With profound sadness, we announce the passing of Dr. Robert George Grossman. As the most loving husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather in the universe, he was our North Star, our compass forward. We are grieving deeply as a family. We are also filled with gratitude for the life he led and the legacy he leaves.
Born on January 24, 1933 in The Bronx, New York, Dr. Grossman is preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Ferenc Grossman and Vivian Eisenberg Grossman. Dr. Grossman was an only child and was adored by his parents who were both immigrants to the United States. Ferenc, who was born in Hungary, was a family practice doctor, and Vivian, who was born in Lithuania, was a grade school teacher. Together, they believed that hard work and caring for others were traits to live by and they were successful in their new country. Ferenc and Vivian's greatest love was for their son and they nurtured Dr. Grossman's interests in science, math, poetry, literature, philosophy and classical music. Ferenc never refused a patient and would treat patients even if they could not afford to pay. In return, grateful families would leave baskets of eggs or bottles of milk on their doorstep. That legacy of caring for others made an indelible mark on Dr. Grossman, who made that a cornerstone of his life's work. Dr. Grossman would treat his patients with compassion and dignity, no matter who they were. He would also make house calls, taking his old school black doctor's bag to the homes of patients who needed help. He was a listener and had a calm and kind manner and would take the time to really hear what his patients were saying and then proceed to help them.
Dr. Grossman honored both his mother and father by becoming a practicing neurosurgeon and a professor. Dr. Grossman had a memorable and loving childhood in New York City and graduated from the Horace Mann School in 1949. He would recall many happy times growing up -- from once getting locked in the Bronx Zoo with a group of friends after dark to his Bar Mitzvah at age 13 and meeting his future wife, Ellin, when he was 16 years old and she was just 15. It was absolute love at first sight and they were together from that moment on. They were married in 1955 at Ellin's parent's apartment on the Upper East Side and celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary this past June.
Dr. Grossman attended Swarthmore College and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor of arts degree with Honors in the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Always intellectually curious, Dr. Grossman was just 16 years old when he started Swarthmore. Swarthmore held some of Dr. Grossman's fondest memories and he spent the rest of his life remarking on the positive impact the college had on him from best friends to a top-notch education.
Upon graduation, Dr. Grossman attended medical school in New York City and received his M.D., College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, in 1957. Next, Dr. Grossman completed his postgraduate training as an Intern in the surgical service at The University of Rochester, Strong Memorial in 1958.
Dr. Grossman then proudly served the United States of America as a Captain, Medical Corps, U.S.A.R., Department of Neurophysiology. For two years, from 1958 to 1960 Dr. Grossman worked at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C. in the Laboratory of Robert Galambos, M.D.
From 1960 to 1962, Dr. Grossman was a Resident and in 1963, he was Chief Resident, Department of Neurological Surgery, Neurological Institute of New York, at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Upon finishing his residency in 1963, Dr. Grossman moved to Texas and accepted his first neurosurgical position as Associate Professor, Division of Neurological Surgery, at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Dr. Grossman stayed there until 1968, becoming an Instructor and then Assistant Professor. It was while he was at work at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963 that Dr. Grossman received a phone call to rush to Trauma Room One. President John F. Kennedy had been shot and Dr. Grossman, as one of the two neurosurgeons on staff, was summoned to attend the president.
In 1969, Dr. Grossman and his family moved back to New York where he was appointed Associate Professor and then Professor of Neurological Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York. And, in 1973, Dr. Grossman returned to Texas -- this time to Galveston -- to be the Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Neurological Surgery. It was his first Chairmanship and Dr. Grossman was proud of the work accomplished in Galveston.
In 1980, Dr. Grossman was appointed Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery, The Methodist Hospital, in Houston, Texas. Additionally, Dr. Grossman was appointed the Chairman of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine from 1980 to 2005. Dr. Grossman remained the Chairman of Neurosurgery at The Methodist Hospital from 1980 to 2013, and has continued to be a Professor of Neurosurgery since 2013. Dr. Grossman was also the Founder and First Director, Neurological Institute, The Methodist Hospital in 2005.
