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'Dr. Jim' honored as child advocate

Photo by Brigid Beatty | Leader Times
Dr. James K. Greenbaum, the recipient of the 2012 Child Advocacy Award, shakes hands with Robert L. Engel, president emeritus of ACMH Hospital, after an award ceremony honoring Greenbaum’s dedication to the children of Armstrong County in April 2012. Dr. Greenbaum died Thursday at the age of 92.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012, 11:36 a.m.

KITTANNING -- A local doctor has touched many lives in a positive way. Wednesday his life was touched when he was recognized for his dedication to the health and well being of the county's youngest and most vulnerable residents.

Dr. James K. Greenbaum, 91, who served children and families in Armstrong County for 57 years, was awarded the 2012 Child Advocacy Award by the county's Mulidiciplinary Child Protection Team.

Close to 100 people, including state and county officials and child advocates from a variety of professions, attended a breakfast at Kittanning Country Club yesterday in recognition of Greenbaum's contribution to the community.

Greenbaum, known by many as "Dr. Jim," opened a general practice in 1952 and became the county's first pediatrician in 1960.

According to ACMH Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hal Altman, Greenbaum, who was born and raised in Kittanning, earned an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and pursued medicine at Harvard University.

"He could have lived anywhere and done anything he wanted," said Altman. "But he chose to be here."

Greenbaum completed his rotating internship at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh and was on call every other night, said Altman.

"A typical day (for Greenbaum) began with 7 a.m. rounds at the hospital, interspersed with 12 hours of office appointments and often concluded at midnight or later, after house calls," said Altman.

Altman said there are numerous stories of people who came to Greenbaum's house with gaping wounds or other medical issues. He would clear off the kitchen table and check out the kid, said Altman.

"Thousands of children have been touched by him," said Altman, adding that Greenbaum's indirect influence set a standard and influenced countless people to pursue medicine as a career path.

Robert L. Engel, ACMH Hospital president emeritus, was hospital administrator in 1962 when the facility was in downtown Kittanning along South McKean Street.

He said Greenbaum was always forthright with parents and is a gentle and compassionate man. According to Engel, Greenbaum was also a world traveller, a successful mountain climber and often went sculling, or rowing, on the Allegheny River. Greenbaum has been totally devoted to his family, practice and community, said Engel.

"I found Dr. Greenbaum to be universally honored in this community by citizens, parents and patients. He is well respected and beloved by his colleagues and peers," said Engel.

Engel was visibly moved when he addressed Greenbaum, recalling a snowy February evening at the doctor's home after winter weather made the roads impassable for Engel to travel back to his wife in Williamsport:

"My wife was having our first daughter in Williamsport and you called the Williamsport Hospital so I could speak with her," said Engel, adding that he never forgot his kindness.

Engel also revealed an interesting fact about Greenbaum's father, Meyer Greenbaum, and joked that "Dr. Jim got some genes from his dad."

According to Engel, Meyer Greenbaum and Francis "Smiley" T. Benson saved the old Armstrong County Memorial Hospital during the Great Depression. They were unsung heroes, said Engel, and both retired from the hospital's board of directors in 1961.

Greenbaum accepted the award and thanked everyone for being there.

"This is a wonderful way to go out. I'm 91-years-old and I can't think of a better way to do it," said Greenbaum. "I don't care if I go to another party in my life," he said, as everyone rose from their seats to applaud him.

The honor

The Armstrong County Multidisciplinary Child Protection team of Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services established the Child Advocacy Award in 1988. It was created to honor the efforts of local citizens who are making differences in the lives of the children in Armstrong County. It is presented annually to an individual who, through his or her professional and/or volunteer efforts, is making a positive impact on the lives of local children by enabling them to develop physically, mentally, socially, morally and spiritually in a healthy and sound manner.

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