2015/03/12

Professor and Former Mentee Come Full Circle as Dr. and Patient

In his 20-plus year medical career, Dr. Daniel Brietstein, a pain management specialist in Lake Success, Long Island, must certainly have treated a few people from York College. But there is something special about one particular patient that has brought him full circle.

Professor Jack Schlein was reconnected with Dan Brietstein when a York colleague mentioned that his wife was being treated by Dr. Brietstein. Schlein immediately recognized the name as a student of his in the early 1970s and, one could say, Schlein was in part responsible for Brietstein’s becoming a physician. When they got back in touch for a visit, Dr. Brietstein spoke of his specialty in treating spinal pain.  Dr. Brietstein learned that Schlein was experiencing just such pain and said that he would love to treat him. And so a doctor/patient relationship was born from what was once a teacher/student partnership.

Schlein, a biology professor at York, was for decades the pre-med advisor for the college and Brietstein was one of his many mentees.

Enrolling at York in 1972 as a 17 year-old straight out of Cardoza High School, Brietstein later took some time away from college.

“I was a wild young kid and York was very good for me,” Brietstein recalled. “York [at the time] was smaller than Cardoza and was on the campus of Queensborough [Community College]. I love that it was a new opportunity and I loved the small college. I got a quality four-year education.”

But the “wild young kid” had taken a circuitous route to that four-year degree. Like many young adults, Brietstein wanted to start working and he took a job in the lumber industry and eventually took a sabbatical from school. At one point he was earning a six-figure income but medicine still beckoned.  Since he had already completed enough required courses at York, he was accepted into medical school in at Universidad del Noreste (Northeastern University) in Mexico, without the undergraduate degree.

Nonetheless, Brietstein wanted to close the loop at York. So from medical school he returned to York College to complete his baccalaureate degree in Biology, graduating in 1985.

Brietstein recalled great professors such as Dr. Peter Scheiner (Chemistry) and Dr. Leslie Lewis (Biology) but saved his most poignant comment for Schlein, his now-patient. “Obviously I loved him,” he said of Schlein, who was in the room as Brietstein discussed his York experience. “York was very good for me. Most of my friends were going to Queens College, but I chose York; and I’m glad I did.”

As a faculty member, Dr. Schlein, who is officially retired from York but still teaches part-time at the college, conducted his research in chemical (chemo) receptors of the horseshoe crab and was among the early faculty who created York’s formidable Biology Department. He is tickled by the irony.

      “I find it quite fascinating that I'm being treated by a former student,” said Schlein. “In all modesty it gives me a great sense of pride. Danny was a bright student but very young when he first came to York. When he came back several years later he was more focused and disciplined. I would definitely recommend him to others at York. In fact I referred [an old friend] to Dr. Brietstein.”

Like many of its alumni in medicine, Dr. Brietstein’s reconnection with the college is a good one for current and future students aspiring to be physicians. He is interested in assisting with internship opportunities.

Dr. Brietstein, who is associate director of the Division of Integrative Pain Medicine at Pro Health Care Associates, LLP, was previously director of the Comprehensive Pain Management Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine at Elmhurst Hospital Center.

He completed his anesthesiology residency and pain management fellowship at Long Island Jewish Medical Center; and has practicing affiliation with North Shore University Hospital.

Dr. Brietstein specializes in performing therapeutic injections and other pain intervention treatments. He is board certified in both Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.

            Dr. Schlein’s pain is under control, thanks to the professional care of his former student.

“He’s helping me,” said Schlein.

One could say the same of him toward his “wild” student some 40 years ago.

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