DR. CAROLYN RAIA PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SIUH’S RADIOLOGY DEPARTMENT FOR 30 YEARS; TODAY SHE’S STILL HELPING THE HOSPITAL GROW
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Two years after Dr. Carolyn Raia was appointed section chief of Breast Imaging at Staten Island University Hospital, the entire country faced a critical mammography crisis.
“Reimbursement rates dropped drastically and imaging centers across the nation were closing at an alarming rate,” noted Dr. Raia, referencing the challenges she faced as the associate chair of radiology at SIUH more than two decades ago. “At the time, there was a busy breast imaging facility here in the borough which was forced to close, and wait times for mammography bloomed to eight months.”
Realizing the severity of this issue and the implications that would result, borough leaders joined forces with SIUH and began planning for the immediate opening of a comprehensive breast center. Dr. Raia was an integral part of the facility’s design and launch.
“It was a year long planning process but we were able to pool all of the hospital’s resources and equipment and devise a truly wonderful dedicated breast imaging center,” said the doctor. “We opened our doors in October of 2002 and immediately changed the face of imaging on Staten Island. Within a couple of months the wait time for mammography went from eight months to three weeks.”
For Dr. Raia, it was a transformative moment in both her life and her career.
“I do believe that it has been my calling to try to save lives through the early detection of breast cancer. I love my patients and care deeply about their treatment and outcomes. That’s why I went into medicine in the first place.”
A native of Brooklyn, Dr. Raia graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in chemistry before earning her medical degree from SUNY Downstate. She trained in diagnostic radiology at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center before completing a breast imaging and ultrasound fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. In 1995 she joined the radiology department at SIUH.
“At a very young age I witnessed the diagnosis and death of my godmother, so I do have a very personal connection to breast cancer. I was deeply affected by her passing which certainly influenced me to pursue a career in breast imaging.”
Dr. Raia has more than 25 years of experience in minimally invasive breast biopsies, including stereotactic, ultrasound, and MR guided biopsies. She has co-authored several articles that have appeared in peer reviewed journals and actively participates in the training and education of radiology residents at SIUH. Because of her planning, organization, and management of the Virginia Gruppuso Breast Imaging Center, Dr. Raia was the inaugural recipient of the SIUH Sydney L. Lang MD Award for Excellence in Quality Healthcare in 2005.
Active in the community, Dr. Raia was a longtime member of the advisory board of the Staten Island Region of the American Cancer Society, serving as chief medical spokesperson for the Staten Island region. She is a past board member of Staten Island Academy and played an integral role in many of its strategic and develop ment efforts. She has been recognized with awards for community service by Soroptomist International of the Americas, the DaVinci Society of Wagner College, and the Eger Foundation. She has been the recipient of the Staten Island Community Health Hero Award and the Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award.
After retiring from her roles as associate chair of radiology and director of the Virginia Gruppuso Breast Imaging Center in 2017, she took on an active role on the SIUH Foundation Board.
“Having been at SIUH for 30 years, I’ve had the privilege to watch the growth of this hospital,” she noted. “Even through challenging times, there is a commitment and mission to continue to grow and go forward, and I think that is really remarkable. I adore this institution, and I am very passionate about community health so working with the foundation was just a natural extension of what I do.”
Dr. Raia has co-chaired the hospital’s annual charity ball and been involved in planning SIUH’s Bocce, Golf & Tennis Classic for the past several years. An avid golfer herself, she found renewed fervor for the sport after her retirement.
“I think I was first drawn to the game because it is played in such beautiful settings,” she said, humbly downplaying a couple of recent regional tournament placements. “It’s a wonderful meditative experience to be outdoors among the grass and trees for four hours at a time. That is something I hadn’t been able to do for a very long time, and I’m really enjoying it now.”
But one of her greatest passions is family. Together with her husband, Dr. Douglas DeCorato, she has 29 year old twin sons: Michael, who is currently the mathematics department chair at Staten Island Academy, and John, a computer engineer who works at HOUZZ in Palo Alto, California.
“My husband and I met in the school library at Downstate,” said Dr. Raia, detailing a love story that began when the two were in medical school. “He was a first year med student, I was a second year. We started dating shortly thereafter, and I feel like we’re still on that first date. We have such a wonderful marriage.”
In addition to her volunteer work, Dr. Raia still serves as an attending radiologist at the hospital her dedication garnering praise from SIUH administration.
“Dr. Raia is a dynamic physician who during her tenure was very involved in building our comprehensive Breast Center,” noted John Demoleas, SIUH’s vice president of development and external affairs and the executive director of the Foundation Board. “She retired from SIUH leaving a tremendous legacy behind but her work has never stopped. She is still a very important part of our SIUH family, and her work with the community is greatly valued.”
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