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JFK Physician Spotlight: Brian D. Greenwald, M.D.

JFK Medical Center is proudly affiliated with more than 900 physicians representing every major medical and surgical specialty. Along with their expertise, each brings a unique background, perspective and approach that contribute to JFK's longstanding hallmark of excellence and personalized care.

Dr. Greenwald

This month’s Spotlight features Dr. Brian D. Greenwald, who was recently appointed as Medical Director of our Center for Head Injuries, and Associate Medical Director of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. He is a national leader in Brain Injury Medicine and Rehabilitation, and a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Office Location:  JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, 65 James Street, Edison, NJ 08818

Area of Specialty:  Brain Injury Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Medical Certifications & Training: Board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Fellowship-trained in brain injury rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University. Completed residency training in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at New Jersey Medical School. Former Medical Director of Brain Injury Rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center in New York City, and former Medical Director for the New York Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems. Member of the Board of Trustees for the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey since 2002.

Awards: The Kristjan Ragnarsson Angle Award, from the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, 2012; Physician of the Year Award, Mount Sinai Medical Center, 2009; one of the Top Doctors in the New York Metro Areas, as recognized by peers through a Castle Connolly survey; Arnold P. Gold Foundation Award for “Humanism in Medicine.”

Q.  Where did you grow up?

A.  I come from a long line of Brooklynites who lived in a rough and tumble middle class neighborhood. I’m proud of where I come from, and I’m proud to be where I am now as a Medical Director at JFK.

Q.  Who or what inspired you to become a doctor?

A.  When I was a kid my mother had a lot of health problems, and because of this I learned about the kind of character and empathy that’s required to be a good doctor. I also saw firsthand how a physician can make a big positive impact on people’s lives. As a high school student I spent time doing volunteer service at Coney Island Hospital; it became clear to me that the field of medicine suits both my personality and my desire to help people.

Q.  Why did you choose Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as your specialty, and why focus on brain injury?

A.  When I was in my third year of medical school, a family friend who is a physiatrist recommended I do a rotation is this specialty. I had always enjoyed neurology, and internal medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation was a good fit. When I was in residency I decided that pursuing fellowship in Brain Injury Medicine would be a good sub-specialization for my interests. Helping people regain maximum function is tremendously rewarding. This is the right specialty for me.

Q.  What do you find most gratifying about being a physician in your field?

A.  So often, people with brain injuries are unable to advocate for themselves, and their family members are overwhelmed by the situation. Physiatrists, medical doctors with specialized training in physical and rehabilitation medicine, have a great opportunity to be an advocate for these people and their families when they need it most, while helping patients to regain and achieve everything they can.

Q.  Share a fact about brain injuries that few people know.

A.  Something that even some health care providers don’t know is that there are people who, with appropriate rehabilitation from professionals like our team at JFK, can improve dramatically even after a severe brain injury. For example, a study published about a year ago indicates that more than 20% of people with the most severe brain trauma are eventually able to live independently and return to employment. It’s a long-term challenge, but if you think about it, aren’t most conditions? If you have high blood pressure, you treat and manage it over time – not in a few quick doctor visits.

Q.  What advice would you want families to keep in mind when suddenly faced with a loved one’s catastrophic brain illness or injury?

A.  Very few places in the country have all the resources needed for complex cases all under one roof, the way we do at JFK. At JFK we have acute rehabilitation care attached to an acute care hospital with expert specialty physicians to consult if complications arise. JFK continues to care for people, if needed, in sub-acute rehabilitation, home care and outpatient services. We have it all, so we can address everything from the early acute care needs of patients to their long-term rehabilitation needs.

Q.  What attracted you to taking on such important leadership roles at JFK?

A.  JFK has a long history of commitment to people with brain injuries. There is an enormous depth and breadth of rehabilitation and medical resources with an administration that is committed to keeping the brain injury program strong and growing. JFK is also committed to being advocates for the patients and families we serve and advancing care on state and national levels. This passion for excellence comes from the top of the organization, and I found it inspiring. I knew this would be the right place for me.

Q.  What do you most enjoy doing when you are not working?

A.  When I’m not working I spend time with my children and I enjoy them so much! I talk to them about work, but from the aspect of how fulfilled and excited I am about what I do – I’d like them to make that connection, to have the same kind of zest for whatever professions they enter. Oh, we have a new dog who seems to keep us all in the same room at the same time, playing. She brings us a lot of happiness!

Q.  When it comes to technology, outside of work do you stay plugged in or do you prefer to unplug?

A.  I’m plugged in all the time. I’m involved in so many projects and organizations; I feel like if I unplug I’ll get too far behind. Plus, I receive emails from families and from people all around the world who are in desperate situations. I like to be responsive in a timely manner.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is considering entering your field?

A.  It’s a great field and a little different from a lot of other specialties. You have to be willing to think “long term,” because you spend a long time guiding your patients toward their rehabilitation goals. You have to be willing to embrace families that have been shaken to their cores, and who play an integral role in their loved one’s rehabilitation. You have to be receptive to collaborating as part of a team, as our dedicated experts do here at JFK; this is not a field for solo practitioners. If all that appeals to you, know that you will make a positive difference in the lives of patients and families forever; I now have a lot of patients who followed me here from New York, our relationship is that long and strong. It is very rewarding.

Phone: 732-321-7000 X62018