Sometimes being a pioneer is about being open to the unknown, and allowing life to take you down the path less traveled. This is how Murray Goldstein, DO, MPH paved the way to success and acceptance for other osteopathic physicians and fostered an environment for scientifically rigorous osteopathic research during his more than 60-year career.

Dr. Goldstein was the first to represent the profession in dozens of important national and international roles and awards, including being the first osteopathic physician to be appointed a commissioned medical officer in the US Public Health Service (USPHS) and the first osteopathic medical officer to achieve a star rank. He also was the first osteopathic physician to serve as a director of an Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an Assistant Surgeon General, a fellow in neurology at the Mayo Clinic and an officer of the World Health Organization.

According to Dr. Goldstein, who has received many honors and awards during his distinguished career, his greatest professional accomplishment was becoming commissioned as a USPHS medical officer in 1953. “This showed that the government and the military were acknowledging that osteopathic physicians were as skilled and educated as allopathic physicians. Everything grew from that. It was no longer a question if DOs were acceptable physicians. They were.”

Born to Polish immigrants who made their living as milliners creating straw hats for Brighton Beach-goers, the Brooklyn native had a happy childhood one block from the beach and moved to the Bronx with his close-knit family when he attended the College of Sciences at New York University.

Dr. Goldstein’s college career was interrupted in his junior year when he was called to active duty in World War II. He traveled overseas two weeks after D-Day. As a tank gunner participated in the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland and in the invasion of Germany. He was wounded in action in Germany and was sent back to the states for treatment. He was discharged with a Purple Heart in 1945 and went back to NYU to complete a bachelor of arts degree in biology. He graduated in January 1947.

Wanting to continue his studies right away, and desiring to enter medicine, Dr. Goldstein found a medical program that began in February in Des Moines. It was for DOs, but he didn’t know what a DO was, so he visited a few in NYC and was impressed. He decided to give osteopathic medical school a try, and if he didn’t like it, he’d leave in June and apply elsewhere.

The city boy found the Midwest a wonderful place to live, and fell in love with his school, his profession and his new home. He earned his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree in 1950 from the Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine. He stayed in Des Moines for his osteopathic internship and osteopathic internal medicine residency, and was planning to stay and teach and practice there. And then fate intervened.

The President of the college, Dr. Edwin Peters, asked him to take an exam in Kansas City to be a medical officer in the USPHS. The college would pay for the hotel and travel expenses. Since Dr. Goldstein was used to living on a shoestring budget, he decided to go. He went, had a fancy dinner and hotel stay, took the exam, returned home, and thought nothing more of it.

“Two months later I get a handwritten note from a US Senator in Iowa saying he was happy to help. I couldn’t figure out what he was helping me with. A few weeks later I get a call from the Asst. Surgeon General about being commissioned as an officer in the US Public Health Service,” he said. The turn of events shook Dr. Goldstein up, as it wasn’t part of his plan and he had no intention of going into PHS. He shared what happened with President Peters, who encouraged Dr. Goldstein to go to the interview and see what happened. Again, he’d pay all the expenses.

At the time, Nelson A. Rockefeller, the Assistant US Secretary of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, had a personal physician who was a DO. Goldstein believes that Rockefeller advocated breaking the blackball of osteopathic physicians in the USPHS and somehow selected him to help do it. “How they identified me, I have no idea to this day. I was selected to take the exam and they’d do the politics,” said Dr. Goldstein.

So Dr. Goldstein traveled to the sprawling 70-acre campus of the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, and was interviewed by the Heart Institute director, Dr. James Watt. He was asked if he had any research experience—he admitted he didn’t. So he was assigned for training to a senior researcher and asked to return in the five months to begin the program. “Even though I was assigned to this leading research organization on a beautiful campus with so many intelligent people, I was troubled. It wasn’t part of my plan. I thought ‘OK,I will do this for two years. I will fulfill my commitment to President Peters and the NIH. And then I will move back to Des Moines.’”

When he arrived in Nov. 1953 as a junior researcher, he encountered no discrimination because of being an osteopathic physician. In fact, he encountered the opposite. “People were bending over backwards to be helpful to me,” he said. At the end of two years, he asked Dr. Watt if he had a future in the Public Health Service and was advised to ask to be appointed to the permanent corps of officers. So he applied and was accepted. He stayed for 40 years.

Best known for his expertise in cerebrovascular diseases, Dr. Goldstein’s in interest in neurology began early—specifically in stroke, but little was going on in stroke when he came to NIH. So he started a stroke research program. He later asked his boss to send him on a neurology residency to learn more about the brain. There were no clinical neurology training programs at osteopathic hospitals and at that time, no DO was accepted into any residency in an allopathic hospital. Through a friend at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Clark Millikan, who was head of the stroke program at Mayo and a professor of neurology, he was able to secure a residency there. His friend worked out the politics, including having the Mayo Clinic write the American Medical Association to ask if they would have any objection over a DO coming to the program. They said no. So Dr. Goldstein became a clinical neurology fellow at the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Graduate School in 1967. From that point on – the residency blackball of the AMA against osteopathic physicians was broken.

Dr. Goldstein returned to the NIH after his residency. He was named deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke – overseeing all of its programs and became Institute director in 1982. He earned a one star rank of Rear Admiral, which was the first time a DO became a star officer in any uniformed service. He earned a second star under PHS Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop when he was appointed an Asst. Surgeon General.

During his tenure as director of the Neurology Institute, he was invited by the WHO to be on a committee on neuroscience, and chief of the section on stroke. He traveled the world, meeting with faculty and students at medical schools worldwide.

Two weeks after he retired from NIH and the PHS in 1993, he was approached by the National Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation to be its medical director. “I knew nothing about cerebral palsy. However, I learned that stroke during infancy causes CP, so that convinced me to accept the offer,” he said. He served as director and chief operating officer for ten years and then retired for a second time.

Retirement hasn’t slowed him down. Dr. Goldstein has since served as a consultant for the Dept. of Health and Human Services, at the NIH on various committees, for several research foundations, at the military medical school (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda) as part of the Department of Neurology faculty and as a discussion chair on medical ethics. He continues to teach today and enjoys retirement in Bethesda with his wife Sue, two daughters, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Dr. Goldstein also holds a master of public health degree from the University of California School of Public Health at Berkeley, California. He is board certified in public health and preventive medicine by the American Osteopathic Board of Preventive Medicine and the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry and was a founding member of the American Osteopathic College of Occupational and Preventive Medicine. He is also a member and past president of the Academy of Medicine in Washington, DC.

He is recognized internationally as a leader in research on cerebrovascular disorders and on disorders of the developing brain, having authored 54 publications in books, government publications and journals. He has served in many leadership roles for dozens of international and national educational, scientific, professional and public health organizations, including as a founding director of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he still serves on the college advisory board.