing her treatment, she accomplished various significant milestones: interning in Congress, working for a public defender, graduating from college, completing a 5k run and gaining admission to law school. When reflecting on her journey, Janna says, “PNI isn’t just a medical facility, it is a community of people who care about your well-being in every single way.”

Relevant Links

Pacific Brain Tumor Center

The Pacific Brain Tumor Center provides comprehensive treatment and supportive care for brain tumor patients and their families. If you or someone you care for has been recently diagnosed with a brain or skull base tumor (benign or malignant) there’s time for you to get another viewpoint. We’ll provide a rapid review of your medical records and imaging and give you our unique perspective on the optimal treatment pathway.

More information: 310-582-7450

About Dr. Daniel F. Kelly

Daniel F. Kelly, MD

Daniel F. Kelly, MD, a board-certified neurosurgeon, is the Director and one of the founders of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, Director of the Pacific Brain Tumor Center and Pacific Pituitary Disorders Center, and is Professor of Neurosurgery at Saint John’s Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Considered to be one of the top neurosurgeons in the US, he has been awarded the Southern California SuperDoctors distinction 15 years in a row.

About Dr. Garni Barkhoudarian

Garni Barkhoudarian, MD

Garni Barkhoudarian, MD, FAANS, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeon with a focus on skull base and minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. Dr. Barkhoudarian has particular interest and expertise in pituitary and parasellar tumors, brain tumors, skull-base tumors (including meningiomas, craniopharyngiomas, chordomas and schwannomas), intra-ventricular brain tumors, colloid cysts, trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm and other vascular compression syndromes.

About Dr. Courtney Voelker

Courtney Voelker MD PhD

Courtney C.J. Voelker, MD, PhD (DPhil Oxon), is a Rhodes Scholar and board-certified neurotologist. She is Director of Otology/Neurotology-Lateral Skull Base Surgery, and Director of the Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California. She is an otolaryngology – head & neck surgeon who takes care of adult and pediatric patients seeing a wide range of inner ear and skull base conditions. Dr. Voelker is a member of the Acoustic Neuroma Association Medical Advisory Board.

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About the Author

Brianna Rauchman

Brianna Rauchman, BA, is the Communications Coordinator for the Lifestyle Program, where she helps develop outreach strategies to connect with an expanding audience. Her responsibilities include providing launch support, developing content, assisting with collateral design, and planning social media strategies.

Last updated: June 14th, 2024