Robert M. Friedlander, MD

  • Chair, Walter E. Dandy Distinguished Professor
  • Head of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery
  • Director, Complex Brain Surgery Program
  • Co-Director, UPMC Neurological Institute

Robert Friedlander, MD, MA, is the Walter E. Dandy Distinguished Professor, chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery and co-director of the UPMC Neurological Institute, positions he has held since 2010. Before coming to the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Friedlander was a professor at Harvard Medical School. He was also vice-chairman of neurosurgery, associate director of cerebrovascular surgery and co-director of the Neuroscience Research Center at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Friedlander has received a number of significant academic awards, most significantly an induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine in 2019. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. He has also received the Bayer Cerebrovascular Award from the Joint Section of Cerebrovascular Surgery, the International Charcot Prize for Motor Neuron Diseases, the Award from the Academy of Neurological Surgeons, the H. Richard Winn Prize from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, and the Distinguished Chancellor University of Pittsburgh Research Award.

Dr. Friedlander is an elected member of the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians. As a sign of his prominence as a clinician and scientist, Dr. Friedlander is one of a very select group of authors to have been invited by the New England Journal of Medicine to write both a basic science review (mechanisms of neuronal cell death), as well as a clinical review (management of AVMs). Clinically, Dr. Friedlander focuses on the operative management of complex cerebrovascular disorders, brain tumors and Chiari malformations.

Dr. Friedlander’s major research interests lie in the study of the mechanistic pathways of the caspase apoptosis gene family. His work includes the evaluation of treatment strategies for neurodegenerative diseases (Huntington’s and ALS), stroke, brain trauma, and spinal cord injury through the modulation of the caspase-family apoptotic pathways. He was first to demonstrate activation and a functional role of caspase cell death pathways in neurological diseases. His research has received significant media attention. His major work has been published in the highest impact journals, most notably four publications in Nature, two in Science, one in Nature Medicine, one in Nature Neuroscience and eight in PNAS. For over two decades, he has had continuous NIH support as a principal investigator, as well numerous foundation awards. He directs a busy and prolific laboratory.

Dr. Friedlander served on the National Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Additionally, a reward-ing aspect of Dr. Friedlander’s activities is his involvement in organized neurosurgery. He was a member of the executive committee of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, as well as chair of the CNS Research Committee, the CNS Membership Committee, and the CNS Publications Committee. He directed the Society of Neurological Surgeons RUNN (Research Update in Neuroscience for Neurosurgeons) Course from 2004 to 2018 and served as chair of the Society of Neurological Surgeons research committee. He is a past chair of the AANS/CNS Joint Section of Cerebrovascular Surgery.

A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Dr. Friedlander came to the United States in 1983 and earned a joint BA and MA in biochemistry from Brandeis University in 1987. In 1991, he graduated from Harvard Medical School and went on to fulfill his internship in general surgery and residency in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Friedlander's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Aneurysms, vascular malformations, brain tumors, carotid disease, cerebrovascular disease, Chiari malformation, spinal cord tumors. Research focuses on mechanisms of apoptosis, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and stroke.

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgeons

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Altoona
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
UPMC Hamot
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
UPMC Mercy
UPMC Passavant
UPMC Presbyterian
UPMC Shadyside

Professional Organization Membership

American Academy of Neurological Surgeons
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Physicians
American Society for Clinical Investigation
Brain Aneurysm Foundation, Medical Advisory Board
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Joint Section of Cerebrovascular Surgery
National Academy of Medicine
Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society
Sociedad Venezolana de Neurocirugia
Society for Neurological Surgeons
Society for Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • BA, Brandeis University, 1987
  • MA, Biochemistry, Brandeis University, 1987
  • MD, Harvard Medical School, 1991

Honors & Awards

  • Distinguished Chancellor University of Pittsburgh Research Award, 2021
  • Pittsburgh’s Best Doctors, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2012-21
  • National Academy of Medicine induction, 2019
  • Honored Guest, HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine, Belgrade, Serbia, 2014
  • Honored Guest, US Ambassador, Belgrade, Serbia, 2013
  • America’s Top Surgeons, 2013
  • Castle Connolly Top Doctor in the Field of Neurological Surgery, 2013
  • H. Richard Winn Prize for Neurosurgical Research, 2012

Media Appearances

New Technology That Makes Brain Surgery Safer
August 24, 2021
Living Minute | Health Channel (South Florida PBS)

Carnegie Mellon student participates in own brain surgery
February 23, 2021
WKBN TV-27 (Youngstown, Ohio)

Carnegie Mellon University students participate in their neurosurgery
February 23, 2021
Pennsylvania News Today

From headache to temporary loss of speech, CMU student participates in her own brain surgery
February 22, 2021
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Winston-Salem woman raises awareness about Huntington’s disease
June 24, 2020
Fox News 8 (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Selecting Right Mouse Model Key for Huntington’s Research, Therapy Development, Study Finds
January 2, 2020
Huntington’s Disease News

Brain Neurons Disconnect from Each Other in Process Called Neuritosis, Mouse Study of Huntington’s Reveals
January 24, 2019
Huntington's Disease News

Research Describes How Neurons Can Be Separated From Huntington’s Disease
December 28, 2018
Industry News Today

Mayor Beats Dangerous Brain Tumor
April 25, 2018
Pittsburgh Magazine

Mark Boughton's Physicians Say He's Fit To Serve As Governor
March 28, 2018
Hartford Courant

Boughton's doctors say seizure no reason not to run for Governor
March 28, 2018
WTNH TV-8 (New Haven, Conn.)

