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Meet Dr. Gayatri Devi: Tony Bennett’s Neurologist Who is Destigmatizing Brain Disorders Like Alzheimer’s

Meet Dr. Gayatri Devi: Tony Bennett’s Neurologist Who is Destigmatizing Brain Disorders Like Alzheimer’s

  • The Indian American director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services treated the legendary singer who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s before his passing last week.

Neurologist Dr. Gayatri Devi has been specializing in the area of memory loss for over two decades. Currently, director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services and an attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital/Northwell Health, the Indian American physician is board-certified in neurology, pain medicine, psychiatry, brain injury medicine, and behavioral neurology. 

The New York-based physician was treating singer Tony Bennet, who passed away last week, since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016. Thereafter, not only has she given inputs on Bennett’s health, she has used the platform to create awareness of the disease that affects 1 in 10 adults age 65 and older in the U.S.

In an interview with CNN on July 21, the day the beloved singer died, she spoke about how he and his family handled his disease and well as her close association with them. “When you have a passion and when you have a gift that you can give the world, then you should be allowed to do it, whether or not you have Alzheimer’s,” she said, speaking of Bennett singing and performing despite his illness. “People with Alzheimer’s should not be stigmatized, they can still bring joy to the world and to themselves,” she noted. “Just because someone has a diagnosis, it doesn’t take away from all the incredible gifts that they have to offer us.”

A fourth-generation physician, Devi, who was born and raised in India, is the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of physicians, according to her Lenox Hill Hospital profile. She has been interested in the neurology and the psychiatry of the brain since she was nine years old and she read Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams,” she said in an interview with Columbia University when she worked there. “I think narrative medicine allowed me to be more articulate about how I think about the brain, and to be able to convey my impressions to a larger audience in a more cogent fashion, and I value that.” 

Apart from working as an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, she was also a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at New York University. She became director of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center at 29, “after seven years of post-graduate residency training at Downstate and Columbia University,” her Columbia profile said. “Selected as chief resident, she held her residency record in national examinations, scoring at the 97th percentile in the U.S.,” the profile added.

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She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians for her research and community outreach. Key prior roles include Clinical Core co-director of the Taub Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia; president of the American Medical Women’s Association and the National Council on Women’s Health; director of the NY Memory and Healthy Aging Services. She has received numerous awards for her work including Distinguished Visiting Professor in Women’s Health at Weill Cornell Medical College.

She has authored several books, most recently “Spectrum of Hope: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.” She is a neurologic consultant to the New York State Committee for Physician Health and the NFL Players Association and is on the Board of Overseers of SPS at Columbia University. A resident of New York City for over 30 years, she is a NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol Mounted Auxiliary. She received her MD from Grace University and her MS from Columbia University.

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