About the Chair

New Brunswick, NJ—Robert E. Gross, MD, PhD, a renowned neurosurgeon who has led collaborative teams of clinician-scientists in the pursuit of improving the quality of life for patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders, has been appointed joint chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School, both part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Gross also will serve as the senior vice president for neurosurgical services at RWJBarnabas Health, helping effect a transformational change in the provision of neurosurgical care throughout the health system and Rutgers Health.

Dr. Gross, was professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, prior to coming to RWJBarnabas Health, Rutgers Health. He holds the MBNA/Bowman Endowed Chair in Neurosurgery, is an expert in neuromodulation and employing innovative techniques that use electrical impulses to target nerves within the brain, lessening life-altering symptoms of severe disorders, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression and others. A world leader in functional neurosurgery, Dr. Gross was director of the surgical team at Emory that was at the forefront of developing deep brain stimulation as a treatment for drug-resistant seizures in epilepsy, reducing the frequency and severity of seizures for patients with epilepsy.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health continuously since 2005, Dr. Gross is the principal investigator of five NIH-funded projects and is a co-investigator or site investigator on nine additional NIH and industry-supported research projects. He will bring a new R01-grant–supported research project to Rutgers that seeks to understand how current neuromodulation treatments can be improved to provide better outcomes for patients. Advancing medical knowledge of how neural stimulation works well—and doesn’t work well—has been the goal of Dr. Gross’ research for 25 years.

“Current neurostimulation techniques work well at improving a patient’s symptoms in various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Further investigation to deconstruct how these techniques affect their target networks—for example, which neurons are or aren’t being stimulated during neuromodulation in the anterior nucleus of the thalamus for epilepsy—could help make these therapies even better,” says Dr. Gross. “We can use what we learn to improve the technology and elevate the care we provide to patients.”

“The appointment of Dr. Gross, a prominent neurosurgeon and clinician-scientist committed to elevating scientific discovery in medical treatments, positions Rutgers Health and the academic health system as a leader in neurosurgical care,” say Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP, dean of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and Amy P. Murtha, MD, dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “As a pioneer who has cultivated one of the top and busiest functional neurosurgery programs in the country, coupled with his extensive expertise collaborating with biomedical engineers and others who research neurogenerative disorders, will broaden opportunities for graduate and fellowship training at Rutgers University.”

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Gross to RWJBarnabas Health’s outstanding team of nationally and internationally respected neurosurgeons,” says Mark E. Manigan, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJBarnabas Health. “Dr. Gross will be instrumental in further advancing our collaboration with Rutgers to provide our communities world-class neurosurgical care.”

Cultivating physician-scientists in medicine is a mission Dr. Gross focused on early in his career.

“Rutgers has the hallmark of a strong academic neurosurgery program where physician-scientists have the unique opportunity of using their experience as clinicians who see patients daily to connect and then determine the direction of scientific investigation specifically to fill treatment gaps,” says Dr. Gross. “Partnering their expertise with scientists, fellows and students leads to innovative studies and new knowledge to help find resolutions to the dilemmas in care that we are unable to fix currently.”

One of Dr. Gross’ primary accomplishments at Emory has been to drive forward innovation. As the founder and director of the Emory Neuromodulation Technology Innovation Center, or ENTICe, Dr. Gross has engaged faculty in multiple disciplines across two universities to collaborate on potentially life-changing biomedical technology. His goal is to engage colleagues at Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health toward the same mission.

“It is a model of collisions, where you are intentionally bringing multidisciplinary knowledge together and curating ideas through working groups to generate a new treatment for patients. The alignment of the academic mission at Rutgers with the clinical mission of RWJBarnabas Health results in a strong academic health system that allows for enhancing the synergies between surgeon scientists and scientists in a lab to guide and direct the research,” says Dr. Gross. “Similarly, a public research university like Rutgers offers unlimited potential at bringing together teams of clinicians who understand the barriers in solving medical treatment dilemmas with engineers who can find solutions to generate medical advancements.”

According to Dr. Gross, one of the great appeals of Rutgers is its College of Engineering, from which he intends to harvest as much intellectual acumen, along with other schools, and bring them together with the university’s neurosurgeons and other clinicians toward the idea of solving problems and filling treatment gaps.

In addition to his clinical and research roles at Emory, Dr. Gross is director of the MD/PhD program, overseeing 95 medical students who also are pursuing a doctorate in research. He has or is also mentoring 22 neurosurgery fellows, 13 post-doctoral research fellows and 13 doctoral students. He also has mentored countless undergraduate students and nearly two dozen high school students in research projects.

Dr. Gross earned a bachelor’s degree in neural science with honors from Brown University, in Providence, R.I., and a doctorate in molecular pharmacology and medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He completed residency in neurological surgery at Albert Einstein before conducting a fellowship in functional and stereotactic neurosurgery at the University of Toronto and The Toronto Hospital, in Ontario, Canada, following which he completed a visiting fellowship in epilepsy surgery at Yale University and Yale/New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

A frequent invited lecturer on neuromodulation and epilepsy surgery, Dr. Gross has served as president of the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and was a member of the committee to establish consensus guidelines on deep brain stimulation, jointly sponsored by the Movement Disorders Society and American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. He has served on the editorial board of Neurosurgery, where he was section editor for stereotactic and functional neurosurgery; Stereotactic and Functional NeurosurgeryPLoS One; and Frontiers in Surgery; is an active manuscript reviewer for nearly three dozen scientific journals; and is a member of more than a dozen professional societies related to neurosurgery, epilepsy, bioengineering and movement disorders.

Dr. Gross, who is originally from Long Island, N.Y., started his tenure as chair of neurosurgery at Rutgers Health and as senior vice president for neurosurgical services at RWJBarnabas Health on November 6, 2023.