A Chat With Four Leading Doctors in the Hudson Valley
Meet four of the Valley’s Top Doctors in 2015
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Meet Jean Y. Park, MD
When Jean Park, MD, was a teen pondering possible career choices, she first considered a future in science or engineering. An Ohio native, Park studied at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, earning a BA in chemistry in 1998. “But I eventually realized I wanted to interact more with people,” she says, so Park ruled out a strictly research-based career.
She opted for medical school, graduating from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 2002 and completing her residency in Internal Medicine at University Hospitals of Cleveland. She met her future husband in Ohio, and they decided to move east. Dr. Park then trained in Manhattan, with a focus on rheumatology, completing an award-winning fellowship in rheumatology at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, where she combined her medical know-how with her love of working with others by teaching med students and medical residents.
But she didn’t turn her back on research; Park studied the role of inflammation in osteoarthritis at the laboratory of Dr. Steven B. Abramson, a noted professor and researcher on inflammation and arthritis, and chair of the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone.
Park published several scholarly studies on her research and, along with another student at the Manhattan school, was honored with an international scholarship from the Japanese College of Rheumatology in 2008.
“That was really fun,” she recalls. “I got to travel to Japan and speak at their annual meeting,” Park says. There, she presented her research on enzymes that synthesize certain molecules, which, in turn, play major roles in arthritis inflammation and tissue destruction. “It was an honor to take part in that event,” she says.
Park now lives in Westchester and is in private practice with Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine; its main office is in Carmel. She works primarily with patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, which involves inflammation of the joints. “I also do a lot with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis,” she says. Osteoarthritis — the most common type of arthritis — relates to the gradual breakdown of protective cartilage in joints; osteoporosis involves thinning and weakening of the bones. “Many people think that osteoporosis is just a female problem, but men can have it, too,” says Park, a member of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology.
Among the challenges of her practice: helping patients deal with conditions that can be debilitating. “Some people with arthritis or osteoporosis find they can’t really function well on a day-to-day basis due to pain or lack of mobility, so it’s rewarding when we can help improve someone’s quality of life.” Progress is continually being made in the field, she says, including shifts in suggestions about the use of some popular osteoporosis treatments. “The FDA has recently been recommending that certain prescription bone-building drugs like Fosamax, Actonel, and Reclast not be used long-term,” she says.
Park recalls a 2012 report in The New England Journal of Medicine, the US Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about potential side effects in women taking drugs known as bisphosphonates. The report referred to studies that found the drugs may actually hike the risk of certain rare side effects. “Each case is different, in terms of both osteoporosis and arthritis,” says Park, who is affiliated with Putnam Hospital Center in Putnam County. “But we’re fortunate, because new drugs keep coming out that can continue to help improve patients’ lives.”
For many people, simple steps can help stave off thinning bones, she says. “Take calcium supplements if your doctor says it’s okay, eat well, and do some weight-bearing exercise. I also suggest having vitamin D levels checked,” says Park. “Tried-and-true recommendations like these, along with medical screening for osteoporosis, generally do help.”