Susan Bressman Among Top Docs Honored at Castle Connolly Awards

“I’m lucky because I found a calling that teaches, gratifies and humbles you,” said Dr. Susan Bressman, an Honoree for Clinical Excellence at the Castle Connolly Top Physicians of The Year Awards Dinner at The Pierre. Daughter of Holocaust survivors, Bressman — Alan and Joan Mirken Chair, Depts. of Neurology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, Professor of Neurology Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai — Bressman’s arena includes identification of dystonia genes as well as Parkinson’s disease in Ashkenazi Jews.

She affirmed: “Medicine demands that we have empathy and integrity.”

“I am the daughter of two very resilient and wise Holocaust survivors…I learned many lessons from my parents. One was that helping others is itself healing.” After being liberated by American soldiers, her mother was transported to Sweden where she became a nurse’s assistant. “It was my mother’s nursing of others, which helped bring her physically back to health…. Her story was a gift to me because it brought me to the vocation of medicine. My patients are my ultimate teachers…serving them and learning from them is the heart of what I do.”

“It’s an incredible honor to be here,” said Clinical Excellence honoree Dr. Michael Saag. “ I feel like I’m having my Bar Mitzvah again!” he joked. Reacting to the explosive laughter, he said, “I’m glad to be sitting next to a urologist because this could create a urological emergency.”

Founder of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and its innovative HIV outpatient clinic, Saag said: “The progress that’s been made is just incredible when you think of a disease that wasn’t even there in 1981…and thirty years later it’s a chronic, manageable condition. It happened in New York, in San Francisco, even Birmingham, Alabama. The patients taught us all what we needed to know. You just had to listen.”

When I asked Dr. Saag the origin of his name, he said, “The name was originally Sagalowsky. The family came here in 1874 from Litvinova…. then St. Louis, Indiana…had a candy shop; movie theatres, theatres…settled in Texas.” But why Saag?” I persisted. He chuckled: “My grandmother wanted to be the first [name] under “S” listings — so she shortened the name to Saag.”

Also honored were: Dr. Catherine R. deVries, Director of the U. of Utah Center for Global Surgery; Dr. Victor Fazio, Chairman Emeritus Dept of Colorectal Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Hagop Kantarjian Prof. and Chair, Leukemia at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Host of “The Dr. Oz” TV show Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Lisa Oz, host of “The Liza Oz Show.”

John Castle, chairman Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. offered welcoming remarks, as did its president and CEO John Connolly. William Liss- Levinson, Castle Connolly Vice President, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer was an award presenter. In the guests’ “goody bag”— a hefty 5lb. tome: “Castle Connolly Top Doctors In New York Metro Area” guide.

Your Stories

  • "I push wagons, I work with a shovel, I turn rotten in the rain, I shiver in the wind; already my own body is no longer mine: my belly is swollen, my limbs emaciated, my face is thick in the morning, hollow in the evening; some of us have yellow skin, others grey. When we do not meet for a few days we hardly recognize each other."Primo Levi, "Survival in Auschwitz"

  • "This holiday we take for ourselves,
 no longer silent servers behind the curtain, 
but singers of the seder,
 with voices of gladness,
 creating our own convocation,
 and leaving ‘The Narrow Place’ together."E.M. Broner

  • "The idea of opening the door is that we hope Elijah might actually be there this year – that we might actually have done enough to change the world to have had him arrive. And, if we don’t have even the tiniest bit in us that thinks he might be there, that thinks we have tried our hardest to bring around a messianic time, with no hunger, no war, no conflict, no pain – if we don’t believe that we have tried to end those broken parts in the world – well, then I tell my students – don’t do any of it."Rabbi Leora Kaye

  • "The whole seder, for me, is the tension between two statements: We say, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and now we’re free,' but before that, we pick up the matzoh, we invite the hungry in and we say, 'This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.' We are the most fortunate, liberated Jews in history. But on the other hand, there are lots of things that enslave us."Rabbi Arthur Green

  • "To tune of "Mack the Knife": "Enter Haman ben Hamdasa, /And he’s claimin’, he’s an Agagite. /Better look out, oh Hadassah/For that Haman—he’s an Amalekite./And though Haman, he’s in power now, That old Mordy, will not bow down. /Haman’s ego, it takes a powder now. And just like that—Amalek’s in town!""By Rabbi Jan Uhrbach

