Scottsdale pharmacy delivers family dreams nationwide

Each day, Integrity RX, a fertility specialty pharmacy in Scottsdale, ships packages of 15 to 20 prescriptions to patients across the country. But to Jeffrey Karp, who founded the pharmacy three years ago, each box contains more than a list of medications.

“I don’t look at them as packages,” he said. “Those are dreams. Those are babies, children, legacies.”

When UPS and FedEx pick up those packages, “they’re picking up people’s hopes and dreams for the future,” he added.

Karp received his doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Arizona and served his post-doctorate residency at the University of Texas. While there, his emphasis was in clinical psychopharmacology. It wasn’t until he was working at a friend’s pharmacy after graduation that Karp started researching infertility medications to help another friend whose wife was undergoing fertility treatment.

“I wanted to do everything I could to help my friend and his wife succeed,” he said.

He read up on it and “when I was dispensing the medication to him and his wife, I was able to give him the best information I could.”

At the time, he was trying to find his place in the pharmaceutical world and found that working with fertility patients immediately clicked.

“I couldn’t think of anything better, day in and day out, than helping couples have babies, using my pharmacy background to maximize their chance,” Karp said

His friend’s pharmacy eventually became a national specialty pharmacy and Karp worked there for 15 years, developing the company’s local and national fertility business. After it was purchased by a private equity fund, there were several personnel changes and in mid-2012, Karp left the company.

While observing a restrictive covenant, Karp received calls from former doctors and patients requesting his services. That’s when the idea of Integrity RX was born, Karp said. Its slogan is “Helping to create families, one patient at a time.”

He said that owning his own pharmacy wasn’t originally part of his dream, but what he did want was to find his passion within the pharmacy world. His background in psychopharmacology has also proven to be beneficial, as it helps him to understand people better and to be compassionate about what they’re going through.

His personal experience with fertility treatments also help him better understand his patients. Seven years into his pharmacy work, he met his future wife, Laura, and after they married, they struggled with having a child.

“As it worked out, I had to become a fertility patient as well,” he said. “I have a unique perspective on what it’s like to go through treatment … and the stress and the pain” that comes with it.

His wife, who previously worked as a physical therapist, now leads the quality assurance team.

Going through fertility treatments can be a frightening experience, Karp said, because so much is on the line.

“I’m able to share with them that my wife and I went through this and although we had a couple of negative outcomes, in the end we had a positive outcome: His name is Benjamin and he’s 10 years old,” he said.

Benjamin is a now a fifth-grader at Pardes Jewish Day School and Karp serves as the secretary of the Jewish Tuition Organization.

The pharmacy is in a 10,000-square-foot facility located in a Scottsdale office complex. It has 36 employees who speak a total of five languages: Cantonese, English, Farsi, Mandarin and Spanish. They are currently licensed to operate in 27 states and are in the process of licensing in 15 additional states. They are also going through an accreditation process with the URAC, a nonprofit organization that establishes quality standards for the health care industry.

The process of fertility treatment is very regimented and timing is crucial. Integrity RX provides 24/7 assistance from fertility pharmacists and nurses, with many calls occurring outside of regular business hours because that’s when patients are using their medications and might need help mixing them or remembering where to inject them, Karp said. Medication education and counseling is offered on-site and instructional videos are also available on the pharmacy’s website.

Karp calls Integrity RX “a labor of love.”

“It was really an attempt for me to focus all my efforts on the patient and give back to a specialty that’s given us everything that’s important to us, which is our family,” he said.

For more information about the pharmacy, visit integrityrxsp.com. This article first appeared in Phoenix Jewish News.

Spiritual coach aids healing

Ellen Friedman of Phoenix was happily providing physical therapy services for more than 25 years and anticipated that she would continue to do so for 25 more. However, she began to notice that her clients’ requests were shifting more toward her coaching than the physical therapy and movement training.

