Doctors of Distinction ceremony spotlights best in Westchester’s medical field

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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A group of 11 accomplished doctors – and one future doctor – were honored Oct. 27 at the annual Doctors of Distinction Awards at the New York Medical College in Valhalla.

The event, co-sponsored by Westfair Communication Inc., the parent company of the Westchester County Business Journal, accounting firm Citrin Cooperman and the Westchester County Medical Society, honored doctors in the following categories: Cutting Edge, Caring For All, No Land Too Far, Physician in Training, All In The Family, Female Trailblazer, Lifetime Achievement and a medical student award Promise for the Future.

Edward C. Halperin, the chancellor and CEO of New York Medical College, gave the keynote speech and stressed the need for public funding and interest in biomedical research.

“For most of history, large numbers of children died before their fifth birthday. Plagues and epidemic were constant threats and life was short, mean and brutish. It is no longer that way in the economically developed world,” Halperin said. “Because we are all the beneficiaries of economic development and its funding of biomedical research. And the future is even brighter, if we have sense enough as a society to invest in more of it.”

The first award of the night, for Physician in Training, went to Farah Ansari, a third-year and chief resident at the Northwell Phelps Family Medicine residency program. In her acceptance speech, she said she could find no “defining moment” in her medical training, but rather a series of moments.

“Oddly enough, my efforts led me to a different memory each time: whether it be emotional end-of-life conversations, the many beautiful babies I’ve had the pleasure of delivering, or the families I’ve gotten to know along the way,” Ansari said.

Next up was the All In The Family award, which was given to Paul, Andre and Nabil Khoury, all of White Plains Hospital. Paul Khoury left his home country of Lebanon in 1975 at the outbreak of a civil war, and started moonlighting as a radiologist at White Plains Hospital. In 1990, he was joined by his brother Andre. Now the two brothers oversee the entire radiology staff at White Plains Hospital. Nabil Khoury, the youngest brother, is a successful OB/GYN in Westchester.

Paul Khoury told the story of his escape from Lebanon’s civil war and his efforts to bring his family to the United States as well.

“Living in a civil war, I want you all to understand how lucky you are to live in this magnificent country,” he said.

George Alexopoulos, professor of psychiatry at the Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Weill Cornell Medical College, was honored next with the Cutting Edge award. Alexopoulos was recognized for fundamental contributions to research in the treatment of late-life depression. He founded and still serves as director of the Weill-Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“This award is honoring not only me, but is honoring mainly my colleagues in the community that accepted this kind of work and wanted to experiment with us and make it all happen,” Alexopoulos said.

William H. Frishman, a professor and chairman of the department of medicine at New York Medical College and chief of medicine at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, also accepted the Cutting Edge award. Frishman has authored more than 1,000 original articles, review and book chapters on cardiovascular pharmacology and clinical cardiology. He discussed some of the frustrations of research, such as a constant struggle for funding, but ended with the inspiration that drives him.

“Why should we encourage and even mentor our students in research careers?” Frishman asked. “Indeed, the joy of research comes not just from discovery, but being chosen as the first person to uncover a truth of nature that God already knows.”

Richard Charney, a clinical and interventional cardiologist affiliated with Westchester Medical Center, Montefiore-New Rochelle and White Plains Hospital, was recognized with the Caring For All award. Charney works part time at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Network, where he has provided cardiology care to the under- and uninsured for a decade.

“It should be no surprise that according to recent data, Westchester County is a snapshot of the larger issue,” Charney said, “with 10 percent of our residents living in poverty and without any health insurance, and 15 percent having Medicaid.”

Maureen Killackey, clinical director of the Cancer Center at New York-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, was recognized with the Female Trailblazer award.

“A cancer program requires a team, just like in the operating room,” Killackey said. “A team that has commitment, engagement, and probably a recently overused word – stamina.”

The new cancer center at New York Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital that Killackey will lead opened on Halloween, which she joked is “better than April Fools.”

Bok Y Lee was recognized next with the Lifetime Achievement award. Lee, a graduate of the Seoul National University College of Medicine, has held a number of positions, including staff surgeon and director of surgical research at the Veterans Affairs Hudson Valley Health Care System at Castle Point. He has authored more than 300 journal publications and numerous scientific exhibits and books. He has also served as a professor of surgery at New York Medical College and an adjunct professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. Lee is chairman of clinical research and development at Off-Loading Technologies in Tarrytown.

“Along with those years with the college, in addition to the scientific literature, his landmark contributions to pressure interim management and endless dedication to our precious veterans makes him well worthy of this lifetime achievement award,” said Glenn J. Butler, founding partner and chief engineer at Off-loading Technologies, who thanked the awards committee on behalf of Lee. Lee spoke as well, thanking a series of mentors for helping him throughout his career.

Lopa and Mantu Gupta, the recipients of the No Land Too Far award, were unable to attend. Lopa Gupta is one of New York’s leading eyelid and cosmetic surgeons. Mantu Gupta is a professor of urology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of endourology and stone disease for the Mount Sinai Health System. The two are co-founders and co-presidents of the SaDilka foundation, which carries out medical and surgical missions throughout the world.

The final recognition of the night, the Promise For The Future award, went to Lydia Bunker, a student at New York Medical College. Bunker, who received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, has applied for an internal medical residency and plans to pursue either hospitality medicine or critical care.

“I’d like to consider my so-called promise for the future to be the promise that I will make to my patients every day as a physician,” Bunker said. “A promise to learn from them, to do better every day and to always be grateful for the privilege of being their physician.”

Additional sponsors of the event were The Bristal Assisted Living, Danziger & Markhoff LLP, Val’s Putnam Wines & Liquors, Greenwich Hospital, Montefiore, NewYork-Presbyterian, White Plains Hospital,The Mitchell WealthCare Group of UBS Financial Services and Justworks.

“Doctors of Distinction holds a special meaning in the repertoire of Westfair’s programs because it honors a profession, which can have a profound effect on everyone’s life,” said Dee DelBello, Westfair publisher. “Long the silent heroes within the community, we aim for well-deserved recognition to the doctors who work tirelessly here and abroad to bring good health to all. Congratulations 2016 Doctors of Distinction.”

“We were delighted to be a part of the 4th Annual Westchester Doctors of Distinction awards to celebrate physicians who have committed their lives to the medical field,” said Blake Spina, director of Citrin Cooperman. “On behalf of Citrin Cooperman, thank you for the dedication and compassion that you bring to your patients. Congratulations to all on this well-deserved recognition.”

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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