One east Bronx doctor has earned high marks from her peers for her prowess treating breast cancer — and the hospital where she works is gaining recognition both in the community and on a national scale.
Maria Castaldi, chief of Breast Surgery at Jacobi Medical Center, recently won the “Peer to Peer Excellence” award from the Bronx County Medical Society.
On top of that, the center recently met national quality standards to earn reaccreditation from the American College of Surgeons.
The Westchester Square/Zerega native says she’s proud to have the respect of her fellow Bronx doctors. She’s especially excited to bring back the honors to a public hospital people underestimate far too often.
“We’re out to disprove the perception that public hospitals don’t provide quality care,” said Dr. Castaldi. “There’s no better place in the Bronx than Jacobi.”
Dr. Castaldi has helmed Jacobi’s Breast Health Center — a center that deals only with breast cancer screening and treatment — for over a decade now. The center provides more than 12,000 mammograms, and cares for more than 1,600 patients a year.
The key to the center’s service, said the doctor, is continuity. From the moment a patient comes in, she or he is matched with so-called “patient navigators,” who help steer them through what can be a confusing process.
“All of the navigators work together,” said Dr. Castaldi. “Patients might meet one when they are going into surgery, and another at their support group. It’s one big family.”
And the renowned Patient Navigator Program now has a new member. Jacobi has now hired an additional navigator to help patients with triple negative breast cancer diagnoses — an especially tricky type of cancer to treat, because the tumor often does not respond to regular therapies.
New hire Cindy Tavarez plans to use a two-year grant from the national Triple Negative Breast Care Foundation to help Bronx patients navigate the rocky process.
Though she now lives in Long Island with her husband and daughters, Dr. Castaldi is still an east Bronx gal at heart, having attended Cardinal Spellman High School and earned her medical degree at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Morris Park.
The doctor says she treats patients as if they are her neighbors.
“They should walk into the hospital and feel like its their home,” she said.