Whether they are helping fellow physicians navigate the country's new Affordable Care Act or educating their Bergen neighbors on burn hazards in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, men and women are making a difference in Bergen and beyond.
Champion for Good Health
There is no greater wealth than health," says Julene Stassou, a Waldwick-based registered dietician who is fast becoming a cheerleader and health coach to a growing number of Bergen area teens.
Teaming up with Dr. Stacey Hecht, a local pediatrician, Stassou recently expanded her practice to introduce "Shape Up," a 10-week program that helps teens (and their families) set realistic goals for weight management and healthy living. The program is for children, tweens and teens between the ages of 8 and 16 because "that's when most kids start to gain weight or get into social situations where there is peer pressure," Stassou says. She also offers a 10-week "Transitions" program for adults.
Though Stassou tackles topics like making healthy food choices and the importance of building a positive self-image, she is best known for the round-the-clock energy and enthusiasm she brings to her task.
"The key to my success is building a level of trust and being more like a coach to the kids," says Stassou, who thinks nothing of driving to a young patient's home on a Sunday morning to clean out the family fridge or reading through a child's daily food journal every night.
"I have a very hands-on approach," she says with a smile, referring to a magical combination of education, guidance, encouragement and compassion she taps to inspire her patients. "My passion goes beyond wanting to be healthy. It is a deep desire to help people reach their goals. It is the satisfaction I get when I see my patients succeed in whatever it is they came to me to achieve."
Born and raised in Bergen County, Stassou received her master's degree in nutrition at Columbia University Teachers College and subsequently worked at several area hospitals, including the prestigious Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's – Roosevelt Hospital Center. Her clinical background is a huge bonus for her patients.
"I tell them this is the last weight management class they will ever need," she says, "because what I offer is not a diet but a low-glycemic plan that has proven results. I will not let them fail."
A wife and mother of two young children, Stassou calls her patients her extended family.
"When I get home and get an enthusiastic email from a child or his or her parents, I know that I am helping to change their lives in a positive way," she says. "It's not just about weight loss. I know I am equipping them for a healthier future."
Dr. Peter Lee
Pediatric Emergency Medicine, The Valley Hospital
When a frantic parent is heading to a hospital emergency room with a sick or injured child, the experience can be overwhelming for both of them. Putting their fears to rest is the job of Dr. Peter Lee, director of the Pediatric Emergency Room at The Valley Hospital. A refreshing departure from the "adult" ER, that fully functioning emergency room has separate waiting and treatment rooms in a soothing environment that belies its state-of-the-art equipment and technology.
"It's something that is not often found in a community hospital setting," Lee says of the 24/7 facility, part of one of the busiest emergency rooms in the state.
"To meet the needs of its youngest patients, Valley recruited a team of full-time board-certified pediatricians who have extensive experience in providing emergency care to newborns, children, adolescents and young adults," he says. "We are dedicated to providing the best possible care for our patients. It may sound old-fashioned, but that is our goal: to provide top-notch, compassionate care for a really vulnerable patient population."
The study of pediatric emergency medicine is a relatively young field compared to other fields of medicine. Lee says he and his fellow physicians Dr. Jonathan Schiffman, Dr. Yvette Young and newcomer Dr. Hasmig Jinivizian pursued the field for one reason: "I love kids; we all do." They're all trained in pediatric emergency medicine, with Schiffman assuming the role of "jack of all pediatric trades" thanks to his willingness to juggle other roles, as needed, within Valley, ranging from pediatric intensive care to pediatric hospitalist.
A husband and father of two, Lee is a native New Yorker who received his medical degree from State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn and completed his residency and fellowship at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital, respectively. When Lee came to Valley 10 years ago, he discovered an environment that prized "the personal touch. At Valley, there is a dedication to patient care. Our primary motive is to deliver the best, most compassionate care possible. That's the inspiring part about being here," he says.
Something to Smile About
Dr. Frank Ciminello
Section Chief of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center
Widely considered the region's leading expert in pediatric facial reconstruction, Dr. Frank Ciminello, MS, is surprisingly humble about his work. Speaking about the surgeries he performs – life-improving procedures for a patient population that is 90 percent pediatric – he is unassuming, as if he had simply helped a young child cross a busy street.