“I frequently heard the people I worked with asking for more ‘Ellen-isms,’ ” she said. “I smiled, and responded, ‘Sure, although insurance doesn’t cover that.’ ”

She started providing coaching services to many of her clients, and “witnessed those people improve faster and maintain their gains better than other patients.”

When more and more of her clients wanted to continue with coaching after ending physical therapy exercise and movement training, she listened. “Then, my friends began asking me what had changed in me and commented how peaceful and happy I appeared. They wanted peace, too.”

Then five years ago, while inquiring into an integrative medical clinic for a friend, she was asked to interview and was offered a position as a lifestyle coach. At that clinic, she assisted over 80 people and their families on a path of cancer recovery.

She received her master’s degree in spiritual psychology with an emphasis in consciousness, health and healing, and a certificate in soul-centered professional coaching from the University of Santa Monica. She recently met with Jewish News to talk about soul-centered professional coaching.

What is soul-centered professional coaching? Soul-centered professional coaching views people as divine beings using a human experience to awaken and live into their fullest potential. Each person has a spiritual curriculum that is reflected in the way they navigate situations of life.

My work is to see their loving essence, listen with my heart and assist them to transform their lives as they awaken to the essence of who they truly are. Using the skills and tools of spiritual psychology, I support people in creating a more meaningful relationship with themselves and with others, as well as experiencing themselves as a divine being.

What kind of issues do you help your clients address? I assist people to transform their life into “fulfillionaires”: living life fully physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For example, I integrate my decades of experience as a physical therapist to support people with neurologic disorders to experience greater mobility and less pain. I recently coached a man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis who was challenged with fatigue, severe pain and poor balance. In only six coaching sessions, he learned to calm his nervous system, resulting in greater energy at work, minimal pain, walking with greater ease and he even ran a few yards for the first time in six years.

Another client was a 54-year-old woman diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In our work, she shifted her relationship with herself and her family through deep forgiveness. A few months before her passing, she told me that she was waking up happy every day because of the work that we did to heal her relationships.

I also support people to shift from managing stress into creating opportunities for expanded peace and wholeness. One client was a married physician who was challenged with working full-time and raising two preschool-aged children. She took small steps in her personal self-care, which provided great rewards with her peace and happiness.

I worked with a woman whose 90th birthday gift to herself was six months of coaching so she could live her life more authentically. In our work together, she released herself from a misunderstanding that she was responsible for an event that occurred 67 years prior. She resumed painting and continues to live (2 1/2 years later) experiencing greater self-love and enjoying receiving the love of others.

What tips do you have for people trying to find that balance between work and family? I love this question, as I am so grateful for a valuable lesson that I learned when my children were very young. When I am engaged with work, I am focused on work. When I am with my family, I am focused on my family. I experience fulfillment when I am present and focused on the task or activity that is in front of me. Balance is just one point on a continuum from “not enough” to “too much” of something. I assist people in seeing that how they relate to themselves while at work, while at home and throughout their day is what truly matters. Using life as an opportunity for learning, growth and “upliftment” is the foundation of my soul-centered professional coaching practice.

 

Contact Ellen Friedman at 602-809-9948 or ellen@healinghousecalls.com. This article first appeared in the March 18, 2016 issue of Phoenix Jewish News

Israeli hospital develops innovative surgery

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Dr. Ziv Gil of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, helped pioneer a new surgery for skull-based tumors. Photo courtesy of Rambam

Dr. Ziv Gil, chairman of the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, was recently in Scottsdale to give a presentation about an innovative method for removing skull-based tumors.

The Rambam Health Care Campus is affiliated with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and its head and neck department is the largest in Israel. It serves patients from Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as medical tourists from other countries and trauma patients from Syria.

The 1,000-bed academic hospital is the main referral center for head and neck cancer patients in Israel and treats patients who have tumors in the skull base, which was the focus of Gil’s presentation at the North American Skull Base Society’s 26th annual meeting, held Feb. 12-14 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

The problem with treating patients with tumors in this area is that it’s very difficult to access, Gil said.

