This year, (201) Magazine profiles a group of Bergen's most committed health care providers, physicians, philanthropists and community advocates. Whether performing complex neurosurgical or craniofacial procedures on children, employing the latest technological innovations in the operating room, raising awareness about bullying and other social issues, volunteering in the community or helping patients recover from serious medical issues, these compassionate men and women are making a significant impact on the quality of life in our communities.
Dr. Richard Anderson
Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery, St. Joseph's Children's Hospital
Champion for Children
When he's not seeing patients in one of four medical offices in the tri-state area or performing surgery at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Dr. Richard Anderson may well be striving to educate his colleagues on how to recognize craniosynostosis, a rare birth defect that, when diagnosed early, can now be remedied with an hour-long operation that requires only a 1-inch incision. The catch? The procedure can only be performed on infants younger than 6 months of age.
"Early referral is the key," Anderson explains. "When you can remove the abnormal bone at an early stage, the body can essentially heal itself."
An assistant professor of pediatric neurosurgery at Columbia University, Anderson is also chief of pediatric neurosurgery at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and one of only a handful of surgeons in the Northeast who is trained to perform minimally invasive, endoscopic-assisted craniosynostosis surgery. Though he is experienced in both minimally invasive and open craniosynostosis surgery, he says, "Ten years from now, I doubt anyone will even consider doing it the way."
Anderson's passion for his work is profoundly felt by the parents of his young patients. Of all his cases, one is particularly memorable. "About a year ago, I had a 6-year-old patient with a genetic bone disorder and fracture at the top of her spine," he says. "She'd had two failed surgeries when I met her and at that point was in a halo vest, a barbaric device that immobilizes the neck. This child's life was miserable." Following Anderson's successful surgery, he received a note from her parents that read, "There is a lot of talk about heroes in this life. You are a true hero in our life."
Sentiments like that drive Anderson, a Ho-Ho-Kus father of three young children (with a fourth on the way), to carve out time in his schedule to see patients.
"These families are going through things we can't possible imagine," he says. "Giving them the best access to the best possible treatment is important to me, and there is no feeling that comes close to walking out of the operating room and telling anxious parents that their child's surgery was successful and that their child is going to have a normal life."
Dr. Nimesh Nagarsheth
Gynecologic Oncology Surgeon, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
A fortuitous trip to his first rock concert set the musical wheels in motion for Dr. Nimesh Nagarsheth, a board-certified gynecologic oncology surgeon who specializes in advanced laparoscopic surgery, bloodless surgery and robotic surgery. He divides his time among Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center – and dozens of musical venues across North America each year. "I was around 12 years old, and that concert changed my life," he says of his decision to become a drummer. "Luckily, my parents were understanding and very supportive."
Though his rock-star dreams cooled in college – "Irealized that I enjoyed music much more when my livelihood did not depend on it," he explains – music remains an abiding passion. "I have played in at least one band ever since junior high," says Nagarsheth, who is associate director of robotic surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and an assistant professor and attending physician at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Three years ago, he teamed with a group of fellow gynecologic oncology surgeons from across the country to form N.E.D. – short for "No Evidence of Disease." "We played an hour of music between academic sessions at a national gynecologic convention in Tampa and we brought down the house," he recalls.
The band's "type A members" (as Nagarsheth calls them) hail from Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York and Oregon, and offers for other gigs flooded in, including an invitation to play at the first-ever Gynecological Cancer Awareness Movement Weekend in Washington, D.C. in November 2009. "We realized this was an opportunity to raise awareness for gynecologic cancers," he says. "Our motto has become, 'Breast cancers have the pink ribbon, but gynecologic cancers have a rock band!'" Not surprisingly, a record deal followed with Grammy-winning producer Mario McNulty at the helm.
Around the same time, Nagarsheth dusted off on old outline he'd drafted for a book about music and medicine and reconnected with his former college professor, the accomplished percussionist Jim Latimer. "I cold-called a publishing house and just happened to get the executive publisher on the phone, who was a musician," he says. Music and Cancer: A Prescription for Healing debuted in September 2009, coinciding with the release of N.E.D.'s first album. Nagarsheth's special interest in the healing powers of music has sparked dozens of invitations to lecture at some of the top medical centers in the country, and the band's story is being captured in the documentary film Dancing with N.E.D.
