Faculty Spotlight

We are thrilled to introduce Dr. Michael Rubenstein, a world-traveling, blog writing, incredibly intellectual and patient-centered physician we are lucky to work with on a daily basis. Dr. Rubenstein works as a general neurologist in both the inpatient and outpatient settings and is incredibly passionate and dedicated to his global health work in Tanzania.


Dr. Rubenstein – Share with us a little about yourself

I have a long circuitous path to where I am now. I’m originally from California and studied physiology and neuroanatomy at Cal Davis as an undergraduate. When I moved onto graduate studies, I also started work as forest service fire fighter. I worked up in the High Sierra for six months fighting fires and six months with my graduate work. I actually also did this after my first year of medical school. My work included fighting fires as well as timber cruising (marking timber sale from public forest lands as a sustainable timber harvest model). It was one of the happiest times of my life, living at 8000 feet, right along the John Muir trail and big ski mountain (of course I got to ski as well). Next I moved to medical school in West Virginia and did my residency at University of Virginia. I arrived in Philadelphia working at a private practice with my best friend and chief resident and have been living in the area ever since. I was in the same practice for 24 years and there were upwards of 8 neurologists in the practice at its largest. In 1993 I started coming to Penn to work with the resident clinic and because I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, Penn became my second home. In 2010 I started going to Tanzania on my own and in 2013 I left my practice and joined Penn Neurology Department as a full time gig.

Tell us about how your Tanzania work has come together

It really just happened without planning. I never had an agenda for my career and this Tanzania work. During my time working private practice, I would also welcome residents to work at my clinic for a month at a time. A number of current faculty did this rotation as residents, including Danielle Becker and Colin Quinn. After hearing about my work in Africa, Dr. Becker was interested in joining and she joined as my first trainee during her epilepsy fellowship. From then I began bringing any trainees who had an interest in going. I have always thought this was an amazing resident opportunity. It has been great to have the support of my chairman and department as well.

What specialty are you in. Why do you love your field?

I had done some graduate work before and decided in my residency that clincial work was my main priority. What I like about general neuro is that you are seeing patients in all aspects of neurology. You get to see everything. I’m not sure if I have always thought about desiring general neurology, I just like neurology. All of the fellowships at my time were also more limited based on the few treatment options available. I may not know everything about all subspecialities, but a good neurologist knows about taking a good history and physical and can figure it out with the right colleagues and resources.

Tell us some of your favorite places in Philadelphia

I love the Phillies games. The stadium is fantastic and such a great place to spend the evenings. The Schuylkill river trail is great for bike riding. Also, from where I live the World Cafe is close and has tons of great music. The restaurants are fantastic. I’m making my way through all the restaurants of Philadelphia. Still a little time to go!

What advice do you have for residents?

My feeling regarding people’s work has always been that it has to be what they want to do. Between money and time, I think you should choose time. If it is not what you want to do, then sometimes it is not meant to be. Things work out if you are doing what you want to do. People see that. My own career has not followed a pre-planned path. One should always be prepared for the unexpected opportunities and the doors opening around every new corner.

Make sure to check out Dr. Rubenstein’s very own blog to read more about his amazing work in Tanzania. Thanks again for your time!



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