Using traditional methods, which involve cutting skin on the face and cutting the jaw to get to the tumors, the surgery has a high morbidity rate. Since there was a need for better ways to treat these tumors using minimally invasive surgery, the hospital has spent the past two years developing a new method to treat some of these tumors, using a combination of robotic surgery and endoscopic surgery.

“I believe this is one of the significant developments in the last several years in skull-based surgery,” Gil said.

This development uses the Da Vinci Surgical System – a robotic surgical system designed to facilitate complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach and controlled by a surgeon from a console – and combines it with the use of endoscopes, medical devices with a light and a video camera used to record images inside a patient.

Initially, the researchers tried to go only through the mouth, but it didn’t work because they couldn’t see the posterior area of the tumor, which made it difficult to take the tumor out, Gil said. So instead they tried a process that involves making a small incision in the neck, putting endoscopes in the neck and reaching the tumor from behind the jaws, separating it from the large vessels that carry blood to the brain and then removing it through the mouth because it’s too big to take out through the neck. (Sometimes, the tumors can be as large as a baseball.)

This technique is unique for two reasons, he said. One reason is because it’s the first time that an operation is being performed endoscopically through the neck – it used to be done through the nose or the mouth – and secondly, because it takes advantage of the Da Vinci robot.

What’s important in this approach, Gil explained, is that instead of cutting the jaw, splitting the jaw or putting an incision in the face, the tumor can be reached through a small incision in the neck and the patient can leave the hospital within 48 hours – without any damage to function, speech or swallowing, and it leaves no cosmetic dysfunctions.

The recovery time for the older method is five to 14 days “and the effect of the surgery is significant,” Gil said.

Gil, an Israeli native who was raised on a kibbutz, received his medical degree and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Ben-Gurion University in Israel in 2000 and since then has done post-doctorate work in biophysics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, residency in otolaryngology at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel and post-doctorate work in cancer research and a fellowship in surgery at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center  in New York. The Israeli health system is primarily based on training in the United States, Gil said.

After his fellowship, Gil was the co-director of skull base surgery service and then the director of the laboratory for Applied Cancer Research at the Tel Aviv Medical Center before moving to Haifa in 2012 to his current role at the hospital.

“We are the only one in the world now who are doing this approach,” he noted. He said that although these tumors are rare, the hospital has done six of these surgeries in the past year.

Visit rambam.org.il. This article first appeared in the Feb. 26, 2016 issue of Phoenix Jewish News

Prescribed remedy: music/Breast cancer survivors record songs for CD

Standing side-by-side in the recording studio, song sheets in hand, nearly 50 singers were linked by more than the melody flowing from their lips.

All the women – and one man – have had breast cancer.

They recently were brought together by Laura Fial, vocalist and founder of the Rockin’ Docs, a band comprising physicians who perform at charity events.

Fial was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. After having what she calls a “pity party” for herself, she went to work on a demonstration compact disc, to showcase her voice for possible jobs.

She says the demo was “something that I had been putting off and putting off, and I finally did it because when you’re diagnosed with a disease like this, you don’t know if tomorrow is tomorrow.”

Late one night during her treatment, as she lay awake, she thought “of a ‘We Are the World’ scenario, “where we have all of these women joining in song, a song written about survival,” Fial recalls.

In August, she began planning to record “Breast Cancer CD 2000: Soothing the Soul and Encouraging the Spirit,” a fund-raising project to benefit the Arizona Institute of Breast Health and the Y-Me Breast Cancer Network of Arizona.

Fial made phone calls and sent e-mail to garner support for her idea, contacting, among others, celebrities Olivia Newton-John and Carly Simon, both of whom have had breast cancer. She recruited a songwriting team and musicians, and called breast-cancer support groups and agencies in search of patients and survivors to join in two songs.

