Our annual list of the Valley’s finest medical men and women — as chosen by their fellow M.D.s
(page 4 of 8)
R. Clifford Mihail, M.D., FAAO
For R. Clifford Mihail, M.D., FAAO, it wasn’t exactly a case of growing up in a “like father, like son” scenario.
Mihail’s dad is also a doctor, and Mihail explains, “He’s certainly an inspirational figure in my life, and he did allow me to get a very realistic view, at a young age, of what life is like as a doctor. But I’m not sure I decided to go into medicine just because of it.”
In fact, recalls Mihail, who was born in Romania and grew up in Queens, N.Y., medicine wasn’t his first career choice. “Initially, I was going to study French literature. But somewhere along the line I realized I could have an impact on more people’s lives as a doctor, compared to becoming a French scholar.”
He went on to study medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., on an Army health professional scholarship, and did an internship and fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. He also spent a number of years in the military.
Dr. Mihail has been part of the Mid-Hudson Medical Group in Fishkill for more than four years, and is board certified in otolaryngology and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. He is also affiliated with Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie.
“My practice is fairly broad. As one person, I encompass the entire speciality of ENT (ear, nose and throat),” he laughs. On a given day he might see patients of all ages with anything from head or neck cancers (“fortunately, these cancers aren’t too common; they make up perhaps 10 percent of my practice”) to sleep apnea, problems with the thyroid gland, allergy or sinus issues, and related conditions.
Dr. Mihail treats many patients with sleep apnea. The result of airway blockages, this common, sometimes-dangerous disorder causes a sleeping person to stop breathing for 10 to 20 seconds or more during an episode, which (in some cases) can recur dozens of times an hour throughout the night.
“Some of the newer treatments for sleep apnea involve dealing not only with the soft palate at the top of the throat, but the tongue, as well,” says Dr. Mihail. In the past, he explains, some treatments could be aggressive, such as repositioning the tongue to create more space at the back of the mouth. “Now there’s a new device called a coblator that allows us to reduce the volume at the back part of the tongue; it seems to help in many cases.”
He also prescribes tried-and-true treatments such as a mask-like unit known as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) device that’s worn over the patient’s face while sleeping. “It’s not sexy, but it’s extremely effective as long as the patient sticks with using it,” Dr. Mihail says.
When it comes to surgery, “the trend is definitely toward more minimally invasive procedures,” he notes. “For instance, thyroid surgery can now be done with a much smaller scar,” and is sometimes performed with a tiny camera-like device called a laparoscope. This so-called “keyhole surgery” involves using very small incisions “and in many cases, helps with a faster recovery,” he says.
And since Dr. Mihail deals with many allergy cases – especially in this warm-weather time of the year – minimally invasive treatments are a boon. “For instance, with sinus surgery, sometimes less is more. We can do a small treatment in an area that helps several of the sinuses drain at once. It can be done with minimal discomfort for the patient, and it has a dramatic effect on their quality of life.”
Many of his allergy patients are kids. “I’d say the biggest drawback in allergy treatments for children is when there’s a need for injections. They hate those needles. There’s a new technique called sublingual immunotherapy, where flavored drops of allergen solution are given under the tongue. It’s much better tolerated by the kids.”
When he isn’t busy in the office, Dr. Mihail, who is married with two children and lives in Putnam County, loves to travel. And he admits that hitting the road is one way to maintain his lifelong love for all things French. “I’m still fluent and I try to get to France about once a year. My wife sometimes jokingly calls me ‘Euro-centric.’ I’m a diehard Francophile,” he adds.
Next appointment: Dr. Joseph Appel, Kingston