In fact, Ciminello helps his young patients navigate much more than that.
"Every day I have the privilege of helping a child. My goal is to remove the social stigma of these conditions and unlock a child's potential," says the Hackensack-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Board certified, he is section chief of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center and director of Craniofacial Surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
"Craniofacial surgery is a subspecialty of plastic surgery," he says, explaining the "aha" moment when he decided to specialize in an area that seeks to correct congenital and acquired deformities of the skull, face and jaw. "It was a skull-based tumor reconstruction, and from that moment, I was hooked."
One of a small group of highly trained craniofacial specialists, Ciminello sharpened his pediatric focus at Miami Children's Hospital, where he studied under Dr. Anthony World, the first American Fellow to train under Dr. Paul Tessier, the Paris surgeon known as the father of craniofacial surgery. Other career highlights included a general surgery post at St. Luke's – Roosevelt Hospital Center and a period studying plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of California Davis Medical Center. Today, a typical surgical week might include several procedures to correct craniosynostosis, cleft lips and palates, microtia (a deformity of the ear) and facial trauma.
When he's not performing surgery at Hackensack, Ciminello might well be on one of two medical missions he takes each year – one to Colombia and one to an island off the east coast of Madagascar in Africa.
But coming home is always welcome. Born in the Bronx and raised in Bergen County, Ciminello says, "I always knew I would come back to northern New Jersey to work."
In an age of "just do your best" fitness messages, Karen Dennis, CP, CES, PES, takes a different – and dramatically more demanding – tack.
"I expect nothing less than perfection from my clients," says Dennis, a personal trainer and native New Yorker who began studying ballet at the Harlem School of the Arts at the age of 7. "I grew up in that world. It was not enough to do your best; you needed to work to be the best of the best." Five children (and two grandchildren) later, she describes herself as a "zenned-out type-A personality," bringing that same energy and quest for perfection to her new Teaneck fitness studio, where she guides her clients toward lives of balance, wellness, discipline and spirituality.
Dennis' approach is all about determination and motivation, but it is anchored in a strong sense of faith and a confident "can do" attitude in everything from exercise to eating.
"I focus on being spiritually connected, emotionally alighted, mentally tough and physically strong. That's what I want for my clients," says Dennis, who taps a playlist of more than 2,000 musicians ranging from jazz to classical to club to set the invigorating early-morning tone that defines her studio. One member has even dubbed her "DJ Karen."
Dennis' group training sessions get underway at 4 a.m. Her oldest client – in age and tenure – is 76 and has been working out with Dennis for 20 years. Dennis credits such lasting loyalty to her ability to motivate people.
"It is a gift that comes naturally in my pursuit of finding out what someone's heart's desire is and helping them to achieve it," she says.
In addition, Dennis, a certified training professional with more than 20 years of experience and a certified Biggest Loser pro trainer, offers private and semi-private personal training and ongoing fitness assessments.
She's also passionate about helping her clients adopt the principles of "clean eating" – an approach that eschews processed foods in favor of meals prepared the old-fashioned way.
"I'm in contact with a lot of people who don't want to cook anymore, but when you eat processed foods, you really don't know what you are putting in your body," Dennis says.
Those same principles apply at home. Her husband of 22 years does the grocery shopping, and their three children still living at home – ages 12, 15 and 23 – reap the benefits, including mom's sardine and broccoli omelets prepared to order.
Dr. Matthew Grossman
Endoscopic Surgeon, St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center
It's not every day a doctor describes his chosen field of medicine as fun. But for Dr. Matthew Grossman, an attending physician in therapeutic endoscopy at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center and head of the Center for Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy at Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey in Woodland Park, "fun" means being able to perform procedures that make a difference in people's survival and quality of life.
"Advances in gastroenterology procedures allow us to now access and treat previously off-limits organs like the pancreas and liver," he says.
Grossman performs advanced procedures, including endoscopic ultrasound, which allows him to visualize, biopsy and treat lesions in the pancreas through the wall of the stomach.
