About us

Dr. David J. Prezant

Legacy Member

Dr. David Prezant is the Chief Medical Officer for the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) and the Special Advisor to the Fire Commissioner for Health Policy. He has overall responsibility for the Bureau of Health Services, Counselling Services Unit, the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the Office of Medical Affairs. He is FDNY’s senior Pulmonary Consultant, Co-Director of FDNY’s WTC Medical Program, the Principal Investigator for the NIOSH funded FDNY WTC Data Center and the Co-Director of the NIOSH funded FDNY WTC Clinical Center of Excellence.

Dr. Prezant received his Bachelor of Science from Columbia College in 1977 and his Doctor of Medicine from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1981. After completing his internal medicine residency at Harlem Hospital, he returned to Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center for his Pulmonary Fellowship training. Currently, Dr. Prezant is a Professor of Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a pulmonary physician at the main teaching hospital – Montefiore Medical Center. He is the course director for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine course on Pulmonary, Critical Care & Disaster Medicine.

In 1986, Dr. Prezant became an FDNY Medical Officer and in 1994 the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. In 2006, supervision of FDNY’s Office of Medical Affairs for Emergency Medical Services was added to his responsibilities. In 2010, he was appointed to be a Chief Medical Officer and the Special Advisor to the Fire Commissioner for Health Policy.

On 9/11, Dr. Prezant was at the WTC taking care of FDNY firefighters and EMS rescue workers. He was present during the collapse and its aftermath and helped with triage efforts. Since then, he has been responsible for the design and implementation of the WTC medical monitoring and treatment program for FDNY firefighters and EMS WTC rescue workers funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health. Dr. Prezant has played a key role in leveraging the WTC Health Program so that members can obtain WTC Victims Compensation benefits and DOJ Public Safety benefits.

Most recently, Dr. Prezant has assisted the Fire Commissioner and Chief of Department in coordinating FDNY’s response to Pandemics including EBOLA and COVID-19 – including medical protocols, personal protective equipment, testing, vaccination and other related activities.

In addition, Dr. Prezant’s expertise has led to advances in firefighting gear for the prevention of burn injuries and the improvement of physical performance; design of the IAFF/IAFC Joint Labor Management Wellness Fitness Initiative (WFI) and the IAFF Candidate Physical Ability Test; the FDNY electronic medical record and injury reporting system, computerized triage for the NYC 911 EMS system, and Medicare’s EMS ET3 model initiative.

Dr. Prezant serves on the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine Committee on Personal Protective Equipment; is a member of the IAFF Redmond Advisory Board and the NFPA Health and Safety Committee (co-authoring the Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments).

He has authored over 200 peer-reviewed medical scientific papers, of which over 100 have been on the health impact of the WTC on NYC Firefighters and EMS workers including seminal papers in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, the CDC’s MMWR, Environmental Health Perspectives, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and CHEST. This work has identified illnesses such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD, sarcoidosis, rhinosinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux, mental health disturbances, obstructive sleep apnea and cancers as WTC-related illnesses eligible for federal coverage.

In recognition of these activities, Dr. Prezant has received numerous awards including at Albert Einstein College of Medicine distinguished teaching awards, the American Thoracic Society’s Public Service Award (2011) and the American College Chest of Chest Physicians’ Presidential Citation Honor Lecture Award (2012).

For Dr. Prezant, exercise brings calm to his life, body, mind and soul. As a self-described gym rat, he has worked out almost every day across his adult life, doing 40-45 minutes of cardiovascular training on the elliptical machine and weight training twice per week. Working out in the gym is the main habit Dr. Prezant has cultivated to promote his overall wellness and fitness. Eating health adds further benefit and staying free of tobacco, drugs and alcohol is key. Lastly, he ascribes to the mission of finding something, whatever that something may be, that brings joy to one’s life and focusing on fueling that quest every day.

Reflecting on the experiences Dr. Prezant has amassed over his career, he would advise departments looking to invest in the wellness and fitness of their members along the following lines. Achieving a state of optimal wellness and fitness does not occur magically. It requires policies, practices, the removal of barriers, education, peer-pressure, supervisory pressure, incentives and unfortunately penalties. The key to both a carrot-and-stick approach is that it be administered fairly, transparently and patiently. The phrase “Rome was not built in a day” applies here as well. A fire service member did not gain 20 pounds in one day and they shouldn’t be expected to lose it in one day. Dr. Prezant would remind departments that there are different paths to wellness but all of them require time and consistent effort. Fire service leaders must encourage those efforts. Although people ask what is the best form of exercise, or what is the best diet, and so on, seeking the best misses the point. The best is often controversial, allusive and an excuse for complacency. In Dr. Prezant’s opinion, the answer is much simpler if we realize that the best is what an individual will be able to do consistently.

The advice Dr. Prezant would give to an individual fire fighter looking to invest in their wellness and fitness is simple and direct. On any given day, points, runs batted in, and goals scored are nice but fleeting. Championships are based on dedication and consistency. Championships are forever. Be a champion for yourself and for others.


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