Local Pediatricians Honored with National Research, Teaching Awards

May 06, 2002

Two local pediatricians are being honored this week with prestigious awards that recognize their efforts to improve children's health through research and teaching. The awards are being presented at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies' meeting in Baltimore, the major national meeting for academic pediatricians.

Peter Szilagyi, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the division of general pediatrics and chief of pediatric ambulatory services at Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong, and Lawrence Nazarian, M.D., a community pediatrician at Panorama Pediatrics in Penfield, will receive two of the highest honors bestowed by the Ambulatory Pediatric Association. Both doctors are respected faculty members at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

On Sunday, May 5, received the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's National Research Award. The award acknowledges one individual per year for his or her contributions in advancing pediatric knowledge through excellence in research.

"Peter is a national leader in our never-ending quest to improve children's health," says Thomas McInerny, M.D., associate chair for clinical affairs at Golisano Children's Hospital. "He leads a number of important projects and initiatives both locally and nationwide, and has worked for more than a decade investigating ways to improve the health care of uninsured, poor, and vulnerable children. This is very well deserved."

In addition to seeing patients on a regular basis, Szilagyi heads an unparalleled research effort in Rochester to understand how to improve health care for our nation's most vulnerable children. He has authored 64 original peer-reviewed articles and been principal investigator on nearly $10 million in research grants. In 2000, he secured a nearly $2 million grant to help determine which health insurance and delivery features work best for low-income children - particularly minority children and those with special health care needs. "This project will help our nation devise a more rational and effective health care system for vulnerable children and adolescents," Szilagyi, of Pittsford, says. "We owe it to them."

In addition, with the help of a recent five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control, Szilagyi leads a community-wide effort to monitor the effects of new and existing vaccines. It also provides clinical information about diseases that could eventually lead to the creation of new vaccines, and develop a model to improve immunization delivery. This effort involves the majority of primary care physicians in Monroe County. Vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses are similar throughout the country, so results from the Rochester-based study will be applicable to other communities throughout the country.

"This is community-based research at its best," Szilagyi says. "We were chosen for this grant because Rochester is ahead of the curve when it comes to immunizing our children, tracking data about vaccine-preventable diseases and the delivery of immunizations, and collaborating with community-based practitioners."

In addition to being a pre-eminent pediatric researcher, Szilagyi is a nationally recognized general pediatrician. He is co-author of The Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking, the major textbook used by medical and nursing students for learning the fundamentals of patient examinations. Szilagyi also serves as the pediatric editor for The Merck Manual, the most widely published medical textbook in the world.

Lawrence Nazarian, M.D., a community pediatrician for 33 years, is also receiving accolades at the national pediatrics conference. He will receive the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's National Teaching Award, which is designed to foster interest in the teaching of ambulatory pediatrics by giving national recognition to an outstanding ambulatory pediatric program. In this instance, ambulatory means separate from a hospital.

To be eligible, programs must demonstrate excellence in educational teaching methods, acceptance by students and/or residents, acceptance by the community and the institution innovations and adaptability, or outstanding quality of the individuals trained in the program. Nazarian will receive the award on Tuesday, May 7.

Nazarian, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is a community pediatrician, so patient care is always his first priority. Yet, he always makes the time to teach medical students and residents, mentoring two residents each year. These residents spend one afternoon a week for two years with Nazarian at his Penfield practice, often interviewing families, obtaining patient histories, and discussing possible treatments for children. They learn how Nazarian operates as a pediatrician, which helps them decide how they can best serve patients in their own practice.

"This type of mentoring relationship in medicine dates back to ancient times," Nazarian, of Penfield, says. "My No. 1 responsibility is taking care of my patients, but I do a lot of teaching in the office, and it's a very effective way to learn. I try to give these young doctors starting points, some templates that they can use to create a style of caring for and treating patients that works best for them."

Many of the residents mentored by Nazarian say his advice and teaching have been invaluable. "He is an outstanding role model who epitomizes all that a pediatrician should be," says pediatrics resident Sue Mone, M.D. "He is bright, intuitive, insightful, affable, thoughtful, humble and respectful. He connects with patients and parents of any age. He manages each patient carefully and thoughtfully. The scope and breadth of his knowledge extends far into the disciplines of any pediatric subspecialty."

As a community pediatrician, Nazarian enjoys a special relationship with the University of Rochester Medical Center. "I have a wonderful relationship with the University's Department of Pediatrics," he says. "Without it, I could not have been considered for this award. In many communities, there's a gulf between the medical centers and the community pediatricians. Fortunately, that's not the case in Rochester."

In addition to seeing patients, Nazarian has served as associate editor of Pediatrics in Review for more than a decade. The journal has an international circulation of 70,000.

This isn't the first time the Ambulatory Pediatric Association has lauded faculty members from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Pediatrician Michael Weitzman, M.D., won the Research Award in 1997, and the University's Pediatric Links with the Community program - led by Jeff Kaczorowski, M.D., and Laura Jean Shipley, M.D., won the Teaching Award in 2000.

With more than 2,000 members, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association is the professional organization for academic pediatricians and other health care providers. It was founded in 1962.

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