“I’m lucky because I found a calling that teaches, gratifies and humbles you,” said Dr. Susan Bressman, an Honoree for Clinical Excellence at the Castle Connolly Top Physicians of The Year Awards Dinner at The Pierre. Daughter of Holocaust survivors, Bressman — Alan and Joan Mirken Chair, Depts. of Neurology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, Professor of Neurology Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai — Bressman’s arena includes identification of dystonia genes as well as Parkinson’s disease in Ashkenazi Jews.
She affirmed: “Medicine demands that we have empathy and integrity.”
“I am the daughter of two very resilient and wise Holocaust survivors…I learned many lessons from my parents. One was that helping others is itself healing.” After being liberated by American soldiers, her mother was transported to Sweden where she became a nurse’s assistant. “It was my mother’s nursing of others, which helped bring her physically back to health…. Her story was a gift to me because it brought me to the vocation of medicine. My patients are my ultimate teachers…serving them and learning from them is the heart of what I do.”
“It’s an incredible honor to be here,” said Clinical Excellence honoree Dr. Michael Saag. “ I feel like I’m having my Bar Mitzvah again!” he joked. Reacting to the explosive laughter, he said, “I’m glad to be sitting next to a urologist because this could create a urological emergency.”
Founder of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and its innovative HIV outpatient clinic, Saag said: “The progress that’s been made is just incredible when you think of a disease that wasn’t even there in 1981…and thirty years later it’s a chronic, manageable condition. It happened in New York, in San Francisco, even Birmingham, Alabama. The patients taught us all what we needed to know. You just had to listen.”
When I asked Dr. Saag the origin of his name, he said, “The name was originally Sagalowsky. The family came here in 1874 from Litvinova…. then St. Louis, Indiana…had a candy shop; movie theatres, theatres…settled in Texas.” But why Saag?” I persisted. He chuckled: “My grandmother wanted to be the first [name] under “S” listings — so she shortened the name to Saag.”
Also honored were: Dr. Catherine R. deVries, Director of the U. of Utah Center for Global Surgery; Dr. Victor Fazio, Chairman Emeritus Dept of Colorectal Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Hagop Kantarjian Prof. and Chair, Leukemia at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Host of “The Dr. Oz” TV show Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Lisa Oz, host of “The Liza Oz Show.”
John Castle, chairman Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. offered welcoming remarks, as did its president and CEO John Connolly. William Liss- Levinson, Castle Connolly Vice President, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer was an award presenter. In the guests’ “goody bag”— a hefty 5lb. tome: “Castle Connolly Top Doctors In New York Metro Area” guide.