It isn’t every day that a physician gets to share the stage with an up-and-coming rock star. But August 13, 2022, was no ordinary day for Jesse Kinch. When Kinch, a singer, guitarist, and the first and only winner of a short-lived 2014 TV series called Rising Star, took the stage that night, it was his first major performance since receiving a brain tumor diagnosis in January 2021.
Kinch, a 28-year-old from Seaford, New York, first met Todd J. Carpenter, MD, a radiation oncologist at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island, in April. When he learned that the physician was a bass guitarist who shared his love of rock music, he invited Dr. Carpenter to play with him once he recovered, and the doctor enthusiastically accepted. “We blew the roof off,” says Kinch. “When Dr. Carpenter was on stage with me, I kept thinking about how far I had come.”
Kinch was also thinking of his guests at the event, a performance that was as much a personal comeback as a professional one. Among them were his father, Rick, and mother, Adrienne, a 30-year veteran nurse at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island; his neuro-oncologist, Marissa Barbaro, MD; and one of his neurosurgeons, Lee Tessler, MD, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery, who had collaborated with John G. Golfinos, MD, the Joseph P. Ransohoff Professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
Kinch knew from his mother, who has cared for many of Dr. Tessler’s patients in the post-anesthesia care unit, that he was in the best of hands—a team including experts from the No. 1 neurology and neurosurgery program in the country, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals,” and Perlmutter Cancer Center. Dr. Tessler and Dr. Golfinos both specialize in removing the type of tumor that Kinch had—a glioma, which originates in the brain’s supportive tissue.
Because gliomas can infiltrate healthy brain tissue, Dr. Tessler and Dr. Golfinos decided that the surgery, performed on February 8, 2021, would take place in Manhattan, where the NYU Langone’s Kimmel Pavilion is equipped with an intraoperative MRI that would permit real-time views of their surgical progress. In addition, because the tumor resided in an area on the left side of the brain that controls the fine motor movement of Kinch’s guitar-strumming right hand and is near the fibers that control voice, they decided the best approach would be an awake craniotomy. “Jesse was able to talk to us during the operation so that we could test different areas of the brain to limit any neurological damage,” explains Dr. Tessler. “Nearly two years later, he’s doing fantastic.”