|Dr. Sulaiman Azeez, Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the South Bronx, but Dr. Sulaiman Azeez, the Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, is doing all he can to get people screened before they develop the disease.
"Colon cancer is the most preventable of cancers," said Dr. Azeez. "A colonoscopy allows doctors to remove polyps before they can become cancerous, and prevent colon cancer from happening. It can also detect early signs of the disease when it is most treatable."
Dr. Azeez, who is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology, came to the United States from Nigeria. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. When he came to Lincoln Hospital in 2003, the number of people getting colonoscopies was very low. He helped to pilot a program to increase colonoscopies at Lincoln, which has been adopted across HHC.
"The rate of screening colonoscopies was 79 per month in 2003. We are now performing between 180-200 colonoscopies a month at Lincoln, Dr. Azeez says. "Our efforts to increase the number of screening colonoscopies were highly successful, due in large part to the use of bilingual patient navigators who guide patients through the process, and purchasing more screening equipment and adding staff support to help reduce exam room preparation time from about 25 minutes to 8 minutes."
Dr. Azeez says that the patient navigators helped to achieve a dramatic and sustained decline in the broken appointment rates for both screening and diagnostic colonoscopy. The no-show rate decreased from about 66 % in 2003 to the current level of about 5-8%. He also gives credit to Lincoln's electronic documentation with images online that are accessible to all providers with access to Lincoln's patient electronic medical record 24/7.
"The standard colonoscopy is now more accurate through the use of high definition screening techniques," according to Dr. Azeez. As for those who have colon cancer, new treatment advances are helping to prolong survival from the disease.
"In the last 5 years, new treatments have been developed that can prolong the lives of colon cancer patients," says Dr. Azeez. "One of the most promising is the Fox-4 regimen that helps increase survival rates. These recent advances give me hope that still better treatments will lead to more advances in the treatment of colon cancer." But, there is a lot of work still to be done and it is important for people to be reminded of the importance of testing.
Dr. Azeez lives in Brooklyn with his wife and 9 year old daughter. He is a champion in correspondence chess and plays golf in his spare time.