In June 2011, the band released its second CD, titled Six Degrees, a dual reference to both their combined medical degrees and the proverbial "six degrees of separation" that connect all people. The debut CD includes an education booklet encouraging women to recognize the warning signs of gynecologic cancers. "I've had patients tell me they found their cancer because of it," he says, clearly heartened that they have found a way to start a conversation about something that many find difficult to discuss. All proceeds fund the awareness initiatives of the Foundation for Women's Cancer and Marjie's Fund.
Asked whether the band members would give up their day jobs if they really made it big in music, Nagarsheth ponders for only a second. "Probably not," he says. "What makes this special is our day job, and without that component, it is not as fulfilling. I love being a doctor and find it an amazing privilege and responsibility to have people let me into their lives and participate in helping them through what may be the most difficult thing they have ever faced."
Dr. Samuel Rhee
Pediatric and Craniofacial Surgeon, Hackensack Unversity Medical Center and The Valley Hospital
Up for the Challenge
"It's not my goal to be the surgeon who refuses patients," Dr. Samuel Rhee says. "I like to think I was trained to be a skilled plastic surgeon who seeks a challenging practice with diverse and interesting cases."
A pediatric and craniofacial surgeon who left his teaching post at Cornell last year to go into private practice in Bergen County, Rhee recently saw a 6-year-old girl from Astoria, Queens, with a congenital accessory ear. "Her family had been looking for six months for a surgeon who would take their insurance," the Ridgewood resident says. "Six months. There are probably over a hundred plastic surgeons between here and Queens, but I was the only one they could find who would see her."
Challenging cases are typical for Rhee. He makes biannual trips to far-flung locales like Bangladesh and rural China to operate on children with cleft lips and palates and to teach fellow local surgeons how to manage patients on their own. "In the old days, it was 'operate and leave,'" he says. "It wasn't ideal. Patients need local physicians for local care." Rhee never thought of traveling to do medicine, but in his last year of training, a mentor took a team to Colombia, South America, and Rhee was hooked. He says it was "an eye-opening experience."
Closer to home, Rhee's new practice is based in the high-tech Malo Clinic in Rutherford, where his work is evenly divided among pediatric surgery, general plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Hospital privileges at Hackensack University Medical Center and The Valley Hospital afford him opportunities to further his goal to "get hospitals and doctors to work better together."
"Hospitals are losing surgical volume to ambulatory surgical facilities," Rhee says, "but a hospital's ability to provide complex multi-disciplinary care has real value for patients."
On why he chose plastic surgery, Rhee is refreshingly candid. "Let's face it; we plastic surgeons are prima donnas," he says. "We like having our work on display, looked at, judged. It holds us to a higher standard and it feeds our egos. For many specialties, you can be a great surgeon or just average and the quality difference isn't always obvious to patients. That's not true with plastic surgery."
Maryann Collins, M.S., B.S.N., R.N.
HIV nurse, Hackensack University Medical Center Manager, AIDS Outreach Program
If there's one thing Maryann Collins would like people to know, it is that the virus that causes AIDS is still very much around. "We see new diagnoses all the time," Collins, an HIV/AIDS nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center for 23 years and manager of the AIDS Outreach Program, says. "People don't realize that it hasn't gone away, and they make the mistake of having unprotected sex. It only takes once."
Collins was recently honored as a national HIV Hero in the "5 Years, 5 Heroes" contest sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Though there's no typical day for Collins, she can regularly be found at the AIDS Outreach Clinic in Hackensack, counseling newly diagnosed patients and managing the paperwork required to maintain its Ryan White Grant. She's also deeply involved in Buddies of New Jersey, a community organization offering support for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Her various volunteer roles include facilitating a weekly support session for people who are HIV-positive and overseeing the operation of Harrison House, a Paramus home for people battling HIV/AIDS.
"HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically over the past 30 years," she says. "I started out as a hospice nurse, and most of my patients were cancer patients. Then we began to see more and more people with AIDS. They would come to the support group two or three times and then, suddenly, they'd be dying. There's been monumental change over the years. Today, people are in the support group 10 years or longer."
She credits patients' improved prognoses to new and better medicines and regular medical check-ups. The patients, though, would surely say that Collins' warmth, compassion and knowledge are key to their healing. "I've always sought to be an advocate for those who can't advocate for themselves," she says, "and this population, in particular, very often cannot. There is still some stigma.
"I am blessed to do something that is so rewarding for me and something that I really, really love," the Demarest resident says. "I get so much more than I give. That is the blessing of this job."
