Title: Director of Cytogenetics
Company: Laboratory Corporation of America
Location: New York, New York, United States
Dr. Pauline Brenholz-Pollak, the director of cytogenetics at the Laboratory Corporation of America, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Doctors for dedication, achievements, and leadership in the fields of pediatrics and medical genetics.
With more than 45 years of excellence to her credit in pediatrics and medical genetics, Dr. Brenholz is now focusing on cancer cytogenetics. Since 1986, she has been the director of cancer cytogenetic laboratories at St. Joseph Hospital in New Jersey, Impath, Genzyme, Bioreference, and now Integrated Oncology. She started or helped to develop and expand some of these laboratories, including introducing new tests. These laboratories test bone marrow, solid tissue, and peripheral blood samples for chromosome and/or gene rearrangements that would point to neoplastic clones and specific treatments.
Dr. Brenholz was born in Russia but moved back to Poland, where her mother hailed from, when she was 2 years old. She started medical school in Poland but in the middle of her studies, her family emigrated to the United States. After getting her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Wayne State University, she was admitted to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where there were only 12% of females in her class. She graduated with an MD degree in 1973. This was followed by three years at Montefiore Medical Center of Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a pediatric intern and resident.
Despite her colleague and good friend discouraging her from a genetics career, stating that there is “nothing there,” Dr. Brenholz applied and was granted a fellowship in medical genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She spent the first two years conducting research and learning clinical genetics while the third year included working on her own project in cytogenetic changes in tumors of neurogenic origin. To support this work, she received an NIH grant and a monetary award from the RUTH Estrin Goldberg Memorial Fund for Cancer Research.
Following her fellowship, Dr. Brenholz started work in clinical genetics at Westchester County Medical Center affiliated with New York Medical College in 1979, where she helped to develop a newly opened Medical Genetics unit. In 1985, she opened her private practice in clinical genetics, notably becoming the first medical geneticist in the country to have a private practice since genetics, at that time, was largely a research and academia-driven field. With 23 years in private practice, Dr. Brenholz found the experience incredibly fulfilling while helping children with cognitive or congenital disorders, women with abnormal pregnancies, or patients with inherited disorders.
At the same time, while working in her private office, Dr. Brenholz started the Genetics and Birth Defects Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital affiliated with Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She also started the cancer cytogenetic laboratory at St. Joseph’s Hospital in New Jersey during this time.
Dr. Brenholz has medical boards in pediatrics, clinical genetics, and clinical cytogenetics. She is a founding fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. She likewise belongs to the Dean’s Society of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr. Brenholz attributes much of her success to her father, who did not have a chance to attend university but always admired and appreciated education. Her father was the one who encouraged her from a very young age to study, learn and be always curious. Over the years, she was also greatly inspired by her late husband, Dr. Charles Pollak, who was a pioneer in the field of sleep medicine and published “The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Married for almost 40 years, Dr. Brenholz is the proud mother of three children and a grandmother of three grandchildren.
In her free time, Dr. Brenholz enjoys traveling, reading, visual art, performing art, classical music, and opera. Living her life by the motto, “If you want something very badly, put your mind to it and work hard for it – you will most likely achieve it”. She would advise young and aspiring professionals to be kind and listen to patients and their concerns. She feels also that it is important at some point to “give back,” especially considering the high cost of medical education.
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