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Healthcare Heroes 2020

Heidi Spitz, PsyD

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Photo by Stefan Ratdke

Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center;
Director, Outpatient Neuropsychology at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, a member of the Montefiore Health System

Dr. Heidi Spitz’s sense of compassion and ability to connect with others was cultivated during her childhood years, which were spent in Jerusalem. This experience exposed her to the devastating effects of conflict, trauma, and war.

After immigrating to America in 1982, she pursued a career in art therapy before deciding to become a psychologist. Having earned her PsyD at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Spitz did her postdoctoral studies at Rusk Rehabilitation. She has been at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains since 2013.

“Life changes in an instant. I meet patients during the beginning of their journeys and form relationships with them and their families. I restore hope as I follow them from darkness to light.”

At Burke, Spitz founded BRAINIACS — a community of patients, caregivers, and family members impacted by traumatic brain injury (TBI). Its mission is to raise awareness, validate those affected, and educate families about the invisible and inconceivable realities of TBIs. The goal is to empower them to reintegrate successfully into society.

“Survivors are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, underserved, and misunderstood by the medical community, but also by their loved ones, and, most importantly, by themselves,” says Spitz.

Through BRAINIACS, she provides her 500-plus-member community with support and hope. Members develop a sense of belonging, cultivate relationships, and share experiences. “When they’re in this community, they realize they’re not alone. Until joining, the cause of many of their problems is unclear to them,” says Spitz.

She empowers the BRAINIACS by providing resources that enable them to effectively cope with the loss of their abilities and independence, personality changes, and changes in family structure.