  • "Do you know that every shepherd/ has his own tune? / Do you know that every blade/ of grass has its own poem?/ And from the poem/ of the grasses,/ a tune of the shepherd/ is made./ How beautiful and/ pleasant to hear/ this poem!"Reb Nachman of Breslov's Likutei Moharan

  • "Tu B'Shvat is more than a New Year for Trees -- it is a call to action. To observe Tu B'Shvat isn't to read and pray, but to do, to plant, to place one's hands in contact with the Earth....While we may mark Tu B'Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day once a year, we are responsible as Jews to act as environmental stewards every day."David Krantz - Aytzim: Ecological Judaism

  • "Donniel Hartman said the miracle of Hanukkah is not just that the oil lasted 8 days; it’s actually that it lasted more than one. Would we have said, 'Dayenu,' (to mix metaphors,) if it had lasted two days? Would we have had a holiday? Probably, yes. The idea that we as a Jewish community, even in our darkest moments, hold out the hope that a candle is going to keep burning, I find very powerful."Rabbi Rachel Ain

  • "“We would all argue vehemently and work tireless against assimilation. But the Hellenists and we Reform Jews didn’t assimilate. We acculturate, and by doing so, provide a portal for continuity unavailable to those who continue a quasi-ghettoized existence with all the ramifications thereof, good and bad. The irony, rarely mentioned by those who use the Hanukah story to justify Orthodoxy, is that the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) lasted a century and a half before they disappeared, having taken on Greek names as High Priests and Kings. And Rabbinic Judaism, the first ‘reform’ movement, birthed all of us.”"Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein

  • "I find it refreshing to go from carrying the decomposing lulav and etrog in our hands in procession for 7 days (save for Shabbat), to carry absolutely nothing on Shemini Atzeret, to then carry a Torah on Simchat Torah. It’s like Judaism’s way of saying… ‘What you are carrying with you on this journey — Torah, lessons, stories, values, covenant, a connection with a higher power and history — all of the intangibles, you carry them with you on the tangible, tentative, twisting path of life."Rabbi Paul Jacobson

  • "Shemini Atzeret is conceptually an attempt to maintain the holiday relationship with God without any specific rituals. In modern times it has been become eclipsed by the joy and dancing of Simchat Torah. This speaks to the difficulty in a pure relationship without concrete modes of expression. It could be a reminder that our close relationships exist even when we don't exchange presents or cards."Rabbi Yosef Blau

  • "Sukkot is the reminder that it doesn't take two days or even two years to go from darkness to light. It might take an entire lifetime to get there and you have to constantly walk with the belief that it's possible."Rabbi Sharon Brous

  • "Yom Kippur: God is our judge. Sukkot: God is our shelter. Yom Kippur: you sit cooped up for endless hours. Sukkot is about space and breath. Yom Kippur, it’s all about, ‘What have I done?’ And Sukkot is, ‘What can I do in the world?’"Rabbi Naomi Levy

  • "The Rabbis in the Talmud spoke of the necessity of both sinai and oker harim, that is both those who collected traditions that were handed down and also those who literally “overturned mountains.” Essentially, the one group would not survive without the other. It is in the radical interpretations of the given traditions, and in the broad and fluent knowledge of the traditions that one is able to create radical new interpretations."Dr. Aryeh Cohen

  • ""I have never felt that repentence, prayer, and tzedakah would change my fate. Rather, I feel that through honest reflection, refinement, and a sense of responsibility, I do have incredible power to affect the decree for others.""Cantor Ellen Dreskin

  • "Teshuvah does invite us to begin again, but not from the beginning. Part of what it means to be human is to learn how to begin again and again – from right where we are, right in the messy middle of things. The Torah, according to an ancient midrash, reminds us of this truth by opening the story of creation itself with the letter Bet…Even when we have rolled the parchment scroll as far back as it will go, the letter Bet meets us there -- insisting that this story cannot be told from the very beginning. No story can. Beginnings elude us."Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

  • "This year our theme at Temple Emanuel Beverly Hills is “If not Now, When?” and we asked congregants to tweet their responses to #innwtebh or to fill out cards filling in the blanks :“If not now, when will I….” We will prepare these ‘intentions for the year” in a similar way, as a power point presentation scrolling quietly on the screen facing the congregation as individuals come forward silently in front of the open ark before neilah."Rabbi Laura Geller

Your Video(s):
    Your Image(s):

      Screen name will be displayed if your story is published.

      Email address will always be kept private.

      Recommend this article

      Susan Bressman Among Top Docs Honored at Castle Connolly Awards

      Thank you!

      This article has been sent!