Michelle Gabrielle Centamore


How To Manage Depression in Yourself, Family Members During The Holidays

manage depression
Covid may worsen holiday-season depression. (Getty Images)

The holiday season is typically a time of joy and laughter for most people. However, financial stress, feelings of isolation, loss of a loved one, or another traumatic event can turn what is often a merry time into one of depression and loneliness. 

The devastating effects Covid has had on individuals and families may only exacerbate these feelings. Experts advise being hypervigilant and compassionate with yourself and others this season while taking steps to make the holidays not only bearable but enjoyable, too. Everyone deserves a good holiday!

“During the holidays, it helps to focus on what we can control,” says Fred Holtz, Ph.D., executive director of Psychological Services Long Island. “Cognitive coping statements” and “positive self-talk” can go a long way in supporting oneself through a challenging time, Dr. Holtz notes. 

“We internalize things we repeatedly hear, so if we fill our day with positive statements, we will eventually internalize these,” he adds. 

Dr. Holtz suggests that you can influence comfort and happiness with statements such as: 

“I can choose what gatherings to go to and which to avoid.”

“I can deal with this. I have done well in these situations before.”

“I will practice self-care and not put pressure on myself.”

“I will seek out positive friends and relatives and enjoy their company.”

“I can enjoy these holidays in my own way.”

Holtz advises not to spread yourself too thin this season, and to be supportive of others who may be experiencing similar feelings. 

“Learn to say ‘no’ if the situation is too stressful,” he says.

Understanding that you are not alone may help to put things in perspective and help you to move to a place of acceptance, says Josh King, PsyD, director of clinical and digital services integration at the Center for Motivation and Change, Long Island, N.Y.C., D.C., and MA. “Acknowledge and recognize that this is a hard time and begin to strategize on how to get through it. The minute you work on acceptance, you’re going to be flexible and able to find ways of engaging, regardless of what is going on.”

Practicing both mindfulness and distracting skills may help you stay balanced and focused in situations where you may otherwise feel anxious and sad. 

“Ask yourself, ‘How do I be present for that moment even if it does not feel like exactly what I wanted?’” poses Dr. King. If you find yourself jumping ahead, try an exercise like counting backwards from 100 by 7, he suggests. “It can help to bring you back into the moment and get centered.” 

Be kind to yourself, experts say. Take some time to do what you most enjoy or what makes you feel calm and at peace. A warm bath, a stroll through town in fresh air, or reading a good book, for example. 

“Exercise is a well-known remedy for depression,” notes Dr. Holtz. “Exerting yourself actually creates adrenaline and other hormones that improve mood.” 

In order to help yourself or someone else through depression, know the signs, says Randy Tanzer, licensed clinical social worker, Long Island. 

“Any changes in behavior should be noticed,” she says. These include changes in patterns of eating, sleeping, and the ability to “function” academically, with work or in completing daily living tasks.

“Behavior is there to show us things about what a person is going through or how they are functioning in ways they can’t say with words,” she adds. 

Behavioral changes should not be ignored any time of year, including the holiday season, advises Tanzer. 

“If you know someone who is suffering with depression and may have a more challenging time this season, reach out to them,” says Tanzer. “People want to be heard and understood … ‘I’ statements help. ‘I care’ or ‘I love you’ can go a long way in showing someone you care. If we gently intervene, something can change for the better.” 

Invite others to participate in charitable endeavors, enjoy holiday music, or decorate — “small acts you can do together to help boost spirits,” Tanzer suggests. She advises, “If things begin to feel too out of control, however, seek professional support.”

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Health Care Heroes Touch Long Islanders’ Lives in Covid-19 Pandemic

Nurses at Stony Brook University Hospital support a recovering Covid patient. Photo credit: Stony Brook University Hospital

Many hospitals on Long Island were inundated with Covid-positive patients after the pandemic hit the region in March. Of those health care heroes who answered the call — putting their own lives at risk to help others — a handful stood out from the pack as winners of the 2020 Bethpage Best of Long Island contest.

The winners include Stony Brook University Hospital, which won the title of Best Hospital on Long Island; NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island in Mineola, which won Best Maternity Ward on Long Island, and ProHEALTH Urgent Care, which won Best Urgent Care.

Each of these establishments exhibited an extraordinary response to Covid from the get-go and their medical and professional staff proved their remarkable skills, strength, and character. Health care practitioners rose to the daunting occasion and used both their interpersonal and professional skills not only to save lives but to touch lives. So, what defines a health care hero? Read on to see what these standout facilities and their first-rate staff have in common.

Health care heroes agree that combatting Covid-19 requires a collaborative effort not just for the health of their patients but for each other’s emotional wellbeing, too.


Stony Brook University Hospital Leads Patients and Staff Through the Storm

Stony Brook University Hospital was quick to respond to the needs of the community, and all hospital staff—physicians and nurses, radiology, and housekeeping—united to assure that each patient had their best chance at recovery and that colleagues felt supported in the process.

