Department History

Mount Sinai Hospital has been in existence for over 150 years, and maintains a distinguished history in the field of Neurology. By the end of the 19th century, neurology was a recognized specialty at The Mount Sinai Hospital, which was among the first in the nation to have an inpatient neurology service. In June 1890, a new six-story dispensary building for various specialties, including neurology, was opened at 67th and Lexington Avenue. Dr. Bernard Sachs was appointed in 1893 as a "Consultant" Neurologist for the Hospital. Two years later, he wrote the first textbook in America on Nervous Disease of Children. In 1896, he described the syndrome of "Amaurotic Familial Idiocy" that bears the eponym Tay-Sachs disease. Besides developing the clinic and hospital services, Dr. Sachs displayed leadership in the American Neurological Association as its president in 1894 and 1932, and later in international neurology when he was chosen president of the first international congress in 1931.
Dr Bernard Sachs

Dr Bernard Sachs


In 1900, in recognition of the growth of the Neurology clinic, a twelve bed in-patient service was created for Neurology patients, with Bernard Sachs as Chief of the Department. This service constituted the first neurological in-patient service in New York City, and the attending staff included some of the early members of the American Neurological Association. In 1904, the Hospital outgrew its space on Lexington Avenue, and moved to its present location at 100th Street.


In 1920, a laboratory in Neuropathology was established under the direction of Dr. Joseph H. Globus. His most important work was on the pathology of brain tumors, particularly malignant glioma, which he and Dr. Israel Strauss called “spongioblastoma”. Their research also included the treatment of neurosyphilis and psychoneuroses. Dr. Globus continued to make numerous contributions to neurology, including founding the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology. He was also the founding Editor of The Journal of The Mount Sinai Hospital.


In 1925, Dr. Israel Strauss succeeded Dr. Bernard Sachs as chief of Neurology. He took a great interest in the department's residency program, which had begun in 1923. The inpatient neurology service was increased to 36 beds, a few of which were assigned to neurosurgery. Psychiatry continued as a division of Neurology. In the ensuing years, the attending staff expanded and included Dr. Moses Keschner, who made notable contributions to the understanding of dyskinesias. During this period, although most neurologists also practiced psychotherapy, more psychiatrists were added to the staff, the most important being Drs. Clarence Oberndorf, Sandor Lorand and Dudley Schoenfeld, each a pioneer in the psychoanalytic field.


In 1934, the first neurology fellowship program was established for Mount Sinai residents under Dr. Israel Strauss' leadership. Dr. Strauss also served as the President of the American Neurologic Association that same year. In 1938, Dr. Israel S. Wechsler succeeded Dr. Strauss as Chief of Neurology. By that time, Wechsler's Textbook of Clinical Neurology was widely read and translated into many languages. Dr. Wechsler also had an interest in studying the history of neurology and made significant contributions in this area.


Before World War II, Drs. Morris Bender and Edwin Weinstein, investigated the physiology of brainstem functions and eye movements. During the war, Dr. Bender, a Commander in the U.S. Navy, conducted studies on disorders of perception caused by battle injuries of the brain. After the war, he continued with these investigations on the perception of double simultaneous stimulation in normal adults and children, as well as in brain damaged subjects. These studies were summarized in the monograph on Disorders of Perception. Dr. Weinstein, a Major in the U.S. Army, studied the behavioral and emotional disorders associated with brain lesions, culminating in his book, Denial of Illness.
During this decade, the Neurology department assumed its modern form as the division of Psychiatry became an autonomous department under the direction of Dr. M. Ralph Kaufman.


In 1951, Dr. Morris B. Bender succeeded Dr. Wechsler as chief of service. Dr. Bender was a pioneer in the field of eye movements and is known as the father of Neuro-ophthalmology. Within the next few years, the department grew rapidly in the areas of patient care, clinical investigation and graduate teaching. New laboratories in neurophysiology were established and the residency program was expanded with the aid of federal grants. Between 1952 and 1962, laboratories in visual functions, oculomotor physiology, clinical neurophysiology, neurochemistry, cellular physiology and neuroendocrinology were opened as divisions within the department. In addition, special clinics for Myasthenia Gravis and Neuromuscular Disorders, Headaches, Seizures, Aneurysms, Dyskinesiae and Vestibular Dysfunctions were established.

Three Neurology Chiefs: Drs. Morris Bender, Israel Strauss, and Israel Wechsler
Three Neurology Chiefs: Drs. Morris Bender, Israel Strauss, and Israel Wechsler


By 1968, the neurology service was expanded to care for up to 110 patients. In addition, the neurovirology and chemical neurophysiology laboratories were added to the department. In 1966, all members of the attending staff were officially named to the faculty. In 1968, the Henry P. and Georgette Goldschmidt chair in Neurology was endowed by Mrs. Lucy Moses and first occupied by Dr. Morris B. Bender. That same year, the first students entered Icahn School of Medicine.

Neurology Rounds with Dr. Hans Strauss and Dr. Morris Bender
Neurology Rounds with Dr. Hans Strauss and Dr. Morris Bender


In 1972, Dr. Morris Bender, the first Henry P. and Georgette Goldschmidt Professor of Neurology, received the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award. This award is passed down to the physician that best represents the professional and personal traditions of Mount Sinai. Many of the faculty appointed by Dr. Bender made and continue to make significant contributions to neurology and the neurosciences, including Dr. Bernard Cohen’s work on the vestibular and ocular systems and Dr. Teresita Elizan’s studies of neurovirology. Cohen's efforts were recognized in 1976 when he became the first physician named to the newly established Morris B. Bender Professorship in Neurology, created by friends and colleagues in honor of Dr. Bender’s long career and leadership in the field.


