Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter ’76, author of the bestselling The Better Brain Book and Raise a Smarter Child By Kindergarten, has spent most of his career touting the benefits of good nutrition and healthy living to help prevent everything from memory loss to Parkinson’s disease. But in January, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, he sprang into action not as a brain specialist, but as a trauma surgeon.
For years, Perlmutter, director of the Naples, Fla.-based Perlmutter Health Center, had been supporting the charitable organization Hope for Haiti, which provides education, health care, and nutritional programs to Hatian children and adults. The earthquake prompted him to head south.
“Soon after arrival, I ended up in a small town called Les Cayes, and it was a bit of a mad house because there were thousands of refugees from Port Au Prince with any number of injuries that you can imagine,” he recalls. “There was one surgeon there and myself, and we went to work that evening and began the task of amputating legs and caring for people.”
Though he hadn’t worked in an operating room for many years, Perlmutter spent five days treating victims in a makeshift trauma center fashioned from an old ear, nose and throat hospital.
“While I didn’t remember my high school French, at least I remembered what to do in an operating room,” he says. “That’s stuff you don’t forget.”
In fact, Perlmutter spends most of his time helping people not to forget — and to treating neurological conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Unlike traditional neurologists, though, Perlmutter stresses the benefits of preventive care to dramatically reduce the risk of these conditions. He’s fond of quoting an aphorism President John F. Kennedy included in his inaugural address: “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”
“Neurologists are the most conservative, I think, of any medical specialty to embrace lifestyle issues, and in addition, people seem to be down on what they’re not up on,” he says. “It’s unfortunate, because it is front and center in their faces in terms of literature that supports exactly what we do.”
Well versed in the latest research from medical journals, Perlmutter can cite dramatic statistics with the verbal dexterity of a politician on the campaign trail. That may be why he’s appeared frequently on news programs ranging from The Today Show and 20/20 to Oprah and Larry King Live. And his work with patients is, indeed, stunning. For example, his pioneering experiments with Gluthione — a prescription antioxidant administered intravenously — has helped many Parkinson’s patients regain muscle control and walk normally.
“Two weeks ago, I saw a Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange who had almost end-stage Parkinson’s disease, and he was treated with intravenous Gluthione,” Perlmutter says. “In 30 minutes he was walking down the hallway looking totally normal.”
With the success of his books and his practice, Perlmutter is planning to open a larger facility with more staff. (Currently, he and a nurse practitioner see 18 patients per day.) Off the clock, he continues to write — he maintains a blog, renegadeneurolgist.com, and is working on another book, The Opus Brain, to be published next February — and somehow finds time to train for half-marathons. On top of that, he travels around the country to give 10-12 lectures per year.