Spearheading efforts to increase capacity at Stony Brook’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was James Vosswinkel, MD. MD, FACS; Chief, Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care; Medical director, Trauma Center, and Surgical ICU, Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook’s medical team collaborated with other health care professionals on a local, nationwide, and international level, Dr. Vosswinkel said. Hospital departments worked to ensure they had an adequate supply of oxygen, ventilators and other respiratory supplies, PPE and more.

“We were a really well-oiled machine where each department put their best foot forward and was integrated at a very high level together to truly address the pandemic,” the doctor said.

Stony Brook tripled their entire ICU capacity in an effective, safe fashion.

“We provided patients with the best that modern medicine could offer to try to get them to recover,” he added.

“We came together and really supported one another and worked together toward a common goal of keeping each other safe but also doing the best we possibly could do for our patients,” said Dawn Teer, RRT, NPS, CPFT, a respiratory therapist at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Teer was a lead therapist and staff supervisor at the height of the pandemic. She also took regular assignments, making herself available and present to patients and staff as much as possible. Teer recalled a young patient who was intubated for months and came very close to losing his battle more than once.

“We never gave up on him,” she said. “We kept trying different kinds of ventilator strategies, we wouldn’t give up and he wound up coming off and living.”

Strong leadership offered staff and patients the support needed to get them through a most challenging time. Sofia Marie Reyes, staff and relief charge nurse at Stony Brook, assumed responsibility as a relief charge nurse in the first pop-up Covid Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook University Hospital. Reyes was responsible for training other nurses from non-ICU units who had little to no experience in an ICU. Some of the nurses hadn’t stepped foot on a critical care unit in up to 15 years if at all—and they were understandably initially intimidated, recalls Reyes.

“I wanted to help alleviate their fears. I couldn’t imagine what they were going through—dealing with the machines and the ventilators, the IV pumps, and just how sick these patients were,” Reyes said.

She took the time to get to know her staff, learn all of their names and get them to a place of confidence. She patiently explained to them how to run an IV, administer medications and use the ventilators. Reyes said she was able to lead by example due to the tremendous collaboration and support from all at Stony Brook.

“I feel that my Covid ICU had strong teamwork between the MICU and PACU nurses, MICU attendings and fellows, the respiratory therapists, and the ancillary staff, clerks and nursing assistants,’ she added. “I had—still have—an amazing and supportive nursing leadership—my nurse manager and clinicians—who assured we had adequate PPE and as much staffing and resource supplies as we could get.”

Sophia Marie Reyes, RN stands in the Stony Brook University Hospital Intensive Care Unit. Photo credit: Stony Brook University Hospital


ProHEALTH Urgent Care Heals and Educates

ProHEALTH Urgent Care’s Long Island facilities were exemplary in meeting their patients’ needs safely and effectively.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic changed medicine for the urgent care clinicians,” recalled Kevin Patel, PA, of ProHEALTH Urgent Care in Jericho. “At its peak, the hospitals were at maximum capacity and general clinicians were unable to care for patients in an outpatient setting. We were overwhelmed with high volumes daily throughout the months of March, April, and May.”

The facility received support from providers from different departments of ProHEALTH.

“It became a group effort to make sure the community was tested and contact tracing was done by the department of health to stop the transmission and lower the rate of infection,” Patel said.

Patients were doing everything they could to avoid a trip to the emergency room and ProHEALTH medical staff were doing everything they could to support those patients who would otherwise have taken their symptoms to the hospital.

“It became our jobs to make sure these patients got the best care necessary,” Patel said.

Kevin Patel, physicians assistant, Pro-HEALTH Urgent Care, Jericho. Photo credit: ProHEALTH Urgent Care

“We developed a very effective system for evaluating Covid patients in a safe manner,” said Diane Peterman, MD, of ProHEALTH West Islip Pediatric Urgent Care. At the pandemic’s peak, patients were treated in their cars. Dr. Peterman says, “We were able to obtain vital signs, test and evaluate individuals without exposing them to other ill patients. The entire staff remained positive, professional and cohesive while maintaining a safe environment. We were very fortunate to receive support from our fellow colleagues from other departments. It was a unique opportunity to work with a wide variety of specialty groups who offered their time.”

Patient education was also a priority, noted Dr. Peterman.

“I would prescribe supportive medications such as inhalers, nebulizers, supplements and encourage patients to take time to exercise and get fresh air and sunshine,” she said.

Staff also distributed educational and instructional packets with updated information on Covid.

At a time of great fear and uncertainty, “We provided a sense of relief in the community because many of the patients did not understand how to process major changes in their daily life activities,” added Patel.

Healthcare workers cloaked in hazmat suits at a ProHEALTH Covid-19 testing site. Photo credit: ProHEALTH Urgent Care


NYU Langone Hospital Preserves the Miracle of Childbirth

Healthcare heroes at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island also saw their responsibilities change practically overnight, particularly in Labor and Delivery.

