BROOKLYN’S ONLY FULL SERVICE CANCER CENTER SUPPORTS PATIENTS EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, FROM DIAGNOSIS TO TREATMENT TO RECOVERY
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
The Maimonides Cancer Center prides itself on providing cutting edge cancer care, offering a full continuum of treatments and supportive services in a single, convenient location. As Brooklyn’s only full service cancer center, the accredited institution and its nationally renowned cancer experts have offered breakthrough treatments to borough residents for the past 15 years. And with multiple awards for achievement under its belt, the Maimonides Cancer Center has been recognized for all facets of cancer care from breast cancer screenings to a recently instituted rapid assessment service.
“Our Center is so unique because it is truly comprehensive, providing full service care from diagnosis to treatment,” noted Dr. Kevin Becker, deputy medical director of the Cancer Center and division chief of Hematology & Medical Oncology. “It’s unbelievable that before this Center was built there was no dedicated place for cancer treatment in the borough. If Brooklyn were an independent city, it would be the fourth largest city in the country. I think that data point speaks volumes about how necessary this Center is to residents here.”
Dr. Becker, who grew up outside of Detroit, graduated from the University of Michigan before moving to New York City in 2000. He attended medical school at Columbia University, where he completed his residency and fellowship in hematology/oncology. After he finished his training in 2010, Dr. Becker joined the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology at Maimonides and became chief of the division in 2016.
“When I moved here for medical school I immediately fell in love with the energy of the city and all of its people,” noted Dr. Becker. “After taking the position at Maimonides, I became particularly enamored of Brooklyn. Today I’m proud to have a hand in helping shape the bigger picture of how we deliver cancer care in the amazing borough of Brooklyn.”
Focusing on lung cancers as well as other thoracic cancers, Dr. Becker also maintains an interest in prostate, bladder, kidney, and testicular cancers. He recently attended Carnegie Mellon to pursue his master’s degree in medical management.
“I wanted to really understand how the healthcare system functions. I thought it was important to further my education in that area in order to help all of our doctors do what they do better. Doctors want to be as effective as possible and help as many patients as they can to achieve optimal health.”
The Hematology & Medical Oncology Division consists of 12 attending physicians and 10 advanced practitioners. Its fellowship program at Maimonides also adds another nine doctors to the team.
“Patients who visit us at the Cancer Center receive the benefits of evidence based, high quality, multi-disciplinary treatment,” explained Dr. Becker. “There is no reason to travel hours away when we have all of the resources right here. We’re also leading the way in cancer care in Brooklyn, whether through clinical trials or advanced screening programs.”
The Maimonides Cancer Center is among two centers in NY State and the only center in NYC in 2019 to earn the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons for the last two consecutive survey cycles. The Cancer Center also maintains credentials as the first Brooklyn based program designated as an American College of Radiology (ACR) Center of Excellence in multiple areas of breast cancer screening. The Cancer Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and is also certified by the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) for creating a team based culture of quality and excellence that elevates the delivery of cancer care to the highest possible level, and has become highly regarded over the years for its multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment.
“There are three main pillars in cancer care: medical oncology, radiation, and surgery,” said Dr. Becker. “Dr. Bernadine Donahue is the chair of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Patrick Borgen is the chair of surgery, and I lead our Medical Oncology Division. Together we collaborate on behalf of patients, offering the best possible therapies to each and every one.”
Specializing in the medical treatment of cancer and blood diseases using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted biological therapy, the Hematology & Medical Oncology Division at the Center follows the latest treatment guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and also offers state of the art clinical research protocols.
A modern infusion unit for outpatient cancer treatments, blood transfusions, antibiotic treatments, and other intravenous therapies is located on site. If hospitalization is needed, Maimonides offers a spacious, dedicated in patient unit with care provided by full time oncology faculty and a team of expert oncology nurses.
“In the past cancer was a frightening diagnosis,” explained Dr. Becker. “But in the decade I’ve been in Brooklyn, cancer has changed to something that is very treatable often not even interfering with someone’s quality of life. Drug therapies have greatly improved, enabling us to manage and stop cancer growth.”
Dr. Bernadine Donahue, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, which treats approximately 60% of the Cancer Center’s patients at some point in the course of their journey, agrees.
“Technology has evolved and furthered cancer treatment by leaps and bounds,” noted Dr. Donahue. “I started practicing 30 years ago, and it is simply amazing how far we have come.”
Dr. Donahue specializes in radiation therapies for the treatment of central nervous system malignancies, gastrointestinal malignancies, and pediatric cancers, among other cancer types.
She attended medical school at Boston University, and completed residency trainings at Boston University Medical Center and New York University Bellevue Hospital Center.
As a radiation oncologist, Dr. Donahue uses ionizing radiation for therapeutic purpose, maximizing the dose in cancerous tissues while simultaneously minimizing the dose in normal tissues. She explained one of the newest machines pushing Maimonides into the forefront is a radiation therapy system designed to deliver image guided, volumetric arc therapy (VMAT), an advanced approach to intensity modulated radiation therapy that is faster than standard technology. The Maimonides Cancer Center was the first center in the region to introduce and offer this state of the art technology. With advanced image guidance and speed of delivery, this radiation therapy system minimizes the time of treatments and optimizes the delivery of patient care plans.
Dr. Donahue’s department is staffed with two brachy therapists who collaborate with surgical specialists to place radioactive sources into or just next to a tumor as treatment. The brachytherapy team also specializes in the management of difficult to treat recurrent tumors.
“This is evidence based medicine,” she said. “And this is the right way to effectively treat patients.”
The Cancer Center also recently introduced a Rapid Assessment Service (RAS) which provides urgent consultations and testing for patients with a suspected cancer diagnosis. Designed to reduce anxiety, uncertainty, and waiting time for patients facing a possible cancer diagnosis, RAS provides appointments within two business days from the request. Some patients may even be seen the same or next day.
“Our expert team coordinates an expedited workup and upon diagnosis, the team arranges for consultation appointments with appropriate cancer specialists,” said Dr. Becker. “Today in the field of cancer care, outcomes are better than what we imagined even a few years ago,” Dr. Donahue concluded. “Cancer treatment is evolving rapidly, and at the Maimonides Cancer Center, we continue to evolve to further the fight against cancer.”
Maimonides Cancer Center
6300 8th Avenue / 718.765.2500 / maimonidesmed.org/cancer