Grossman has brought the latest endoscopic technology to New Jersey. He was the first physician in New Jersey to perform a double balloon enteroscopy, a surgery-sparing procedure that allows a physician, for example, to access and treat bleeding lesions of the once off-limits small intestine. He praises St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center for its significant investment in the infrastructure needed to provide "the pinnacle of endoscopic care." He says, "Every day, new technology emerges that allows us to better detect and treat disease in organs like the esophagus, stomach, colon, and small and large intestine." He credits St. Joseph's nurses and anesthesiologists with making "the patient experience phenomenal, safer and more comfortable."
He is equally enthusiastic about radiofrequency ablation to treat Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous disorder of the esophageal lining. Essentially, Grossman delivers radiofrequency energy to the diseased tissue to "beat the tumor before it becomes one," he explains. "This allows us to eradicate the earliest stages of tumors. Endoscopic ultrasound is another exciting area that has improved dramatically in the last five years. We are able to do tremendous things with diagnosis and treatment of the pancreas and liver because this procedure allows us to examine and treat beyond the lumen of the GI tract."
A Teaneck High School graduate, Grossman was drawn to medicine because he was always fascinated by the human body.
"It is the most intricate machine ever made," he says.
Grossman later double-majored in economics and biology at Washington University in St. Louis, where he graduated magna cum laude, before heading to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. He completed his fellowship in advanced therapeutic endoscopy at Lenox Hill Hospital, where he worked alongside Dr. Gregory Haber, a world-renowned therapeutic endoscopist and one of the masters of endoscopy in the biliary tree.
Recently accepted into the American Gastroenterological Association's Academy of Educators, Grossman thrives in St. Joseph's teaching hospital environment and tries to build on his skillset every day.
"If you can teach, you are always going to stay at the top of your game, especially in a fast-paced field like GI," he says.
Not surprisingly, he was awarded the GI Fellow of the Year for excellence in teaching house staff while completing his Gastroenterology Fellowship at New York University Medical Center.
"I continue to be an active educator working with residents and fellows at St. Joseph's. It's what keeps me sharp," he says with a smile.
Dose of Reality
Dr. Michael T. Harris
Surgeon, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
A Demarest resident for 18 years before he opted for the "dream commute" to Englewood, Dr. Michael T. Harris, FACS, joined Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in January 2012 as chief of surgery and surgical services. A nationally recognized expert in gastrointestinal surgery and former vice chairman of surgery at Mt. Sinai, Harris is well-known for his pioneering use of laproscopic surgery for both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
But beyond his extensive surgical e--xpertise, he has carved out another authoritative niche – the business of medicine. Author of the 2010 book Excellence with an Edge: Practicing Medicine in a Competitive Environment, Harris is passionate about teaching other physicians "the realities of the marketplace."
His grasp of the administrative aspects of medicine happened almost by accident when, years ago, not long after he'd gone into private practice with a small group of fellow gastrointestinal surgeons, the senior partner died.
"I was the newest and, thus, the least busy in the practice and so was the most able to jump in and figure out the business side of our practice," Harris recalls.
To his surprise, he enjoyed it and realized he was "pretty good at it."
"While I was earning a reputation as the next Crohn's and colitis guy, I was also becoming known as a reasonable guy who understood how to manage a practice," he says.
Harris juggled the dual roles for 11 years before joining Mt. Sinai School of Medicine as its vice chairman of surgery.
As chief of surgery at Englewood, Harris oversees a team of more than 70 surgeons who specialize in a wide range of fields, including general, bariatric, hepatobiliary, vascular, podiatric, breast and pediatric surgery. In addition, he's taking a leading role in recruiting and building programs to strengthen Englewood's surgical prominence, including designing and building new operating rooms and making large investments in oncologic services, particularly prostate, gastrointestinal, neurological and gynecologic cancers. While balancing a full surgical load, he also finds time to lecture on business in the Master of Health Administration programs at New York University and Cornell.
As the course director of Mount Sinai's "Business of Medicine" elective, one of the first courses of its kind for medical students, Harris is well-versed on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for medicine today.