During the height of the pandemic, Catherine Bell, a nurse manager in L & D, led her team in the care of acute, adult Covid patients when one side of the mother/baby unit was converted to an adult unit. She also managed the other half of the unit with moms and babies. Bell says that the patients in L & D/maternity units are typically healthy women of childbearing age, hence the nursing responsibilities and experiences were also drastically different than in other areas pre-Covid.

“Our population of patients is very unique,” she said. “They are healthy—they had a baby, they have needs, and we have to take care of them—but they are not sick. It is a very different type of nursing than that of other nurses in other areas.”

Nurses were confronted with horrific experiences that most of them had never encountered, Bell said.

“I have been doing mother-baby maternity, labor and delivery for 36 years,” she said. “That’s all I know.”

Bell added that most of the nurses she worked with share similar work histories. The night that her unit was converted was one she will never forget. Bell received a phone call from a nurse at 12:30 a.m. one morning in March.

“The nurse said ‘Cathy, it’s happening,’” she recalled. “It went from zero population to every room was full. Within hours, I went from talking about breasts, lactating, and breastfeeding to, ‘Wait, how old is this woman? She’s 92.’”

Bell recalls having conversations with patients in one moment and then suddenly needing to call rapid response, thinking they had to be intubated. Within a few days of the conversion, “we had our first death,” Bell said. To a unit of labor and delivery/maternity nurses, the entire experience was “shocking,” Bell said.

“Our unit is primarily a happy place,” she said. “We have the babies. We have the moms.”

Bell said she and the other nurses stood strong and carried their patients and each other through the process. She assured her staff she was right there with them and that they could count on her to work alongside them. For her L & D patients, she and the other nurses worked wholeheartedly and truly were amazing in helping to maintain a sense of normalcy for an optimal and special birth experience in spite of all the changes and looming fear in the hospital.

Christine Boyd, RN in the Labor and Delivery Unit at NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island. Photo credit: NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island

“Every day, we learned something new,” said Christine Boyd, registered nurse. “We had to stay on top of everything. If mom was positive, the baby went to the pediatric floor and the mom would stay in the hospital. We were discharging after 24 hours after delivery, 48 hours for a c-section.”

Most mothers, if cleared, couldn’t wait to go home.

“There were sick moms and there were moms that got vented,” Boyd said. “We tested every single mother right when they came in.”

Hospital staff are still testing, Boyd noted.

“It was a different way of doing the delivery with the couple but we made it work,” Boyd said, adding that for husbands or other support persons that could not be present in the delivery room, they’d FaceTime.

Patients were scared. Boyd says nurses provided additional comfort and support to ease their fears.

“That moment your child being born-you can’t get that back, and I didn’t want it to be panic,” she said. “We didn’t want them to lose out on a most memorable experience.”

Boyd recalled one patient who was on a ventilator when her baby was delivered preterm.

“It was very hard to think, ‘Was she going to wake up and see her child? Was the child going to see her mother?’” Thankfully, this family’s story had a happy ending,” said Boyd. About one week following the baby’s birth, “they brought me to the NICU when the mom was holding the baby and I got to be there when she was discharged home.”

Boyd was overwhelmed with joy.

“I was just so happy, I started to cry happy tears,” she recalled. “To see her awake and holding her baby was pretty amazing and I know it was the work of the entire hospital from the NICU staff to the ICU staff to the residents, the attendings, anastasis—everybody.”

Health care heroes agree that It was these types of success stories, the support of their respective medical care institutions, as well as the outpour of community support that helped them persevere and do their jobs. Gratitude was felt everywhere, Boyd recalled.

“We could feel the support of the community on the outside, too,” she said. “There were people with signs thanking us and it was so appreciated to have that support.”

Parents Justine and Rich DeJoseph welcome their baby at NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island. Photo Credit: NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island


8 Ways To Enjoy The Magic of The Holiday Season

magic of the holiday season
Getty Images

There’s no time like the holidays to teach and share with your children the magic of the holiday season that comes with small acts of love and kindness. Experience inner peace and happiness that can last now and forever with a few simple activities.

Here’s how to enjoy the magic of the holiday season:

Give to charity. 

While many children this time of year look forward to receiving lots of presents and enjoying hearty holiday meals, less fortunate families may struggle to make ends meet. Participate in food drives by helping to sort items or by donating food. Take your child to pick out a toy for another child and have her drop it in a toy bin. Remind your child and yourself, too, to be thankful not just for “things” but for unconditional family love and support.

Watch old movies. 

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and of course, A Christmas Story are all fun, entertaining movies that can help the entire family get psyched for the holidays. Savor the spirit of the season by cuddling together on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and your favorite movie classic.


Nostalgia is normal this time of year, remembering and missing loved ones who have passed and realizing how fast time goes by. Share your treasured memories with your children. They’ll appreciate you letting them in on your past, telling them about your grandparents, for example, and how you enjoyed the holidays together when you were a child. Look through old photos or watch home movies. Let them gain greater insight into your history and their own.