In 2004, Dr. Grossman founded North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN) for Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). NACTN's mission is to continually advance the quality of care and the quality of life of people with spinal cord injury through clinical trials of new therapy that provide strong evidence of safety and effectiveness.
Not many people make it to age 88 and still work, but Dr. Grossman's passion for advancing medicine never stopped. He was very proud that he was able to work his entire life and never retired. He believed with 24 hours in a day, much could be accomplished. And so he did.
Dr. Grossman had a keen interest in helping patients with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's Disease, spinal cord injury and brain tumors. He made an impact in both helping patients as well as making scientific contributions in all of those neurological areas. From 1960 until 2012, Dr. Grossman performed more than 8,000 major neurosurgical operations.
It was common for Dr. Grossman to be at dinner or a grandchild's school event and have people walk over to say how much they appreciated his care for them or a family member. Those comments always brought him joy that he was able to help make a difference.
Dr. Grossman created his own filing system that became his signature: a stack of white index cards, wrapped in a green rubber band that he kept in the pocket of his white doctor's coat or the front of his button down shirt. Dr. Grossman would keep detailed notes about his patients and would constantly add to the notes to ensure their care. And he also would keep notes on books he wanted to read, PBS shows to watch and notes about which friend was having a birthday, an anniversary, or a baby.
His dedication for training other doctors to become neurosurgeons was his calling. He was extremely proud of the fact that the neurosurgeons he trained and worked with are now among the leaders in the field in Houston and around the country. Dr. Grossman trained two percent of the neurosurgeons in the United States.
Additionally, Dr. Grossman had a keen interest in scientific research. He was a prolific writer, and wrote eight medical books, including Medical Neurobiology: Neuroanatomical and Neurophysiological Principles Basic to Clinical Neuroscience. Dr. Grossman also wrote 216 articles for scientific journals and chapters in 52 different medical textbooks.
Dr. Grossman served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery and World Neurosurgery. Additionally he served as Chair, American Board of Neurological Surgeons and President of the Society of Neurological Surgeons. He was a member of the Christopher Reeve Foundation International Research Consortium Advisory Panel and helped guide their research program. In Houston, Dr. Grossman helped found the Houston chapter of the Epilepsy Association Texas and was involved with TIRR and the Houston Area Parkinson's Society.
Dr. Grossman was awarded many honors and some of his most cherished were accepting the Cushing Medal from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 2007, for service to Neurosurgery; and the Albert and Ellen Grass Foundation Prize and Medal from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, 1988, for continuous commitment to research in the neurosciences.
Outside of work, Dr. Grossman had numerous interests: photography, sundials, astronomy, sailing and fly fishing. He was a prolific reader and read everything from Greek and Roman classics to English poetry and mystery novels. Dr. Grossman was perennially cheerful, upbeat and a joy to be around. People would always remark that Dr. Grossman was a true gentleman -- and his calm, reassuring demeanor are going to be missed.
And even though he was so proud of his professional accomplishments, Dr. Grossman was even more proud of his family. And it all started with Ellin. Theirs was a love story that knew no bounds. They were inseparable and devoted to one another.
Together, they traveled the world from France to Israel, Japan to Scotland, Egypt to Italy and beyond. They built a vacation home in Santa Fe, New Mexico that became their happy place, their true sanctuary. In Santa Fe, they would hike, birdwatch, eat, look at the stars, visit the library and the museums and enjoy friendships and camaraderie. At home in Houston, they and would attend productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan society, Alley Theater and the Houston Grand Opera among others. They would read books, exercise, and spend time with dear friends and family. They also had two wonderful Westie dogs that they loved and they also treasured their involvement with the West Highland White Terrier Club of Southeast Texas.
