Pathologists typically plan on giving up patient contact once they enter their specialty. They know that for their entire career, they will make medical decisions behind a microscope, determining what a specimen is and what it means for the patient. They give the definitive answers to other doctors on the front line of patient care.
But one pathologist in New York City, Dr. Ira Bleiweiss, has become so expert in his particular subspecialty of breast pathology that he has become an academic leader, speaking directly to patients on the intricacies of their disease. He participates in huge national clinical trials with patients from many locations and institutions to determine new standards for treatment of breast cancer. His list of published articles in the field numbers in the hundreds and he is a well established expert looked to for guidance by other pathologists.
It all started with a 1500 page pathology textbook at St. George’s University in Grenada.
“I read that 1500 page Robbins pathology textbook twice, cover to cover,” said Dr. Bleiweiss, a 1984 graduate of St. George’s University. “I always loved pathology in Grenada. It is the bridge between basic sciences and clinical sciences – if you know your pathology, you’re a long way to knowing your medicine.”
A Field Standout
Dr. Bleiweiss is a full professor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Chief of Surgical Pathology and Chief of the Division of Breast Pathology. His expertise in this foundational area of medicine and his remarkable depth of experience in the subspecialty of breast pathology have brought him international renown in professional circles. “Crossing boundaries was not what I expected by choosing pathology as a specialty,” he says, “but I have hosted pathologists from other parts of the country as well as other parts of the world to specialize in breast pathology review cases.”
At Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Bleiweiss and his colleagues manage the largest volume of surgical pathology specimens in New York City – 140,000 per year, compared to an average of 15,000 at a community hospital or 40,000 at other academic teaching centers. In addition to his teaching duties, he is now authoring a book on the subspecialty for surgeons, radiologists and other pathologists.
He credits the standards imposed on him during his education at St. George’s University with preparing him for the rigors of his work today.
“It was a great place to learn. The hospital was a great place for physical diagnosis. And I appreciated the exposure to a different culture in a part of the world I might never have gone to otherwise. It broadened me,” Dr Bleiweiss said.
On the Frontline of Breast Cancer Treatment
In the ongoing battle against the disease women dread, Dr. Bleiweiss is an active participant in national clinical trials, assembling huge numbers of patients in multiple locations, from a variety of academic institutions and from many geographic areas. This massive collection of data enables in depth study of areas that would not otherwise be possible. In this pursuit he is very involved with The Cancer and Leukemia Group B, a national clinical research group sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, which brings together numerous specialties including clinical oncologists and laboratory investigators to develop better treatments for cancer. Their charge includes exploring methods of optimizing treatment for individual patients, introducing novel therapies and treatment approaches for patients with poor prognoses, and studying quality of life and impact of cost on cancer patients. In this national network of 29 university medical centers, over 225 community hospitals and more than 3000 oncology specialists who collaborate in clinical research studies aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality from cancer, Dr. Bleiweiss works to relate the biological characteristics of cancer to clinical outcomes and develop new strategies for the early detection and prevention of cancer.
Translating It Back to the Individual Patient
“Though I participate in national trials, my day to day work is on a local level,” says Dr. Bleiweiss. “Where I practice – Manhattan – when a woman gets a diagnosis of breast cancer, she immediately gets very educated very fast. Sometimes I am part of seminars for lay audiences composed of women who are already extremely educated about their disease. When I first graduated, I though I was consciously choosing to give up patient contact. But in the end, that has not happened. And it’s a nice feeling.”
5500 Grads Practicing Everywhere
Like Ira Bleiweiss, MD, graduates from St. George’s University School of Medicine excel, lead in their respective fields, and reshape the future of medicine with their commitment and expertise. For more information on how to join them, visit www.sgu.edu.
Published on 01/25/2006