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David Greeley, M.D. ’89, FAAN, is a third-generation doctor — but his father, a general internist, initially tried to talk him out of it.
“By the time I was applying to medical school, my dad was feeling the crunch and seeing the changes in medicine,” says Greeley. But his son was undeterred, finding happiness and intellectual fulfillment in his choice: the practice of neurology.
“I like solving problems and talking to people,” Greeley says. “It seemed like a nascent field that wasn’t going to get boring in my lifetime.” And, over time, his career — originally based in movement disorders — has evolved as his patients have aged.
“The average Parkinson’s patient starts in their sixties, and now they’re all in their eighties,” says Greeley. “So I’ve basically become a dementia expert.”
Today, Greeley’s practice has a strong focus on Alzheimer’s, a disease characterized by the development of plaques, sticky deposits of beta-amyloid proteins that cause brain cell death and contribute to Alzheimer’s progression. In fact, his practice is conducting a clinical trial that uses a monoclonal antibody to remove plaque from the brain. The results, he says, are really promising.
Greeley and his partners are educators as well as scientists, hosting clerkships and teaching first-year students. In addition, Greeley participates in Student-Alumni Informational Discussions, which recruit alumni to share advice and insights with medical students.
But he’d also like to create a course led by a team of healthcare providers — including private practitioners, academicians, corporate doctors and others — to expose students to a wider range of practice options. To help them find work that will really make them happy.
“It comes full circle,” he says. “When you help a future physician have a happier life, you’re helping a whole other generation.”
Recently, Greeley thought of another way to support students. In tribute to the family’s previous generations of family doctors, he and his wife, Suzanne, created an endowed scholarship. Their hope is that scholarships will help students pursue the field they’re most interested in, lessening their financial worries.
“If we can get doctors who aren’t making decisions based on their debt, I think they’re more likely to go into what they’re really passionate about,” says Greeley. “And to do things that are groundbreaking.”