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Top Doctors 2009

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With help from the area’s health systems, we polled doctors in Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties, asking them to pick their favorites in 13 specialties. The result? Our biggest list ever—some 500 of the area’s best practitioners. Those who garnered the most votes are profiled below.
 

Orthopedics: Dr. Peter Sharkey

Rothman Institute at Riddle Memorial Hospital, 1118 W. Baltimore Pike, HCC IV, Third Floor, Media, (610) 480-6040

Education: SUNY College of Health Sciences, Syracuse, N.Y.

Residency: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Worth knowing: “I was truly shocked that this 40-something-year-old man was in a wheelchair,” says Dr. Peter Sharkey, recalling a patient who came to him with chronic pain in his lower back.

Prior treatment had led to multiple injections, physical therapy and a reliance on prescription drugs. “He became addicted to narcotics, lost his job and was now on the verge of losing his wife,” says Sharkey.

Upon closer examination, Sharkey discovered the problem had nothing to do with his back. The patient was suffering from severe arthritis that could be remedied with a hip replacement. “Six weeks after the surgery, I initially didn’t recognize the patient,” says Sharkey. “He was off drugs and ready to return to work as a carpenter. His wife was jubilant.”
 

Family Practice:
Dr. Mitchell Kaminski

Family Physicians at Crozer, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Vivacqua Pavilion, 1 Medical Center Blvd., Suite 443, Upland, (610) 619-7470

Education: University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor

Residency: Michigan State University

Worth knowing: When choosing his specialties, Dr. Mitchell Kaminski knew he’d be happiest treating all ages. “My patients range from newborns to people in their 90s,” says Kaminski, who is chairman of family medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Outside the office, Kaminski catches up with patients while exercising at Crozer’s Healthplex Sports Club, where he serves on the medical advisory board. “Every time I get thanked for something, I realize I got equal or more out of the experience—and from the person who’s thanking me,” he says. “I feel really fortunate.”
 

Obstetrics & Gynecology:
Dr. Nancy Roberts

Main Line Perinatal, Lankenau Hospital, MOB East, Suite 353, 100 Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood,
(610) 649-9021

Education: Jefferson Medical College

Residency: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Worth knowing: “I develop a very close relationship with my patients,” says Dr. Nancy Roberts, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. “I’m honest with them, and they know that I’ll do what I say.”
 

Roberts recounts the story of one woman who credited the doctor’s receptive demeanor and decisive approach with saving her baby. “She had left her previous doctors because they weren’t listening to her when she told them she thought there was a problem,” says Roberts. “I made the ultrasound diagnosis of the problem, and then became her advocate to make sure the problem was addressed.”
  

Continued on page 2 …
 

Internal Medicine:
Dr. Stephanie Ciccarelli

Medical Inpatient Care Associates, Chester County Hospital, 701 E. Marshall St., Suite N380, West Chester, (610) 738-2580

Education: Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Residency: Christiana Care Health System

Worth knowing: “Treat the patient, not the test results.”

It’s one of Dr. Stephanie Ciccarelli’s cardinal rules—and it may have saved the life of one patient. An elderly man was suffering from what appeared to be heart-related symptoms. Yet, cardiac testing was negative, and the general consensus among the specialists was that it wasn’t his heart. Ciccarelli thought otherwise, and her persistence paid off. The patient ultimately received successful treatment for restrictive heart disease. “I listen to patients and pay attention to the details, without losing sight of the big picture,” says Ciccarelli. “I try to be the doctor I’d want to have for myself.”
 

Ophthalmology:
Dr. A. Vijay Mudgil

Mudgil Eye Associates, 440 E. Marshall St., Suite 100, West Chester; (610) 429-3004, mudgil.com

Education: Albany Medical College

Residency: Brown University School of Medicine/Rhode Island Hospital

Worth knowing: “It’s important for physicians to be engaged in innovating and improving treatment strategies,” says Dr. A. Vijay Mudgil.

Mudgil practices what he preaches, most recently developing better surgical remedies for treating a type of double vision that occurs after birth, trauma or stroke. His efforts earned him an award from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. And while the honor was flattering, it’s really just icing on the cake. “As an ophthalmic surgeon, I realize my patients—and their parents—place great faith in my abilities by having me operate on the most precious of their senses,” he says. “This trust is a great privilege. It’s the reason why I love my career.”
 

Urology: Dr. Pierre Ghayad

Riddle Memorial Hospital,
1068 W. Baltimore Pike, Media,
(610) 744-2844

Education: St. Joseph’s University, Lebanon

Residency: Wayne State University, Detroit

Worth knowing: For any doctor, referrals are a necessity, and Dr. Pierre Ghayad is no exception. For him, it’s the ultimate compliment when colleagues or their loved ones come to him for care. Ghayad has been practicing at Riddle for more than 10 years after transferring from Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby. He treats everything from ureteral and kidney stones to prostate cancer—and does so with a genuine passion for the human aspect of his profession.

“I enjoy my specialty because I can provide solutions to my patients for their symptoms,” says Ghayad. “Patients are satisfied because I’m able to provide them with a treatment that contributes to their well-being and improves their overall quality of life.”
 

Continued on page 3 …
 

Oncology: Dr. Christina Clay

33 Chester Pike, Ridley Park, (610) 521-2010; Riddle Memorial Hospital, HCC 1, Suite 1, Media, (610) 565-2355

Education: Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Residency: UCLA Medical Center, San Fernando Valley

Worth knowing: “Smart is good, and up-to-date is important,” says Dr. Christina Clay. “But what people really want is to be treated with respect.”

Clay relates the story of a man in his early 30s with testicular cancer. “Each chemotherapy round worked for six months or so, and then he would relapse—it was discouraging,” says Clay. “Finally, we’d run out of options and proposed something that was experimental at the time: high-dose chemotherapy with a bone marrow transplant from his brother.”

After months of preparation, paperwork and talks, the patient decided against the treatment, preferring instead to spend his last days at home surrounded by family and friends. Before he died, the man asked Clay to speak at his funeral about the importance of walking your own road, and to reassure everyone that he left this world on his own terms. “There are people who just want to be told what to do, and I do that,” says Clay. “There are other people who want to participate in every decision, and I teach them everything I can so they can make the right choice. The goal is to help find the right path for each person.”
 

Cardiology: Dr. William Clay Warnick

Chester County Cardiology Associates, 915 Old Fern Hill Road, Building A, Suite 5, West Chester, (610) 696-2850, cccardiology.net

Education: Hahnemann University School of Medicine

Residency: Hahnemann University Hospital

Worth knowing: Dr. William Clay Warnick finds the greatest satisfaction in treating patients who are the most ill—and seeing significant improvement in a matter of days. Medical director of the congestive heart failure clinic at Chester County Cardiology Associates, Warnick is also medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and co-medical director of the heart failure program at the Chester County Hospital. His mentor, Dr. Susan Brozena at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, was one of the first to implement an inclusive team approach to recovery—a strategy Warnick follows in his own practice. “The challenge is controlling the condition with an in-depth education process,” he says. “Nurse practitioners, physicians and family members work together to bring patients back to their baseline cardiovascular status and prevent future hospitalizations.”
 

General Surgery: Dr. Hassan C. Vakil

Riddle Memorial Hospital Outpatient Pavilion, Suite 3411, 1098 W. Baltimore Pike, Media,
(610) 565-4338

Education: Medical School of the University
of Tehran

Residency: Pennsylvania Hospital

Worth knowing: With more than three decades at Riddle Memorial Hospital, Dr. Hassan Vakil has served as its chairman of surgery since 1981. He was the first to perform a number of cutting-edge procedures at the hospital, including laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. His passion for his profession inspired his son, Jeffery, who completed his orthopedic residency and is currently serving a fellowship in joint surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

But perhaps more than anything, it’s the letters of gratitude from patients that fuel Vakil’s pursuit of excellence. “They’re what motivates me to be the best surgeon I can be,” he says.
 

Continued on page 4 …
 

Radiology: Dr. William Merenich

Riddle Memorial Hospital, 1068 W. Baltimore Pike, Media, (610) 891-3308

Education and residency: Medical College of Pennsylvania

Worth knowing: “I really enjoy the diversity of my work,” says Dr. William Merenich, campus chief of Riddle Hospital’s imaging centers. “Radiology is the glue that holds the rest of medicine together.”

Merenich applies his training and expertise in a variety of areas, from musculoskeletal imaging and neuroradiology to ultrasounds and CT scans. Recent technological advancements have made his specialty even more exciting. “It’s been interesting to follow the development and refinement of molecular imaging, which is now in its infancy,” he says.

But even as technology evolves, one thing remains constant: Merenich’s commitment to his patients. “Radiology is all about teamwork,” he says. “From the technologists to the physicians, we all have to work together to ensure the best results for the patient.”
 

Dermatology: Dr. Jamie F. Altman

Aesthetic Dermatology Associates,
1088 W. Baltimore Pike, Suite 2506, Media;
(610) 566-7300, aestheticdermatologists.net

Education: Temple University School of Medicine

Residency: University of Michigan Medical Center

Worth knowing: When Dr. Jamie Altman was in medical school, he befriended a fellow student whose mother loved to cook for her son and his friends. Altman later returned the favor for all those homemade meals when he found melanoma on the woman’s chest. Early detection led to a complete recovery. “Three-quarters of melanomas I discover are from complete body examinations that I suggested, and are not part of the patient’s reason for seeing me,” he says.
 

Neurology: Dr. Thomas H. Graham

Graham Neurological Associates, Paoli Pointe, 11 Industrial Blvd., Suite, 204, Paoli, (610) 644-6251

Education: Penn State College of Medicine

Residency: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Worth knowing: “The work of a neurologist can be grinding, unpredictable, exhausting, and, lately, beset by administrative and legalistic intrusions,” says Dr. Thomas Graham. “But I have a job that allows me to apply nearly everything I’ve learned in a noble effort that’s generally appreciated by the public.”

Chief of the neurology division for Main Line Health, Graham is also the medical director of its stroke program. “[I’m] empowered by training to face down some of the worst things nature can hand out to people, and effect some measure of comfort and control over those forces of nature. We have more and better weapons to beat down the effects of disease progression than in the past. This offers the potential to treat patients and maintain function until a later, more natural end of life arrives.”
 

Gastroenterology: Dr. Oscar Laborda

Riddle Memorial Hospital, HCC II, Suite 2407, 1088 W. Baltimore Pike, Media, (610) 565-1808

Education: Facultad de Medicina, Argentina

Residency: Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Worth knowing: The father of one of his daughter’s friends came to Dr. Oscar Laborda for treatment of what he thought was acid reflux. Laborda found something far more serious: coronary disease, a diagnosis that required open-heart surgery. “She thanked me for saving her father’s life,” he says. “That was definitely a great feeling.”

It’s not the first time Laborda has discovered serious medical problems that fall outside his specialty. He credits the endoscopy procedure as the real lifesaver. “It allows me to give an exact diagnosis,” says Laborda.
 

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