The recording project provided a built-in “support system” as she continued her course of treatment.

“Music is my therapy,” she says.

At the time Fial was diagnosed, she was teaching music at El Dorado private schools. Before that, she had worked in marketing for 11 years.

“When I saw this group of women (in the studio), all I could think of is I wanted to cry because this is something I had envisioned in the middle of the night,” she says. “When I saw it coming together like this, I thought that was incredible.”Following a recent rehearsal in Fial’s home, singers and musicians came together Nov. 16 at Porcupine Studios in Chandler for the first recording session.

Fial lives in Scottsdale with her husband Fred and daughter Heather, 10.

A notice Fial had placed in a local newspaper attracted Edie Pernick-Gold of Scottsdale, diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, to the project.

“I love to sing so this is what I wanted to do,” Pernick-Gold says. The rehearsal was “invigorating.”

“Especially when (the lyric) says, ‘We are alive.’ …We never know. I go from one mammogram to the next and I never know from year to year if I’m going to be OK.”

Pernick-Gold says the worst part of her diagnosis was the phone call from her doctor’s office after her mammogram, telling her she needed to return that week for a second one.

At that point, “everything changed,” she says.

Her advice for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer is to “do all the research you can do. Look at all your options. Be your own best advocate.”

She said her original surgeon, who removed the lump, told her that she should have a mastectomy. After receiving second opinions and doing a great deal of research, she opted instead for a lumpectomy.

“Be armed so you can make a very, very wise decision for yourself that you can live with,” she advises.

Pernick-Gold wants spouses and family members of breast-cancer patients to know it’s important they be very supportive.

“The man in my life at the time was incredibly supportive. That helps so much … women worry so (much) about any change in their body.”

A woman’s experience with breast cancer often takes away self-esteem and a sense of femininity, says Leah Polasik, who was diagnosed with the disease in September 1999.

In June 2000, she enrolled in a belly-dancing class and found that it “helped give me strength and flexibility and increased my stamina and sense of femininity.”

Polasik now performs as Suraleah, the Hebrew name her parents gave her at birth, with Egyptian Cartouche, a modern Middle-Eastern dance troupe in Tempe whose members combine belly-dance movements of the past with contemporary dance technique.

The promo for “Breast Cancer CD 2000: Soothing the Soul and Encouraging the Spirit,” will feature five songs: “Rest in Yourself,” written by guitarist Scott Parsons, and “You’ve Got a Friend” – both sung by breast cancer survivors; “Christine’s Gift,” an instrumental by Parsons; “The Water is Wide,” a traditional folk song featuring Fial, guitarist Kenn Harris, guitarist and vocalist Rich Dobrusin and violinist David Shoup; and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” sung by Fial and accompanied by Michael Alexander on piano.

“Sarrah Mahove,” an original guitar instrumental Harris wrote specifically for the compact disc, is expected also to be included on the finished project.

Harris is a West Valley neurologist who met Fial through the Rockin’ Docs.

“Sarrah mahove, in biblical poetic Hebrew, means ‘to have overcome, lived through and then strengthened by a great pain or sorrow or ordeal,’ ” he says.

Fial hopes to release the promo this month to “get it out before the holidays” and to produce a compact disc with additional tracks in January.

While orchestrated by Fial, the compact disc is a shared effort. Musicians and singers donated their time; Living Head Audio Recording in Phoenix is recording the CD; Porcupine Studios in Chandler donated rehearsal space; D & J Studios in Tempe donated studio time; Coyote Moon Marketing is handling publicity; K-Video is producing a free promotional video and Basha’s donated lunch at the rehearsal.”The goal is every year to do a breast-cancer CD and to release it in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month,” she says.

The compact disc will be sold at Israel Connection in Phoenix and The Jewish Quarter in Scottsdale, as well as at various gift shops and doctors’ offices.

This article first appeared in the Dec. 1, 2000 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.