I grew up in Queens and on the North Shore of Long Island (Roslyn). I went to Union College for my undergrad and NYU School of Medicine. I also did my residency at NYU School of Medicine and the Howard Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Why did you choose Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as your specialty and who was the one person or what was the program that inspired you the most? I chose PM&R after a summer working with SCI patients at NYU in 1980. I was captivated by the rehabilitation process of persons with paralysis, both the physical and the psychological. I was impressed with the team aspect to their care. Further, I met Drs. Howard Rusk and Kristjan Ragnarsson, who became my role models. Without question, Dr. Ragnarsson has inspired me the most. He always conveyed to a patient what they would be able to do, not what the person could not do. He focused on quality of life and is a fantastic communicator with his patients. I was fortunate to have worked under Dr. Ragnarsson’s guidance at Mt. Sinai for 17 years. I have also had the privilege of meeting and working with so many incredible patients and therapists over the last 20 years. The courage and dignity of my patients has always made my day to day work much more than a job.What are your specialties in regards to spinal cord disorders and injuries?
I deal with all aspects of spinal cord injury; no real specialty.
What project is of most interest to you now? Any projects you are currently working on?
While research on a cure for paralysis is always exciting to be part of, my main area of academic interest recently has been in teaching residents and medical students about spinal cord injury. Presently, I have been involved in curriculum development for the new Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine which enrolls its first class on August 1, 2011. It is outstanding that disability education has been included for our medical students.
What are your views on: A cure for SCI? Regeneration of nerves? Stem cells?
Views on cure/regeneration/stem cells — I am hopeful and fully expect an evolution of treatments that will result in gradually better neurological outcomes after SCI. I do not expect a single curative treatment to emerge in the near future. Presently, I never make cure the focus of discussion with patients. Rather, I try to give a realistic neurologic prognosis, stressing optimistically what the patient will likely be able to do as they go through the rehabilitation process.
Even if there is a cure, recovery will take a long time. ATBF has therefore focused on Quality of Life. Do you agree that this is an important direction to head in?
I was thrilled with the change in direction of the Brown Foundation. I have always been struck by those persons who after injury focused their full attention on cure. It seemed to me that these individuals were not participating in life, and as a result, they were unhappy. Conversely, people with SCI who went back to school, work, socializing, sports, creative pursuits, etc. are almost always happy and rate the quality of their lives as high. Quality of life, to me, is everything.
From your experience and knowledge about spinal cord related injury and that one moment in time when a life can change in a second — what is your message to parents and their children?
As a parent of three children ages 13-20, my message to parents is to maintain regular high quality communication with your children. Talk openly, honestly and frequently.
Adam B. Stein, M.D., is a member of the ATBF Medical Advisory Board and Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for The Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine and The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.