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Feature Stories

The Long Island Social Diary: April 12, 2013

As I stated in my first column, I’m dedicated to highlighting organizations that support worthwhile causes in our local communities. The two that I’m choosing to focus on in this month’s column are the Nassau Physician’s Foundation (NPF) and the Friendship Circle Luncheon, both founded and run by good friends of mine.

Founded by Dr. Belha Fish, the NPF is all about community and if there’s any doubt, look no further than its mission statement. “NPF exists to provide a stimulating environment for physicians who are drawing strength from their passion and who are willing to enrich each other’s lives. We are partners with the community in which we live and are committed to donating our time and expertise to educational and charitable endeavors. We raise money for medical education and research and pledge to be proactive in pertinent and current health issues.”

It’s this kind of mindset that Dr. Fish has been committed to ever since the NPF was created seven years ago by a group of doctors that wanted to give back to the community.

“Our mission was and is to support each other. We hold an annual dinner and in the past few years, the money went to support scientific projects of specific students in Hofstra,” she explained to me. “This year we’re honoring two educators [as Physicians of Distinction]. Basically, we support the new generation of doctors and their teachers. We’re investing in the future.”

The two people being honored this year are a pair of physicians—Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee and Dr. David Battinelli. What’s wonderful about these two honorees is that despite all the acclaim and accolades they’ve deservingly received over time, they’ve chosen to give back to future doctors through their work as educators. Dr. Ross-Lee does most of her heavy lifting through a number of NYIT programs including the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, School of Healthy Professions and Academic Healthy Clinics. Her colleague Dr. Battinelli is no slouch himself, serving as the senior associate dean of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University.

This year’s Nassau Physicians’ Foundation Annual Dinner will be held on Saturday, April 27 at Tiro a Segno Club on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.

This year marks a decade since Denise Silverberg started hosting the Friendship Circle Luncheon (FCL). It all started with her mother Lillian Rose, who was afflicted with dementia. Given the fact that Denise was taking care of her, one of the challenges was to find an outlet for her mom, a former artist, where she could enjoy herself. So when Denise found a class at the Sid Jacobson JCC that her mom could go to for an hour and come out of so happy that she couldn’t wait to go again, it had to be something that wasn’t just a weekly event. Sadly, no such program existed that was held every day. And when Denise found out that was the case, she reached out to her friends in Great Neck.

“I asked Susan Bender, who was the head of the JCC at the time, if I could write a letter to my friends asking them for help expanding this program. [Susan] said yes and by October, we’d gotten quite a response,” Denise recalled. “The folks at the JCC called to tell me they couldn’t believe all this money that came in. I said we couldn’t accept it unless we thanked everyone and had a luncheon at the Century Club in Westbury. Five hundred people later, that’s how it started.”

Ten years strong, the Friendship Circle Luncheon has honored people like the Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, (daughter of the late Rita Hayworth who has done major philanthropic work raising Alzheimer’s public awareness), Dr. Max Gomez and Frank and Rita Castagna of Americana Manhasset. (I was also privileged to be an honoree one year). It has also raised money for hundreds of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, MS or the aftermath of a stroke. Just as importantly, the FCL recognizes the dedication and efforts put forth by the caregivers, who are often overlooked in the process of addressing Alzheimer’s disease.

What most impresses me are some of the unique approaches that the FCL has helped create such as the only early onset program in the country. Not surprisingly, Denise’s mother continues to inspire by way of the Lillian Rose Program, which is currently being run by North Shore at Glen Cove Hospital. Basically, it involves setting up a soothing and comforting receiving area where Alzheimer’s patients needing any kind of medical treatment can be brought in, avoiding what’s normally a jarring and terrifying experience for people afflicted with this disease.

“It’s the only program in the world that has the aides, nurses and doctors all certified by the Alzheimers Foundation of America,” Denise proudly explained to me. “It’s so important to have specialists involved that are trained to work with people who have dementia. You live so long and when you get this horrible disease and go to the hospital, it shouldn’t be with the concern that whoever is taking care of you forgets that you’re a person with a history and a family.”

As I said before, this year’s Friendship Circle Luncheon is going to be the tenth one, so the event’s theme will be a retrospective. It’s going to be held at the Garden City Hotel on Wednesday, May 8. Howard Kroplick and Kathleen Kammerer will be the honorees, Roseanna Scotto will be emceeing and Megan Hilty from the hit series Smash will be performing. Best of all, you’ll be helping to raise money to fight what a recent study declared to be the most expensive disease to treat. I hope to see you there.