Dr. Martin H. Greenberg, beloved pediatrician and educator, passed away at Memorial Health University Medical Center, on June 15, 2021. He was 83 years old. He will be remembered for his generosity of spirit, wide-ranging intellect, compassionate nature, love of his family, and boundless good humor. He was larger than life and made the world a better place.
Born an only child to Jack and Ann Greenberg in 1938 in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Greenberg was a naturally inquisitive person which led to his life-long love of learning. He excelled in school, skipping several years in elementary and junior high school. He was one of three students from his Junior High school to test for the exclusive Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and was the only one to be accepted into the program. Dr. Greenberg thrived at Stuyvesant, long citing it as one of the most influential parts of his life. He then earned a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University. While there, Dr. Greenberg applied to the Free University of Brussels Medical School in Brussels, Belgium, which he attended on a full scholarship. He learned medicine in French and Flemish and became deeply connected to history of Europe, particularly that of the Jewish population, in the post-war years through his connections with Holocaust survivors.
Dr. Greenberg returned to the United States for his internship in Pediatrics which became a pivotal time in his life because it was then, at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, that he met a little firecracker of a medical student, Doris Markowitz while working in the emergency room one night. In true fashion, they had their first disagreement – about using baby talk when taking care of children – which he was quick to emphasize that he won. The two went out on a date, and within two weeks, he knew she was the one. He proposed. She said no. Not to be easily dissuaded, he said he wouldn’t ask again until he knew she would say yes. He did. She did. And they were wed in 1965, soon after her graduation from Albany Medical College. The newlyweds moved to Boston to complete residencies at Massachusetts General Hospital in Pediatrics. While in his residency, Dr. Greenberg took on a position that he relished most, father to his son, Michael Greenberg. He then completed a fellowship in the burgeoning new field of neonatology.
Following his training, Dr. Greenberg joined the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, serving as a Captain and the first Neonatologist in the Air Force. Stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California, he also trained other medical professionals in the region about care of medically fragile newborns. He also enjoyed assisting the protocol officer with tending to celebrities like Jimmy Stewart and Gypsy Rose Lee who were headed to Vietnam to entertain the troops. One especially powerful memory of his was being called to the tarmac to see the newly returned Lunar Module that had just returned from the first manned trip to the moon before it was sent back to NASA in Houston.
The Greenbergs returned to Albany, New York after his service, and Dr. Greenberg served on the faculty of Albany Medical College and welcomed his daughter, Sarah. In 1973, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. During his time working in Oklahoma, he became involved in a project to open a Pediatric Clinic in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. In addition to bringing medical care to the local population, Dr. Greenberg began a love of indigenous art and crafts from the island.
In 1977, Dr. Greenberg was drawn to Savannah to take on the challenge of developing a sophisticated pediatric program. At the time, Savannah had very few opportunities for local children suffering from anything beyond routine care. Dr. Greenberg was on a mission to bring world-class pediatric care and services to Savannah, not just those who could afford it. He was determined to help reverse racial and economic disparities in health and served as a role model for so many who helped him achieve his vision. He envisioned a comprehensive program with many subspecialties available in a real children’s hospital, so Savannah’s children would not have to travel to Augusta or Atlanta for care. During his time at Memorial, he overhauled how patients were seen in the clinic. He transformed the ward into a place welcoming for children. He was beloved by his patients and recognized throughout the region as a compassionate, skilled and generous doctor. He started the Pediatric Emergency room, the Pediatric Residency program, and recruited some of the best medical professionals to serve the area’s children. He worked to affiliate Memorial’s children’s hospital with the Children’s Miracle Network and worked tirelessly with bringing much-needed programs like the Ronald McDonald House to the region. In the midst of the AIDS crisis, he started Open Arms for medically fragile babies to provide compassionate care for babies who had life-threatening ailments at birth and no one to care for them. He started the medical ethics program at the hospital and influenced generations of doctors in treating patients and their families with dignity and respect. He was a founding member of Hospice Savannah and served on the board for many years. In addition, he served for many years with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, including serving as President of the chapter.
As devoted to his community as he was to his patients, Dr. Greenberg served the region with his time, various talents and abilities. He worked for many years as the President of the Savannah Concert Association. He helped to found WSVH to bring Classical Music to Savannah’s airwaves and had his own show about international music. He was a founding member and program chair of the Harvard Society of Savannah and Coastal Georgia. Dr. Greenberg spoke frequently about Jewish music and Jewish history at the Jewish Educational Alliance. He was an active member of Congregation Mickve Israel and frequently filled in as a lay leader for services when needed. He was a nominee and semi-finalist for in to the Energizer Bunny Hall of Fame. He loved to play bridge, collect art and antiques (and just about everything else), listen to music from around the world, and travel. He had a knack for finding a good deal and a penchant for scoring cool stuff like free pens and promotional items everywhere he went. He was a consummate shopper and a great practical joker. He was an avid reader, student of history, and cook. He supported many charities as seen in his vast collection of stickers, bags, and other “thank you” gifts from everything from Heifer International to American Indian Services to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. He believed in justice, ethics, and lifelong learning. He was a fierce friend, a loving husband and father, and the best “Googie” any grandchild could ever have.
Dr. Greenberg was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Ann Greenberg. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Doris Greenberg, his son, Michael (Laura) Greenberg, his daughter, Sarah (Seth) Kovensky, and his grandchildren Hannah and Alex Kovensky and Sam and Ben Greenberg, by whom he will always be known as “Googie.” He will be especially missed by those who adopted him into their families, including his dear friends, his former students, and the many patients, colleagues, and people whose lives he touched so deeply.
A private funeral will take place at Bonaventure Cemetery on Friday for immediate family. Shiva will be observed Sunday, June 20 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 4 Sir Lancelot Court.
A celebration of life will be held on July 11 at 1:00 PM at the Jewish Educational Alliance; masks will be required for those in attendance, and the event will be live streamed for those who cannot attend but would like to be present.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Mercer University School of Medicine in honor of the Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanities recently established in his honor or the Willett Children’s Hospital which was the fruition of his lifelong dream of having a real children’s hospital in Savannah.