Steven Friedman ’76 MD
Human beings have been sewing up wounds and incisions at least since the time of Sushruta, an Indian physician who used hemp to tie off blood vessels roughly 7,000 years ago. Patients were held down, or knocked out by hefty doses of wine for anesthesia. Last fall Steven Friedman ’76 MD, chief of vascular surgery at ProHEALTH Care Associates, came to campus to give about 60 pre-med students an update on advances in vascular surgery.
You could have heard a needle drop in Kiely 150 on October 27, when Steven Friedman ’76 MD, chief of vascular surgery at ProHEALTH Care Associates, gave an illustrated lecture on the history of vascular surgery to about 60 pre-med students.
Turns out that human beings have been sewing up wounds and incisions at least since the time of Sushruta, an Indian physician who used hemp to tie off blood vessels roughly 7,000 years ago. Patients were held down, or knocked out by hefty doses of wine for anesthesia. Centuries later, throughout Europe, surgery was delegated to so-called barber-surgeons such as Ambroise Pare, who operated in 16th-century France and had similar options for ligating blood vessels.
Fortunately, medicine has advanced tremendously since those days. Friedman’s talk covered a litany of techniques and materials that ancient doctors couldn’t have imagined, from aortic repairs using donor blood vessels and nylon grafts, to endovascular surgery. The latter was showcased in a video presented by Friedman’s colleague, Jay Rosenberg DVM, manager of the Skills Acquisition and Innovation Laboratory (SAIL), a teaching and research facility based at Weill Cornell Medical College. In the film, a team prepared for gallbladder removal by conducting a drill in one of the SAIL operating rooms, and a rare complication put them to the test. Rosenberg urged students to contact him to arrange group visits to the laboratory, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Then it was the audience’s turn for a training session. After Friedman demonstrated suturing, he and Rosenberg encouraged students to try a few stitches themselves. Using kits supplied by the experts, students worked real surgical needles through PVC pads that have the feel and resistance of human skin.
“I wanted to be a surgeon since age 12,” says Friedman. “I loved visiting the doctor; I’d make lists and ask questions.” After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he applied to only one college, QC, where his most memorable professor was pre-med adviser Daniel Marien, whom he describes as “a curmudgeonly type dedicated to helping all students.”
Friedman attended medical school at the University of Rochester, moving to the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston for his internship and residency. Then he came back to New York, where he did a vascular fellowship at New York University. Following that he became an attending surgeon at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, where he started the division of vascular surgery as well as a fellowship training program. From 2004 to 2014, he was chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, during which time he also earned an MBA online.
“One course stood out: The Corporate Environment,” Friedman comments. “It woke me up to what corporations are doing to this country and the world. If unchecked, corporations will destroy the planet. They need to be reined in.” As a result of the MBA, he continues, “I’m adaptable and flexible. I can speak the language of medicine as well as the business side.” He returned to ProHEALTH full-time in 2014.
His career would not have been possible without the education he got at QC. “Queens College is important to me,” says Friedman, who grew up in a home located across the LIE, in sight of the campus. “My mother was a secretary in the School of Library Science and my father was a carpet salesman. I was the first in my family to go to college. Schools like CUNY and SUNY need to be nurtured. We must support these institutions and their students.”