Create new memories. 

Holiday traditions are great. Family gatherings, lights, holiday cards—all something to look forward to as the winter months and holiday season approaches. Consider starting a new tradition, too. It can be anything from reading a special book each year to posing for an annual photo in front of your fireplace to taking a trip to the mountains for a skiing adventure and ringing in the New Year in a winter wonderland. 

Discuss the significance of the holidays with your children. 

Remind your children that the holidays are not just about presents. Paint them a picture of your ideal holiday season and ask them to tell you what makes this time of year special to them. If you practice a particular religion, teach your child what the holiday means from that perspective. Discuss how you can work together to make this holiday season one you all can enjoy together and special for others, too.

Make holiday treats. 

Making chocolates or cookies is a simple, quick yet fun activity. Find the mold—Christmas trees, snowmen, dreidels, etc.—that represents something special to your family. Decorate sugar cookies. Enjoy homemade holiday treats with your loved ones.

Enjoy the fresh winter air.

Bundle up and take a walk through a quaint village where many of the stores are decorated for the season. Stroll around your own neighborhood to see how your neighbors show their holiday spirit with intricate lighting and outside decor. It’s beautiful and even more special when you can experience it as a family.

Watch your children as they sleep. 

There’s nothing more peaceful than a sleeping child, wrapped in her blanket and dreaming peacefully. Look at your children as a major accomplishment for you and your partner. Recognize your children for their achievements, too. Be proud of a job well done.

Make this holiday season a magical one for your family by appreciating together the pleasures it brings. Listen to holiday music and sing along. Smile and laugh. Take pictures. Get dressed up for a party even if it’s just for you and your children. Take time to relax by yourself, with your partner and as a family for no magic lasts longer than that which you create together.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Greater Treatment Options for Breast Cancer Patients

The prognosis following a breast cancer diagnosis is not nearly as grim as it was even five years ago. (Getty Images)

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 

Between 2012 and 2016, the Nassau County Department of Health estimated 1298.6 annual cases for females; Suffolk County Department of Health estimated 1314.2 cases in females. Although it is rare, breast cancer can also be diagnosed in males. The good news is, experts say the prognosis following a breast cancer diagnosis is not nearly as grim as it was even five years ago. Better screening, diagnosis and treatment are paving the way for a greater quality of life and longevity for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Decades ago, everyone had the same treatment — some did well, some didn’t — but now we know what each patient’s needs are across the board of surgical treatment, medical oncology treatment, and radiation,” says Dr. Christine Hodyl, director of Mount Sinai South Nassau’s Center for Breast Services. “What I’m seeing with breast cancer management is that we are moving towards personalized care.” 

Genetic screening plays a major factor in treatment, Dr. Hodyl adds. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are known to increase one’s risk for cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“We have learned over time that [some] women need less, not more,” says Jane Carleton, M.D., associate chief of clinical affairs at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Monter Cancer Center, Lake Success. Years ago, mastectomies were common protocol.  “We found that not all women need a complete axillary lymph node dissection; we could remove just a sentinel lymph node.” 

If a lymph node tests negative, removing more lymph nodes may be unnecessary. This is a critical “discovery,” as a considerable number of patients have subsequently developed lymphedema (swelling of the arms and legs) following a complete lymph node dissection; with a sentinel lymph node removal, the percent of women who develop lymphedema is substantially reduced, Dr. Carleton says.

As more drugs like Herceptin are being developed, the cure rate of early stage HER2-positive breast cancer dramatically improves, says Dr. Carleton. 

“It also means that if a woman has metastatic HER2 breast cancer, she might live 10 to 15 years longer because of using targeted agents like Herceptin and the many other drugs that have been developed,” she adds.

“The biggest improvement in prognosis has been found in tumors that are receptive to chemotherapy prior to surgery, otherwise known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy; we have been able to downstage a lot of these cancers and improve prognosis,” says Anastasia Bakoulis, DO, a breast and oncologic surgeon at Stony Brook University Cancer Center. “There have also been several advancements in that a lot of chemotherapy agents are now available to patients who may not have responded as well to a neoadjuvant therapy, too.” 

Utilizing immunotherapy for breast cancer is also becoming more encouraging, says Dr. Bakoulis. 

“We are trying to figure out how we can manipulate our own immune system to kill off this cancer and there have been some promising pathways,” she says.

Repeat lumpectomy is a treatment option — versus the previous standard of care in which a patient who was diagnosed with cancer and underwent lumpectomy with radiation would require breast removal if the cancer reoccurred, says Dr. Bakoulis. 

“Emerging data is saying maybe can get away with another lumpectomy and another round of radiation,” she says. Although studies are still in their infancy, Dr. Bakoulis says, “We are not seeing adverse effects from another round of radiation.”

With vast improvement in reconstructive surgery, patients are much more comfortable, notes Dr. Hodyl. One of the newer techniques involves placing implants on top of the muscle versus underneath. 

“We are leaving the anatomy as it is naturally,” she says. The implants are safer, too, she adds.

