Our annual list of the Valley’s finest medical men and women — as chosen by their fellow M.D.s
(page 5 of 8)
Joseph Appel, M.D.
When asked what they want to be when they grow up, lots of kids say they’d like to go into medicine someday. But Joseph Appel really meant it. “I declared ‘doctor’ my chosen career in my elementary school autograph book,” he laughs.
His early love of science was primarily influenced by an uncle, says Dr. Appel, who grew up in Brooklyn. “And Louis Pasteur, the scientist, was one of my heroes. I remember once, on a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was 15 years old, I even dragged my friends to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.”
He grew up to graduate from Hunter College in New York, and lived for a time in Aruba, Israel, and Belgium, where he graduated from the University of Brussels School of Medicine. He returned to the U.S. to complete his residency in pediatrics at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
A two-year stint as an emergency physician led to, as Dr. Appel puts it, “unrestrained enthusiasm for a career in pediatrics.”
He’s been in practice in the Hudson Valley since 1979. The former chairman of pediatrics at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, Dr. Appel also has a teaching appointment affiliation as a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics with New York Medical College in Westchester.
Nowadays, he treats his young patients at the Pine Street Pediatrics practice, with offices in Kingston, Sawkill, and Red Hook. He focuses primarily on developmental, behavioral, learning, and communication disorders in children.
“Our input is often solicited by school personnel, committees on special education, learning disabilities specialists, and school psychologists who are all writing individual education plans for students with special needs,” Dr. Appel explains.
There’s a growing need for experts to treat children who have emotional and behavioral problems, he points out. “We’re trained much more now to recognize the early signs of psychiatric disease. And because there’s a shortage of psychiatrists to care for these conditions, pediatricians are assuming a more active role in the management of mental illness in children,” he says. “Pediatricians also employ medication to help kids overcome their disruptive behaviors that threaten to undermine their experiences in school.” So, does he think conditions like attention deficit disorder (ADD) are overdiagnosed these days? “This is a controversial area. My observation is that pediatricians certainly make the diagnosis much more frequently than we did even 20 years ago; but whether that represents an actual change in the incidence in the condition is not clear. It could be we’re much more aware of these issues in children now, and not likely to say something like, ‘Oh, he’s just being a boy!’ or ‘He’ll outgrow this.’ We take these concerns very seriously.”
Dr. Appel, who also treats “garden variety” sneezes, sniffles, and other childhood illnesses, points out just a few of the many breakthroughs in medicine — for patients of all ages — that he’s seen in his 30-year career.
“There have been dramatic advances in immunization medicine, including the recent so-called ‘cervical cancer vaccine’ and the evolution of HIV treatment. HIV is now more likely to be a chronic disease with an expectation of a reasonable quality of life, instead of a uniformly fatal one.”
He also points out breakthroughs in asthma therapy “favoring home care and reducing hospitalizations. The combination of inhalation therapy at home, and a much more liberal use of cortisone medications, are what we think are dramatic advances in asthma care, but there still seems to be a lot of morbidity from asthma.” He also touts antibiotics that make it much easier to treat childhood infections.
Medical technology has advanced tremendously, he adds, “From CT and MRI scanning, to office lab techniques — we can now get a complete blood analysis right in our office in five minutes. Wherever you look, medicine exposes people every day to the latest in science and technology.”
When he’s not attending to patients, Dr. Appel likes to “read, write, garden, and golf.” He and his wife have two grown children, and he’s a die-hard fan of living in the Hudson Valley. “It’s a thoroughly beautiful area, close to New York City, close to my extended family, with the right balance of everything else I want in my life.”
Next appointment: Dr. Wayne Weiss, Middletown