Boughton's Doctors Clear Mayor for Run for Governor
March 28, 2018
NBC Connecticut

Boughton Offers Glimpse Into His Medical History, Brain Surgery
March 28, 2018
Connecticut News Junkie

Doctors say seizure, surgery no bar to Boughton’s campaign
March 28, 2018
The Connecticut Mirror

Mayor Mark Boughton Returns Home To Danbury After Brain Surgery
August 17, 2017
Danbury Daily Voice

Boughton recalls harrowing night before brain surgery
August 16, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton out of hospital after brain surgery
August 10, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

Boughton recovering after brain surgery
August 9, 2017
The Litchfield County Times

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton up and walking after brain surgery
August 9, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

UPMC-Developed Fiber Tracking Technology Being Called Life-Changing For Cancer Patients
September 8, 2016
KDKA-TV Evening News

Crown prince of Serbia seeks Pittsburgh medical expertise for his homeland
April 26, 2015
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine at a Charity Dinner in Pittsburgh
April 25, 2015

Neurosurgical treatments give patients chance at pain-free lives
February 7, 2015
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Hospitals bank on neurosurgery procedures to boost bottom line
February 7, 2015
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Talented woodworker survives brain cancer after delicate surgery
December 24, 2014
WTAE-TV 4 Pittsburgh

Bride Walks Down the Aisle
October 7, 2014
WTAE-TV 4 Pittsburgh

Friedlander Discusses Brain Aneurysms
August 20, 2014
KDKA Radio Morning News

Why Major League Pitchers Won’t Wear This Weird Hat
July 24, 2014
New York Times Magazine

Surgery can fix brain aneurysm; support can help recovery
July 7, 2014
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

New Study Supports Conservative Management Over Intervention for Unruptured Brain AVMs
June 5, 2014
Neurology Today

Study shows for first time how Huntington's disease protein could cause death of neurons
May 19, 2014
Medical Xpress

Pitt Study Shows How Huntington’s Disease Protein Could Cause Death of Neurons
May 19, 2014
Gant Daily

Former college football player, city firefighter sues NCAA over concussions
December 17, 2013
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ex-player sues NCAA over football injuries
December 17, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Foundations give Pitt $100,000 for ALS research
October 7, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pitt findings on Lou Gehrig's disease may hold hope
April 26, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Melatonin Delays ALS Symptom Onset and Death in Mice
April 25, 2013
Science Daily

Cerebral Aneurysms: Analyzing the Treatment Shift
February 13, 2013
Physician's Weekly

Melatonin Delays Onset, Reduces Deaths in Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease
October 11, 2011
Science Daily

Rep. Giffords has surgery to repair skull
May 19, 2011
Washington Times (Associated Press)

Caspases—Guilty of Murder in First, and Now Second Degrees
March 12, 2011
Altzheimer Research Forum

UPMC Doctor Discusses Prognosis For Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
January 10, 2011
WTAE-TV (Pittsburgh) Action News

Blocking Apoptosis Delays ALS in Mice
October 15, 2010
Altzheimer Research Forum

The lasting impact of concussions
August 18, 2010
Yahoo! Sports

What caused the woman's headache and paralysis?
July 13, 2004
Boston Globe

Newsmaker: Dr. Robert Friedlander
June 17, 2010
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Antibiotic May Slow Gehrig's Disease
May 6, 2002
Associated Press 

An Old Antibiotic Generates New Hopes
July 11, 2000
New York Times

Minocycline slows progress of Huntington's disease in mice
July 8, 2000
British Medical Journal

Antibiotic may help fight Huntington's
June 27, 2000
USA Today

Brain drug shows promise: Slows ALS, may treat other diseases
April 14, 2000
Boston Herald

Lou Gehrig's disease slowed in mice
April 14, 2000
Boston Globe (Associated Press)

Way To Delay Huntington's Disease Found
June 19, 1999
Harvard University Gazette

Scientists slow progress of Huntington's in mice
May 20, 1999

Hope in Brain-Disorder Fight/Tests yield Huntington's clues
May 20, 1999

Approach may slow Huntington’s
May 19, 1999

Scientists slow progress of Huntington's in mice
May 19, 1999
ABC News

Study Targets Huntington's Key
May 19, 1999
CBS News 

UPMC Videos

UPMC Neurological Institute | UPMC HealthBeat Podcast
Dr. Friedlander discusses the specialized, cutting-edge and individualized care offered to patients at the largest academic neurosurgery department in the nation

High Definition Fiber Tractography
Dr. Friedlander discusses High definition fiber tractography (HDFT) at UPMC.

Carotid Stenosis
Dr. Friedlander discusses the diagnosis and treatment of carotid stenosis. (ver en Español)

Chiari Malformation
Dr. Friedlander discusses the diagnosis and treatment of Chiari Malformations. (ver en Español)

Trabajo en Equipo
Dr. Friedlander discute el enfoque del trabajo en equipo para el tratamiento de pacientes neuroquirúrgicos en UPMC.

Dr. Friedlander analiza las opciones de tratamiento de los aneurismas no rotos en UPMC.