“It’s not brain surgery!” This healthy put-down not only works to bring someone down a peg, it also confers a certain confidence that anyone who practices neurosurgery is in a class by himself. And so it is that Gregory T. Sherr, M.D. ’04, M.P.H. ’04, is a thriving neurosurgeon based upon the arduous training that took more than a decade to pull off. That’s what it entails when you change occupations and leave other talents behind to doggedly pursue an ever-evolving dream. He has finally fulfilled the promises he made to his mentors, friends and family— that no matter what it took, he would succeed in becoming a neurosurgeon. Dr. Sherr really did it “his way” by pursuing fellowship skills that usually are gained after a residency is completed. As a result, in his first year of practice he became certified to perform complex neuro-trauma surgery when he was a qualified, fellowship-trained intensivist at the St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Trading St. Cloud for the Sunshine State, Dr. Sherr is now the medical director of neurosciences for a large comprehensive stroke program at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, concentrating on brain aneurysms and vascular malformations.
Greg Sherr got his M.D. degree from the School of Medicine and his M.P.H. in medical informatics from the School of Public Health together in May of 2004. As a College employee and an early admissions applicant, he navigated the admission process handily. There were some who wondered, did he have an ulterior motive when he accepted the position as New York Medical College’s first webmaster in 1997? With a slight shrug, he never answers the question. He brought so much experience and authority to the job from his prior job working on the Columbia University website that he was able to help elevate web services for the entire Valhalla campus. Sherr built the College website from a handful of pages to many thousands, until departments all around the university were vying to get their pages done. But as hectic as the job was (he regularly sent emails at 3 a.m.), and how routinely he exceeded expectations, it never diminished the fire in his belly for medical school.
Gravitates to neurology
“I was looking for a strong medical program at the same time I was working in information technology, programming in multiple languages,” he says. “While building the home page for the Department of Neurology, I developed a strong bond with the chairman [Joseph Masdeu, M.D.], who along with Steve Marks [M.D., professor of neurology] mentored me on my path to becoming a neurological surgeon.” What turned out to be the critical mass during his first year of medical school was his leadership of Student Physician Awareness Day (SPAD), and his meeting with the keynote speaker, the late Fred Epstein, M.D. ’63.
“I had the great honor of befriending and working with Fred, a giant in the field of neurosurgery. It was his challenge and inspiration that helped guide me toward a career that has been both grueling and rewarding in ways I never would have expected,” says Sherr of the pediatric surgeon who became famous for saving the lives of children with brain stem tumors that had been considered inoperable.
As he gathered a trusted core at the College to help and advise him, Sherr began to disengage from the protective envelope of Columbia, where he had completed his undergraduate general studies and post baccalaureate premedical programs.