‘My hope was to create one:’ Sunset Park doc leads the charge to open movement disorder clinics in Brooklyn

headshot of rebecca lalchan, a movement disorder specialist
Dr. Rebecca Lalchan grew up in Sunset Park, often being cared for by her aunt, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Her childhood inspired Lalchan’s choice to become one of the only movement disorder specialists in the borough.
Courtesy of NYU Langone

Dr. Rebecca Lalchan, one of the few movement disorder specialists in Brooklyn, is leading the charge to open new clinics for movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease — and her path was inspired by her childhood in the borough.

Lalchan, who works at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, grew up in Sunset Park. Her parents were immigrants who worked and attended school to support the family. Because of her parents’ busy schedule, Lalchan’s aunt was often around to watch over her.

An early introduction to movement disorders

“Initially, she would come to our house and watch us, and then we saw that she wasn’t able to go up the steps. We ended up going to her house and we saw her further decline,” Lalchan said of her aunt. “Eventually, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. So at a young age, I was able to see how the disease intimately affected her life.”

Seeing firsthand how Parkinson’s disease impacted her aunt’s life was a driving force in Lalchan’s decision to become a neurologist.

“At a very young age, I knew I wanted to treat Parkinson’s disease patients,” she said. “I figured out you have to go to medical school, then you have to go to residency. So I’m finally here. She is my inspiration.”

Despite her wish to treat Parkinson’s patients, Lalchan didn’t initially pursue a medical track in college. 

“I initially didn’t major in pre-med because in my mind that was like an impossibility,” she said. “So I went into college just figuring things out and I saw other people that were pre-med and I was like ‘Wait, I think I can do this.’”

NYU lachlan exterior movement disorder clinic
Lalchan practices at two movement disorder clinics in Brooklyn, and hopes to make treatment even more accessible to her patients in the borough. Courtesy of NYU Langone

Once she was in medical school and moving through different clinics on her rotations, Lalchan got to treat some patients firsthand. 

“I loved it,” she said.

Lalchan then went on to neurology residency, where once again, she loved working with those affected by movement disorders. It was during her fellowship working in the NYU movement disorder clinic that she noticed a demographic discrepancy. 

“I went to Manhattan, NYU for that fellowship,” Lalchan said. “Obviously, there’s a big patient demographic discrepancy. So, I knew I really wanted to go back to this underserved community that really needed help and didn’t even have a Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s in Brooklyn. My hope was to create one.”

Creating new treatment options in Brooklyn

A Center of Excellence is a treatment center that meets certain criteria like being involved in research, a certain number of patients, and multidisciplinary treatment. Lalchan is now on her way to making her dream a reality.

“I have two clinics, one in Bay Ridge and one in Cobble Hill. I work in the hospital at NYU, Brooklyn as well,” said Dr. Lalchan.” 

From once an underserved community to now being served by two clinics in Brooklyn, patients are now able to access multi-disciplinary care, from social work and psychiatry to physical therapy and speech therapy, Lalchan said. 

The impact on the community, from once being able to have to commute to Manhattan for treatment, to now having clinics right here in Brooklyn, has been immeasurable for her patients, she said, and she plans to continue making getting treatment for movement disorders easier to access.

“I think one big thing I’ve done is help them get home therapy, that’s made a really big difference,” Lalchan said.