Crouse Health and Central New York Surgical Physicians: A Partnership for Versatile Care

By Jennifer Webster
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Since forming a relationship with Crouse Health, Central New York Surgical Physicians has offered a growing range of services, including breast, endocrine, gastrointestinal and bariatric surgery.

William E. Schu, MD

“We are a practice of general-surgery trained, board-certified physicians who all perform general surgery as well as practice in our areas of specialization,” says William E. Schu, MD, general surgeon and Medical Director of Breast Care Partners. “We formed our practice out of several Syracuse surgical groups in 1996.”

In addition to breast surgery and endocrine surgery, the practice has deep specialization in vein surgery, weight-loss procedures, and laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgery. All surgeons in the group perform standard procedures such as appendectomies, cholecystectomy and hernia repair. The breadth and depth of their practice lead to great versatility. It’s a partnership founded on long years of trust and mutual respect.

James E. Sartori, MD

“One of the attractions to forming the practice was to work with surgeons I’ve trained with and have the utmost confidence in,” says James E. Sartori, MD, Managing Partner with Central New York Surgical Physicians. “I have practiced with some of these partners for 31 years now.”

Originally, the surgeons operated at several hospitals, but, later, they aligned exclusively with Crouse Health. It was a partnership built on mutual admiration; the physicians appreciated the respect and collegiality they found at Crouse, while Crouse Health had long noted the excellent work of the Central New York Surgical Physicians.

Seth Kronenberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operating Officer with Crouse Health

“First, their quality is excellent — that’s the basis of everything,” says Seth Kronenberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operating Officer with Crouse Health. “They are the highest-quality group of surgeons in the area. Everything they do is focused on patient care; as that is our focus, too, it makes collaboration an easy process. Our goal is to develop new programs and integrate new technology in alignment with our shared values.”

The relationship has been mutually sustaining. While Central New York Surgical Physicians has provided Crouse with reliable, high-caliber general surgery, the hospital has responded by obtaining the latest imaging and surgical equipment, meaning the physicians can perform operations in the least invasive manner possible and offer an increasingly broad range of services to patients.

In an Era of Specialization, Generalists Matter

Each surgeon of Central New York Surgical Physicians has his or her niche — bariatric surgery, biliary and pancreatic surgery, breast surgery, endocrine surgery, vein surgeries — but they all come from a generalist background. It’s a rare model and one that offers benefits to patients and colleagues.

Tammy J. Congelli, MD

“Many times, patients come to us with several overlapping conditions,” Dr. Sartori says. “For example, a patient who needs gastrointestinal surgery may also require hernia repair. We can point the patient to someone in our office who can help them, avoiding fragmentation of care. We are aware of each other’s strengths and can point patients to a surgeon in the same office who can help them.”

“Many patients would rather receive care in the same place,” says Tammy J. Congelli, MD, general surgeon who specializes in breast surgery. “For instance, if a patient is seeing me for breast care and also has a gallbladder attack, I can perform gallbladder surgery for her. It’s nice for patients when their specialist surgeon can also perform other routine surgeries for them.”

Sometimes, says Benjamin Sadowitz, MD, general surgeon, the surgeons coordinate more closely, scheduling joint procedures for patients’ convenience.

Benjamin Sadowitz, MD

“One patient needed a hernia corrected as well as work for varicose veins,” he illustrates. “A colleague who specializes in venous procedures and I coordinated a surgery together. That way, the patient only had to schedule one hospital visit and go under anesthesia once, which was much better for her.”

The versatility of the Central New York Surgical Physicians benefits the community in other ways, too. All surgeons take general surgery calls for Crouse Health, Dr. Sadowitz says. That means patients who arrive for emergency care will benefit from a board-certified surgeon at any time, day or night. And these surgeons can call on their colleagues anytime they face a situation requiring specialty backup.

From within the group, surgeons have the opportunity to learn new specialties and continually develop their skill set. Dr. Congelli, for instance, is focused from general surgery to breast surgery and is now honing her skills in endocrine surgery since a senior endocrine surgeon, Dr. David Tyler, retired.

“That’s another benefit of being a large group of generalists,” Dr. Congelli says. “If we experience a gap, somebody can train to step in.”

Dr. Schu, principal endocrine surgeon currently, believes the process of succession within a group is invaluable. Senior partner Dr. Herb Mendel was a pioneer in minimally invasive vein surgery and later guided Dr. Tom Hartzheim as he acquired such skills. Dr. Hartzheim has taken an interest in endocrine surgery as well.

“We differentiate ourselves by attracting excellent, high-quality, compassionate surgeons; by keeping up with the latest technological advances; and by our culture of putting patient care first. At Crouse, everything we do is motivated by what’s best for the patient. Together, these features add up to a surgical program that we’re very proud of.”
— Seth Kronenberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operating Officer with Crouse Health

Hospital Support for Advanced Surgery

To offer excellent patient outcomes, even the most skilled surgeons require high-quality facilities, equipment and nursing staff. Advanced imaging and expert radiologists are needed, too. Crouse Health provides surgeons with the imaging they need to conduct highly precise operations. Their breast imaging scans, Dr. Schu says, are the best in the region, and the hospital’s radiologists are first-rate. For instance, the hospital features Thomas Green, MD, Director of Ultrasound and Nuclear Medicine and Chief of Medical Imaging at Crouse, whom Dr. Schu describes as “the best thyroid and parathyroid imager in Central New York.”

