What NYC doctors do in their spare time: Keep helping

It's not all office work for these docs. Credit: Metro File
It’s not all office work for these docs.
Credit: Metro File

Two hard working New York City doctors are putting their spare time into groundbreaking philanthropic ventures, one of which eases the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and the other takes medicine back to its roots in the kitchen.

Dr. Roberta Marongiu, a researcher and instructor in neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, is about to publish a paper on her research into Parkinson’s disease. As yet, Parkinson’s — which affects motor function, cognition and has psychological affects such as depression — is incurable. Though Dr. Marongiu is excited about her research, the expanse of time it takes from publishing a paper to implementing treatment is long, which doesn’t help patients suffering now. Having heard about the benefits of a non-contact boxing program used as supplemental therapy for Parkinson’s patients, she spearheaded Rock Steady Boxing classes at Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

“The research in the lab focuses on a cure for the future — Rock Steady Boxing focuses on assisting those suffering from Parkinson’s in the present,” says Marongiu. This non-contact boxing-based program is already proven to slow the disease and, in some cases, even reverse its destructive progression.

“The results are amazing,” she says. “Boxing’s an intense cardio workout that constantly changes, so muscles don’t get a chance to adapt. It requires coordination and balance, and helps with the motor functions. Parkinson’s patients often have respiratory problems because the chest muscles don’t work as well. This helps strengthen those muscles too. The social aspect helps with depression and anxiety, and patients feel like they are fighting back and proactive.”

An added bonus, says Dr. Marongiu: “ It’s so much fun to do.” Learn more at www.rocksteadyboxingnyla.com.

At New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, Dr. Robert Graham often trades his lab coat for an apron. The Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program and Director of Integrative Health and Therapies teaches medical interns and residents to cook. It’s all part of the philanthropic Fare Wellness program he launched in 2012 with his wife Julie, a certified health coach and yoga instructor. The goal is for doctors to learn to live, cook and eat by example, enabling and empowering them to become role models and teachers for their patients.

“By teaching doctors to cook healthy food, they can enable their patients,” says Graham. “When you go to a doctor and they tell you to eat better and exercise more, there’s a gap. We tell people to eat less fat and less sugar, but that leaves them confused about what to eat. We need to see food as primary medicine and drugs as a second option. This is about nutrition as disease prevention. You can’t learn about healthy eating without getting into the kitchen. I get the doctors into the kitchen.”

As vegan and vegetarian cooking is a big part of his health regime, Dr. Graham has united with the Monday Campaign’s Meatless Monday initiative.

“I went vegan last July and I’ve only cheated three times,” says Graham proudly. “I feel better with less meat and dairy. Often times, the side effect of eating healthy is feeling better.” Learn more at www.farewellness.tumblr.com.


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