Norton J. Greenberger, MD
Physician-Educator September 13, 1933 - March 21, 2020
Nortie (as he was known to all) passed away on March 21, 2020. He had recently retired as clinical professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Gastroenterology. He completed an impressive career close to family after several decades in the Midwest.
He was the son of the late Sam and Lillian (Frank) Greenberger, born in Cleveland, Ohio where he spend his youth. After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School, he attended Yale College, graduating in 1955. A career as a physician was always in his future. He attended and graduated from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in 1959, where he spend three years of residency.
A three-year fellowship in Gastroenterology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, 1962-1965, proved important to his future. The example, guidance and encouragement of his mentor, the late Dr. Kurt J. Isselbacher, convinced him to pursue a career in academic medicine. While in Boston, he met and married Joan Narcus, his beloved wife of 55 years.
Nortie began his academic career at the Wexner School of Medicine at Ohio State University. From 1965-1972, he continued his research in gastroenterology, the liver, and the pancreas, achieved the position of Professor and became Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology. His three beautiful daughters were born in Columbus. In 1972, the family moved further west. He was appointed Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Kansas, a position he held for 28 years. During that time, nearly two years of sabbatical leave in England provided time for research, writing, and great enjoyment. In 2002, he returned to Boston as Senior Physician and Distinguished Clinician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Gastroenterology, the position from which he recently retired.
He considered his most important role as a clinician. The care, diagnosis and treatment of his patients gave him great satisfaction. As an educator, Dr. G trained and taught over 3,000 young physicians at the University of Kansas, many of whom he mentored. Through his lectures and writing, he reached the broader community. Nortie was also the author of over 300 articles in medical journals, the author or co-author of over 30 books, and served as editor of several journals.
In addition to the academic life, Dr. Greenberger was active in and contributed to the national medical scene. He was President of the American Gastroenterology Association from 1984-1985, from which he received in 2006 the Julius K. Friedenwald Medal for lifetime contributions to the field of gastroenterology. He served as President of the American College of Physician from 1991-1992, an organization of which he was a Master. He was past President of the Association of Professors of Medicine.
Judaism was an integral part of his life. Nortie enjoyed great and good wine, travel, good friends, and water-skiing at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Nortie began nearly every day jogging for at least an hour or more. He was an avid follower of college and professional sports, and had an immense reservoir of sports trivia, statistics and history.
Above all, Nortie was grateful for his entire loving and devoted family. He is survived by his wife Joan, three wonderful daughters: Sharon Greenberger, Rachel Rosovsky MD (Michael), Wendy Czarnecki (Joseph MD); and seven amazing grandchildren: Madelyn Fried, Josie Fried, Abigail Rosovsky, Ella Rosovsky, Matthew Czarnecki, Alexander Czarnecki, and Jacob Czarnecki.
Graveside Service will be private. A memorial observance will be held later this year.
Donations in Dr. Norton J. Greenberger’s memory may be made to support Lymphoma Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, PO Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284 or to the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel, 2001 Beacon Street, Suite 210, Boston, MA 02135.
Lymphoma Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
PO Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284
American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel
2001 Beacon Street Suite 210 , Boston, Mass 02135
- Graveside services will be private
Norton J. Greenberger, MD
Joseph Czarnecki, MD
March 24, 2020
We are all poignantly aware of the gift that Nortie was to us all as an incredibly intelligent, compassionate and consummately dedicated physician. My wish is to impart some insight into him as a father-in-law to me.
Early in his life, career played a big role, but his dedication to his family was steadfast throughout. His wife and daughters were always emotionally supported by him without fail, receiving constant positive reinforcement. He always had their backs so that they could take risks and strive for great heights personally and professionally to become the amazing women that they are today!
Even more than all of the medical accolades that he humbly accrued over time, he took greatest pride in being the patriarch of the family. No grand-standing speeches; no corny "words of wisdom," but a sincere love for life and passion for his family that served as a brilliant example for how to truly live a life.
There are a few important life principles that Nortie innately demonstrated:
1. He was an eternal optimist, loving life and wanting to share that with everyone, through teaching medical professionals, imparting wisdom to his family, and guiding his patients through the most difficult diagnostic dilemmas. (Even when first hospitalized with lymphoma, he made sure to have every single medical student, resident and fellow palpate his abdomen to not miss a unique teaching moment.)
2. He was impeccable with his word. When he made a promise, there was never a question about its fulfillment. Similarly, he never spoke ill of anyone, embracing all around him and seeing the best in each one.
3. He always did his best. Collegiate swimmer at Yale; check. Skillful slalom water skier; check. Dedicated daily runner to age 85; check. Legendary medical professional and teacher; check. Dignified, courageous and positive patient to the end; check.
We are blessed.
March 23, 2020
Dr. Greenberger asked me to come to his clinic one day when I was a first year fellow to learn more about these interesting patients he was seeing with abnormal mast cell activation. We saw several that day and he spent an hour with me after the clinic teaching me all about the the clinical manifestations and treatment options. He introduced a research project to me and together we wrote the first significant paper on mast cell activation syndrome. This was an experience that I will never forget. I have been honored to inherit many of his mast cell patients who routinely say things to me like "Dr. Greenberger saved my life". He was an amazing physician, educator, researcher, colleague, and friend. I will miss him terribly. My deepest sympathies go to Joan and the rest of the Greenberger family.