"It underscores the need for doctors to take an active part in the management of their own practice," he says. "You can no longer hide from the realities of the marketplace and be successful as a physician. You need to pay attention to these issues, as well as how well you care for patients."
A cum laude graduate of Cornell, Harris went on to earn his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and complete his residency in general surgery at Mount Sinai. Interestingly, though he always knew he wanted to be a surgeon, Harris studied Russian literature at Cornell.
"I knew I'd have plenty of time to study science, and I thought it would be fun to study something really interesting," he says. "Studies in the liberal arts made me a much better doctor than another biology course would have." In fact, Harris observes that many of his most accomplished colleagues studied music and the arts.
Dr. William Boss Jr.
Cosmetic Surgery and Rejuvenation Center, Paramus
Navigating the relatively new world of facial injectables – those non-surgical anti-aging miracles in a tube – can be tricky, but "the whole concept of using patients' own cells to restore and improve is very exciting," says Dr. William Boss Jr., PA, FACS, the former chief of plastic surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center and head of the Cosmetic Surgery & Rejuvenation Center in Paramus. Boss is the inventor of laViv, the first and only personalized cell therapy approved by the Federal Drug Administration for aesthetic use.
Specifically, laViv targets the nasolabial folds (affectionately known as "smile lines"), smoothing their appearance through a process that uses the patient's fibroblast cells, the cells in the body that make collagen. In 2011, Allure magazine named it a "Best of Beauty Breakthrough Product," an accolade that might explain why Fibrocell Science Inc., its manufacturer, has applied to the FDA to expand production capacity to meet demand. Incredibly, Boss has patients dating back to his early clinical trials in 1997 and 1998 who still look great. "The product grows your own collagen to correct the dermal depression left from the line or wrinkle. It's not a dermal fill or plump fill," he says.
Unlike one-size-fits-all fillers, laViv is a highly personalized product comprised of special cells biopsied from a small skin sample and multiplied into hundreds of millions of cells. The multiplication process typically takes 11 to 22 weeks. The fibroblast cells are then administered in three separate treatments spaced three to six weeks apart. Given its longer time frame, Boss is careful to advise patients to consider all the different treatment options he gives them. "There are many different options to treat many different conditions. I like to spend time explaining the options and really understanding their goals," he says.
A pioneer in the area of laser and minimally invasive surgery, Boss is optimistic about the future of cell therapy. Though laViv is currently approved for use to improve the appearance of smile lines, "laViv poses an interesting possibility of being combined with laser procedure, as lasers target and stimulate the same cells that are in the laViv product," Boss says. Currently, Fibrocell Science is studying laViv for the treatment of acne scars.
Though he finds time to tackle a wide range of plastic and cosmetic surgical procedures and has privileges at every hospital in Bergen County, Boss is ever the scientist, holding half a dozen patents and exploring ways to use cellular therapy to grow bones and create grafts.
Heart of the Matter
Dr. Angel Mulkay
Interventional Cardiologist, Holy Name Medical Center
A leader in transradial arterial catheterization – also known as through-the-wrist cardiac catheterization – Dr. Angel Mulkay, FACC, an interventional cardiologist at Holy Name Medical Center and director of its Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, has established the technique as the standard of care at Holy Name. Currently, an estimated 10 percent of cardiac catheterizations performed in the U.S. use the radial approach, but Mulkay hopes to see those numbers rise.
"By using the transradial approach, we see fewer complications and less bleeding, less post-procedure pain and an overall quicker recovery," Mulkay explains of a procedure that, essentially, accesses a pathway to the heart starting at the wrist rather than the traditional access through the groin.
Considered a more challenging technique, transradial arterial catheterization has been around for several years, but it is underused, and many doctors lack exposure and training in it.
"Now, in the last two or three years, it has become more popular as newly published data continues to supports its benefits," he says of research papers presented at the National Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Conference in Washington, D.C., in September 2012.
Performed across the board at Holy Name (with exceptions for ineligible patients), the transradial arterial catheterization technique is used in both elective and acute emergency situations.