Volunteer, Adler Aphasia Center
Founding Member, Something Special
In 2003, Eunice Bustillo had a stroke just one month after her 40th birthday. A busy multi-media consultant, wife and young mother, she "had lost the ability to speak, read and write," she recalls. She was diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder commonly associated with stroke and brain injury that can be heartbreakingly isolating. "With aphasia, you have to do double the work in order to communicate," says Bustillo, who found a therapeutic lifeline in the Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, a nonprofit post-rehab therapeutic center for people with aphasia.
Today, she has moved from "member" status at the Adler Aphasia Center to passionate volunteer. Inspiring all those around her with her determination, skill and entrepreneurial spirit, she spends three days a week at the center teaching members the fine art of jewelry making. This is no mere craft class, however. In 2009, Bustillo teamed up with another member/volunteer to launch Something Special, an online jewelry boutique. To date, the boutique has netted close to $60,000 in sales, with all proceeds going to programs and services of the center. With each piece of jewelry or gift item purchased, the buyer receives a short bio of the member with aphasia who created their design. Its true value, though, is immeasurable. "It gave me a purpose again after my stroke and a feeling of self-worth that I could teach others how to create and design jewelry. It means a lot to me that I can help others learn how to become valuable contributors again," says the River Edge resident.
The therapeutic benefits of jewelry making are many, she says, including improving hand-eye coordination and the ability to focus and fostering conversation and interaction among members and, thus, enhancing their communication skills. "I love it when I see one of the members just light up when they see one of their pieces being purchased," she says.
Three days a week, Bustillo teaches three Life Skills classes in jewelry making and design, drawing two dozen or more members to craft one-of-a-kind pieces for display and sale at the center and online at somethingspecialaphasia.org. Though it is always satisfying to see numerous "sold out" pieces on the site and in store, Bustillo's real satisfaction comes from teaching the center's members the art of jewelry design. "Then I see them thrive because of their newfound skills," she says. "Everyone here is so happy because they have found each other. It's very inspiring. Everything here is done with love."
Lynn McVey and Tom Gregario
Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center
Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, under the direction of CEO Tom Gregario of Ridgewood and Vice President of Operations Lynn McVey of Hawthorne, strives for innovation in health care management.
"This is the first hospital in the country to employ evidence-based management hospital-wide," McVey says. What that means, she explains, is that there is no room for "opinion, emotion or bias in our decisions. It's all about performance and only about performance." A relatively new concept in the health care field, evidence-based management is, literally, a by-the-numbers approach to management with the goal of revealing inefficiencies and maximizing productivity and cost-efficiency. "I've collected more than a million benchmarks over the years," says McVey, who, surprisingly, did not major in math in college. "My job is to make sure that every manager is accountable for holding their departments accountable."
McVey and Gregario met more than 10 years ago when they worked at St. Joseph's Medical Center. They came to Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in March 2010 as a transition team, charged by the facility's new owners with making the twice-bankrupt hospital profitable.
"We are doing things differently here," Gregario says. "We have a first-of-its-kind contract with GE Intel that involves wiring area senior housing so that we can monitor their wellness remotely. With this technology, we will be able to track their ability to move about in their home, monitor their blood pressure, weight, even their trips to the bathroom."
Interestingly, the technology will essentially "keep patients out of the hospital," which is in line with government-mandated ways to reduce health care costs. The hospital's goal is to have all 59 Hudson County senior buildings wired within the next two years.
In addition, Gregario is excited about the hospital's new hires, including more than 250 doctors in fields ranging from cardiology to neurology, and new cornerstone programs, including the Neurology Institute and its magnetic encephalography technology. Of his work, he says, "It is the only industry whose purpose is to help and heal other people. However you are involved, it is always for the well-being of a patient. That's what drives me to do what I do. I love finding new ways to make things better for people."
Anti-Bullying/Mental Health Advocate
Passionate About Protection
"When bullying happens in school and it is not properly dealt with, the bully in the school yard can eventually grow up to be the bully in the workplace," says Sheila O'Shea-Criscione, an employment attorney with the highly regarded firm Deutsch Atkins, P.C. in Hackensack. O'Shea-Criscione teaches conflict resolution strategies at Montclair State University and is a trustee and immediate past president on the Paramus Board of Education, two roles that enable her to bring unique perspective to her work.
"It's an exciting time," O'Shea-Criscione says of the state's recently enacted Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. "It is the strictest, most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the nation, and it is wonderful that New Jersey is the front runner in focusing on the ill effects of harassment, intimidation and bullying on students. Clearly, the consequences can be devastating."