Advanced screening such as 3D mammography, awareness, and adopting a healthy lifestyle may influence the outcome of a breast cancer diagnosis, experts say. Eating healthy, avoiding processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, avoiding smoking and drinking, and managing stress can not only decrease your risk of getting cancer but also improve your chance of being cured if you’re diagnosed with the disease.

For more health and wellness coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/better-you

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

How Advances in Prostate Cancer Screenings, Treatments Are Saving Lives

With greater awareness, screening, and improved treatment, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer have positive outcomes, experts say. (Getty Images)

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer.

While treatments are improving, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates for prostate cancer are 191,930 new cases and 33,330 deaths in the United States this year. And Long Island men are not immune. The New York State Department of Health estimates that from 2012-2016, Nassau County presented with average annual cases of 1,118.8 and 107.8 deaths per year; Suffolk County reported 1,093 average annual cases and 113 deaths per year.

“It is certainly an important medical problem on Long Island, similar to the way breast cancer is in this region,” states Dr. Manish A. Vira, system chief of urology at the Northwell Cancer Institute. With greater awareness, screening, and improved treatment, the majority of men who are diagnosed typically have positive outcomes, he adds.

Diagnostics for prostate cancer include a physical examination to ascertain if there is unusual firmness or a nodule on the prostate, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. 

The American Urological Association recommends “shared decision-making” between doctor and patient for men ages 55 to 69 years who are considering PSA screening. Men in their 40s or 50s who are at risk may consider getting screened earlier. 

At-risk males include those with a family history of prostate, breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancer and specific genetic factors. 

“We know that men who carry the BRCA mutation [gene mutations associated with increased breast cancer risk] also carry increased risk of not just prostate cancer but aggressive prostate cancer,” Dr. Vira says. 

An elevated PSA does not necessarily equate to a definitive prostate cancer diagnosis or necessitate a biopsy, says Dr. Michael P. Herman, chief of the division of urology at South Nassau Communities Hospital. There are two additional blood tests — the 4Kscore® and the Prostate Health Index (PHI) — that can aid in determining whether or not a patient needs a biopsy. 

“If needed, MRI-guided biopsies could increase accuracy of the biopsy,” Dr. Herman says. “We’re biopsying fewer people because we’re able to figure out which men don’t actually need it, but the ones we’re biopsying are the ones that are truly at risk, not just because of the high PSA.”

Surgery has improved by using robotics, says Dr. Herman. 

“We’re able to construct everything very precisely and give people the best outcomes when it comes to urinary control and sexual function,” he says.

Recovery from surgery tends to be very fast, too, he adds. Treatment time for radiation for prostate cancer is also much different than it is for other cancers. 

“Radiation [treatment] can be as short as a week or up to two months, but once you’re done with radiation, that’s typically it,” Dr. Herman says. 

Treatments for men diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer especially have dramatically improved over the years, notes Dr. Vira. 

“Traditional stage 4 prostate cancer was treated with hormonal therapy to eliminate testosterone from the body and that treatment would be successful for a period of time, but eventually the cancer would start to grow again,” he explains. 

Several drugs or treatments have been developed for patients who have failed hormonal therapy. A drug called olaparib has shown positive results in clinical trials in men who have the BRCA mutation, Dr. Vira says. A big avenue of treatment is actually no treatment at all, he adds. 

The idea behind “active surveillance” is that “many men who have no risk of prostate cancer at diagnosis may not need treatment right away, because their cancer is going to have a very slow and somewhat indolent course.” 

Surveillance, monitoring, and routine PSA testing would be recommended. If the cancer becomes more aggressive, treatment such as surgery or radiation could follow. 

“Treatment recommendations should always be tailored to the individual and their personal approach,” says Dr. Herman, “and with a physician that is willing to take that personal approach, work with the individual, and understand where they are coming from.”

For more health and wellness coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/better-you

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Race For A COVID-19 Vaccine Draws Scrutiny

vaccine access
A scientist prepares samples during the research and development of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a laboratory of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2020. (REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo)

Researchers say they are making progress in developing a vaccine that will curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but some remain suspicious of its effectiveness.

Thirty percent of New York Metro area residents say they are unsure if they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available and 25 percent say they definitely would not, according to a Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine poll released in June.

“It’s disturbing that there is reluctance about a potential vaccine,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau and a national expert on infectious diseases. “However, we’re hopeful that as one is developed, tested, and proven effective, people’s attitudes will change.”

Russia has said that the world’s first vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be rolled out by the end of this month, with doctors among those set to be administered with it on a voluntary basis. But a majority of Russian doctors would not feel comfortable being injected with Russia’s new COVID-19 vaccine due to the lack of sufficient data about it and its super-fast approval, a survey of more than 3,000 medical professionals showed.

The disease caused by the new coronavirus that has killed more than 774,682 people as of this story and unleashed economic havoc worldwide. There are more than two dozen coronavirus vaccines at the human clinical trial stage as the race to tame the pandemic heats up.