Dr. Grossman was always so proud of his family, who will forever love him. He is survived by the love of his life, Ellin and their children and grandchildren: Dr. Amy Coburn and husband Dr. Michael Coburn, along with their son Jeff Coburn and daughter Laura Coburn; daughter Kate Rose along with her son Joel Gottsegen and her daughter Claire Gottsegen; and daughter Jennifer Oakley and husband Bruce Oakley along with their children Jessica Sosa and her husband Jonathan Sosa, Sarah Oakley, Connor Albert, Paige Albert and William Robert Oakley, who was named after Dr. Grossman.
His nine grandchildren named him "Grumpy" -- which they all thought was funny because it was the furthest thing from the truth. He loved his grandchildren with all his heart and was always a source of information, someone to talk to and learn from and the creator of memorable times. The annual Grandchildren's New Year's Eve sleepovers are cherished memories. If a grandchild said they were interested in geology, a geode would be given to them. If they said they liked music, he would give them CDs of Mozart; if they were interested in geography, he would give them a globe. If they were interested in animals, he took them to the Galapagos Island. In truth, he was giving them the world. And they all knew it.
Dr. Grossman cared about people. He had the ability to make everyone feel special -- but that is because he really did think they were. For his family, he wasn't just working at his job, he was demonstrating how waking up early and going strong all day long allows you to get more out of each day; when he was given an award from TIRR just a few years ago, he accepted it with gratitude and then said "I still have much work to do." In his medical research, he was not just working to help try and find a cure for spinal cord paralysis but he was teaching his grandkids to think about others, to help those in need, to try and go further and search for solutions where none yet exist. When he used to go the grandchildren's schools to give a lecture about how the brain works, he was not talking about himself and his accomplishments, he was demonstrating how to be curious and to give back to others through selfless service. He believed helping and teaching others is a key to life. And, when he woke up every morning singing and telling Ellin that he loved her, he was teaching our family how to find joy and care for a spouse.
We don't know who revolves around whom in our family but we tend to think we all revolved around Dr. Grossman. It's no wonder that Dr. Grossman was fascinated by the cosmos, because in our family, simply put, he hung the moon.
As a family, we would like to thank Dr. Grossman's close friends and colleagues who helped care for him. It is a sad irony that a man whose life was devoted to the study of neurological diseases was confronted with Parkinson's Disease. Like everything else in his life, Dr. Grossman faced it bravely, squarely and gracefully. Dr. Grossman's medical team of Dr. Robert Jackson, Dr. Al Raizner and Dr. Eugene Lai were unparalleled in their expert care.
A private graveside service will be held at Emanu EL Memorial Park. A memorial service will be held on Sunday afternoon, October 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77005, with a reception immediately following. We welcome all to attend and share in the celebration of Dr. Grossman's life. To view the service via Live Stream please use the following link: https://www.emanuelhouston.org/watch/barish-sanctuary/
For those wishing to make a donation in Dr. Grossman's memory, please consider donations to: The Houston Area Parkinson Society, the Epilepsy Foundation Texas or the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
For anyone willing to share a memory about Dr. Grossman, we would love it if you can write an email and share your stories with us. We want to create a book for the grandchildren so they can always remember how their Grumpy touched other people's lives. Then they can share the book with their own children one day, and Dr. Grossman's legacy will live on. Please email to: email@example.com
To view a recording of the memorial service for Dr. Grossman please use the following link: https://vimeo.com/629350445
"Robert was the best of the best, a wonderful humanitarian and a gifted surgeon, teacher and researcher. When I needed help, he stepped in quickly and operated taking me out of pain immediately. He loved his family dearly and will be forever missed. Kay McGuire"
"It was a privilege and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Grossman. He was an excellent physician and the epitome of a gentleman. The world is a better place for having had Dr. Grossman in it. Sincere condolences on your loss and may his memory live forever.
Clifton J. Babineaux, CRNS (Ret.)
