Top Doctors 2010
We present the best doctors across all specialties whom the experts, doctors themselves, recommend—and hear from a few who are advancing their fields right here in Westchester.
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One of the many advantages of living here is that some of the best medical minds anywhere live among us and practice here. With any luck (and preventive maintenance), you won’t need to knock on their doors. But should things “break down,” you don’t want to entrust your care to anyone less than the very best. That’s when the following pages will come in handy. Once again, after a lengthy and rigorous peer-review process, the healthcare research firm Castle Connolly Medical, Ltd. has compiled a list of some of the top physicians, including surgeons and specialists, here in Westchester—183 in all. Of course, that's not to say that if your doctor is not on the list, you have a bad doctor. But, if you're looking for a new doctor or specialist, here are the physicians the experts recommend.
PROFILES By Melissa Pheterson
Photography by Chris Ware
Giving the Obese a Fresh Start
Madhu Rangraj, MD, director of surgery and chief of laparoscopic surgery at Sound Shore Medical Center, has expanded his acclaimed Surgical Weight Loss Program with a 6,000-square-foot Advanced Orthopedic and Bariatric Suite, which opened its doors in May. The suite has 15 hotel-style patient rooms with beds, chairs, weight scales, stretchers, doors, and commodes in the appropriate sizes.
Nearly all his stomach-shrinking procedures (bands, sleeves, and bypasses) are performed laparoscopically, with just a small incision near the belly button. But the surgery is just one part of the treatment Dr. Rangraj, 63, provides. “The surgery is purely mechanical,” he says. “It takes more than just the procedure for a lasting change.” He teams each patient with a nutritionist and two other surgeons to discuss the procedure, assuage fears, and help prepare for the radical change to come. “Fathers, sons, grandsons all come in together,” he says. “Patients bring friends and neighbors—their support system.”
It is estimated that more than 34 percent of adult Americans are obese, and nearly 6 percent are morbidly obese. “Our patients are all morbidly obese, more than one hundred pounds overweight,” Dr. Rangraj says. “Telling them to lose weight won’t work. It’s hard enough to lose five pounds, let alone one hundred fifty.” He adds that his patients have been ostracized their whole lives, due to “the public's belief that ‘your weight is your fault.' But, he says, “this is an eating disorder, a disease. Would you fault someone for cancer or diabetes?”
Dr. Rangraj graduated from Grant Medical College in India, then completed his internship and residency at Sound Shore Medical Center. Since 2002, he and his team have performed more than 800 bariatric surgeries. In 2005, he received the highest level of approval for the bariatric program from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
“Bariatric patients are the most grateful patients in the world,” Dr. Rangraj decalres. “Many had diabetes, blood pressure issues, heart disease. They used to spend two-hundred dollars per week on medication.” Once they’ve emerged from the program, he says, “their whole life changes. They gain confidence, they get married, they’re more productive at work.”
Lending a Hand (And a Leg And an Arm)
Dr. Karen Pechman, medical director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at White Plains Hospital Center and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, always wanted to help people—and sprinted as fast as she could to become a doctor. She graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science at age 16. Six years later, after completing an accelerated medical program at Boston University, she was a physician. (Most college students are just finishing up their undergrad degrees by the age of 22!) In 1980, at age 22, she received a training grant to conduct research in immunology at NYU, where her lab shared building space with the rehabilitation center. “I saw what doctors and patients were accomplishing and got inspired,” she says. “It made me realize how great rehab is and how much I missed patients. Helping patients is why I became a doctor in the first place.”
Dr. Pechman helps patients reclaim their lives. “It’s amazing to see someone come in without a limb and then leave with one you’ve taught them to use,” she says. “They arrive helpless and leave independent, which is so gratifying for me.” One of her most memorable patients lost all four limbs after contracting meningococcal disease at summer camp. “I looked at him on the stretcher and my heart broke, because I had kids that age,” she says. “He was still growing at the time. When he left Burke, he could walk again.” He went on to compete in a Paralympics ice hockey tournament.
In her practice, Dr. Pechman utilizes cutting-edge techniques and products, including such breakthrough prosthetics as the “myoelectric” arm, whose hand opens and closes in response to electrical signals from muscles. “Prosthetic arms have always been more problematic to use than prosthetic legs, because of the fine motor skills required in the upper limbs,” she says.
To pinpoint the extent of nerve damage in patients with spinal-cord injuries, Dr. Pechman runs nerve-conduction studies (also called electromyogram, or EMG) in which an electric needle pulses under the skin to gauge how well the nerves will conduct the impulse. The EMG technique was invented by Dr. Edward Delagi, whom Dr. Pechman from 1983 to 1986 trained under at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she volunteered as a “candy striper” in high school. “EMG sounds a lot worse than it is,” says Dr. Pechman. “I think only two patients have ever told me to stop the machine.”