Anna Belova, scientist

If Anna Belova looks to you a lot like Vera Gregorieva on the facing page, don’t be surprised. Not only are they sisters, they are twins. And they are both neurologists.

The twin sisters distinguished themselves early on: both graduated with a gold medal from their secondary school, specializing in physics and math. Their teachers gave both only the highest marks and they were oft-cited as role models for the other students. And when they enrolled the Medical School in Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod), they did not miss a single lecture and would always share their notes with other, lazy students.

After graduating from medical school, despite laudatory recommendations for a post-graduate course, Belova (nee Zeitlina) had a hard time getting a job as a doctor in the rehabilitation department of the Gorkovsky Carmaking Plant (where the well-known Volga is made). No one expected anything more from her than mere routine examination of patients. Yet Belova implemented bold new research methods, piling up material for her PhD dissertation on the rehabilitation of patients after a stroke. Before Belova’s work, rehabilitation from stroke was given short shrift by Russian health care.

After defending her kandidatskaya in 1987, Belova worked as a neurologist at the Nizhny Novgorod Research Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics, where she made a rather impressive medical career, becoming first the leading research fellow and then head of the department of functional diagnostics.

Tenacious and persevering, Belova developed her own methodology for diagnosing the course for rehabilitation and for forecasting the end result of a course of rehabilitation. This theme in fact became the basis of her doctoral dissertation, which she defended in 1995 at the age of just 35, obtaining the doctor of medical sciences degree.

Devushka, [miss] you must have knocked on the wrong door,” said the executive secretary of the Research Institute of Neurology of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences upon seeing the diminutive figure of Anna carrying a huge rucksack with the bound files of her dissertation, looking nothing like a potential doctor. A few months later, Belova brilliantly defended her dissertation, proving she had knocked on the right door after all.

Today, Belova is well-known in her field. Author of more than 100 scientific articles and five monographs, one of the latter, “Neurorehabilitation,” became the first practical guide for Russian doctors on the rehabilitation of neurological patients. In 1997, Belova became chief neurologist of the Health Care Department of Nizhny Novgorod. She regularly participates in international congresses and conferences on neurology and rehabilitation and took a training course at the neurological clinic in Salzburg (Austria).

At 40, Belova was awarded the title of Emeritus Doctor of the Russian Federation, a rather unique case in Russian health care. In 2001, she was awarded the Nizhny Novgorod Prize for her collective work “Acute Deficiency in Brain Blood Circulation.” A talented doctor, Belova is also an educator—together with her twin sister, she translated two classic monographs from English into Russian: “Topical Diagnosis in Neurology” by Peter Duus and “Handbook of Pediatric Neurology,” by Sarah Gaskill and Arthur Marlin.

Anna Belova is clearly a shining light in the world of Russian health care, one of the hard working researchers and doctors who will help elevate this profession to its rightful place in the coming century. That her twin sister has taken on an equally important role is a thankful and amazing thing.

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