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First surgery center for seniors
Caring for centenarians While receiving his surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Katlic cared for several 100-year-old patients. He wrote a small paper, “Surgery in Centenarians,” that was published in 1985 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “That changed the course of my career,” said Katlic.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF SINAI HOSPITAL
By Carol Sorgen After Gloria Levin had been hospitalized five times earlier this year with a severe hiatal hernia and complications, she was told she was not a candidate for surgery, and there was nothing more that could be done for her. They recommended that hospice care be arranged. “They gave up on me,” said the 83-yearold Pikesville resident. “They told me to go home and die.” Fortunately, Levin’s family physician had another idea. He referred her to Dr. Mark Katlic, surgeon-in-chief at Sinai Hospital and director of its groundbreaking Center for Geriatric Surgery. The surgical center is the nation’s first dedicated exclusively to providing specialized surgical pre- and postoperative care for patients age 75 and older. “By rights, I should be dead,” said Levin. But after an extensive pre-op evaluation, Katlic, a thoracic surgeon, agreed to do the surgery Levin needed, and she’s doing just fine now. “Every day between 8,000 and 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and soon they will be the greatest force affecting healthcare in the United States,” said Katlic. “I am passionate about making sure that the quality and length of life for older patients are the best that they can be.” Katlic, 62, added that he is also dedicated to educating other medical professionals about the unique challenges that geriatric surgery entails. Levin doesn’t know exactly why the first hospital she visited wouldn’t perform the surgery she needed, but she suspects it was because of her age. That’s not uncommon, according to Katlic, but it’s a mindset he has set out to change in the 30 years that he has been championing the health rights of elderly patients.
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Sinai Hospital’s Center for Geriatric Surgery repaired Gloria Levin’s hiatal hernia when other physicians were unwilling to operate on the 83-year-old. The surgery center, the first of its kind in the nation, offers intensive pre- and post-op care to help older adults have more successful operations.
His paper was publicized throughout the world and eventually caught the eye of a publisher who asked him to write the book — literally — on geriatric surgery. Principles and Practice of Geriatric Surgery was published in 1990; since then, four other textbooks and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles have followed. Katlic joined the staff of Sinai two-and-ahalf years ago, having served most recently as director of thoracic surgery at Geisinger Health System, Northeast, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. “The idea of a Center for Geriatric Surgery had been percolating in my mind for some time,” said Katlic, who attended medical school at the Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity School of Medicine. “Sinai was interested, and the time was right.”
Specialized pre-op care While the conditions that often require surgery — cancer, atherosclerosis, degenerative joint disease, cataracts, prostate disease and gallstones — increase in incidence with increasing age, so do the risks of surgery, including complications, lengthier hospital stays and even death. That doesn’t mean, however, that surgery can’t or shouldn’t be performed, said Katlic. But it does mean that older patients need to be more carefully evaluated and See SURGERY CENTER, page 8
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