"Dr. Grossman did surgery on our daughter, Sharon Cahill, in 1994 for a brain tumor and we feel so blessed and fortunate that he was her surgeon Not only was he a great surgeon but was so passionate and caring and when he came to talk to our family after the surgery and explain how everything went----and everything went great--- he
sat with us and joined all of us as we cried and hugged him and each other celebrating the wonderful news that he had removed the tumor completely. Sharon and her husband were living in Arlington at that time and when her doctor found out she had a tumor at the 3rd and 4th ventricle blocking the spinal fluid from draining off her brain she was admitted to Arlington Memorial Hospital and Dr. Jeff Heitkamp was to do her surgery. After studying her MRI he said he didn't feel comfortable trying to remove the tumor as he wasn't sure whether it was solid or liquid so he put in a shunt to get the fluid off and recommended they find a more experienced surgeon for doing the removal. Richard's ---Sharon's husband--Mother was in a trial study at Methodist Hospital here in Houston so she asked the doctor doing the study for a recommendation and Dr. Grossman was the recommendation We are so grateful that we were fortunate to have gotten that recommendation as we don't feel our daughter would be here today without having been put in contact with him She never had any seizures or complications after her surgery He is always in our prayers and will continue to be as well as each one of you--his family. Thank you all for sharing him with all of us--his patients. Elaine and Jerry Paul "
"My first position as a neurosurgery faculty member was in Dr. Grossman?s department at Baylor. At that time I had a vague sense that his department was special. But it took me many years to recognize that I could not have had a better chair to help me start an academic career. He was always encouraging and always patient, even when my mistakes might suggest that neither encouragement nor patience were to be expected. To this day, when I face difficult situations, I often try to solve them by thinking of how he would have handled them?even after these many years. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten.
"Dr. Grossman was my mentor and my friend. He recruited me to come and work with him in Houston many years ago, and from the moment I arrived he was kind, compassionate, and always interested in and supportive of my endeavors. He taught me how to refine my scientific skills to think critically, analytically, and yet creatively, and led by example in this regard.
He helped me refine and focus on my scientific research, and spent countless hours with me poring over the details of studies, experiments, and manuscripts, always thinking of how to make our work better.
He also lead by example with his care of his patients. He went the extra mile for every single patient, no matter how easy or difficult it was. He always had time for patients and to talk to people who needed him. Even when he really didn?t have the time.
He built a first rate nationally acclaimed Department of Neurosurgery, and was responsible for countless innovations in our field. Contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy revolutionized therapy for these patients, and will serve as guide posts for decades to come. Similar contributions to our understanding of movement disorders were also iconic
But much more than that, he was an exemplary human being, full of love, kindness, support, and human goodness. Every interaction with him was a great experience, and you even knew that then, not to mention how much more precious these times are now as I reflect back on them.
If ever there was a ?life well lived?, It was the life of Robert Grossman. May we all be inspired by his example and make every minute of our time on this earth meaningful not only for ourselves, but for the many others who we come into contact with every day. We can best honor his memory by emulating him, and by striving to be the kind of person that he was every day. There is a hole in my heart since he is gone that will never be healed, but I am comforted by the fact that the world is a much better place because of who he was and all that he did for humankind.
David S. Baskin,MD
"Dr. Grossman was a wonderful teacher, mentor, leader, humanitarian. I will forever be in his debt. He was both strong and gentle in his leadership style and I have tried to follow his lead in my professional life and it has served me well. My heart goes out to his family and all those that loved him, just as I did, but he lives on in all of those that he trained in the wonderful art and science of Neurosurgery. We were all fortunate to be his pupils.
"Dr. Grossman was a wonderful Doctor and individual. It was an honor to work with him for over 30 years on the Methodist Hospital acute care neurosurgery unit. He was extremely supportive of the staff, residents and physicians. His leadership during the Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist split and the creation of the Neurological Institute was a very significant step in making that transition.
