Robert G. Grossman, MD, a pioneering neurosurgeon, dedicated educator, innovative researcher, and compassionate advocate for those with epilepsy died at home in Houston, TX, October 7, 2021, at the age of 88.
Throughout his career, Dr. Grossman, who served as President of the American Epilepsy Society in 1982, advanced the surgical treatment of those with epilepsy, movement disorders, spinal cord injury, and other neurological disorders. As Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Neurological Surgery at the Houston Methodist Hospital, he and his colleagues established the epilepsy surgery program, a centerpiece of the multidisciplinary Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
Dr. Grossman received his BA with honors from Swarthmore College, PA (1953) and his MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, NY (1957). He completed an internship in surgery at the University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital, NY (1958) and his residency in neurosurgery at the Neurological Institute of New York, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, NY (1960-1963). He served as Captain, Medical Corps, United States Army Reserves at Walter Reed Army Hospital Institute of Research, Washington, DC (1958-1960).
His first academic appointment was at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX (1963-1968). During his time there, while on duty at Parkland Hospital he was one of two neurosurgeons summoned to attend to John F. Kennedy. He joined the faculty of the Department of Neurological Surgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (1963-1968), and eventually was appointed Professor and Chief, Division of Neurological Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX (1973-1980). In 1980, he was appointed Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, a position he held until 2005. He concurrently held the position of Chief, Neurological Surgery Service, Houston Methodist Hospital, and then transitioned to Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, Houston Methodist Hospital (2005-2013) and Founder and First Director, Neurological Institute, The Methodist Hospital (2005). He remained active in research, education, and professional and community service as Professor, Houston Methodist Hospital until just before his death.
Robert Grossman was a dedicated and talented medical educator and trained many of the practicing neurosurgeons in the United States, several who themselves are now leaders in the field. He was a physician first, and sustained a busy clinical practice, performing more than 8,000 neurosurgical operations. He contributed significantly to the scientific literature, publishing over two hundred articles and over fifty book chapters. His clinical research in epilepsy focused on understanding the impact of anterior temporal lobectomy on cognition, memory, and behavior and in refining the procedure itself to optimize outcome. His research in other areas ranged from assessment of pallidotomy in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, management and outcome of head injury, mechanisms and mitigation of spinal cord injury, and, most recently, robotic brain-limb interface.
He served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, and World Neurosurgery. He chaired the American Board of Neurological Surgeons, served as President of the Society of Neurological Surgeons, was a member of the Christopher Reeve Foundation International Research Consortium Advisory Panel, and founded the North American Clinical Trials Network for Spinal Cord Injury. For his leadership, he was awarded the Cushing Medal by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Albert and Ellen Grass Foundation Prize and Medal by the Society of Neurological Surgeons.
Dr. Grossman was a strong patient advocate in epilepsy. Early in his tenure in Houston, he helped establish the Epilepsy Foundation Texas (then of Houston/Gulf Coast) and remained active in that organization throughout his career.
He had numerous interests beyond medicine including photography, sundials, astronomy, sailing, and fly fishing. He and his wife traveled widely and spent with family in their second home in Santa Fe, New Mexico often. He was devoted to his large extended family.
Dr. Grossman is survived by Ellin Grossman, Ed.D., his wife of 66 years; daughter Dr. Amy Coburn, her husband, Dr. Michael Coburn; Daughter Kate Rose; and daughter Jennifer Oakley and her husband Bruce Oakley; and nine grandchildren.
Eli M. Mizrahi, MD
Jeffrey L. Noebels, MD, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine