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Top Docs: Five tips on family medicine

Getting family members to doctor appointments can be a logistical challenge, especially if everyone sees a different physician -- an internist for Dad, a gynecologist for Mom, a pediatrician for Junior and a geriatrician for Grandma.

It's possible, however, for everyone to have the same primary care doctor, also known as a family physician. But is it a good idea? Here's what you need to know:


1. YOU COULD HAVE THE SAME FAMILY PHYSICIAN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE

Dr. Louis Greenblatt, director of the family medicine department at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, describes doctors in his field as seeing patients "from womb to tomb." Family physicians are trained to treat people of all ages, he said, and are knowledgeable about a wide range of health conditions.

One benefit is that, by getting to know all members of the family, a family physician can better understand how their interactions might be affecting their health.

"I know things that their specialists don't know because they only see them for one part of their body," he said. "I know what's going on with the mother-in-law, with their daughter and her boyfriend."

Dr. Robert J. Arcati, a family physician in Bethpage who's affiliated with Winthrop-University Hospital, said this kind of knowledge can be crucial when it comes to diagnosing conditions that may be caused or exacerbated by stress. He recalled a patient whose son was addicted to drugs -- information that helped him diagnose her problems as being stress-related.


2. YOUR FAMILY PHYSICIAN CAN SERVE AS AN ADVOCATE

When a patient needs a specialist, "I know whom to call, and I can expedite things," Greenblatt said. "I can help patients navigate the medical maze, because I know all the players. Today, I had a patient who's out of breath when he exercises. I picked up the phone, and now he has an appointment with a cardiologist tomorrow."

Arcati noted that family physicians can also serve as the equivalent of interpreters, translating the jargon of specialists. "We do a lot of explaining," he said.


3. YOU MAY NOT NEED TO SEE CERTAIN SPECIALISTS

Family physicians are trained to handle the special needs of women, children and the elderly, meaning that these patients can choose to not see gynecologists, pediatricians or geriatricians, Arcati said.

"It's certainly OK to see someone else," he said. But if patients do see specialists, it's crucial for them to ask the doctors to keep their family physicians informed about what's going on.

"It's very important that the patient insist on that," Arcati added. "The important thing is that we are in the hub of taking care of someone."


4. PRIVACY RIGHTS PROTECT YOUR MEDICAL INFORMATION

Doctor-patient privacy rights require that physicians not disclose information about the medical conditions of adult patients without their permission. This means, for instance, that a family physician who sees a married couple could not tell a wife that her husband has a sexually transmitted disease.

"I tell my students that we're like priests," said Greenblatt, who also teaches at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. "If someone comes in and tells you about something, you can't talk about it. It has to be kept private from the spouse."

The same legal situation can even extend to minors. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, minors can get certain kinds of health care -- related to reproductive health and some mental health issues -- without parental permission. Parents are not allowed to see medical records about these services.


5. HOSPITALS CAN HELP IN YOUR SEARCH FOR A FAMILY PHYSICIAN

If a family is looking for a family physician, Greenblatt recommends calling a hospital and asking who's on staff.

"It's important to find a physician who goes to the hospital," he said. "When patients see me at the hospital, and I've known them for many years, it's like an old friend. They know I'm going to treat them like family and advocate for them."


Family physicians

FAMILY MEDICINE

Dr. Alex M. Aponte

Westhampton Primary Care

80 Old Riverhead Rd.,

Westhampton Beach; 631-288-7746

Dr. Robert J. Arcati

530 Hicksville Rd.,

Bethpage; 516-937-5000

Dr. Anthony T. Arcati

530 Hicksville Rd.,

Bethpage; 516-937-5000

Dr. Luigi Capobianco

One School St., Ste. 203,

Glen Cove; 516-671-9800

Dr. Martin P. Edelstein

11 Beverly Rd.,

Great Neck; 516-487-1614

Dr. Michael Fishkin

2500 Nesconset Hwy., Bldg. 7D,

Stony Brook; 631-751-3322

Dr. James E. Giugliano

290 N. Sea Rd.,

Southampton; 631-283-5900

Dr. Louis Greenblatt

533 Rte. 111,

Hauppauge; 631-366-1788

Dr. Kenneth Levites

213 Montauk Hwy.,

West Sayville; 631-563-6205

Dr. Brian T. Moynihan

2840 Jerusalem Ave.,

Wantagh; 516-781-1141

Dr. Lesley Rechter

54 Birchwood Park Dr.,

Jericho; 516-933-6850

Dr. Hans Dieter Schwinn

80 Old Riverhead Rd.,

Westhampton Beach; 631-288-7746

Dr. Neil Soskel

185 Merrick Rd., Ste. 1B,

Lynbrook; 516-887-0077


GERIATRIC MEDICINE

Dr. Suzanne D. Fields

Stony Brook Internists/Primary Care

205 N. Belle Mead Rd.,

East Setauket; 631-444-4630

Dr. Irving Gomolin

222 Station Plaza N.,

5th Fl.-Ste. 518,

Mineola;

516-663-2588

Dr. Howard Guzik

2800 Marcus Ave.,

Ste. 200,

New Hyde Park; 516-708-2520

Dr. Geraldine Lanman

1 Delaware Dr., Ste. 48,

New Hyde Park; 516-326-5320

Dr. Lucy Macina

222 Station Plaza N., Ste. 518,

Mineola; 516-663-2588

Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein

2800 Marcus Ave.,

Ste. 200,

Lake Success; 516-708-2520


How they were picked

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health-care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America's top doctors and top hospitals. Castle Connolly's established survey and research process, under the direction of a doctor, involves tens of thousands of top doctors and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.

Castle Connolly's physician-led team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select top doctors on both the national and regional levels. Its online nominations process -- located at castleconnolly.com/nominations -- is open to all licensed physicians in America who are able to nominate physicians in any medical specialty and in any part of the country, as well as indicate whether the nominated physician is, in their opinion, among the best in their region in their medical specialty or among the best in the nation in their medical specialty.

Careful screening of doctors' educational and professional experience is essential before final selection is made among those physicians most highly regarded by their peers. The result -- Castle Connolly identifies the top doctors in America and provides the consumer with detailed information about their education, training and special expertise in their paperback guides, national and regional magazine "Top Doctors" features and online directories. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors. (Newsday is not part of the selection process.)

Physicians selected for inclusion in this "Top Doctors" feature may also appear as Regional Top Doctors online at castleconnolly.com, or in one of Castle Connolly's Top Doctors guides, such as America's Top Doctors® or America's Top Doctors® for Cancer.


To see the whole list . . .

Who else is on the list of Top Doctors? More than 6,000 listings are in the New York Metro Area edition of "Top Doctors," published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The softcover list price is $34.95. For more information, go to castleconnolly.com, or call 800-399-DOCS.

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