Rob Brown is a radiologist and author. He wrote the book Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home, which explains how everyday choices made at home can dramatically change health and the quality of the lives we lead. Rob is currently working as a radiologist at Radiology Partners, the largest radiology practice in the U.S., serving hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the nation.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, a suburb of New York City with my mother and, until age 10, two older sisters. Our father left the family and divorced our mother when I was an infant. Our mother suffered from chronic allergies and a condition that was described at that time as neurasthenia. She spent most days lying in her bed with the drapes drawn and the bedroom door closed. After my sisters both left for college, my challenging homelife instilled a need to be responsible and reliable. Like many kids with a sick parent, my determination to find out how I could make my mother well led me to decide early on a career in medicine and eventually to explore the field of environmental toxicity as a major contributor to illness.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I had realized earlier in life that EVERYTHING evolves and changes over time. Everything… relationships, societal trends, fields of study, and, of course, technology. I have always had a profound appreciation for artists who create original work, and for visionaries and scientists who “discover.” It took me many years however to realize that I had to push beyond my comfort level and delve into the unknown in order to be able to create and realize my dreams instead of re-creating what others had already done in the past.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
People funneled into the health care system are typically treated with pharmaceuticals and/or surgery. Most people in my profession agree with this approach to healthcare. A tension developed early on in my career when I realized that many conditions could be healed non-pharmacologically. Good health can often be achieved in people by allowing the body to heal in a nontoxic environment. Many of my blogs are in opposition to the dogma of conventional allopathic medicine as my profession pays little attention to environmental toxins and lifestyle. There’s no money to be made in healthy people.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Perhaps the darkest time in my life was after I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. After hearing the dermatologist utter the words, “That wasn’t a wart we removed…” I went numb and became vacant. I was a second-year medical student at the time and underwent two major surgeries to remove the tumor, my salivary gland, and all of the lymph nodes in my neck. The surgery left me with temporary paralysis in my lower face, leaving me with a crooked smile and the need to pull down my lower lip with a finger in order to get food into my mouth. My classmates were extremely supportive and I’m not sure I would have been able to continue with the school year if they hadn’t expressed so much love and care for me. After the experience of being a surgical oncology patient, I was plagued for 5 years with the fear of developing metastatic disease. Despite the nagging undertone of fear, I completed my schooling and residency training. Gratefully, the tumor didn’t spread. This experience naturally affected me and I became a physician who was also a strong patient advocate. I found I could help guide a wide array of patient care by diagnosing disease as a radiologist. My eventual journey into the field of wellness as becoming an author and speaker allowed me to bring a message of hope for wellness to a much larger audience.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
The biggest contributor to my success has been the ability to maintain long-range focus and stay the course. Managing adversity and addressing any ups and downs that occur along the way are the journeys.
What is your morning routine?
I work a very early shift from home. I get up daily at 3:40 am. Although it’s an unfathomable hour for most people, I use a daylighting alarm clock, which makes getting up at this early hour much more natural. Before opening up my eyes, I gently stretch in bed. Then, in a seated position with my sleep mask on, I plan my day from start to finish. I consciously affirm each task I want to achieve and any experience I want to have during the day. After this meditation, I get up.
Before starting work, I put a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice into a tall glass of purified water and add an ounce of apple cider vinegar. I sip this mixture for over an hour as I work. Afterward, I’ll typically eat a piece of fruit and perhaps homemade kefir along with a few cups of coffee sweetened with organic sugar and a half and half.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
After moving back into the city from the country, I found myself suffering from insomnia. After 6 months, of feeling stimulated and jittery while lying in bed, I suspected the problem might be from an overabundance of electromagnetic fields (EMF). I contacted a building biologist who surveyed the entire home. He found sources of radiofrequency being generated within the home as well as penetrating into the home from the neighbor’s WIFI and other sources. After receiving his report, I installed an EMF shielding canopy over my bed. Immediately thereafter, I was able to sleep through the night. Good sleep is crucial for the restoration of health. Because this canopy dramatically improves my ability to sleep, it has been the biggest improvement in my life over the past few years. Whatever it takes…
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I make lots of lists with pen and paper. My kids poke fun at me for my lists, but they help me stay focused and productive. Digital lists on a phone don’t do it for me. I like to write things down and cross them offline by line, as I finish each task. At the end of the day, I look to see what I’ve accomplished. Seeing all of the crossed-off items gives me a sense of achievement before retiring to bed.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the masterful trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings” inspired me early during childhood not to settle, but instead to live a life filled with adventure and continued new experiences. Years later, after re-reading the series, I was awestruck with the profound universal wisdom imparted throughout the collection.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield was the book that first introduced me to the idea that all the “synchronicities” I experienced in life were not necessarily coincidences. This book started me on my path of spiritual exploration.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn was a fascinating book bringing one a perspective of humanity from the eyes of a sentient gorilla. Takers and leavers. After reading this book, I took a trip to East Africa and went gorilla trekking in Uganda. Standing 15 feet away from a gorilla troop and staring cautiously into the eyes of the silverback taught me indescribable humility, an understanding, a respect, and a longing. How life could (should?) be without the constraints of human culture. But also, a deep concern for how vulnerable wildlife and gorillas are to the fickleness, whims, and hostility of humans. This experience forever changed my perspective on “wild” life.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Life is a gift”
My children hear this from me all the time. I truly believe that life is a gift. Despite hardships and occasional frustration, it is so important to try to live each day to its fullest.
“It is what it is…” I like this quote because it reminds me to detach from a situation and observe it from a loftier place. Verbally and intentionally conceding that something exists as it does, frees oneself from any emotional charge the event or thing may have otherwise catalyzed in one’s psyche. This expression acknowledges acceptance, which is the genesis of unconditional love. For me, it is a very meaningful statement.