Among those in development, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine induced a “robust immune response” and protected against infection in a study on monkeys. Australian biotechnology company Vaxine Pty Ltd expects to start Phase II trials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the next few weeks after “positive” results from the first-stage human study. And Among the researchers seeking a cure are experts at Farmingdale-based Codagenix, Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company working in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India to rapidly codevelop a vaccine against coronavirus using live COVID-19, known as live-attenuated vaccine.

“Early research shows promise that a vaccine could prevent a resurgence of COVID-19,” Dr. Glatt said. “Science is on our side. Right now, there is still too much unknown about a potential vaccine, and I assume that uncertainty is what we are seeing reflected in the poll results.”

On Long Island, formerly one of the national coronavirus hot spots in April, the number of cases has held steady. There were 86,184 confirmed COVID-19 cases — 43,100 in Nassau County, 43,084 in Suffolk County — and 4,190 residents succumbed to the virus, including 2,194 in Nassau and 1,996 in Suffolk as of July 28, according to the New York State Department of Health. There were 413,593 cases statewide, 4.3 million nationwide, and 16 million worldwide as of that date, data shows.

“We have successfully flattened the curve, but we have not eliminated the virus,” says Dr. Bettina Fries, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Medicine. “I don’t think we will get rid of the coronavirus, it will stay around, and you will see cases pop up, [but] it will be identified and the outbreak will be taken care of. The majority of people will be protected because they will be vaccinated.” 

But because the virus mutates, uncertainty remains.

“We just have to see whether it will be a long-term vaccination, or will it be similar to a flu vaccine where it will be repeated every year,” Dr. Fries says

Dr. Miriam Rahav, a Manhattan-based internal medicine, hospice, and palliative care specialist, says it may not be so simple. She says a COVID-19 vaccine does not come without risk, has only been tested on healthy individuals, and the virus has already mutated into 30 variants. 

“A lack of long-term safety testing is a red flag for the new [coronavirus] vaccine,” she says. “Knowledge about these mutations may prove useful to clinicians wanting to better tailor their COVID-19 treatments, but the proliferation of mutations makes the chances of developing an effective vaccine immensely more uncertain.” 

-With Reuters and Timothy Bolger

For more business coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/business

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Tips For Losing The COVID-15

Exercising and eating right are still the best ways to lose weight. (Getty Images)

Three months of inactivity and isolation can wreak havoc on your health. If quarantine from COVID-19 has left you feeling sluggish, out of shape, and battling extra pounds — aka the COVID-15 — now’s as good a time as any to kick your health and fitness regime into full gear.

Experts say the ideal way to create change is to choose attainable goals with the understanding that achieving optimal health takes effort and won’t happen overnight. 

“Be mindful that it took time to get where you are today, says registered dietician Lori D’Amato of Food and Wellness in Huntington. “So, it will take time to create healthy choices and new habits. Start by deciding what your long-term goals look like and then break it up into smaller, more achievable goals.”

D’Amato suggests addressing your emotional state, as well as health and weight loss goals. 

“If we are providing the right foods and working on exercise but our mind is not on the same page — stress, external cues — we may see some extra bumps in the road,” she adds.

Exercising is key to achieving better health and weight loss and is good for the psyche, too, says D’Amato.  Cardio is a great starting point, she notes, as it not only raises your heart rate but, “over a prolonged period of time, it starts to release your ‘happy’ neurotransmitters.” Feeling happy can serve as excellent motivation to continue your efforts. 

Consistency is key. Be consistent and slowly build upon your routine, for example, adding weight training, D’Amato adds. 

Regarding exercise, equally as important to what you do is how you do it, says Kayla Hendrickson, a Huntington nutrition consultant, personal trainer, and co-owner of Brains & Brawn, Inc. It’s all about execution.

“Choose three basic moves and commit to perfecting them,” she advises. “Movement is not much different than learning a new language. It needs to be practiced frequently, correctly, and with detail.” 

Choose exercise that you’re comfortable with physically and mentally and reevaluate over time, Hendrickson says. She suggests avoiding high repetition workouts and instead, increasing sets. Providing “ample opportunity to rest ensures that most reps are executed correctly. This is especially important after a lay-off because there is no way to know your body’s peak ability.” 

Listen to your body. Your “workout should be stimulating yet should not annihilate,” Hendrickson says.

Achieving better health and fitness is indeed a package deal — a positive mindset, plus exercise, plus nutrition, says Stefani Kavner, a certified holistic health coach at Huntington-based Fit For Life with Stef. 

Fuel your body with quality ingredients. To reduce inflammation and restore your body, avoid sugars, white flours and processed foods, Kavner advises. Mind your alcohol intake. 

“It turns into glucose in your body and causes systemic inflammation, as well as being a depressant,” she says, adding that junk food should be limited. “Why tempt yourself with food that you are not OK with eating right now?” 