"All of our cardiologists are trained in it," Mulkay says. "We are on the same page, working toward the same goal. It is the standard of care at Holy Name."
Keeping current with industry standards, Mulkay is the lead investigator in several international and national clinical trials that keep Holy Name Medical Center at the forefront of cardiac research.
"As an EMT in high school in Union City," he recalls, "I developed an interest in health care and realized I had a strong passion for cardiac patients – it was a natural calling."
At 23, Mulkay earned his medical degree from the Universidad Central del Este in the Dominican Republic and subsequently completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowships in cardiology and interventional cardiology at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York.
Aside from providing leading-edge cardiac care, Mulkay is a strong advocate for giving back.
"I am honored to serve the community that has given so much to me," explains Mulkay, who recently received North Hudson Community Action Corporation's Civic Leadership Award, recognizing his philanthropic work serving members of the community for more than a decade.
Burn Advocates Network
In the days just after Hurricane Sandy, Sam Davis was busy taping a public service announcement aimed at educating storm victims about burn hazards in the post-storm environment. A trial lawyer and founder of the nonprofit Burn Advocates Network, Davis says, "When you are in a crisis and you are cold and exhausted, safety is not always the first thing on your mind." He points out the myriad dangers of gas cans, candles, generators, downed electrical wires – even the kitchen stove. "Burn units have been very busy places."
A resident of Teaneck, Davis became involved in burn advocacy through his full-time work as a trial lawyer.
"What really drew me in was the plight of children who had burn injuries," he says. "No matter how much I did for them as a lawyer, these kids were never getting better, and that always bothered me."
Davis began taking his young clients to burn camps and discovered there was change in their outlook.
"These camps reinforced that they were not the sum of their scars. The path from victim to survivor is a long journey but it is a critical one," he says.
He founded Burn Advocates Network in 1997, dedicated to supporting the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of burn victims.
Davis' care and compassion for victims extend beyond his clients with burn injuries. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he made multiple trips to what he calls "the most challenging environment imaginable. For me, Haiti is a project that will never be finished." Over six trips, Davis brought 50 tons of supplies to Haiti, gathered from disparate sources.
"I teamed up with Mike Maron [CEO of Holy Name Medical Center] and Dr. David Butler to build a physical therapy clinic for burn victims in northern Haiti. It's not every day you see a trial lawyer and a hospital CEO on the same team," Davis says with a laugh. The Holy Name connection is apt, given that Davis' father was a "greatest generation" internist who practiced at Holy Name following his return from World War II.
Closer to home, Davis logs as many hours in the courtroom as he does advocating for burn victims.
"My sub-specialty is burn injuries," he says, "but I am rabidly concerned about products that injure and burn."
In that spirit, Davis recently launched the Journal of Burns, Fire and Explosion, a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication designed to bring the timely, relevant information directly to the consumer. He's also at work establishing burn camps in Haiti and India, follow-ups to Camp Sababa, established in Israel in 2009. Like the 22 camps in the U.S. where Burn Advocates Network provides adaptive music and recreational programs, the organization's international camps will "unite kids through the universal language of music," he says.
"I strongly believe that, as an attorney, I am an integral part of my client's health care team," Davis says. "Without financial resources, it is very difficult to get the kind of comprehensive, long-term care needed to recover from a devastating injury. To put it mildly, most insurance companies just don't put the patient's care before their profits."
Beacon of Hope
International Altruist, Shining Hope for Communities
Dividing her time between New York City and Nairobi, Jordyn Wells juggles academics and altruism with equal passion. A graduate student at Columbia (and one-time Ridgewood middle schooler), Wells is also director of operations and evaluation for Shining Hope for Communities, an organization combating gender inequality and extreme poverty in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.
On daily Skype calls to her co-workers in Kenya, Wells keeps abreast of the organization's wide-ranging initiatives, which include operating the Kibera School for Girls, a health clinic (with a particular emphasis on women's health) and a host of other community services, all while working toward her master's degree in social work.
To fully appreciate her work, it's important to understand the devastating realities of life – especially for young girls – in Nairobi's largest slum, an area roughly the size of Central Park and home to 1.5 million people.
