When yet another team sets off from the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science for some remote location in Africa or Central America, its thoughts are on how to provide the superior standard of care, considered to be the routine at home, to women in drastically resource poor settings. Upon returning, what our teams often realize is that the tremendous expertise they develop in these countries is the very thing that makes them the experts in their own fields at home. Fistula repair is the perfect example of this.
“Obstetric fistula is a tremendous problem in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Charles Ascher-Walsh MD, Assistant Professor, Director of Gynecology and Urogynecology, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science. “In many countries there is very little maternal health care and, as a result, maternal mortality rates top 1% in some of these countries. These rates are unfathomable in the United States.” If a woman is lucky enough to survive childbirth, the rates of developing some type of post-partum fistula vary between 2 to 5 per thousand births. This equates to between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases of vesico-vaginal fistula in West Africa alone every year. These women, constantly drenched in their own urine, become social outcasts and live a life of physical and social misery. This problem, however, often has a surgical cure that can reinstitute these women into society.
My name is Loren Ridinger and I was diagnosed with and underwent brain surgery for a brain aneurysm, all within a couple months. I am so grateful to Mount Sinai and Dr. Aman Patel for saving my life; over 30,000 people die each year from ruptured aneurysms and I could have been one of them if it wasn’t for this hospital and its amazing doctors.
Don’t settle for less than the best when it comes to your health. You have to be your biggest advocate – there is nothing more important! Be persistent! I had learned to live with vertigo for years because every doctor I went to said there was “nothing wrong” with me. Remember that they are practitioners, not perfect, and only you know what’s happening to your body. After demanding an MRI and then an MRA (similar to an MRI except it focuses on your arteries) and learning that I had an 8.5 mm aneurysm of my internal carotid artery behind my left eye, I went from doctor to doctor and different hospitals trying to figure out what came next.
Personalized Medicine is a rapidly evolving approach to patient care that incorporates an individual’s genetic information into a customized prevention or treatment plan. Mapping a person’s total genetic makeup or whole genome sequencing has created mountains of data about variations in our human genetic code. As this experience has grown, some of these variations have been linked to risks for certain diseases, or in some cases the likelihood that a person will respond to a particular treatment. Individuals may now submit a DNA sample and obtain their genetic sequence with accompanying risk association analysis for a few hundred dollars. Can this technology however be harnessed to drive better outcomes for patients diagnosed with cancer? Many clinicians and scientists argue that we are not there yet.
Dr. Katherine Chen is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Education for the Obstetrics/Gynecology Department at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai . She also directs the third year medical student six-week Obstetrics/Gynecology clerkship. Recognized for her excellence in teaching through various awards at Harvard Medical School and Columbia University, her most recent honor in 2012 is the Mount Sinai Institute of Medical Education Excellence in Teaching award. She was also a faculty member AOA inductee in 2010.
The Rossi editor-in-chief had a chance to sit down with Dr. Chen and discuss her philosophies on teaching, as well as her life as a physician, mother and book enthusiast.
Q: What attracted you to Mount Sinai?
I came here specifically for an administrative position in education. Prior to that, I was at Columbia University on an NIH grant, primarily doing research – 75% research, 25% clinical. Then I had a midlife crisis and decided I wanted to focus more on education. I’m very grateful to my chair Dr. Brodman for offering me the position and for supporting me in my endeavors.
Q: What was this midlife crisis?
I always knew I had a knack for teaching, even while I was a resident. But at that time, I had gotten advice that to advance in the academic world, you needed to be a clinical expert with productive research activities. So I went down that path first. I spent several years focusing on Obstetric Infectious Diseases, gathering clinical research skills, and performing studies. When I turned 40, I realized that the projects I enjoyed most were the ones I did with students and residents. I couldn’t get away from teaching.
In medicine, as with other fields, developing effective leaders and educators is essential to our profession. Teaching is a vital role of all physicians, and good teaching directly improves patient care. Similar to other aspects of medical practice, becoming an effective teacher requires training and experience. An increasing number of medical students, residents, and practicing physicians are seeking advanced training in education to provide them with a conceptual and scholarly foundation for their educational responsibilities, and to enhance their leadership potential and increase their effectiveness in their profession.
Mount Sinai’s Institute for Medical Education (IME) serves the vital need for creating, educating, mentoring and retaining the best educators for our students, residents and faculty. Fostering the success of our educators includes recognizing and rewarding those who display dedication and excellence in their work, and providing programs that develop and reinforce their scholarship, teaching skills and successful promotion.
Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Peter W. May, Chairman of the Boards of Trustees, The Mount Sinai Medical Center, have announced that in early 2013, Mount Sinai School of Medicine will be renamed in honor of Trustee Carl C. Icahn, who has generously supported this institution for more than three decades.
The new name—the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai—was bestowed by the Boards of Trustees in recognition of Mr. Icahn’s many years of dedicated service, his leadership in advancing medical science, and his nearly $200 million in lifetime giving to Mount Sinai. Mr. Icahn’s most recent gift of $150 million is the largest in Mount Sinai’s history and among the biggest gifts made to a medical school. His previous contributions to Mount Sinai resulted in a state-of-the-art medical school research building on the Mount Sinai campus being named the Icahn Medical Institute.