“It’s important to ingest nutrient-dense foods so your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to heal and run properly,” Kavner adds. “Starting slowly can look like adding greens three times a day or cutting the gluten out of your diet.”

Include fresh vegetables, proteins including fish, and healthy fats into your diet — and don’t forget H2O, the experts say. Include antioxidant-rich foods, too. They’re “not only beneficial for the body by reducing oxidative stress, but [contain] a powerful antioxidant called polyphenols — found in black tea, coffee, several fruits and vegetables — that has been shown to help stimulate fat breakdown,” D’Amato notes.

Be realistic about your goals and path to achieving them. 

“Losing one to two pounds per week is the healthy way to go about weight loss,” for example, notes Kavner. 

Avoid fad diets! 

Make being healthy your new normal,” Kavner says. “If this is something you really want for yourself, making gradual changes over time will build momentum toward healthier habits.” 

Don’t forget to enjoy some fresh summer air and sunshine, too. It’s good for the soul. Seek support if needed, Kavner says.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Huntington Hospital’s Executive Director Dr. Nick Fitterman Touts Top-Notch Care

Dr. Nick Fitterman

Dr. Nick Fitterman, Huntington Hospital’s executive director, is a native Long Islander who has embraced the Town of Huntington as his “personal and professional home.” 

Run by New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, the state-of-the-art healthcare facility strives to offer the kind of unsurpassed care and compassion to patients that has been valued by Dr. Fitterman since before he began his career. He says childhood experiences with his family’s pediatrician were the driving forces behind him becoming a physician. 

“We didn’t have a lot of money,” he says. “[My pediatrician] took care of us and I always remember how grateful my parents were. This one person could impact the lives of the whole family. I wanted to be able to do something like that.”

In his previous roles as head of hospitalists at Huntington Hospital and vice chair of medicine at Northwell, Dr. Fitterman says he was able to help address “the changing landscape of patients’ needs and available treatment” and “improve efficiencies and quality at numerous hospitals.” 

In October 2018, Dr. Fitterman leapt at the opportunity to become the executive director at Huntington Hospital. He recalls thinking, “How great would it be to potentially have even more influence to improve the care of the community I live in? This job to me is a dream job.”

Dr. Fitterman praises Huntington Hospital’s exceptional collaborative team that includes physicians, nursing staff, aides, and environmental workers. 

“These people are really committed to relieving suffering of anyone that walks through our doors,” he says.

Huntington Hospital was previously ranked the 12th best hospital in the state and 14th in the region by U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 Best Hospitals rankings. 

“What all this reflects is that the community should feel safe,” he says. “They don’t need to travel to get world-class care — it’s right here in their backyard.” 

Dr. Fitterman says Huntington Hospital will continue to raise the bar in healthcare with plans to build a world-class cancer center in Huntington as part of the Northwell Cancer Institute as well as developing a neuroscience center. In addition, the hospital aims to enhance its already outstanding orthopedic and bariatric programs. 

“We are building programs here not to create a demand but rather, to meet the needs of community,” he says. “Healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. The sanctity of a physician-patient relationship is paramount to good care.” 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Coronavirus Fuels Rise Of Telehealth Trend

Telehealth is the wave of the future, medical experts say. (Getty Images)

As the coronavirus pandemic created the need for doctors to see their patients without potentially contracting or spreading COVID-19 during office visits, many are increasingly turning to telehealth — like Skype, but for healthcare — which provides care remotely through telecommunications technology.

Telemedicine services enable practitioners to collaborate with each other and their patients — for example, transfer and analyze data and images — to treat and monitor patients without physical contact. The technology has been crucial in not only being able to address the needs of the sick but to protect the healthy, too. 

“Clearly at a time when you have a large influx of patients with potential for infectious disease, putting them all in a waiting room is suboptimal,” says Dr. Josh Kugler, who chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside. 

Telehealth allows for initial screening to differentiate the need for an emergency room visit due to a broken bone or possible COVID-19, for example. 

“If they don’t meet certain criteria, we may take their phone number and call them in their car and use their technology or we could bring them an iPad…and we could set up a queue according to severity,” Kugler says, adding that by utilizing technology, physicians are able to triage and treat effectively without overexposing patients and providers. 

The healthcare industry is not new to telehealth. But healthcare privacy laws, limited reimbursement for providers, slower adoption by practitioners, and technical limitations made it an intimidating and/or slow-moving feat before coronavirus. 

Upon implementing or updating the scope of their telehealth care, hospitals and medical practices faced challenges from everything from language barriers to entering Medicare and Medicaid telemedicine codes, adoption and comprehension of the technology, and some patients’ reluctance due to their unfamiliarity with the technology. But most if not all of these bumps in the road were promptly addressed. For example, translation technology was utilized to combat language barriers, and the government has lifted regulatory restrictions.

Ultimately, telehealth has provided healthcare experts with advanced capabilities to care for their patients, the benefits of which are invaluable, experts say.