"By the age of 16," Wells says, "66 percent of them routinely trade sex for food – some beginning as young as six. By educating a girl in Kibera, she will earn more, invest 90 percent of her earnings in her family, be three times less likely to become HIV positive and have fewer, healthier children more likely to live past age 5."
Wells is up against a system that "undervalues education for girls and where the lack of access to quality health care and resources prevents students, especially girls, from staying in school," she says.
Her dedication to public service is anchored in a long family tradition of giving back. During college, she was active in the Wells Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by her father that funds university scholarships for students in developing countries.
"The roots of my desire to give back are in my family," says Wells, who studied cultural anthropology at Bard College and, upon graduation, joined Do Something, a New York-based national nonprofit that inspires and supports young people who are changing the world.
At Shining Hope, Wells manages the design and build-out of a comprehensive metrics and evaluation system and the development of the Kenyan operations and management systems. Though Shining Hope is just three years old, Wells is "working on putting in operational and administrative systems that will allow it to grow and, hopefully, expand to other urban areas," she says. "It is important to make sure that we are doing what we intend to do and that we can measure the impact we are having in the community."
For Wells, what is most personally fulfilling is the school for girls.
"It's a big part of what we do," she says, "and seeing the potential of these little girls, who wouldn't otherwise have any education or opportunity, is what motivates me and keeps me going. The girls are so smart and so amazing."
The path out of poverty for these girls and their families begins with a curriculum that fosters leadership, critical thinking and creativity.
Wells' biggest challenge? "There is so much need," she says. "The hardest thing is staying focused and realizing that you can only do so much – and doing that really well."
Dr. Ihor Sawczuk
Administrator, Hackensack University Medical Center
While juggling a variety of roles at Hackensack University Medical Center, including executive vice president, chief academic officer, chair of urology and, since last January, its chief medical officer, Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, FACS, feels one of his most important responsibilities is training the health care leaders of the future.
"To me, Hackensack is not only a clinical facility, it is also an academic facility and that sets us apart from other institutions. We have approximately 140 residents across many specialties, 90 to 110 medical students and 100 nursing students coming through every month. Ours is a very robust academic philosophy," he explains.
A nationally recognized expert in urologic cancers and in the performance of robotic surgery, Sawczuk joined Hackensack as chairman of its Department of Urology in 2001 from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"At the time, there were 13 urologists," he recalls. Today, the nationally ranked department has 45 urologists and is rated No. 1 in New Jersey and among the top four in the New York area by U.S. News & World Report (as well as No. 25 in the nation).
"We brought the department to national prominence in a relatively short period of time," he says of his help in guiding the medical center to clinical, research and academic excellence.
Sawczuk credits Hackensack's commitment to quality, technological innovation and patient care as the driving forces behind its rise to national prominence.
"We wanted to be a player and we did it through a strategy that prized innovation, staff and patient-centric care," he says.
The accolades and awards are less important to Sawczuk, however.
"My proudest accomplishment is the way in which I care for my patients. It is an honor to be able to help them through their illness and even through their day," says Sawczuk, whose expertise in treating cancers of the kidney, bladder and prostate is reflected in the more than 250 abstracts, articles and chapters he has authored or co-authored.
As chief medical officer, Sawczuk oversees the hospital's entire physician staff and puts into place innovative programs with local universities, such as Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, a win-win partnership that introduces joint biomedical research programs that provide students with opportunities to work in a clinical setting.
On the academic side, Sawczuk is involved in training "the urologists of the future" –residents, fellows and medical students – and making sure they operate and interact with patients and their families professionally and compassionately.
"One of the joys of the job is watching them graduate and become accomplished urologists," he says.
Inspired to Heal
Dr. John Rundback
Interventional Radiologist, Holy Name Medical Center
What separates interventional radiation is not innovation but inspiration," says Dr. John Rundback, director of The Interventional Institute at Holy Name Medical Center and an international expert in the field.
"It's an important difference. There is a whole well of inspiration," he says of the vast number of available non-surgical treatments in what he considers one of the most exciting and diverse fields of medicine. "It is a field of constant and dynamic change and innovation. We are doing things today that were not available even five years ago."
