Profile of Jeffrey Blinder, M.D.

Born To Be A Doctor

Jeff Blinder as a young boy in a crib with a stethoscope in his ears

Jeffrey Stuart Blinder, M.D., M' 76, H' 80, F' 81, has an early memory pretending to be a doctor but it's his journey to becoming a radiologist that has left an indelible impression on others. 

Originally from Brooklyn, NY Blinder says, "I think I was programmed by my parents to be a doctor. I have this picture of me in a crib with a stethoscope in my ears. So I don't know that I ever thought of doing anything else." The stethoscope may have been an early sign of things to come for Jeff but it was his pediatrician that made the most significant impression.

He remembers his regular visits to his pediatrician for allergy shots. "I had a kind soul that saw after me and always asked me how I was doing." It was this early exposure that inspired him to pursue medicine as a career, in particular, becoming a pediatrician. Even in a grade school slam book, a notebook that is passed among the students, he wrote in perfect print that he wanted to be a pediatrician and certainly his parents did not discourage him. 

After graduating from Brooklyn College, he attended the VCU School of Medicine. It was in his fourth year of medical school that he began to rethink his direction. He wanted to stay in medicine but he realized pediatrics was not a good fit. 

For the first time in his life, he was at a crossroads and at the worst possible time. Blinder remembers, "Initially in my fourth year, it was a sort of a time of turmoil for me because I didn't want to be a pediatrician. But what else can I do?" With this revelation coming so late in medical school he ended up not matching into any program. Frantic, he racked his brain to figure out what would work for him and his family.

Blinder looked to pathology and research among others. He first turned to pathology because he had worked in their labs as a summer job and he liked the detail-oriented work. He figured, "Let me just try something nonclinical for a year and then try to get my head straight." This initial plan was foiled, as the pathology program was full. He was unwilling to take a break from his medical education mostly fearing he would never come back to it. Remember, he was born to be a doctor so leaving medicine was not going to happen; it was not an option..

Blinder learned of an available position in the radiology program. He was reluctant at first because, and he will be the first to admit, he fell asleep during the radiology lectures. To this day he blames the dark and quiet room not the lecturer.

His reluctance evaporated when he spoke candidly with the late Michael Beachley, M.D., chair of the radiology department at that time. Beachley could relate to Blinder because he shared a similar life experience: he went into radiology after discovering surgery was not a good fit for him. Blinder has never forgotten Beachley's kindness and appreciates the lifeline extended to him and the opportunity to stay in medicine. 

(Above Photo: Dr. Jeffrey Blinder as a child. Photos Courtesy: Jeffrey Blinder, MD)

Is Everything in Life a Metaphor About Choices?

Blinder's outlook quickly changed and soon he really loved radiology. His about-face happened once he started training with the faculty and fellow residents. He began thriving and became chief resident.

His life does seem to mirror the metaphor in the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken," which says life is a journey that develops from a series of choices, both big and small.  Blinder says, "life may be determined by who says yes to you and Michael Beachley said yes so I went into radiology and that made all the difference in the world."

At first, he considered pediatric radiology as a subspecialty but wanted more patient contact. Instead, he went on to interventional radiology. He enjoyed taking care of patients unblocking their obstructed kidneys or their livers with bile ducts obstructed by pancreatic tumors. Much later in his career he transferred his skills to breast imaging where he balances building relationships with patients and reading room screen time.

Both Blinder and his wife, Jill, fell in love with Richmond finding close friends, a local synagogue community and a picturesque neighborhood to raise their children. This made it an easy decision for him to stay on at VCU to complete his radiology fellowship.

It was in 1981 when he relocated with his family to Allentown, PA to go into professional practice. Allentown reminded him of Richmond; the tree-lined streets and cohesive Jewish community. He found it easy to be involved and build connections and has called it home until recently. Months before the COVID-19 pandemic, he and Jill decided to downsize and move to Philadelphia, PA. He still works in Allentown two days a week and remains involved in the Jewish community there but he and Jill are looking forward to going to museums, theaters and concerts.

Becoming a VCU Radiologist

Jeff Blinder in medical schoolAfter earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, NY, Blinder applied to several medical schools but really liked the campus and community around the VCU School of Medicine. In 1972, when he received the acceptance letter from VCU, he packed his bags and moved to Richmond. 

He graduated from medical school and entered the diagnostic radiology residency program at VCU. At one point during his residency he considered transferring to another school in Pennsylvania to be closer to Jill's family. After visiting a couple of schools he knew there was no comparison to VCU. Blinder reflects, "VCU faculty members were outstanding and the ratio of professors to residents was more favorable than the other programs. At that time, ultrasound and computed tomography were novel and VCU just had the best equipment. It also had that wonderful, inviting Virginia feel." He decided the best place for him was in VCU's radiology residency program.

During his fourth year of residency, Blinder moonlighted at Chippenham Hospital and at the Richmond Memorial Hospital. He liked the extra money that this work brought him but mostly he found the autonomy and experience of being the only radiologist on duty at night to be invaluable for his career growth.

At the end of his residency, he was not ready to leave Richmond or VCU. Blinder entered and completed a fellowship in ultrasonography and computed tomography at VCU.

(Photo: Dr. Blinder as a medical student in 1973. Photos Courtesy: Jeffrey Blinder, MD)

"When a biopsy reveals breast cancer, I will always convey that news to the woman while sitting down with her in person, despite practice standards allowing for telephone communication. Everybody has a story that you don't know. Did they lose a friend or relative to breast cancer? Everybody is approaching their imaging studies or their lab studies with a backstory that you may not be familiar with.  It is so important to treat everyone with kindness and respect.” ~ Jeffrey Blinder, M.D.