Of the 20 or so cases she typically juggles, only one currently involves a minor. But "in light of the new legislation, I absolutely see having more minor clients in the future," she says.
"As an employment lawyer, I see the ill effects of bullying in the workplace, too," she says, noting not only the individual impact on an employee but also the impact on the work environment, including excessive absenteeism, higher turnover, increased heath premiums and loss of productivity. "New Jersey does not yet have an anti-bullying law for the workplace."
A former conflict resolution trainer and facilitator with Peaceroots, O'Shea-Criscione feels that the most important thing schools can do is "give the bystanders, those students who are neither the bully nor the target but who still witness the bullying behavior, the tools and strategies to stand up to it. If you can convince them that there is strength in numbers and empower them to stand up for what is right, you can take the power away from the bully."
After graduating from Pace University School of Law, O'Shea-Criscione clerked for Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Gaeta and once dreamed of becoming a prosecutor. "I guess my desire to enforce the law, right wrongs and protect victims goes a long way back," she says.
Today, as a wife and mother of two teenagers, she is passionate about children and education. "My motto is 'children are our future,' and I believe that with all my heart," she says. "I want each child to have the greatest opportunity to fulfill their potential. That is why I care so much about eradicating harassment, intimidation and bullying in our schools. If it can protect just one child, it will all be worthwhile."
Community Health Advocate
Endlessly energetic, community relations advocate Angelae Wilkerson is always ready to tackle a new challenge, cause or community concern. Whether she's quietly consoling a victim of sexual abuse at the YWCA's Rape Crisis Center or lobbying state senators to embrace Denim Day (a sexual assault prevention education campaign), Wilkerson's passion for helping others knows virtually no bounds.
"This is our community, she says. "Why wouldn't we want to give back?"
The wife and mother of three divides her volunteer time among a host of state and local causes. Those include the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (where she is on the board of trustees), the YWCA Rape Crisis Center in Hackensack, the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps (she's an EMT and member of the board of trustees), Habitat for Humanity, the Joan's Joy Foundation, the Starlight Children's Foundation and the Teaneck Rotary Club. Wilkerson also readily signs on to assist with events for organizations ranging from the American Cancer Society to the Holy Name Medical Center Auxiliary.
"I'm not an event planner," she says, "but I am always working on an event."
Still, she is surprisingly modest about her contributions. "I'm a reflection of the people around me," she says. "I don't do it by myself."
To their credit, Wilkerson's children have embraced her messages of volunteerism and humility. "I am so proud of them," she says. "I was once asked what was my greatest accomplishment, and my answer was, is and will always be my kids. They are three of the most amazing kids, who would do anything for anybody."
In fact, she and her husband, Randall, someday would like to establish the "Savini Foundation," so named because the letters represent the first two letters of each of her children's names.
Wilkerson believes in living life to the fullest. Though she aspires to one day work for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, for now she's happy doing what she can for her community and enjoying the occasional adventure. (Flying in a two-seater plane and a weekend motorcycle-riding course were her most recent heart-pumping experiences.)
"Everybody dies," Wilkerson says, quoting the lyrics to one of her children's favorite songs. "But not everybody lives."
Executive Director, Anita Kaufmann Foundation
A one-time advertising executive, Debra Josephs never imagined that one day she would lead the world's only charitable foundation solely dedicated to eliminating the social stigma associated with epilepsy.
"Our goal is to make the world epilepsy-friendly," Josephs says. The Teaneck resident is executive director of the Anita Kaufmann Foundation, which was established by the late Anita Kaufmann, Josephs' best friend since the third grade.
"A few years before she died, Anita said to me, 'Debbie, we have to 'sell' epilepsy,'" Josephs recalls.
Kaufmann, who at the age of 14 had been thrown from a horse and later developed adult-onset epilepsy, was motivated by a devastating experience following her first seizure.
"It happened at a spa where she'd been a regular," Josephs says. "She was thrown out and told never to come back. She was devastated. From that moment on, she decided to establish a foundation dedicated to fighting the stigma of epilepsy. She often said that the stigma is worse than the condition itself."
Believing that "the only people who will change the world about epilepsy are the people with epilepsy," Josephs logs hours each day educating people with epilepsy about how to advocate for themselves and how to teach the public about epilepsy and seizure first aid. "I empower them to educate the public about their condition," she says.
The foundation is the global sponsor of Purple Day, the largest epilepsy awareness initiative in the world, and locally, it spearheads the Great Purple Cupcake Project, an educational initiative with more than 150 regional bakeries. Purple cupcakes – "the branding color of epilepsy" – and seizure first-aid information are highlights.
