A group of the county’s most accomplished doctors – along with one future doctor – were honored Oct. 24 at the annual Doctors of Distinction Awards at the C.V. Rich Mansion in White Plains.
The awards were co-sponsored by the Westchester County Business Journal; the law firm Brown, Gruttadaro, Gaujean, Prato & Sastow PLLC; the Westchester County Medical Society and Mitchell WealthCare, UBS Financial Services.
The first award of the night, the No Land Too Far award, went to Dr. Rifat Latifi, director of the department of surgery at Westchester Medical Center. Latifi was out of the country and unable to attend. His daughter, Kalterina Latifi, accepted the award on his behalf.
Latifi has overseen three national telemedicine programs in Kosovo, Albania and Cabo Verde. He is working to establish a telemedicine program in provincial hospitals in Hanoi, Vietnam.
While Kalterina Latifi said her father is dedicated and passionate about his role as director of the surgery department at WMCHealth, she made clear that passion extended beyond the patients in the Hudson Valley.
“Today he has traveled to more countries than you can possibly imagine,” she said. “The best part is he truly, truly loves what he does. From surgical missions in the Philippines to telemedicine in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, no land is too far and no mission impossible.”
Next came the Cutting Edge awards, which first recognized Dr. Ashutosh Kaul. Kaul is the program director of the minimally invasive surgery fellowship program at New York Medical College, director of bariatric surgery at Greenwich Hospital and director of minimally invasive and robotic surgery at Westchester Medical Center.
Kaul, who is specialized in advanced abdominal laparoscopic surgery, used his speech to discuss obesity, which he said has become “the biggest health care issue affecting the country.”
“In the hours this event will take, over 200 people will die due to the side effects of obesity,” Kaul said.
He described bariatric surgery as a treatment for many of the side effects of obesity, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer risk.
Also accepting a Cutting Edge award was Dr. Brian Levine of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine. Levine is the founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York. Levine said that infertility affects 1 in 8 people.
“And I think people are wondering why infertility research is getting a Cutting Edge award,” Levine said. “The reason is that out of all the fields in medicine I truly believe that infertility treatment is one of the fields that we are really benefiting from (science).”
Levine researches male infertility, which he said is often overlooked, but represents 40 percent of cases when a couple seeks treatment for infertility.
Dr. Cynthia Chin received the Female Trailblazer award. Chin is director of the women’s cancer program at White Plains Hospital.
“I’m truly honored to accept an award for a job that I love,” Chin said. “I get to work with cancer patients and, as a physician, there is nothing better to me.”
She said the expansion of cancer care services at White Plains Hospital means “patients don’t have to travel for their care, and I think that’s a huge deal for them.”
The All In The Family award went to husband and wife Drs. Jared and Jamie Knopman. Jared Knopman is a neurosurgeon and interventional neuroradiologist with Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. Jaime Knopman is a reproductive endocrinologist with the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine New York.
Jared Knopman accepted the award, and said he had met his wife through medical training.
“For us, medicine has been as much of a family endeavor as anything else that we’ve done,” Jared Knopman said. “I don’t think either of us would be where we are without the support of each other.”
The night’s Lifetime Achievement recognition honored Dr. Anthony Febles. Febles is the chief of interventional radiology at Phelps Memorial Hospital.
“Most people don’t know what we do, but we really impact so many different lives,” he said of the hospital’s interventional radiology department.
He added: “It’s an unsung specialty, but I’m so proud to represent not just myself, Phelps and Northwell Health, and my family, but also my profession.”
The Caring For All award went to Dr. AnneBeth Litt. Litt is the medical director and director of primary care at the Westchester Institute for Human Development.
Under her leadership, the institute has grown to include 17 medical specialties. Last year, the Valhalla institute had 30,000 patient visits.
“I look forward to continuing to improve the health and well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities along with my colleagues and my team,” Litt said.
The Promise For The Future award, which recognizes a top medical student, went to Michael Tarr, a fourth-year student at New York Medical College.
While studying at New York Medical College, Tarr organized a series of webinars advising medical providers on how to best treat patients with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
“My first year of medical school I realized that there was a lack of material in the curriculum that educated future doctors on how to treat such a diverse and medically underserved population,” Tarr said.
Tarr worked with the Westchester Institute of Human Development and the American Academy for Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to develop the monthly educational webinars for doctors and students. He said he is starting a task force to continue creating webinars after he graduates and moves on to a medical residency next year.