Rutgers Cancer Institute celebrates 13 “Top Doctors”
An estimated 564,800 Americans will die this year from cancer — a little more than 1,500 patients a day, according to the Thomara Latimer Cancer Foundation.
The disease has challenged scientists for years, not only in the painstaking searches for cures, but also in the caring of those whose lives and communities are forever altered by a single diagnosis.
The physicians at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey have labored in a multitude of ways to solve these problems, including new methods of research, programs and psychological care.
Last week, 13 of these physicians were named among Inside Jersey’s “Top Doctors in the Garden State” for 2014. Each year, Inside Jersey, a lifestyle magazine featured on nj.com, lists the “Top Doctors” in the nation and in each region.
The lists are compiled through the research of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., an expert-led team that puts together a database where patients can search for doctors based on their names, specialty and location.
Castle Connolly Medical Ltd “makes thousands of phone calls each year, talking with leading specialists, chairs of clinical departments and vice presidents of medical affairs, seeking to identify top specialists for most diseases and procedures,” according to their website.
The process is primarily based on a nomination system, where medical experts get the chance to commend their colleagues and peers for their expertise and passion.
The physicians on this year’s list are also faculty members at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
David August, chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology, said he was inspired to become a surgeon after shadowing a general surgeon in his first year of medical school.
“I was inspired by the admiration for him by his patients, and the clear love he had for them,” August said via email. “I was also impressed by the fact that even after 20 years of being in practice [at that time], at least weekly he saw something new or different that got him excited.”
August attributes the nominations of CINJ physicians to the “Top Doctors” list to a collaborative environment, emphasizing the comprehensive care that covers a patient’s medical, social and emotional needs.
“I enjoy getting to know patients, their lives and their families over long periods of time,” he said. “I find that almost everyone who comes through my door, even though many of them I can’t cure, I can help get through a difficult time in their and their family’s lives.”
Robert Weiss, who specializes in urologic oncology and has been a faculty member at Rutgers for more than 20 years, said he shifted his focus from general surgery to urological surgery because it allowed him to use a diverse spectrum of technology.
“It kind of mixes big, openly operative procedures as well as minimally invasive ones,” he said.
The challenge of performing a difficult surgery combined with the opportunity for interesting research motivated him to further pursue the field.
Deborah Toppmeyer, director of the Stacey Goldstein Breast Cancer Center and chief of the Solid Tumor Oncology department, has been named a “Top Doctor in the Nation” by U.S. News & World Report in 2012, along with awards in other categories since that time.
Toppmeyer’s inspiration is the patients that she works with; working in breast cancer gives her the chance to not only administer medical attention but also help with the psychological effects that it leaves.
The disease is unique because not all breast cancers are alike, resulting in an evolving field of research that becomes more promising as scientists gain more knowledge, Toppmeyer said.
“We work in a multidisciplinary way with other radiological oncologists and scientists and cutting-edge clinical trials,” she said.
The CINJ is New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Care Center, a status given to 41 centers in the country. It became affiliated with Rutgers on July 1, 2013.
The benefit of “Top Doctor” recognition is that it continues to raise awareness among residents in New Jersey, reminding them that a cutting-edge cancer research institution exists right in their backyard, Toppmeyer said.
“Whether it’s me or another doctor who has been named, the important part is that it continues to distinguish the institution.”
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