Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Doctor here fights infectious diseases BY PAULA WOLF, Staff Writer
As a medical student, Dr. Neil A. Greene could've selected any number of areas in which to specialize.
But he chose infectious diseases, he said, because he liked the idea of working in a field "that takes a lot of investigation."
"There are constantly new things" to deal with, said Greene, 66, chief of the division of infectious diseases and chairman of the environmental control committee at Lancaster General Health.
Most recently, Greene and other health care professionals have been dealing with a particularly tough flu season, which -- as of last week -- has produced 1,629 confirmed cases in Lancaster County, including 10 deaths.
While the state Department of Health continues to categorize flu activity as widespread, the number of infections here and across the country "has dropped off dramatically," Greene said.
Flu seasons usually last 11-12 weeks, he said, and because this one started early, in December, it's not surprising the illness would be ebbing about now.
The current flu virus is subtype H3N2, which is "particularly bad for people over age 65," said Greene, who's also a partner in Infection Specialists of Lancaster, a practice with five physicians and a physician assistant.
The vaccine developed for this strain consists of three components -- B, A and H1N1 -- and the A component was much less effective than the other two, he said.
In severity, Greene compared this flu season to 2009. He said it's hard to predict in advance how bad a flu epidemic will be, and the only way to know its true damage is after the fact, when the Centers for Disease Control issues the final numbers.
A resident of East Hempfield Township, Greene grew up on the outskirts of Newburgh, N.Y., and graduated from Syracuse University.
He is the grandson of Lithuanian immigrants, and was the first person in his family to attend college. Greene's degree from Syracuse is in electrical engineering, and he worked in the private sector until deciding to become a physician.
A graduate of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, he completed his residency at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia. He is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases.
In 1982, Green established the first infectious disease medical practice in Lancaster County. At that time, "there was nobody else out there," he said. "I was in practice by myself."
He also founded the division of infectious diseases at LGH.
To illustrate how his specialty is constantly evolving, Greene said there were no AIDS patients in Lancaster County when he arrived here more than 30 years ago.
In addition to influenza and HIV/AIDS, Infection Specialists of Lancaster treats everything from Lyme disease to hospital infections such as MRSA.
One of the greatest challenges in the infectious disease field, Greene said, is combating bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics.
Greene and his wife, Leah, are the parents of three grown sons, Alex, Jason and Matthew. They also have six granddaughters, a grandson and a grandchild on the way.
As a transplanted New Yorker with more than three decades in Lancaster County, Greene said he's never regretted his decision to come here.
It's great place, he said, "to bring up a family."