Career In Radiology

From Richmond to Allentown, Dr. Blinder Goes Where Needed Most

Jeff Blinder portraitIn 1981, Blinder went into professional practice at the Sacred Heart Hospital Department of Radiology located in Allentown, PA. He spent most of his career at this hospital even serving as their departmental chair for four years. In 2005, he was approached by the Department of Radiology at Lehigh Valley Health Network to serve as a staff radiologist in breast imaging. The opportunity came at the perfect time: he was in semi-retirement and he wanted to move away from complicated interventional procedures. It was also a pleasure to step aside to let younger radiologists have an opportunity to excel. He enthusiastically made the change and has been a part-time breast imaging specialist for the last 15 years. 

His first teaching appointment came in 1988 when he was named the medical director for the Radiologic Technology Program at Northampton County Community College in Bethlehem, PA. Blinder also taught medical students and family practice residents some of the basics of radiology.  Later, he became a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Radiology at the University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, which is a clinical attachment of Lehigh Valley Health Network. He supervises third and fourth year medical students in the MD SELECT (Scholarly Excellence. Leadership Experience. Collaborative Training.) program and who are interested in radiology.

Blinder likes the opportunity to see the same patients year after year, developing strong relationships and providing consistent, quality care. The dream of being a pediatrician led him first to a fulfilling career in interventional radiology and later a second, less stressful, career as a breast imaging specialist.

Closer to full retirement, Blinder still goes where needed, where his skills will best serve the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic he completed a six month Locum Tenens with CompHealth at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA. He came in as a breast imaging radiologist to help the department maintain patient care and provide one-on-one guidance to their radiology residents.

As the end of his six-month rotation in Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley Hospital Department of Radiology reached out to him and asked if he would like to come back. Today, he serves as a part-time staff radiologist offering exceptional patient care in breast imaging.

(Photo: Dr. Blinder, Photo courtesy: Jeff Blinder, MD)

Connecting with Communities through Faith and Music

Sharing joy could be Blinder's mantra. Since childhood he has enriched the lives of others and connected with communities through faith and music.

Blinder was raised in a tight knit Jewish community in New York where family and faith were central. Blinder remained connected to his family and his faith regardless of where he lived be it Brooklyn, Richmond or Allentown. It should come as no surprise that he and Jill have been to Israel more than a dozen times to visit family and friends. Being part of the Allentown Jewish community, Blinder and his wife Jill got involved in setting up a sister community in Israel, which he found to be spiritually significant and culturally rewarding.

Alongside his brother and sister, Blinder learned to play the piano. After their piano teacher retired, his mother suggested he take accordion lessons with a neighborhood friend. It was the 1960's and learning to play the accordion was cool. Blinder became, "good enough to play the portable piano to less discerning audiences." He has played his accordion at assisted living homes, day cares, hospitals, nursery schools, and kindergartens. He even provided entertainment for VCU medical students staying in the dorm. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he amazed the children living in his Philadelphia neighborhood. Blinder says that, "children are drawn to the music, they find the accordion magical."

(Photo: Dr. Blinder in his youth with his accordion.  Photos courtesy: Jeffrey Blinder, MD)

A Radiologist's World of Bicycling

Jeff Blinder standing to the right of Cyclist Greg LeMondAn Existential Athlete

Blinder calls himself an existential athlete gravitating towards sports that give him solitude and peace of mind, such as cycling. In Richmond, he would cycle to and from the medical center and on weekends he would ride along the James River, cycle into Henrico County and go as far as Williamsburg. He commuted by bicycle in Allentown and on the weekends he cycled the rolling countryside. Today, he mainly cycles during vacations and has toured Arizona, Bryce and Zion, Utah, and the California wine country by bicycle. He is planning a cycling trip with his daughter in Montana next year.

"It's important to give back to the community in different ways. It may not be easy to do but it is important." ~ Jeffrey Blinder, M.D.

Community Bike Works

Prior to moving to Philadelphia, Blinder had been a volunteer with Community Bike Works in Allentown, PA since its inception in 1994. he served as a mentor in the 13-week "Earn A Bike!" program. The program promotes teamwork where at-risk youth work together to build and refurbish bicycles for each other. Children work with mentors to learn tool use and bicycle mechanics, as well as the value of communications and collaboration. Children who successfully complete the program receive their refurbished bike and new helmet.

(Photo: Dr. Blinder with professional road racing cyclist Greg LeMond. He rode with Greg LeMond in Vermont, a surprise gift arranged by Jill for their 30th wedding anniversary. Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Blinder, MD)

Pre-Pandemic Traveler: From Penguins to the Amazon and Beyond

Jeff and Jill Blinder have a passion for travel. They love adventure, meeting new people and learning about different cultures. Until recently, they were avid scuba divers. They have dived in Australia, Aruba, Caribbean, Cayman Islands, Bora Bora, Egypt, and Israel. One of the best dives of their lives was in Bora Bora, a volcanic island he cycled around in less than two hours while his wife, Jill, followed along in a rented 3-wheel motorized cart. The mini-adventure was going smoothly until they needed to make a U-turn. The road was so narrow they had to pick up the cart to turn it around. These are the kind of experiences they value and like to share with others.

"I love learning about different people, from all across the spectrum, and learning about the communities they come from and what they do. One person may be a teacher and another a mechanical engineer frequently with interesting stories to share." ~ Jeffrey Blinder, M.D.

(Photo Dr. Blinder scuba diving. Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Blinder, MD)