He was at Ground Zero after the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, worked to help patients dealing with health issues after Hurricane Sandy, and continues to be a source of healing in environmental and pollution related health issues.
For his caring and concern, Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, chief of the Division of Occupational Medicine at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, was awarded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award, at a conference in San Antonio.
“Dr. Wilkenfeld has given me reason to have hope,” said Sergio Degennaro, a 60-year-old steamfitter from Westbury who still suffers as a result of his work as a WTC first responder. “I am not just one of the hundreds of casualties of 9/11 that he deals with, but he knows me and treats me like one man who was dealt a terrible hand.”
“I see a lot of first responders,” Wilkenfeld told The Jewish Star. “These were heroes. I’m just giving them our time to listen to them.”
“I treat them as people, not just as patients, and I try to teach that to the medical students and residents who come through my office,” Wilkenfeld said.
Medicine is about “patients, not business, or research,” he said.
The Gold Foundation Award was developed to highlight the need for humanism in medicine, with doctors as role models.
“Most people would not automatically associate the practice of occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) with humanitarian efforts,” noted American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine board of director’s member Dr. Pail Brandt-Rauf, “but Marc demonstrates what OEM should be, could be, can be at its best. He sets a new high standard for the whole profession to emulate.”
Wilkenfeld explained that the award was for his care of World Trade Center responders in Nassau County. More recently, he has worked with victims of Hurricane Sandy, describing what became known as the “Sandy” cough, and works with patients exposed to asbestos, lead and mold including those with “symptoms related to mold exposure after flooding of homes in Nassau,” he said.
In October, he led a group of discharged Israeli soldiers on a tour of the World Trade Center site for a program called Peace of Mind run by the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma. The six month program seeks to help teams of soldiers who have served together and been exposed to extreme conditions on the battlefield process and resolve these experiences.
Wilkenfeld and his wife, Shana, residents of Great Neck, are the parents of twin boys. He is Clinical Assistant Professor in Medicine at New York University, and Assistant Professor in Clinical Medicine and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University Medical Center. After 9/11, he worked with government agencies, corporations, and community groups and volunteered as a public health adviser to the New York City Council to help guide public policy decisions related to the medical and public health effects of the disaster.
“Dr. Wilkenfeld is a great listener,” said Degennaro. “He gives me all the time I need to outline what my current medical issues are. He never forgets that I’ve been dealing with the horrors of 9/11 for almost 13 years, and with debilitating health issues since 2003. He always tells me, follow our game plan and I promise you, you’ll die of old age at 95.”
Wilkenfeld said that the purpose of the award is to let people know that there are “many doctors who care about them as people, many that practice the same way. They don’t get a lot of press. [People] often only hear the bad stories.”