Richard Zweifler, MD
Richard “Rich” Zweifler, MD, is a North Easterner through and through. He was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx and New Jersey; to this day he could live on New York pizza, bagels and Chinese food. He’s also still a die-hard New York Giants fan, though he admits it’s painful sometimes.
Rich received his bachelor of science in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he graduated magna cum laude. Eager to escape the northeastern cold, he headed south for Tulane Medical School. After an internship at Ochsner Foundation Hospital, Dr. Zweifler traded the Gulf coast for the West coast, where he completed a neurology residency and cerebrovascular disease fellowship at the University of California – San Diego.
Since then, Dr. Zweifler has packed his bags a few more times for gigs as Professor of Neurology and Director of the Stroke Center at the University of South Alabama, then as Chief of Neurosciences for Sentara Health Care and Professor and Chair of Neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.
Dr. Zweifler now calls New Orleans home, again. When he’s on the clock, he’s System Chair for Neurology and Co-Medical Director for Neurosciences at Ochsner Health and, off the clock, he’s a doting dad of three daughters and a son. If he’s disappeared for the day, check the baseball fields or boats on Lake Pontchartrain.
For someone who wasn’t initially interested in medicine, Dr. Zweifler has been an inspiring medical educator and health care provider for 30 years. Young Rich enjoyed numbers and physics, not reading and memorization. He was excited about medical device development, but realized that he wouldn’t be able to work directly with patients without a medical degree.
He found neuroscience interesting, but spent a long time unsure of his subspeciality. Dr. Zweifler was turned off of stroke after a residency tour at Mt. Sinai brought him through the open stroke ward. “I remember thinking to myself,” he recalled, “I don’t know what subspecialty I will choose in neurology, but it won’t be stroke.”
At the time, there were no treatments for stroke and Dr. Zweifler shuttered at the idea of caring for patients he couldn’t help. Then, in residency, a mentor opened his eyes to neurovascular research. The opportunity it presented turned Rich’s thinking around. Now, he tells his students to “outline their lives in pencil because you never know what will change it.”
SCNS has touched Dr. Zweifler’s life. In 2016, Ochsner colleague Gene Ramsay invited him to attend the Annual Meeting in Singer Island. Dr. Zweifler enjoyed the location, of course, but he found Meet the Professor fascinating. “It’s so rare to have that type of opportunity,” he said. “It’s a blend of collegiality and intellectual stimulation,” he added. “It’s fun!”
Like many other SCNS members, Dr. Zweifler looks forward to reconnecting with friends, like Bassam Bassam, in person each year. Even though the 2021 event will be virtual, Dr. Zweifler plans to participate, and you can find him on Sunday morning’s stroke faculty.