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Class of Internal Medicine Doctors in Queens Complete Training at One of the Nation's Most Culturally Diverse Teaching Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens Prepares Graduates to Deliver Culturally Responsive Health Care to Patients

Jun 23, 2016

New York, NY

A unique and diverse group of more than two dozen Internal Medicine residents who are bilingual, multilingual and represent ten different countries of origin graduated during a commencement ceremony at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens.
The 2016 graduating class is truly reflective of the patient population and community served by the hospital. The 28 new Internal Medicine physicians completed their training in one of the most demanding, culturally diverse teaching hospital environments in the United States. They have acquired a deep understanding of cultural values inherent in the patients they treat, which will enable them to provide culturally responsive and patient-centered care – both of which are priorities for the public health system.
Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health system in the United States, presented the keynote address, drawing upon his personal experiences as a medical student, resident, practicing surgeon, and hospital administrator to celebrate and inspire the group of new physicians.
“Today’s diverse group of graduates in Internal Medicine embody the incredible diversity that is a major component of modern-day healthcare,” said Dr. Raju. “I often say at NYC Health + Hospitals we are unique because we look like the patients we serve, and our patients look like us. When a patient enters through our doors, no matter where they come from – Egypt, Colombia, Pakistan, or South Korea – I can find a person on our staff from that country who understands its culture and can communicate in that patient’s language. That is what makes our system special.”
“The expansive diversity of cultures among these graduates has taught them how to communicate effectively with their patients,” said Dr. George T. Martin, Director, Department of Medicine, NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens. “As a result, they have not only learned from their patients, but from their fellow residents as well. Some spoke little or no English when they arrived here from other countries so they were able to empathize with those patients who can’t speak English. No matter what their backgrounds – and they are all very different – they have learned from one another during their residency and have become a close-knit family that fully intends to stay in contact with each other. That kind of mutual understanding and communication with others are essential traits for any physician in medicine today.”
Virtually all of the graduates have interesting backgrounds to share regarding what brought them to the public health system:

  • Luis Chavez, MD was born and raised in Colombia, South America where he was a practicing physician for four years before coming to the United States to join his father. He spoke no English and found a job washing dishes in a French restaurant while going to school to learn the language. He eventually brought his wife and two young children to the States and worked as a medical assistant, phlebotomist and EKG technician. He then signed up for the RN program offered by NYC Health + Hospitals in which foreign physicians trained to become registered nurses, graduated and went to work at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens as an RN. While working here, he made friends with residents and went through the process of becoming a resident. Dr. Chavez has accepted an Endocrinology Fellowship at the University of Rochester, New York.
  • American-born Ayelet Spitzer, MD grew up near the Van Wyck Expressway, so Queens is home to her. She knew this hospital was the closest public hospital to JFK Airport and was intrigued by the cultural diversity and the wide variety of health issues presented by so many different ethnicities. Dr. Spitzer has accepted a fellowship at Sloan Kettering in Palliative Care.
  • Born and raised in Egypt, Mostafa Alifishawy, MD has been described by his classmates as being an extremely dedicated physician. He has attended medical school in Egypt and again in the United States, doing his residency in both Egypt and the States as well as fellowships in both countries. Dr. Alifishawy has accepted an Infectious Disease fellowship at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center.

Many of the residents graduating today attended medical schools in their home countries and came here for greater opportunities for themselves and their families. Many did residencies and fellowships again here in the States. Each of the 28 graduates has a fascinating story to tell about how they arrived at
NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens to begin their journey into the field of medicine.


Contact: Cleon Edwards, NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, (718) 883-2134; (646) 772-5725
Liz Sulik, NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, (718) 883-4854

About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation with a network of 11 hospitals including six regional trauma centers, community-based health centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, and a correctional health services unit. The system includes a home care agency and a health plan, MetroPlusHealth. The health system provides essential services to 1.2 million New Yorkers every year in more than 70 locations across the five boroughs. Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees are uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. Visit nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected: https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or Twitter @NYCHealthSystem.

About NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens

A member of NYC Health + Hospitals, NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens is a major healthcare provider in the borough of Queens. Its foremost mission is to provide quality, comprehensive care to all members of the public regardless of their ability to pay. In 2015 NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens marked its 80th anniversary of serving the communities of central and southeastern Queens, having first opened its doors as Queens General Hospital in 1935. Newly modernized – the result of a four-year, $149 million capital project – the hospital officially reopened its doors to the community in January 2002 with a sprawling state-of-the-art facility. Encompassing 360,000 square feet, it is now comprised of 301 licensed beds, spacious ambulatory care suites featuring both primary and specialty services, and cutting-edge equipment. It also houses four Centers of Excellence in Cancer Care, Diabetes Management, Women’s Health and Behavioral Health. To learn more about NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org/hhc.