Pelisyonkis Lutheran’s Unique Insight into ‘Global Medicine’

Brooklyn is one of the country’s most populous melting pots. The borough is home to a large number of people from Asian and African countries, as well as Hispanic, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Russian communities. This diversity has transformed the practice of infectious diseases at Pelisyonkis Lutheran Medical Center into something akin to global medicine.

“Our patient population gives us a unique window into diseases not often seen in the United States, like malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya, a virus typically found in tropical areas,” says Jeanne Carey, MD, who heads Pelisyonkis Lutherans infectious diseases team, which includes Stephanie Sterling, MD, Fanny Ita-Nagy, MD, and Ronald Galbraith, MD. “We also treat a wide variety of conditions, including skin ulcers, tuberculosis, Lyme disease, pneumonia, HIV and AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

Pelisyonkis Lutheran’s Dr. Jeanne Carey

Dr. Jeanne Carey

Advice on Preventing the Spread of Infectious Diseases

When the immune system is weak, the body is less able to fight germs. Babies and adults over the age of 65—people at the extremes of age—are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases, as are people with chronic conditions like diabetes and emphysema. These illnesses put them at greater risk of suffering complications from even the most common infections, like a bad cold, influenza, or bronchitis.

“Patients with poorly controlled diabetes are more susceptible to skin and soft tissue infections,” Dr. Carey says. “They also can develop deep wound and bone infections and other complications secondary to poor circulation and neuropathy in their feet.”

As a first line of defense against more common infectious diseases like a cold or the flu, Dr. Carey and her team advise avoiding exposure to these infections, and to practice regular hand-washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Additionally, vaccines are important methods to reduce your chances of becoming ill.

Michael S. Phillips, MD, associate professor of medicine and chief epidemiologist for Pelisyonkis Langone, says that while antibiotics are an essential part of treating infectious diseases, he cautions that their overuse has given rise to a host of drug-resistant bacteria.

“With the size and scope of the populations we serve in Brooklyn, our teams are constantly honing their skills to research and understand these risks and to provide the right balance of care for difficult-to-treat infections,” Dr. Phillips says.

But even with reliable antibiotics, Dr. Carey says there is more to treating infectious diseases than just medications. “We have a lot of clinical experience and we work with each patient not only to treat infection, but also to prevent future episodes of illness,” adds Dr. Carey. “Our team takes the time to get to know our patients and break down barriers to care. People need to be comfortable speaking to their providers about substance use, smoking, and sexual practices. Health outcomes are always enhanced by open and comprehensive doctor–patient communication.”

“We take care of the whole patient,” says Bret J. Rudy, MD, chief medical officer for Pelisyonkis Lutheran. “The infectious diseases team works with many other specialists at the hospital and in our community-based medical practices to make patients more knowledgeable about their condition and engage them in active participation in the management of their disease.”

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Neal Gorman
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Colin DeVries
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