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November 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Ben Fialkow of the American Red Cross



Name: Lawrence (Ben) Fialkow, D.O.

Hometown; Originally from Columbia, S. Carolina and now lives in Brighton

Family; Wife, Alice Rutkowski, son, Duncan, 8

Occupation; He is Medical Director of Blood Services (East Division) for the American Red Cross. This coverage area spans seven states in the Northeast including NY and PA.

Education; He earned his D.O. degree from Des Moines University and began post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center and at the University of Louisville. He spent the first year of his pathology and laboratory medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh and finished at the University of Rochester. He later did a fellowship in Transfusion Medicine at Emory University Hospital.

Connection to UR; He was a resident in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from 2004-08. He now serves as faculty for the Transfusion Medicine Fellowship at UR and is a regular judge for Pathology Research Day.

What first brought you to Rochester?

I had never heard of Rochester before I came here for residency and my wife. She’s a tenured professor at SUNY Geneseo, but even before she got tenure we knew we wanted to stay in the area. I targeted this Red Cross job after my training and it’s worked out very well.

Describe a typical day for you at the Red Cross.

I am part of a team of three physicians located in the Upstate NY, Boston, MA and Farmington, CT, who are responsible for all the Red Cross issues in NY, PA, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. Basically, I’m responsible for any donor issues, blood product issues, or any issues with blood products being transfused at the hospital. During the day I get numerous questions about donors – if they’re okay to donate or how to handle some sort of reaction to a donation. I spend a lot of time on the phone with hospitals giving them recommendations. I’m not necessarily in the office a lot

Why did you choose blood banking?

I was actually trained in internal medicine. I wanted to pick something that would allow me to stay as close to patient care as possible. With transfusion medicine, you’re essentially involved with patient care all the time, and that’s why I went in this direction.

What’s something people may not know about your job?

As a medical director at the Red Cross, I’m one step removed from patient care. A lot of times when I’m discussing issues over the phone, it’s hard for people to understand that I don’t have an office where I see patients on a daily basis. I’m almost more of a manager where I oversee the laboratory and the blood products, but it’s more of a managerial role with a little bit of patient care. I don’t fit into the mainstream of what most consider a physician to be.

What advice can you give medical students or trainees?

If you’re not already decided on a field in medicine, when you go out and do your different rotations, pay attention. I went into internal medicine because I liked the lifestyle and the attitude of internal medicine docs, and was turned off of other careers because I didn’t necessarily see myself as that type of individual.

It’s the same thing with pathology. When you’re going through your pathology residency, think about whether you want to be a clinical pathologist because you like the laboratory side of things versus the anatomical side. Really pay attention to what you what you see yourself being in 10 or 10 years because, ideally, this is the job you are going to keep for the rest of your working life. Make sure you’re happy.

Do you have any professional goals for the future?

I did a lot of research when I was in training, and I’d like to get back more into the research field and maybe publish more.

Do you have any hobbies?

I am an avid runner. In the rain or snow, I am out there running every day. Otherwise, I love reading cheap science fiction and horror novels. The rest of my time is spent being a fulltime dad. It keeps me busy but it’s very rewarding. 

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