One of my fondest memories was having Dr. Grossman and Ellin attend our unit parties on the 3-11 shift which included freshly fried Filipino egg rolls, pancit, chicken curry, and fried chicken..I think he would go home and pick up Ellin so they both could attend."
"For the Family but especially for the grandkids:
Dive Mom remembers Bob fondly. ?Over the lifetime of teaching you remember many students and classes you teach but sometimes someone will stand out and you will remember forever. For me, Bob is one of those students.
Bob and Ellin decided to take their grandchildren and children on a Galapagos Expedition where snorkeling was going to be part of that adventure. Having not really been a water person like his son-in-law Mike, he thought he should learn something about this. With Mike and Amy?s encouragement, Bob Ellin and the grandchildren jumped in. We met at the West University Colonial Park Pool. At that time, the pool was much like the Rec Center pool except that in the winter it had an inflatable bubble top over the facility.
As many of you know, snorkeling is one of my favorite classes to teach. This is especially true when it is a brand new experience for them. So outfitted with new equipment and suits, and with Mike as my assistant, we spent several hours in the pool learning how to snorkel.
After we had changed and were getting ready to leave, we met again deck side, and Bob had one more question. He wanted to make sure he had recorded all the information from the session and asked me to show him in detail the proper placement of the snorkel. To my awe and amazement, he had drawn a series of sketches, along with notes on white index cards detailing our lesson. I vividly remember the detailed drawing of the head, with a mask, and the proper angle of the snorkel with notes and arrows with the details of the proper placement of the snorkel and where it should be above the water and while snorkeling. It was if he was writing a textbook on snorkeling.
Bob was an educator and had written six textbooks on Neurosurgery and yet, he was the consummate student seeking knowledge and making notes so he would remember what he learned when he went snorkeling in the Galapagos. I on the other hand was humbled as a teacher.
And as I read his bio earlier this week I smile at two things, the comments about his white note cards that went with him everywhere. And of course he was a student of life and a teacher. I also learned that he still snorkeled in the pool with his grandchildren.
As professionals and teachers we can admire Robert Grossman for his dedication to learning and to seeking new approaches. He was never too proud or afraid to learn.?
Our thoughts and prayers are with Ellin, and Mike and Amy Coburn and their children and family. Thanks Mike for introducing us to them all.
Ann and Eric Keibler
Oceanic Ventures, Houston, Texas
"Dear Ellen and family members of Dr. Grossman:
Dr. Grossman?s legacy, noble character and virtue have had long lasting impacts on the lives of my graduate students, colleagues and myself. Besides his outstanding professional status, we experienced first-hand his kindness and genuine care through the past 13 years (2008-2021), to attend the issues we encountered at work or in health, that we could not thank him enough, and no longer can in person now.
Grateful to have the opportunity working with Dr. Grossman, one of our most respected collaborators, for these 13 years. Thank you for his mentorship, insightful advices. We'll miss him a great deal.
Dr. Diana S-L Chow with alumni graduated from the project, Drs. Angela Tang, Mahua Sarkar, Ashley Nguyen and Westley Eure, Colleague, Dr. Romi Ghose, and Friend Ms. Carrie Chang"
"A true mensch, in every sense of the word - generous with his time, wisdom, and compassion. I learned so much from him. He was exceptionally kind - and helpful - to our family when my brother was injured. To his family - I as so sorry for your loss. "
My heart is broken for you and your family. My deepest sympathies to you all.
I had the privilege of working with your dad for 14 years. It was the highlight of my career! He was such a kind, considerate man. When I first started working with him I didn?t know how renowned and respected he was, but I quickly found out! No matter where I called ( wether it be the file room , scheduling, other doctor?s offices, the corporate office, patients, other hospitals) once they knew that I was calling on behalf of Dr Grossman people would go out of their way to get what he needed. And more times than not, someone would have a story about how Dr. Grossman helped them or a family member. I quickly learned what a special man and doctor I was working with.