"There is an educational component in everything we do," she says. Whether she's giving a seizure first-aid session in a restaurant or partnering with the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey to offer a free education program for fifth-grade students, Josephs is always focused on creating awareness and understanding.
She's particularly proud of "Thinking About Epilepsy," a program for fifth graders.
"It's the age when lifelong impressions are made," Josephs says, "and this program strives to eliminate bullying and the stigma associated with epilepsy by teaching acceptance and understanding. We encourage all New Jersey schools to sign up."
Dr. Michael Esposito
Urologic Surgeon, Holy Name Medical Center
A marvel of engineering that allows doctors to manipulate miniature instruments and 3D cameras to perform precise, near-bloodless procedures, the da Vinci robot was first developed for cardiac surgery. Dr. Michael Esposito, a board-certified urologic surgeon, was the first in the tri-state area to perform a laparoscopic prostatectomy with the now widely used surgical tool. He was also instrumental in beta-testing the first four-arm da Vinci robot specifically designed for urologic work.
A resident of Franklin Lakes, Esposito divides his time among several Bergen County hospitals, including Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck and Hackensack University Medical Center, where he is co-director of the Center for Robotic/Laparoscopic and Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery/Endourology. Interestingly, he opted for urology during medical school because he found the field dynamic.
"We treated kids and adults, men and women," he says. "We treated everything from basic ailments like kidney stones and incontinence to prostate cancer and major reconstructive surgery. Still do."
A graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Brooklyn-born Esposito sharpened his surgical skills in a surprising venue: the Scottish Lithotriptor Centre of Western General Hospital, Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Scotland.
"I knew I wanted to pursue minimally invasive surgical work," he says, "but in 2000, there were only a few fellowships in the country with that focus." Edinburgh, however, was at the forefront, and over the course of a year there, Esposito received top-notch training. "When I came back to the U.S., I was able to start this kind of work right away."
He and four fellow urologists at New Jersey Center for Prostate Cancer & Urology in Maywood are passionate about staying ahead of "99 percent of our peers." For Esposito and partner Dr. Mutahar Ahmed, that means highly specialized bladder cancer procedures, such as robotic cystectomy, the removal of the entire bladder, and robotic neobladder, the reconstruction and formation of a new bladder.
The team also likes having "the first crack at new technology," says Esposito, eager for the field's next innovation: single-incision robotic surgery. Currently in trials at the Cleveland Clinic, it will launch this year and allow surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery robotically through a single incision.
Dr. Andrew Brief
Orthopedic Surgeon, The Valley Hospital
Dr. Kenneth Levitsky
Orthopedic Surgeon, The Valley Hospital and St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center
Not so long ago, a patient with ankle arthritis had only one surgical option – a procedure that fused the bones together, rending the ankle motionless.
"Technology has improved dramatically, and times have changed," says Dr. Andrew Brief, the orthopedic surgeon who performed Bergen County's first total ankle replacement in 2009 at Holy Name Medical Center. "Rather than fusing the bones together, total ankle replacement preserves motion and offers the patient, in most cases, a much better quality of life."
In 2010, Brief, who is affiliated with Ridgewood Orthopedic Group, teamed up with fellow orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Levitsky at The Valley Hospital to confront some of the more challenging foot and ankle reconstruction cases in the area.
"In our sub-specialty," Brief says, "you need two working brains to play off of each other. He has years of experience, and I am closer to the training and clinical research. Our chemistry works well together."
A long-time staff member of The Valley Hospital and a member of the teaching faculty at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, Levitsky is associated with Garden State Orthopaedic Associates and regularly collaborates with Brief remotely. "Thanks to technology," Levitsky says, "we can see patients in our offices and immediately consult one another."
Both are forward thinkers inspired by innovation and technology, but their similarities don't end there. They are both the sons of physicians, and both say they always knew they'd pursue careers in medicine. Brief's father was a pioneering orthopedic surgeon in the 1980s who brought cutting-edge techniques such as arthroscopic surgery to local community hospitals. "Thirty years later, I'm doing the same with total ankle replacement," Brief says.
The son of a pediatrician, Levitsky's path to orthopedics was an "ah ha" moment. "I'd always loved working on my car, a Volkswagen Super Beetle," he says, "and one day in my second year of med school, my advisor invited me into the operating room to observe a total knee replacement." Levitsky saw all the saws, drills and hammers and thought, "This is fantastic!