One of the most exciting innovations in interventional radiology is radioembolization, a technique that allows physicians like Rundback to treat inoperable liver tumors.
"We are talking about true nanotechnology," he says of the outpatient procedure that delivers highly radioactive beads, each the size of a talcum powder particle, directly into a tumor. Though it is not a cure, the benefits to its recipients are well established, including longer periods of remission. The technique delivers radiation only where it is needed, sparing healthy liver tissue and lessening the chances of fatigue and nausea associated with other treatments. Holy Name was the first medical center in the tri-state area to adopt radioembolization.
Inspired by Holy Name's staff, equipment and investment in emerging technology, Rundback came to the hospital from Columbia University Medical Center seven years ago.
"I can do things here that I could not do there," he says of the hospital's commitment to building a unique and specialized program, which has grown from 500 patients initially to 5,500 patients today. At any given time, the hospital is involved in as many as a dozen clinical trials that could lead to groundbreaking new treatments in interventional radiology. "We have a culture here that really cares."
Rundback is also a pioneer in the treatment of deep venous thrombosis (aka "economy class syndrome"), the leading cause of pulmonary embolism, and considers Holy Name "without peer" in the region in performing advanced and unique diabetic limb salvage vascular restoration procedures.
Incredibly, Rundback and his team perform 10 to 18 procedures each day, ranging from treating liver cancer through radioembolization to common uterine fibroids, which can now be treated through embolization.
"In the search for relief from uterine fibroid pain," he says, "hysterectomies were once considered the only solution. But now we can offer a highly effectively, minimally invasive option that doesn't require surgery."
Rundback adds his oft-heard mantra: "Fewer complications, shorter recovery, less discomfort."
Dr. Jason Baynes
Baynes Orthopaedics LLC, Englewood's Health East Center
When he's not front and center in the operating rooms of Englewood and Holy Name hospitals, Dr. Jason Baynes can often been found on the sidelines of some of Bergen County's most competitive playing fields. An experienced sports medicine orthopedic surgeon and on-field physician, Baynes serves as a team physician or consultant for several local sports teams, including his alma mater, Teaneck High School.
A Bergenite almost since birth, Baynes played high school soccer and basketball for Teaneck before heading to Princeton to study business. Those early experiences on the basketball court – and a pair of ACL injuries – ultimately led him to future colleague Dr. Lawrence Livingston – laying the foundation for his career in medicine.
"Dr. Livingston was a really cool guy, and I became interested in learning how to rehab athletes," says Baynes, who opted for an undergraduate degree in molecular biology and later graduated from Yale University School of Medicine.
Baynes' expertise in sports medicine is appreciated by both patients and fellow colleagues. The Eastern Orthopedic Association awarded him a resident/fellow travel grant during his 3B Sports Medicine Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. And during the annual Philadelphia Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine Fellows' Research Symposium, Baynes was recognized for presenting the top paper for his clinical research on anterior rotator interval injuries of the shoulder.
Although he specializes in sports-related orthopedics, his patients include anyone with degenerative joint problems; procedures range from knee arthroscopy (the most common orthopedic procedure), which includes simple partial meniscectomy (to remove torn cartilage in the knee) and complex anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, to shoulder arthroscopy and total joint replacement.
The availability of new implants and new surgical instruments has made orthopedic surgery easier on physician and patient, notes Baynes, who juggles his surgery and sideline duties from his newly opened private practice, Baynes Orthopaedics LLC in Englewood's Health East Medical Center.
"The surgical procedures have evolved and improved over the last two decades," he says. "We don't have to make big incisions, and that means there is significantly less tissue destruction, resulting in an easier recovery for the patient. In addition, newer anesthesia techniques such as regional blocks [which keep a patient's limb numb for 36 hours post-surgery] have been extremely beneficial in starting the rehab process earlier."
Despite all the innovations, there's no replacement for old-fashioned exercise.
"The more you move, the better off your joints will be," Baynes says. "It's probably the best advice I can give my patients. I tell them you don't need a gym membership. Just start with a walk around the block. Your body will appreciate it."