Reflecting its regional leadership in robotic-assisted surgery, Crouse also has three da Vinci robots for minimally invasive surgery, as well as the Trident system, which permits intraoperative X-ray of breast tissue in the operating room.

“With the Trident, we can see the markers, the tumor and the microcalcifications during the procedure,” Dr. Congelli explains. “Having that information can reduce surgery time, meaning patients spend as much as 15 minutes less under anesthesia. Crouse has been very supportive with providing the equipment we request to provide the best outcomes for our patients.”

More importantly, the hospital regards its partner physicians as colleagues and includes them in conversations and goal-setting.

“At Crouse, we support physician engagement in decision-making,” Dr. Kronenberg says. “We include physicians in strategic focus areas and consult them about matters, such as acquiring new staff and technology. Our physician engagement differentiates Crouse from other medical centers, as does the clinical excellence of our operating room team. We have the latest technology, but we also have excellent nurses, technicians and anesthesiologists who complement the care our surgeons provide. When a surgeon sends a patient to Crouse, they know the patient will have a customer-friendly experience.”

The hospital has also enhanced its surgical program by hiring night-shift surgical hospitalists, a unique program that means a patient who needs emergency surgery at night will find a physician already on-site so the procedure can be performed without delay. In addition to benefiting Crouse patients, the addition of surgical hospitalists at Crouse has meant the surgeons of Central New York Surgical Physicians can focus more deeply on their areas of specialization and day-to-day practice.

“We have been in practice a long time and have built a reputation for dependability. We offer the highest quality of surgical care, not just in Syracuse, but also across the state. Referring physicians can be confident that if they send us their patients, they will receive exemplary surgical care.”
— Benjamin Sadowitz, MD, general surgeon

Breast Care Partners: A Specialty Center without Borders

As physicians in a multi-specialty practice delve further into areas of specialization, they face unique challenges in the way delivery of care is typically set up, and in response, they’re creating exciting solutions. Breast Care Partners offers a range of services typically associated with a university medical center breast cancer program, including imaging, medical oncology, radiation oncology, nurse navigation, and of course surgery. To create this unique program, Central New York Surgical Physicians has built on alliances with Crouse Health and other medical groups.

“We’ve developed close working relationships with radiologists at Crouse and other practices in town,” Dr. Congelli says. “We collaborate with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists to form a multidisciplinary group that isn’t housed under one roof, hospital or practice. We’re nationally accredited under the strict requirements of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. We have a nurse navigator and a multidisciplinary tumor board that meets weekly within the system. From the moment the patient walks through the door, everyone is on board and communicating about her case. We navigate patients through the system very smoothly, so all they have to worry about is showing up for appointments.”

Making scheduling and coordination of care even easier for patients, Central New York Surgical Physicians is located in the same building as the breast care center where imaging is performed and directly across from the hospital. Patients are able to have a biopsy and see their surgeon on the same day, while physicians from within the partnership can conveniently discuss patient care and management.

“When you practice individually, you practice in isolation. But there is wisdom in collaborating and in talking about cases with your colleagues. It’s important to be able to bounce ideas off each other.”
— William E. Schu, MD, general surgeon and Medical Director of Breast Care Partners

A Promising Future

Medicine is developing rapidly, Dr. Sartori notes, and the partnership between Crouse and Central New York Surgical Physicians has adapted nimbly to the changing times. From electronic medical records to technological advances, Central New York Surgical Physicians continues to adopt those developments that best help patients attain swift, high-quality care and rapid recovery.

“Technology is advancing on a daily basis, and we are keeping abreast of the techniques and the different ways of approaching the disease process,” Dr. Sartori says. “There is big centralization of medical care; records, referrals, ED notes and imaging studies are all online. We’re using these tools to create more continuity of care. Now we can see the patient for his or her initial visit with the information we need on hand to formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan.”

The practice is also adding new skill sets and building relationships. For instance, Dr. Sadowitz says, Central New York Surgical Physicians is expanding its offerings in bariatric surgery. In partnership with Crouse, they are also expanding their capabilities in gastrointestinal surgery.

“Crouse just acquired an advanced endoscopist to supplement our work, so we are now taking pancreatic cases,” Dr. Sadowitz says. “We are looking to build a center for digestive disorders within the next three to five years.”

“Citywide, the days of the large surgery groups are over,” Dr. Schu says. “We are unique to have a private practice in general surgery. That allows for the friendships and collaboration that are lost when surgeons are individually purchased by hospitals. This collegiality is an asset to our group. It’s incredibly beneficial to consult with a partner rather than to feel it is competing against you. We have something special, and we are trying to hold onto that.”

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