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Top doctors: 5 tips on physician appointments

Dr. Harvey Pollak with one of his patients,

Dr. Harvey Pollak with one of his patients, Dr. Ed Rosenthal of Jericho, New York. (July 18, 2012) Credit: Johnny Milano

Though certainly not a thing of the past, medical practices with just one doctor are becoming increasingly scarce as physicians join together in group practices, ranging from a few doctors to a long letterhead full. So how can you navigate this changing medical landscape?

Here's what you need to know:


The most sought-after times for appointments are first thing in the morning and as the last appointment of the day, said Dr. Barry Balot, an internal medicine specialist in Lindenhurst. Patients "don't want to take time off from work, and they want to get in and get out," he said.

The popularity of these time slots means you should call several weeks in advance for a routine appointment at one of these times, Balot said. But if you're more flexible, he said, you might get in within a matter of days.

Dr. Harvey Pollak, an internal medicine specialist in Lake Success, said medical offices tend to be the least busy in the afternoon, from 1 to 3, making those times more likely to be open on the appointment schedule.

And, if you cannot keep an appointment, alert the office. "Never feel embarrassed to call that day or five minutes before the appointment," Balot said. "Just give the office a call so they can give that appointment to someone else."


Even if a doctor's office is big or busy or both, Balot noted, the staff should never be too swamped to answer urgent health questions and offer advice about whether to seek emergency care, come in for an appointment immediately or wait.

If someone arrives at his office complaining of an urgent problem, "we assess them the minute they walk in," Balot said. The doctor's staff is trained how to ask the right questions over the phone about potentially urgent issues.

Although nearly all doctors are available after hours for emergency calls, some also are part of groups in which several doctors share on-call duties and cover for each other during vacation times, he said.

Pollak, who works in an office with more than a dozen other physicians, described the fact that doctors are always available as a benefit for patients who get their care from group practices.

"Medicine is a continual learning experience," he said. "You're always learning, and new things are always coming out. The more people that are around, the more you can hear what they've heard or just hear their opinion about a tough case. That helps the patient and the doctors."


Many medical practices today have additional medical staff -- physician assistants or nurse practitioners -- who can see patients in certain circumstances.

Dr. Edward J. Hallal Jr., who practices internal medicine in Bay Shore, said he's more likely to see patients for annual physicals and more complex medical problems, while a physician assistant, or PA, handles things like follow-ups, coughs and colds, and blood pressure checks. If the PA "ever has an issue or is unsure about something, I'm here," he said.

PAs can prescribe medicine under a physician's supervision, he said. On the other hand, nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe medications in their area of specialty, such as adult health or acute care, Hallal said. According to New York law, nurse practitioners -- a position that Hallal said requires more schooling than a PA -- must collaborate with physicians in their specialty but do not work under their supervision.


Don't give up if your doctor doesn't pick up the phone. Leave a message, either with an office staff member or on the automated answering system, if your doctor's practice uses such a system. In Pollak's office, he said, all patients who call to ask about medical issues get callbacks. "I don't leave without returning any call that's come in during the day," he said.

Some physicians also are willing to communicate with patients via email, he said, and it's fine to ask doctors for their email address. "A lot of the younger doctors enjoy the email system, and that's what they use primarily," he said.


At a busy practice, you may have only a few minutes to talk to your physician. Beforehand, then, it's smart to gather pertinent information.

"Focus your mind on the important factors of what brings you in and maybe write them down," Hallal said. "There are general things we always want to know: When did it start? Where is it? Has anything made it worse or better? Has it spread? How has it been evaluated or treated in the past?"

And don't be vague, he said, because it can be difficult for a doctor to treat a condition if you're not sure if it began three days or three months ago.


Today is the fifth installment of a 26-week series in which Newsday presents Castle Connolly's list of top Long Island doctors.

Dr. Nicholas E. Berbari

222 Station Plaza N., Ste. 310

Mineola; 516-663-2051

Dr. Jeffrey Berger

222 Station Plaza N., Ste. 518

Mineola; 516-663-2588

Dr. Robert Bernard

6144 Rte. 25-A,

C Bldg., Ste. 10

Wading River


Dr. Mark Corapi

222 Station Plaza N., Ste. 310

Mineola; 516-663-2051

Dr. Alexander J. Covey

445 Main St.,

Center Moriches


Dr. Stephen P. Cusumano

850 Hicksville Rd.,

Ste. 110



Dr. Michael Delman

301 E. Main St.

Bay Shore


Dr. Richard Federbush

175 Jericho Tpke.,

Ste. 216

Syosset; 516-364-9800

Dr. Steven Friedling

267 E. Main St., A Bldg.



Dr. Burt Gelberg

401 Franklin Ave.

Franklin Square


Dr. Harold German

150 Main St.



Dr. Steven Goldfarb

365 County Rd., 39-A, Ste. 12



Dr. Michael Goodman

2495 Newbridge Rd.

Bellmore; 516-826-1200

Dr. Lydia E. Gorski

820 Jericho Tpke.

New Hyde Park


Dr. Joanne Gottridge

865 Northern Blvd.,

Ste. 102

Great Neck; 516-622-5001

Dr. Edward J. Hallal

180 E. Main St.

Bay Shore; 631-665-0027

Dr. Edward Hotchkiss

158 Hempstead Ave.

Lynbrook; 516-593-3541

Dr. Corradino Lalli

Mt. Sinai North Shore Medical Group

59 Southern Blvd.



Dr. Pauline Leong

865 Northern Blvd.,

Ste. 102

Great Neck


Dr. John Oppenheimer

60 Bay St.

Sag Harbor


Dr. Harvey Pollak

2 Prohealth Plaza

1st Floor, Ste. 101

Lake Success


Dr. Frederic Rakowitz

295 Northern Blvd.,

Ste. 208

Great Neck


Dr. Rosario Romano

5225-15 Rte. 347

Port Jefferson Station


Dr. Jack Rubenstein

70 Glen Cove Rd.,

Ste. 301

Roslyn Heights


Dr. Steve Rucker

1999 Marcus Ave.,

Ste. 216

Lake Success


Dr. Lloyd Simon

44210C County Rd. 48

Box 1341

Southold; 631-765-4150

Dr. Lowell Taubman

206 Riverside Blvd.

Long Beach


Dr. Leonard Timpone

1051 Adams Ave.

Franklin Square


Dr. Jay Weinstein

865 Northern Blvd.,

Ste. 102

Great Neck


Dr. Mark J. Weinstein

4045 Hempstead Tpke., Floor 3




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 -- 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, 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, or call 800-399-DOCS.