Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Robert Greenwood, MD

Profile written by O’Neill D’Cruz, MD, MBA, FAAN

Two score and ten years ago, a young Chief Military Pediatrician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center completed military service, received an Army Commendation medal for setting up a child developmental evaluation clinic, and returned to Washington University, St Louis, MO. He resumed Child Neurology training under the guidance of Dr Phillip Dodge, a compassionate clinician and mentor who became his model. The young resident also joined the Child Neurology Society, which today recognizes and celebrates fifty years of contributions by Dr Robert (Bob) Greenwood for his service to society and humanity with the Brumback Lifetime Achievement Award. Anyone who knows Bob will readily acknowledge that he’s had the time of his life adding life to the years of those around him!

Bob fondly recalls growing up in Texas in a family that installed in him a keen work ethic, a sense of community and kinship with children and families of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and an attitude of gratitude when sharing one’s gifts and talents “to cure rarely, to relieve suffering often, to comfort always” (Osler’s aphorism for healers). These values have shaped and guided Bob in all his professional endeavors over the years.

When Bob joined Thomas Farmer, a founder-parent figure in Child Neurology, at the faculty at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) in 1977, he set upon a career path that combined lifelong learning, leading and lighting the path for later generations of child neurologists. In each of these fields of endeavor, he walked and talked with others, and rarely, if ever, talked about his achievements and accolades. Thus, one has to listen in at UNC Child Neurology picnics and reunions to learn what Bob meant to trainees, as they recall the impact he had on shaping their career path.

It is said that the best way to learn is to teach – Bob’s passion for lifelong learning is evident in his commitment to teaching at all levels. His teaching activities span across high-school level, pre-med, medical students and residents in the US and visiting international graduate students. In addition to serving as medical school faculty since joining UNC, Bob served on the faculty of UNC’s Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities for close to two decades. As a member, and later Chair, of ACGME’s Neurology Resident Review Committee(RRC), Bob was instrumental in gaining ACGME approval for training programs in Neurodevelopmental Disabilites, Vascular Neurology and Pain Management. He also partnered with neurosurgery and neuroradiology RRCs to allow neurologists to train in Interventional Neuroradiology. Bob received UNC’s Neurology Faculty Teaching Award and NIH’s Teacher Investigator Award and National Research Service Award in recognition of his commitment to both teaching and research at local and national levels. Bob is highly sought after both in the US and overseas to teach, help set up curricula and training programs in Child Neurology. Most recently, he was Chairman and invited speaker at the Annual Conference of the Neurology Department at Mansoura University in Egypt.

Bob’s earlier research focused on pathologic plasticity in epilepsy (long-term changes in neuroendocrine function following recurrent seizures, use of mRNA to modify epileptogenesis) and his more recent work on neurofibromatosis (morphological changes in white and gray matter in type 1, MR spectroscopic changes in type 1 and 2). His research in neurofibromatosis was supported by NIH grants for the study of cognition and behavior in children with NF1. Over a period of fourteen years, Bob served as a reviewer of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) in the Department of Defense Neurofibromatosis Research program, and chaired both the Neurofibromatosis and Tuberous Sclerosis Research Program committees. He also served as reviewer for CDMRP’s clinical trial awards in Fragile X and Angelman Syndromes, and as a member of Citizen’s United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) scientific review board.

Bob is a level 5 leader – one who combines extreme personal humility and intense professional will – in clinical settings. He is on the lists of America’s Top Pediatricians, Top Neurologists and Best Doctors in America since the 1990s. He is unhesitant and unassuming in what he does so well – find ways to help associates and colleagues grow and thrive by providing opportunities, resources and mentoring at all phases of their careers. He always took his full share of on-call duty and outreach clinics. His regular clinics were consistently oversold, and with good reason – he combines extensive clinical acumen with a passion for patient care and a wonderful personal touch that makes him extremely popular, even (and especially) when he is working on “Greenwood Time!”

The people of North Carolina have benefited tremendously through Bob’s lifelong service. He received the Volunteer of the Year service awards from NC Epilepsy Association and Kiffin Penry Quality of Life from the Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina for his contributions to the care of children with epilepsy. He served in various leadership roles, including Chair of the Professional Advisory Board and Board of Directors of North Carolina Epilepsy Association, and Vice-President of North Carolina Neurological Society. He facilitated statewide access to child neurology services through outreach clinics in underserved areas, serving on Governor’s Health forums and BCBS Neurology Advisory panels. Summer camps for children with epilepsy resemble family gatherings for Bob’s patients and their families!

Bob has long been active in various professional roles at a national level –
examiner in Neurology for ABPN, serving on CNS’ Legislative, Phillip Dodge Young Investigator Award, and Nomination committees; serving on the Executive Committee of AAN’s Child Neurology Section; and is a longstanding member of numerous national and international professional societies, including Professors of Child Neurology.

On a personal note, in 1991 Bob recruited me – the first person of color and international medical graduate in the Child Neurology division at UNC. His influence and example were so inspiring that it was the first and last job until my retirement from academia! After all, how often does one meet a division chief who shares one’s hobbies and is also a colleague, friend, mentor and tennis partner?

Finally, Bob is a model par excellence for child neurologists at all stages of their careers. He leads by example and serves with head, hands, heels (Go Heels!) and most of all, heart. Therein lies Bob’s secret worth emulating – it is the same one that was shared with the Little Prince: What is essential is invisible to the eye; it is only with the heart that one can see clearly!