"It dawned on me right then and there that this was what I wanted to do," he says. "What we do shares many qualities with carpentry, but in a nice, sterile environment."
Though ankle fusion surgery is still performed regularly – currently beating out total ankle replacement by almost 6-to-1 – the latter procedure is catching on fast, helped by the ever-advancing technology responsible for artificial joints, including the Salto Talaris Total Ankle Prosthesis, Brief and Levitsky's artificial joint of choice.
Dr. Marcus Williams
Cardiologist, The Valley Hospital
As president of the Association of Black Cardiologists and recent recipient of the American Heart Association's prestigious Harvey E. Nussbaum, M.D., Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Marcus Williams is in a position to champion a cause that is near and dear to Americans: equal access to health care. "Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most inhumane,'" he says. "That's one of my favorite quotes."
Williams enthusiastically supports the American Heart Association's 2020 goal to achieve a 20 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease for all Americans, as well as the Association of Black Cardiologists' goal to see a 20 percent reduction in the disparity gap for cardiovascular disease for high-risk populations. He was instrumental in establishing the AHA's Focus on Health Equity committee. "I want to make a difference by being a voice of hope for those who may not have a strong voice," he says.
Williams practices at Cardiac Associates of North Jersey in Oakland and is an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He says he knew early on that he'd pursue a career in medicine.
"I was fascinated by the heart from a very young age," he says, "but when I put together a human model called 'the invisible man,' it was a turning point for me.
"One of the most profound and transcending experiences," he says, "came when I was a cardiology fellow at the University of North Carolina. It was a heart transplant between a 17-year-old who'd been shot and a 55-year-old man with severe heart failure. I watched the doctors harvest the heart and walk it across the hall. Almost immediately , you could see the color return to this man's face."
When he's not at work or working to advance health care equality, he can be found golfing – "I like to torture myself by playing; it's a love-hate relationship" – and drumming. "I'm a closet drummer. If I hadn't become a cardiologist, I'd probably be a jazz or studio drummer," he says with a smile. A recent thrill? Playing the congas on a CD recording made by his youngest daughter, a singer-songwriter.
In all his endeavors, Williams is philosophical. "I want my life to make a difference," he says. "At the end of the day, if someone's life is made better, if hope is transferred, if love has been given, then I have lived. My faith teaches me that love is the ultimate expression that gets us closer to God."
Dr. Frank Manginello
The Valley Hospital, Director of Neonatology, Peek-A-Boo NICU Medical Director, The Kireker Center for Child Development, Valley Health System
Once upon a time, parents of premature babies went home with little more information than that found in the 1945 classic Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock. (The book's advice? Keep your preemie in a cardboard box lined with newspapers and warmed with bricks that have been preheated in the oven.) All that changed when Dr. Frank Manginello published Your Premature Baby in 1991. A 322-page bible for parents of preemies, the book is a compilation of his vast neonatal experience.
"I wanted to write something that would be encouraging and optimistic. Times change, science changes and what we can do has changed," says Manginello, The Valley Hospital's director of neonatology and medical director of The Kireker Center for Child Development.
Though Manginello claims not to be "super high tech," a year ago he and his team launched Peek-A-Boo ICU, a tech-driven way for parents to stay visually connected to the premature babies. "The Skype-style technology," he says, "allows parents to say 'night, night' to their preemie, even from overseas if necessary."
The Peek-A-Boo ICU is just one example of the hospital's focus on family health. "Valley has a great commitment to women's and children's services, including a parental overnight room in the neonatal ICU and a well-designed plan for discharge. Our goal is to get babies home by 36 weeks post-conception, but our focus is on sending parents and babies home prepared," Manginello says.
When Manginello was a pure science major at Georgetown, his landlord, who happened to be the head of neonatology at the university's hospital, invited him to visit the department. "I realized it involved everything – cognitive, behavioral, emotional," he recalls. "From then on, I knew I wanted to get through pediatrics to get to neonatology."
A member of the executive committee for the March of Dimes, Manginello is passionate about prenatal care. "The rate of premature births is higher than it was 20 years ago," he says. "We haven't made good headway in treating prematurity. Early and good access to prenatal care and good nutrition are the keys."
A role model for his team, Manginello is generous with his time and has deep respect for the parents of his tiny patients. "I let them talk," he says. "You have lots of concerns when you have a 4-pound baby. The last question I always ask is, 'Do you have any more questions?'"