March 23, 2020
Nortie was one of my most dynamic and personable authors when I worked at Year Book Medical Publishers in Chicago. He was the author of a gastroenterology textbook for medical students, he organized a small diagnosis handbook that grew out of his interactions with his residents, and he was a co-editor of two titles in the "Year Book" series -- Medicine, and Digestive Diseases. The occasional business dinner with Nortie was a delight, not only because of his personality and his intellect, but because I could always trust him to order a wonderful bottle of wine that fell within the sometimes-tight budget constraints of the publishers, who was paying for the occasion. He was memorable.
March 23, 2020
I am so saddened to hear this news. Dr. Greenberger was truly one of the best doctors I have ever met. I was a nurse at BWH but had to leave due to medical issues. After seeing multiple doctors. I was lucky enough to have been referred to Dr Greenberger. He diagnosed with me Mast Cell disease and treated me until he retired. He saved me. He truly was an amazing man, so compassionate, intelligent and passionate. He always went above and beyond for his patients. All my other doctors turned to him for guidance. I feel blessed to have met him. He impacted so many lives. Thoughts and prayers to his family during this difficult time. Dr Greenberger was truly one of the greatest and will definitely be missed.
March 23, 2020
Godspeed Dr Greenberger! He made my life livable after years of no one being able to help! To his family my condolences!
March 22, 2020
Dr. G was an amazing man. Gentle, smart, and always there for us nurses when we needed him. He helped so many thousands of patients, and touched hundreds of mast cell patients lives. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Condolences to the family.
March 22, 2020
Nortie was my Internal Medicine Chief during my residency at KUMC. He was empathic, brilliant, no non-sense , a fantastic teacher and mentor. He always had a smile and a challenge for residents , interns, medical students, fellows. His mission was to teach and to alleviate patients suffering and he did with grace and dedication. My greatest surprise was when he moved to Boston and one day we crossed paths at the Brigham : Dr Greenberger ...??? Maria...!!! His memory was legendary. He remembered me, he remembered my name!He join the BWH Mastocytosis Center and called my cell phone day or night with difficult cases. I learned from him, truly respected him and will greatly miss him.
March 22, 2020
Dr. G literally saved my life by diagnosing and treating me for rare medical conditions. He was by far the best doctor and one of the best people I have ever met! When I was really sick, he would check in with me every day, including weekends and holidays. He was so smart and compassionate; I was so blessed to have been his patient! He was such an incredible doctor that I nominated him for an award at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I was told that he received the “Heroes Among Us” Award, which was well deserved.
Even when Dr. G was very ill himself, he inspired me to keep fighting my illnesses and focus on the positives. He told me that he was very grateful to have such a wonderful, loving family, a career and patients that he loved, and that he was thankful for every day he had, rather than sad or scary at his illness. Her also told me that his wife and daughters were taking incredible care of him. He truly was an incredible man!
My love and prayers go out to Dr. Greenberger’s loving wife and family. Please know that he was incredibly proud and spoke so highly of all of you!
Rest In Peace Dr. G and please continue to watch over us....
March 22, 2020
Dr. Greenberger was the first doctor to diagnose me and who completely understood my condition. He was so compassionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to his patients. He also had a great sense of humor. I truly do not think I'd be alive without him. May he rest in peace and may his family know how admired and loved he was by so many.
Valerie M. Slee
March 22, 2020
Nortie was my physician, colleague, mentor and friend. We both arrived in Massachusetts in 2002, and he cared for me as a patient affected by a mast cell disease as part of his esteemed role as a gastroenterologist in the BWH Boston Center for Mastocytosis. I am the Chair of The Mastocytosis Society, Inc. as well as a patient affected by the disease. Nortie was a compassionate, dedicated physician who was committed to caring for patients with the complex gastrointestinal manifestations of mast cell disease even when physicians at other medical centers would not do so. He went above and beyond office visits, calling me and other patients in our community late at night to check on persistent and severe symptoms, always showing utter compassion to all of us. He was, hands down, the best diagnostician I have ever seen in my 45 years as a nurse and patient. He served on The Mastocytosis Society, Inc. Medical Advisory Board until his death, and was a responsive member who was always ready to participate in research and patient care issues. He worked with me on diagnostic dilemmas facing physicians regarding mast cell activation syndrome, and was one of the first to publish on this subject in regard to gastrointestinal presentations. He was absolutely beloved among his patients.
To me, he was so much more. I loved him dearly, respected his opinion, and loved watching him bond with my husband Andy over being caregivers. He often spoke of his beloved wife Joan, and was quick to tell us that she had the sharper mind. He spoke of his three lovely daughters, and his seven amazing grandchildren, and we shared photos of ours. But the most important element about being his patient is that when I was most sick with the most debilitating of symptoms, I was never alone. Nortie was always there for me, calm, soothing, offering tweaks in my medication protocol and diet, and always telling me that I would get better. I will miss him forever. I know he is resting peacefully with Lord.