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October 2, 2023

I am a Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, where I have been on staff for over 20 years. For the past 14 years I have also served as the Director of Columbia’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division.

I have always wanted to do community service beyond the hospital walls. I have thus participated in a number of humanitarian missions to operate on children with clefts and other birth defects in other corners of the world, and more recently I have served on my local Community Board on the East Side of Manhattan. On the Board, I served as a Public Member on the Health, Seniors, and Social Services committee. On this committee, we worked on a number of social programs for the elderly, for single moms, for victims of domestic abuse, for people who suffer from alcohol and substance abuse problems, and very importantly, for the homeless. I was the only medical doctor on the committee, and was able to serve as a resource on all healthcare and patient advocacy issues for my fellow Board members.

Over the years, I have been very active in different medical societies, and have frequently been asked by these societies to support bills going before the New York State Assembly to protect patients’ rights, such as a recent bill to prevent women with breast cancer from being pushed out of the hospital too soon after a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, another bill to prevent sudden increases in drug prices that patients cannot afford, and bills designed to decrease the amount of pre-authorization difficulties that we all have to go through with insurance companies in order to proceed with needed surgeries, medical tests, and even sometimes simple visits to the doctor. At times, as physicians we are also asked to provide examples of these problems to share with our legislators. I began to ask myself, “Why are these examples necessary?”  Well, that is because there are absolutely no medical doctors in the 150 member New York State Assembly or the 63 member New York State Senate. And, even if I write examples to accompany these bills, who will see them? However, if I can actually serve in the Assembly, I could make sure that all of the legislators present would hear and understand the difficulties many patients are facing. Just as I was a resource for other Board members on healthcare issues on my Community Board, I would love to do the same in the New York State Assembly. I would be able to help legislators in ALL parties, and potentially ALL New Yorkers, as every one of us will likely be a patient one day. That is a major reason why I decided to run for the Assembly.

However, healthcare is not the only issue that is important to me. Having lived on the East Side of Manhattan for over 20 years, and having raised four children here, I have been disappointed to recently see increasing problems in our community. There are more and more people without homes, and I would love to be able to help them. I know from my time on the Community Board that there are many programs to help these unfortunate homeless individuals, but these programs need to be better funded, to be run more efficiently, and to be better publicized and staffed. I also sense decreased feelings of safety in our neighborhoods, and would love to work with our police and other law enforcement officials to make sure our police receive the respect, training, and support they require to do their jobs, and that they have the other resources they need to do the work that they are so capable of doing when given the freedom to do so.

I believe these major issues that I would like to focus on, namely healthcare and patient advocacy, and improving our East Side community, are not partisan issues, but issues that affect the lives of everyone in our community, and for which I hope to bring improvement for ALL New Yorkers, no matter what party they are in. I thus ask for your support, and for your vote on November 6th.


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