Telehealth adds 24/7 convenience, says Dr. Ken Long, vice president of administration, Mount Sinai South Nassau. Physicians have access to electronic medical records to remotely attend to hospital as well as family practices, even if their physicians have coronavirus. Doctors could easily fill prescriptions following a telehealth visit rather than have their patients run to the ER, for example. And while there’s been a great shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE), telehealth “allows us to conserve masks and gowns,” he says. “We want the practices to stay functional; we don’t want people to get sick.” 

Medical professionals at Northwell Health, Long Island’s largest healthcare system, agree.

“With the onset of COVID-19, Northwell Health has leveraged existing capabilities and expanded their capabilities and outreach tremendously,” says Iris Berman, R.N., vice president of Telehealth Services at Northwell Health. 

Telehealth has been extremely valuable particularly for the vulnerable and at-risk population, she notes, explaining that a patient with multiple comorbidities, simultaneous chronic diseases that require a number of different specialists to manage their care, would typically require special transportation and visits on any given day to a professional team including a pulmonologist, nutritionist, and physical therapist. 

“What we are able to do with telehealth is have all of those specialties at one visit at one time while that patient stays home,”  Berman adds.

They are able to coordinate, collaborate, and treat effectively.

“People will see the convenience of it and the efficiency and want to continue this well after the COVID emergency is over,” Berman says. “Getting good data together, looking at those avoided unnecessary and high-cost transfers to the emergency room — conserving more expensive resources for those that really need it — will be something interesting to look at.” 

Related Story: How To Boost Your Immune System During The Coronavirus War

For more coronavirus coverage visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

How To Boost Your Immune System During The Coronavirus War

Drinking fresh citrus fruit juice is a good source of vitamin C. (Getty Images)

As the world takes cover from the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare experts offer insight on how to help strengthen the immune system and stay healthy.

In addition to not touching your face and practicing social distancing — staying home, avoiding crowds, keeping at least 6 feet away from people in public — to avoid the spread of the disease, experts also offer a few suggestions on preventing and fighting COVID-19, should you contract it.

“Strengthening or boosting the immune system during this difficult time is of the utmost importance,” says Rosemary Cook, a registered nurse and holistic nutritionist. “A healthy immune system can defeat an invasion of a bacteria or virus or organism that is going to come to the host, which is your body.”

Hand hygiene is critical. Good old-fashioned soap and water is preferable to hand sanitizer, which should be used as a backup.

“People are using an overabundance of hand sanitizers and wiping out the natural flora or good bacteria,” she says. “Alcohol, although it has good disinfectant properties, deprives skin of oil and water and can dry skin out, which can interrupt the skin’s natural barrier of protection, increasing the risk of viruses and bacteria entering into the skin.”

She recommends disinfecting and sanitizing naturally, too, with vinegar, oregano oil, Thieves oil, or witch hazel. 

Consume a balanced diet that includes protein, fruits and vegetables, advises Vivian DeNise, D.O., of Garden City Center for Integrative Health. Avoid refined sugar, processed foods (which often contain monosodium glutamate or MSG) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), all of which will inhibit the body from doing its best work, she warns. 

Blending fruits and vegetables into juices and smoothies is a great way to get lots of nutrients into your diet. Frozen vegetables are dense in vitamins and minerals, Dr. DeNise notes. Gelatin-rich bone broth supports gut health and the immune system, adds Cook. 

Liposomal vitamin C is a most powerful antioxidant that strengthens your body’s natural defenses, combats free radicals, and encourages the production of white blood cells to protect the body against infection, experts say. Good food sources of Vitamin C include kiwi, oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, as well as raw vegetables — red and green peppers, spinach, leafy greens, etc. 

“Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut are great probiotics and also are rich in vitamin C,” Cook says. 

Experts note that zinc helps strengthen the immune system, in addition to cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D. 

“All provide protection against viruses,” Cook says. 

If you’re experiencing respiratory challenges, aside from consulting your physician, Cook recommends soothing the condition with the herb, thyme.

“It helps fight respiratory infections and is a natural expectorant; it helps get rid of mucus,” she says.

Avoid respiratory challenges by not smoking or vaping, warns Dr. DeNise. 

“When you smoke, it calms the cilia [tiny hairlike organisms that help protect your body from pathogens] down and whatever you’re inhaling gets deeper into your lungs,” the doctor adds. 

Remember, quarantine does not mean stay inside, says Cook. Fresh air, natural sunlight, and exercise are paramount to feeding the mind, body, and soul. 

“Take a break from social media every now and then, as negativity can wreak havoc on the immune system,” she says. “Sleep helps the body rejuvenate and heal. The body needs rest to maintain and build strength and immunity.” 

Dr. Salvatore R. Pardo, chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, agrees. 

“Whenever there’s a new virus, we don’t know how it behaves,” he says. Rather than panic, he advises: “Follow good hygiene, health, and safety practices.” 

Experts advise individuals to consult with their trusted healthcare provider for specific guidance and supplement dosage relating to their individual health needs. 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here.