A Higher Level of Care that is Female by Design

Women’s health is deeply rooted in the history of St. Joseph’s Health. Saint Marianne Cope, a visionary in hospital management, opened the hospital in 1869 and welcomed everyone regardless of gender, religion, nationality or financial situation.

Today, the Women and Infant Services at St. Joseph’s Health includes award-winning breast care, gynecology and maternity services designed to provide the most comprehensive women’s care in one service line. As the only Baby-Friendly hospital in Central New York, St. Joseph’s is recognized for gold standard guidelines for breast feeding education and support established by the WHO and UNICEF. St. Joseph’s NICU was the first in the region when it opened 50 years ago, and is a two-time winner of the Guardian of Excellence award for Neonatal Intensive Care Patient Experience by Press Ganey. And St. Joseph’s Health was awarded the BlueCross BlueShield Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care. The organization’s highly qualified, respected and dedicated female physicians share the same passion as St. Joseph’s founders.

Suchitra Kavety, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN and Syracuse native, says 2020 was a year unlike any other in her two-decade career.

Suchitra Kavety, MD

“St. Joseph’s is incredibly supportive of women physicians,” Dr. Kavety says. “Thanks to support from my fellow physicians, staff and patients who trusted us to come in for exams and treatments, we were able to bounce back during the pandemic.”

Dr. Kavety’s practice followed strict cleaning protocols and rearranged rooms for social distancing, but also offered virtual options for patients who were unable or unready to visit places in-person.

“We could do virtual visits with a patient and her family, and it’s also helpful for postpartum patients,” Dr. Kavety says. “Patients didn’t need to leave home for me to walk through medications or other medical needs.”

As we emerge from the pandemic, Dr. Kavety says women — who seem to have been affected more than anyone else during COVID-19 through increased demands from work and at home — need to focus on themselves.

“Women, in general, don’t prioritize themselves. But self-care is extremely important because most women put their health behind everyone else’s,” Dr. Kavety says. “Women tend to prioritize others in their family, at work, and in their community above their own needs. Medical services such as routine gynecological exams are important elements of self-care that should be prioritized.”

St. Joseph’s award-winning Breast Care and Surgery Program is nationally recognized for its exceptional outcomes, making St. Joseph’s Health the breast care leader in Central New York.

Kara Kort, MD, has performed thousands of surgeries in more than 20 years of breast care.

Kara Kort, MD

“St. Joseph’s Health has one of the highest volumes of breast surgeries in our region,” she says. “Experience and knowledge are what makes the St. Joseph’s breast care team one of the best in the nation.”

While COVID-19 impacted many healthcare services, Dr. Kort says appointments for screenings did not significantly drop.

“When it comes to breast cancer, there really hasn’t been that big of a difference in patient volume,” Dr. Kort says. “The fear of cancer makes people anxious and upset more than the virus.”

Dr. Kort was glad to see patients keeping appointments, but emphasized that screenings and mammograms should always be top of mind for all women.

“One in eight women will get breast cancer. That’s a very high and upsetting number,” Dr. Kort says. “We’ve treated many patients with breast cancer or other related issues, and we’ve seen amazing outcomes. We understand the physical and emotional aspects, and we’re here to help people take charge of their health and navigate this disease.”

Beata Belfield, MD, is trained in minimally invasive surgeries and advocates the many benefits of these types of procedures. Minimally invasive means smaller incisions, faster recovery and quicker back-to-work time.

She is also the only local surgeon with the most up-to-date training in the latest complex abdominal wall repair training. She was called into the operating room one weekend night to treat a patient who was suffering from a hernia and needed emergency surgery. With the help of her colleagues, Dr. Belfield was able to jump in and perform minimally invasive surgery that same night and the patient was able to go home the next day.

Dr. Belfield believes this procedure will become much more common in the near future.

Nelly Kazzaz, MD, a cardiologist with more than 15 years of experience, considers it an honor and privilege to serve her community. As a board member of the American Heart Association’s Central New York chapter, Dr. Kazzaz speaks regularly at St. Joseph’s Health Community Outreach programs.

Beata Belfield, MD

Nelly Kazzaz, MD

“Seeing a cardiologist can be a very stressful event,” Dr. Kazzaz says. “When they approach us as a person — a nonmedical professional — during an event, they are much more comfortable and willing to share and ask questions.”

This kind of community outreach has helped to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases.

During the height of the pandemic, Dr. Kazzaz turned to telemedicine to see some patients, but virtual visits were still difficult for the high-risk population.

“It’s difficult to not be able to see a swollen leg or not use electrons when a patient complains about having chest pains,” she says.

With more people being vaccinated daily, Dr. Kazzaz stresses the importance of routine doctor’s visits and paying attention to your heart. She also urges women to pay extra close attention to their hearts because of the additional stress caused by the pandemic.

“Women are affected the most by the pandemic,” Dr. Kazzaz says. “If you’re working from home, you may also be a mother, a cook, a teacher, etc. We do everything for other people and forget ourselves.”

These extraordinary physicians and surgeons are part of a much larger team at St. Joseph’s Health, where women’s health care is female by design. They understand the unique needs and challenges for women, offer the latest innovative programs and procedures, and are on the forefront of new developments in women’s health care.