Morristown Doctors To Be Honored by American Cancer Society

Cancer docs to be honored   ~

Carol G. Simon Cancer Center doctors honored for breast cancer work

MORRISTOWN — When Kathie Morgan decided to have a bilateral mastectomy last year, she wondered if she would be able to look herself in the mirror after the surgery.

The Parsippany resident, who is a longtime employee of Morristown Medical Center, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2011 after a routine mammogram came back suspicious.  “When you find out something is wrong, you have no idea what goes through your head,” said Morgan, a nurse manager in the cardiac department. “I thought, ‘Will I ever be able to look in the mirror again? Will I ever be able to wear a bathing suit again?’ ”

A beach lover, mother of two and grandmother of two, Morgan said she chose a double mastectomy in part to keep up with her active lifestyle.  But she also based the decision on her family history; she has lost her parents and siblings to various forms of cancer. “Everyone in my family is gone. I had to give myself the best chance I could,” she said. 

 Pair were highly recommended

 Morgan, who asked colleagues for thoughts on surgeons, says their recommendations were unequivocal. On everyone’s lists appeared two names: Dr. Leah Gendler and Dr. Brian Glatt, who have both worked at Morristown Medical Center for seven years.

Gendler, a graduate of Albert Einstein College who completed her residency at the Beth Israel Medical Center and had a fellowship at Columbia University, is the founder of Morristown Breast Associates at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center. In addition to numerous awards, Gendler won the Most Outstanding Scientific Presentation from the American Society of Breast Surgeons.

Glatt graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and completed the prestigious Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Program there and at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He also received a specialized fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City that focused on advanced microsurgical and reconstructive techniques, particularly of the breast.

Though their resumes were impressive, Morgan says it was the doctors’ demeanor that gave her the confidence to move forward.  “They are down to earth, warm and kind,” she said. “They explained all of my choices and didn’t assume that I knew any of the information.”

Last May, Morgan underwent surgery, the beginning of breast reconstruction and a three-month round of chemotherapy. She had two more phases of reconstruction in November and February.  “It went wonderfully,” she said. She was only out of work for three weeks after the initial surgery and another two days after phase two of reconstruction.  Morgan says she is healing well and that her breasts “look amazing.”

“Dr. Glatt has been my constant. He is an incredible physician,” she said.

Glatt says the goal is to provide immediate reconstruction. “When a woman wakes up, she doesn’t have to go through a period of loss. That’s due in large part to technical achievements.”

Coordinating patients’ care

Glatt and Gendler often work together to coordinate patients’ care. Through a weekly Breast Tumor Board that Gendler chairs, the two meet with 50 other doctors to discuss pathology and treatment options.

“There is an enormous input on each patient’s care. This is not cookbook medicine,” Gendler said. “Patients are not a number to us. Every person is very unique.”

Glatt says there is tremendous coordination and education before surgery. “We optimize everyone’s care before it’s started. Care is so individualized now.”

A large part of the doctors’ work is also in educating the patients about their choices.  “It’s overwhelming initially. There are so many options. There is a lot of misinformation and opinionated information out there,” Gendler said. “We want to take away the initial fear when diagnosed. The vast majority of cases caught early are very curable.”

The doctors say women should practice monthly self-exams as young as possible.  Women in their twenties and thirties are not spared from this,” Glatt said. “Awareness is important.”

Self-exams are best after the menstrual cycle, Gendler says. And women on birth control pills that limit the cycle should still do it every month.  A routine self-exam should go up to the collar bone, down to the underside or flank, up to the sternum and into the armpits. “Women can do it in the shower or in bed,” Gendler said. “And every year they should have a clinical exam.”

As women focus on careers and put off child rearing, they often miss the baseline mammogram in their late thirties to early forties, Gendler says.“For someone with a family history, the first mammogram should happen 10 years younger than when the closest family member was diagnosed,” Gendler said. “This includes the father’s side of the family.”

Glatt says doctors are now able to identify breast cancer earlier. “People are more aware and we’re catching things at earlier stages. We’re heading in a better direction; on the medical side, we are more able.”

He says Morgan is a “perfect example” of what he strives for.  “Seeing her in her white coat and badge with her hair looking great, that is what we’d hoped for. This is what we work for every day,” Glatt said.

Gala’s goal: $300,000

For their work, Gendler and Glatt will be honored at the American Cancer Society’s fifth annual Starry Night Gala on May 12.  Gendler says the organization provides invaluable services to her patients.  “The American Cancer Society has been a partner in my practice every step of the way, helping my patients on their personal cancer journeys from the moment of diagnosis, through surgery, treatment, and recovery,” she said.

Nancy Marino, the cancer society’s director of distinguished events, says the gala is on track to earn more than $300,000 toward the organization’s mission of eliminating cancer as a major health concern.

She also praised the work of Glatt and Gendler. “Our honorees this year are so relevant to people who are going to be at the event. The work these doctors are doing is so important,” she said. “It brings it all full circle for people. It gives them confidence that they are in good hands.”

Morgan says she is thrilled the doctors will receive recognition for their work. “I know a zillion doctors, and they are the top. It’s a tribute to them they really deserve.”

Morristown Medical Center doctors Brian Glatt and Leah Gendler who are being honored for their work at the American Cancer Society’s Starry Night Gala.

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