Nearly 13,000 Brooklynites develop cancer each year, and yet the borough has long been devoid of first-rate health care options for those diagnosed with the deadly disease — but Maimonides is changing that.
Maimonides Cancer Center has become widely known in the field of medicine as a world-class outpost for cancer treatment, as the team and their facilities have continued to rapidly grow to rival any other institution from around the globe.
And best yet, it’s right here in Brooklyn — which finally gives residents a true haven for high-quality treatment without having to leave the comfort of Kings County.
“Maimonides has a really strong cancer team that has already established a lot of the multidisciplinary care model — which is the hallmark of high quality cancer care,” said Dr. Kevin Becker, the chief of the Division of Hematology Medical Oncology in the Cancer Center. “And I like the idea of being able to do this here in Brooklyn, at a time when we’re really the only ones doing it in Brooklyn.”
Through over 110 years of work treating Brooklynites, Maimonides is truly intertwined with the local community, and that’s reflected in the individualized care their staff provides for residents.
“We’re unique in that our focus and roots are in Brooklyn. So you know, there’s a lot of the Manhattan-based systems that put up some satellite sites and Brooklyn, but they are new to Brooklyn — their culture, and their knowledge about patients and communities, is not rooted in Brooklyn. And that’s where I think that we’re unique,” Becker added. “We’ve been here for more than 100 years, we put up the first Cancer Center here, when there was no Cancer Center at all. We have relationships with community organizations that are part of Brooklyn.”
Personalized care from Maimonides
Developing cancer is a nightmare for anyone, but those unlucky enough to face that daunting reality are often aghast by another issue — the complicated, slapdash, and often lackluster care that some medical institutions provide.
Oftentimes, patients will be swimming in an endless expanse of hospitals — passed around from one doctor to the next, each operating in a vacuum of their own specialties and workflows. That leaves the already-ailing patient’s head spinning as unbearable frustration mounts.
At Maimonides, though, patients are catered for, from start to finish, as the Cancer Center has brought together the best-of-the-best under one umbrella, with programs like their Rapid Assessment Service — giving those dealing with deadly tumors, or just those looking to proactively screen for them, some much-needed peace of mind.
“We developed the Rapid Assessment service where a patient can be discharged from the emergency room; they get seen by a doctor that can help them get that biopsy done within two days,” Becker said. “And then, that doctor arranges for them to get into the appropriate cancer specialists, on average, within about five days of being referred.”
The Cancer Center, located on the edge of Dyker Heights and Borough Park, is staffed by about 65 physicians, with every possible area of cancer treatment covered for their 2,000-3,000 unique cancer patients that come to Maimonides for treatment yearly.
Dr. Christina Giuliano, the Center’s Director of Radiology at the Breast Center, said the team at Maimonides was changing the nature of treatment in Brooklyn, propelling the borough’s options to new heights.
“We really wanted to bring cancer care to Brooklyn. We wanted to bring the level of breast cancer care that you get if you go to any major center in the city — Memorial Sloan Kettering, or NYU, or Columbia — to the people in Brooklyn, so they don’t have to travel all the way to Manhattan to get that same treatment,” Giuliano said. “It’s more than geography. I think it’s being here and knowing the patients of the community.”
And their dedication to their patients is well documented — as post-visit surveys of those seeking treatment are well-over 80% positive.
Part of their ability to satisfy people, even in their most troublesome moments, is their place on the cutting edge of technology, including at the newly-opened Maimonides Midwood Infusion Center.
Just in the last decade, the medical center has rapidly expanded its offerings to aid doctors in their pursuit of patients’ good health, Giuliano said.
“When I got here, there was no MRI, there were only two mammogram units, and two ultrasound units,” said Giuliano. “We now have the 3T MRI; we have tomosynthesis, which is a 3D mammography; we have five ultrasound units and mammo units. And, we do every kind of biopsy.”
Their rapid expansion into a world-renowned center for cancer treatment (making it the only fully-accredited Breast Center in Brooklyn) was long overdue, said Dr. Patrick Borgen, the Chair of the Department of Surgery at Maimonides Medical Center, who also heads the Maimonides Breast Center.
“The thing to realize about the cancer problem in Brooklyn is, we are a true melting pot. Our patient’s bill of rights is in 40 languages. And Brooklyn has an amazing number of citizens who develop cancer. In fact, if we were a state, we would be in the top 15 or 20,” said Borgen. “So, you have a borough with a real cancer problem. And as our society ages, that problem gets bigger, not smaller, there are more patients with cancer today.”
“Places like us, that have tackled this problem and are treating large numbers of cancer are critical to the health and the well being of Brooklyn.”
Staff like Dr. Borgen are so well equipped in their fields that he was tapped to chair the 40th Annual Miami Breast Cancer Conference last March, as he will in future years as well — helping to lead the medical world into the future of best-practices, and emerging technologies.
The country’s top surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists, as well as geneticists, pathologists, radiologists, and supportive care specialists attended the conference to learn and grow.
“I’m very proud of that. It’s a real labor of love. And what’s amazing is all of these doctors who want to do the best thing for their patients who come to this meeting, and they study and they learn, and they debate and they listen. It’s just very inspirational that patients have these kinds of advocates behind them,” Borgen said.
For all the ways Maimonides is known for its outstanding care, it is also known for giving back, and spreading it’s knowledge and resources elsewhere — like their collaboration with SUNY Downstate, which will give that institution access to Maimonides’ know-how.
“We have at Maimonides 12, cancer specific, recurring tumor boards, most of which are once a week. And that’s something that’s part of the collaboration with SUNY Downstate now,” Becker said. “The physicians and patients at Downstate will be able to participate in those.”
With their amazing staff, cutting edge focus, and convenient location, Maimonides is truly changing the game in cancer treatment for patients finally able to get the very best here in Brooklyn.
“This is not a factory. This is a relationship,” Borgen said. “We are deeply invested in how our patients do. And I think it’s important for people in Brooklyn to know that that resource exists here in Brooklyn.”