Your dad was not just a ?boss? to me. I considered him a friend. I actually got comfortable calling him ?Dr G?. I would tell him how glad I was that I worked ?for? him and he would always say ?we work together? to help patients. When I would try to give him any praise he always shifted the praise from him to me. That?s how he was. He always made you feel like you were part of the special one.
I learned so much just from watching how he treated patients. I loved working in clinic with him because I learned a lot about neurosurgery and just how to treat people. He respected people and in turn they truly respected him.
I once asked Dr. Grossman the secret to his success. He said ?take a lunch break every day?. I know there was more to it than that. For instance , those 3 x 5 cards. I still, to this day, think his success had something to do with those cards he carried in his pocket!!
I never did get him to reveal the secret of those cards. If you knew Dr. Grossman you know what I?m talking about.
This world became a little dimmer when your dad passed. But he will forever be in our hearts and minds. He was not a giant man in stature but he was a giant man. He will forever be missed.
My husband and I recently moved out of Houston and won?t be able to make it to the funeral, which makes my heart sad. But he will forever be in my heart. He definitely made a permanent impression on me and my family.
May your family be comforted during this time.
Sent from my iPhone"
"? Rest In Peace Dr. Grossman. It was an honor to work with you for more than 25 years in Neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Hospital. I will always remember your kindness and how much you cared about your patients, the nurses, surgical technologists, residents, and surgeons. It always brings a smile to my face to recall, during my tenure as manager of Neurosugery, when you would ask if the ?guys? were behaving, knowing that if one of them wasn?t, they would be having a ?G? talk from you ?. I will never forget your support, friendship and all your contributions to the field of Neurosurgery.
My sincerest sympathies to your family and friends. I will miss you so?
Joyce Hall "
"Dear Ellin and the entire Grossman family: I had the honor of knowing and working with Dr. Grossman for more than two decades, but it didn't take long for me to understand that I was in the presence of a singular man. Intellectually curious and gifted, gentle and caring, he became a wonderful mentor to me and the others who worked alongside him in the North American Clinical Trials Network and the Reeve International Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury. Mostly though he was my friend and his passing leaves a real void in my world. He was extraordinarily generous with his time, knowledge and expertise and he left the world a far better place for having been in it. I hope and pray that will give you his family, and his friends and colleagues, comfort at this difficult time.
Susan Howley, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation"
"Dear Ellin, and the Grossman children and grandchildren,
I can imagine the extent of your loss, because as a colleague and friend I feel a significant loss. He was a great leader because of his wisdom, and the love he offered all of us. My association with Bob encompassed several decades and it was a great pleasure for me to work with him on NACTN and the Chris Reeve Consortium. His interest and knowledge of the neurosciences made him a highly respected expert, and his quiet, yet determined personality made him an ideal leader and authority.
His contributions will be remembered, and I am personally very grateful to him for including me in his good works.
Charles H. Tator, OC, MD, PHD. Prof of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto.
"The most respected and respectful neurosurgeon in the business. All men and women he connected with can say they learned about life and many other things from Dr Grossman. Reading through his obituary makes one feel lazy. What an exemplary life. Sincerest condolences and best wishes to Ellin and a great family. "
"Dr. Grossman was the absolute best. I grew up as a child living across the street from him, and loved watching him work in the yard wearing his galoshes. As a Texan, I had never seen galoshes before, and was fascinated by them. He was the sweetest, humblest person, and raised three wonderful kids. When I had my own devastating back injury a few years ago, I would only allow Dr. Grossman to operate on me. I went into the hospital in excruciating pain, and walked out a new person. Because of Dr. Grossman, I am pain free to this day. Dr. Grossman always made me feel at ease - what an honor to know such an incredible man. He will be missed by all!"
"May his memory be a blessing - Joel, Debra, Carrie Ruby and Steve Wolf"