Q&A: Frank Chervenak, MD, on the Culture of Northwell Health

AUGUST 14, 2018
Kevin Kunzmann
Frank A. Chervenak, MD, was recently appointed chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Lenox Hill Hospital, as well as chair of the academic department of obstetrics & gynecology and associate dean for international medicine at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

A prominent, global leader in obstetrics and gynecology, Chervenak plans to bring a new dimension of care and education to his positions. But, as he told MD Magazine® in a recent interview, there are a lot more successful practices at Northwell Health that he'd like to continue.

MD Magazine: How do you feel about your new position?

Frank A. Chervenak, MD: I’m very excited to be in this position for several reasons:
  1. Lenox Hill has a wonderful culture. It has a gentle culture, both for patients and physicians. It’s a warm and friendly place, which is something very, very special today. The patients are very happy, and the doctors are very happy. Lenox Hill has a special culture where most of the doctors are in true private practice, and they’re very happy and invigorated by this, and I’m committed to see them thrive and work well with this.
  2. I’m also excited to serve in my role as the academic chair and associate dean in International Medicine with the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. This is a relatively new medical school. I was delighted at the teachings and the innovations. And the results—having just been around 4-5 years, they’re already in the middle of the pack of American medical schools. Being young, they can be innovative.
  3. I’m thrilled with this enormous reach. When I realized we have a network of hospitals that have almost 40,000 deliveries, that means 1% of all deliveries in the United States. Eventually, we’ll establish linkages for datasets. This would be invaluable for doing research.
Regarding research and care, is there anywhere in the field that you have a strong focus?

I made it my priority this summer to do a listening tour here at Lenox Hill. I want to meet with as many doctors as possible. I knew Dr. Tamer Seckin. I think he’s clearly the leading endometriosis authority in the city, and one of the leading authorities in the world. This is an outstanding pocket of excellence we need to develop and make New York City and the rest of the world aware of.

Another I came across was Dr. Soo Kwon, who is internationally known for her work in fistula repair. I’m very active in international work on the obstetric side, so I was delighted to see someone here very active on the gynecologic side. I know how hard it is to do work internationally, so I was very impressed with what she has done.

Lenox Hill has had a long and glorious tradition. My children were born here a generation ago. It’s always had a tradition for excellence in patient care. I want to work with doctors to make that clear. There are pockets of care here that are outstanding.

Could you talk about some of the current, or even planned, projects at Lenox Hill?

I want to develop international relationships. I teach in ultrasound and ethics around the world, and I want to bring that to Lenox Hill. We’re going to have ethics sessions here and throughout the system. We’re going to have a chairman’s lecture series.

I apologize if I’m still learning about the strengths here, but we have the ability to televise to our 24 sites that have obstetrics and gynecology.

Could you speak to the importance of staying progressive, forward-thinking as to research new therapies, biomarkers, and diagnostic methods in the field?

This is essential. I’m delighted to see here in the center there are some outstanding leaders who are doing some exciting work in cancer, reproductive medicine. It’s usually the subspecialties that lead the field, and I want to make sure they keep going forward.

But as I said, I’m ecstatic about 2 internists: Seckin and Kwan, who are internationally regarded for their outstanding work in endometriosis and fistula. We clearly have a critical mass and I want it to expand.

The system has excellent fellowships. To what degree we will develop that here, that remains to be known. We have to crawl before we run. I’ve been here less than a month, and it’s palpable. It’s a kind, gentle culture here both for patients and for doctors. And I will do all in my power to preserve and enhance this beautiful culture.

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