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.
(page 2 of 6)
Treating Kids with Crayons, a Pickle Yodel, And a Magic Table
Monsters, bullies, feuding parents: nothing cuts them down to size like a comic strip, says 62-year-old child psychiatrist Robert Seaver, MD. Children grappling with their fears and such disorders as anxiety, depression, and OCD visit his private practice in Mount Kisco, where Dr. Seaver...doodles. Yes, doodles—sketching cartoons complete with heroes, villains, and thought balloons. “Some kids are reluctant to say how they feel,” he says. “Drawing cartoons helps them open up.”
The comics are often absurdly over-the-top. “Representing a fear on the page makes it less scary,” Dr. Seaver says. For example, if a child is anxious at the start of school and suffers acute separation anxiety, “I can sketch a funny picture of a monster in the waiting room, and the kid cowering instead of going out to look. As the kid gets braver, the monster gets smaller, until there’s nothing there.” As a tangible reminder of the session, at the end of the visit, Dr. Seaver gives the strip to the child to take home.
Dr. Seaver has been drawing since age four, he says—with little inkling that his avocation would one day come in handy for his day job. “When I was a fellow at Albert Einstein in the early ’80s, the training was fairly rigid psychoanalysis,” he recalls. “The department chairman, Joe Kramer, found out I drew cartoons and suggested I draw with my kids.” So he traded his stethoscope and tongue depressor for crayons and paper, as well as puppets, dollhouses, drums, a pickle that yodels, and a tabletop stone with a hidden magnet underneath. “I tell the kids they have magic powers."
When he’s not sketching cartoons, Dr. Seaver may play the harmonica for his patients or fold paper into a noisemaker, a trick he picked up in the seventh grade. “I try to make it fun,” says Dr. Seaver, who has a grown son. “When you keep them engaged and interested, they feel more comfortable talking about what they’re afraid of.”
He was a pediatrician in Mount Kisco in the ’70s before switching disciplines in 1980. The brisk practice of a pediatrician didn’t leave him enough time to draw; he saw up to 40 patients per day and today caps his patients at approximately 35 per week. “Child psychiatry keeps me young,” he says. “It’s hard to get crusty and belligerent when you’re making paper planes and playing the harmonica.”
Fixing Fractures, Clubfoot…and Allaying Fears
It’s not only her training at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and at New York University Medical Center that makes Iris Schlesinger, MD, “the specialist to whom our region’s pediatric orthopedic surgeons refer their difficult cases,” says her colleague Dr. Robin Altman. Dr. Schlesinger, orthopedic surgeon at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, received a thorough grounding in caring for children from experience as a certified teacher, babysitter, coach, camp counselor, and “mother to two awesome girls,” she says. “I truly understand and can relate to children—skills that aren’t taught in medical school.”
“Children are not just small adults,” Dr. Schlesinger says. “They need to be approached in a non-threatening, caring manner. When old enough, they need explanations they can understand.”
Dr. Schlesinger treats injuries such as broken bones, sprains, and torn ligaments and such congenital problems as clubfoot, hip dysplasia, and cerebral palsy in children from birth to age 16. “In pediatric orthopedics, you have to relate not only to the child but also to the parent,” she says. “The entire family is affected. But the great thing about kids is they want to get better, and you get a huge ‘thank you’ when they do.” She recalls treating a girl whose pelvis was crushed by a falling tree. “Years later, I was invited to her bat mitzvah to watch her dance.” Another patient with severe elbow fractures went on to play Major League Baseball. Most recently, she performed surgery on a girl who nearly had her legs amputated after a horrific lawn mower accident. “She lost only a big toe and it is a joy to watch her run. I am as thrilled as her parents.”
An associate professor of orthopedic surgery at New York Medical College, Dr. Schlesinger is board certified in orthopedic surgery, and her board certification was followed by a fellowship in pediatrics—a path taken by few physicians, she says. “I enjoy working with children and can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.”
Getting Patients Back In the Game
Eric Small, MD, a sports-medicine physician in Mount Kisco, specializes in an often misdiagnosed—and, as a result, mistreated—condition, called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which affects millions of Americans. RSD, a chronic, painful, and progressive condition, usually develops in an injured limb, e.g., a broken arm, or following surgery. However—and here’s the reason it is so often not detected—it can be a consequence of a minor injury or, sometimes, seemingly no injury at all.
Some doctors are not even aware that RSD exists and may attribute their patients' chronic pain to a fracture or sprain that doesn’t show up in X-rays. (Sometimes, MRIs can even support these misdiagnoses.) And, often they'll tell their patients to rest, restrict activity, or even immobilize the injured limb—the exact wrong course of action, according to Dr. Small. “Prescribing immobilization for longer than a day or two, instead of exercise and active rehab, will only make the pain worse,” says Dr. Small, whose patients include football players, figure skaters, and pint-sized little leaguers.
Dr. Small knows how to check for RSD. The 47-year-old father of four athletic sons performs thorough exams, and if a patient reacts with extreme pain when touched by even a pinprick or a feather and if no other explanations for the pain can be found—tumor, obvious fracture, torn ligament—RSD, he says, is the likely culprit.
Dr. Small's Rx for RSD? Exercise, which promotes blood flow to the oxygen-starved area, relieving pain and hastening healing, he says. “My patients have been told they have to give up a sport but after six weeks of treatment, they’re pain-free and ready to jump back in.”
Dr. Small, who trained in pediatric sports medicine at Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital, joined Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla in 1995. In 2003, he opened his private practice, which now receives 4,000 patients per year, the majority under age 25. His youngest patient is six years old.
“We live in an ultra-competitive environment,” he says. “There are seven-year-olds who have tryouts for travel baseball, soccer, and lacrosse. They train year-round and suffer overuse injuries. My job is to treat the injury and educate the parents and coaches to prevent injuries from happening again.”