Laboratory of Neurovirology, Drs. Elizan and Schwartz
Laboratory of Neurovirology, Drs. Elizan and Schwartz


Dr. Bender was succeeded as Chairman of Neurology by Dr. Melvin D. Yahr in 1974. Dr. Yahr was instrumental in the development of L-dopa for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and was President of the American Neurological Association in 1969. He also established the Clinical Center for Parkinson's disease at Mount Sinai, making the department one of the world's major centers for this disease.

Golden-Headed Cane awarded to Dr. Morris Bender in 1972
Golden-Headed Cane awarded to Dr. Morris Bender in 1972


In 1986, the Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Center for Neurobiology was opened with a multidisciplinary emphasis. The work of Dr. Mariann Blum and Dr. Lori Lazar, then an MD/PhD student, was the first to establish that growth factor gene expression remained high in the adult brain, and provided the first description of how growth factor affects dopamine neurons in the midbrain. In 1989, new facilities for the Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Center for Neurobiology were dedicated.


After Dr. Yahr's retirement in 1991, Howard Lipton was appointed Chairman and Goldschmidt Professor. Dr. Lipton was followed by C. Warren Olanow in 1994. Dr. Olanow is a world-renowned expert in Parkinson’s disease whose contributions have included fetal-nigral transplantation, the iron-infusion model of Parkinsonism, and deep brain stimulation. In 1996, the Neuroscience and Restorative Care Center was opened in the new Guggenheim Pavilion of the Hospital, enabling further integration of rehabilitation, neurosurgery, and neurology disciplines in the care of patients.

Dr. C. Warren Olanow, Dr. Melvin D. Yahr and Dr. Oleh Hornykiewicz
Dr. C. Warren Olanow, Dr. Melvin D. Yahr and Dr. Oleh Hornykiewicz


As part of an institution-wide investment in the development of modernized centers for clinical care, the Neurology Department's ambulatory care clinic moved to the brand-new Center for Advanced Medicine in July 2008. This renovated building provides the most up-to-date ambulatory care services and the opportunity for multidisciplinary care between primary care physicians and specialists. This is the new site for the twice-weekly resident neurology clinic, as well as resident-staffed subspecialty clinics including stroke and multiple sclerosis.

The Department of Neurology continues to make strides in providing the most cutting edge and compassionate clinical care. In 2005, Mount Sinai was designated a stroke center, enabling patients with strokes to receive specialized multidisciplinary care. The Neurology Department reached another milestone with the creation of a multidisciplinary program in Neuro - Oncology in 2006.

In September 2001, Mount Sinai's Estelle and Daniel Maggin Department of Neurology, celebrated 100 years of Excellence. The oldest Neurology Department in New York City, it has been at the forefront of patient care and translational research in almost every neurological discipline. One example of these efforts is the clinical and research activities in Parkinson's disease. Studies at the Robert and John M. Bendheim Parkinson's Disease Center have included Dr. Stuart Sealfon's work on microarrays to improve our understanding of the mechanism of action of dopaminergic drugs and Dr. Pullanipally Shashidaran's work on the development of the first transgenic animal model of DYT1 dystonia. The Department's work on deep brain stimulation by Drs. C. Warren Olanow, Michele Tagliati and Ron Alterman, have made significant advances in the use of this treatment in Parkinson's Disease and dystonia.

In addition to the above work in Parkinson's disease, the Department of Neurology is a national leader in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Founded in 2001 and led by Dr. Fred D. Lublin, an international authority on MS, Mount Sinai's Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis continues to make significant contribution to our understanding of the disease. As the recipient of $30 million NIH grant - the largest clinical grant ever given by the NIH - the MS center is involved in groundbreaking research efforts, including CombiRx, which is the first study to assess the effectiveness of combining two FDA approved medications as the initial treatment for people with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

In 2008, the Department of Neurology established the Friedman Brain Institute, an interdisciplinary program in translational research with three areas of interest: Neural injury and repair; Cognition; and Neuropsychiatry. The Brain Institute is directed by Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, who joined Icahn School of Medicine as Director of the Institute and Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience.

With over 30 neurology-related clinical trials, Mount Sinai Neurology continues to make substantial contributions in the care of patients with neurodegenerative, cerebrovascular, vestibular, ocular, autonomic, demyelinating and neuromuscular disorders.

In 2009, Stuart C. Sealfon, M.D., Vice-Chairman for Research in the Department of Neurology and Saunders Family Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics, was named Chair of the Department of Neurology. Dr. Sealfon's appointment began June 1st, 2009. Dr. Sealfon is one of our nation's outstanding systems biologists. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Sealfon's laboratory applies a diverse systems biology approach to better understand how cells recognize and generate responses to extracellular signals or stimulus. His research focuses on studying signaling systems, which are critical for understanding cell responses related to Parkinson's disease, drug abuse, viral infection, and neuroendocrine reproductive function.

Dr. Sealfon has either directed or co-directed several research and education programs and initiatives at Mount Sinai including: the Pharmacology and Systems Biology Graduate Student Multidisciplinary Training Area; the Center for Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics; and the Center for Translational Systems Biology, to name a few. Dr. Sealfon also led the Modeling Immunity for Biodefense Center/Program for Research on Immune Modeling and Experimentation (PRIME).