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Physician is More than a Specialist in Pain Management

Posted: Nov. 11, 2014

The Long Island Business News (LIBN) recently awarded its “Health Care Heroes” Physician Hero Award to Neil Kirschen, M.D., chief of pain management at South Nassau Communities Hospital. LIBN’s “Health Care Heroes” awards honor individuals and organizations in the health care industry in Nassau and Suffolk counties for outstanding leadership and commitment.

An anesthesiologist and chief of pain management at South Nassau for more than a quarter-century, Dr. Kirschen runs several interventional pain management clinics on Long Island using traditional and alternative medicine techniques. When he’s not at his full-time job, he’s volunteering as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Rockville Centre Fire Department and as the medical director of the Rockville Centre, Roosevelt and Hicksville fire departments. During his 30 years of service, he has responded to thousands of fire and EMS calls and seen more than his share of cardiac arrests, house and building fires and motor vehicle accidents.

If he’s not busy fighting fires, tending to the sick and injured or providing continuing medical education and mentoring to EMTs, he’s instructing village police departments throughout Nassau County how to administer lifesaving intranasal Narcan® for drug overdoses. “When you call 911, that’s when you’re most in need,” says Dr. Kirschen.

Driven by a passion for “pre-hospital emergency care,” Dr. Kirschen is also a member of the Nassau Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee, which develops policies and protocols for EMTs in Nassau County. As a medical control physician for the EMS System, he directs medical care at the “pre-hospital scene” for patients who require advanced life support.

In his hometown of Rockville Centre, he teaches members of the village’s police and auxiliary first-aid techniques to administer to themselves, should they become wounded on the job. “Each officer is given a first-aid kit and they learn how to patch their own wounds before the ambulance arrives,” he said. “This is done to save the lives of the police and auxiliary.”

Several times a year he travels to upstate Rome, where he advises emergency preparedness officials on course curriculum offered at the New York State Preparedness Training Center, which serves as a hub for emergency response training for natural, technological and terrorism-related disasters for first responders.

A lot of his volunteer work is done on nights and weekend, and for the most part, it’s local, except for his medical missions work. That work takes him to Guadalajara, Mexico— more than 2,000 miles away. Each fall for the past seven years, he and three dozen physicians from all over the U.S., who are members of the American Association of Orthopedic Medicine (AAOM), staff the city hospital’s pain clinic. During the week-long visit, villagers who make the hours-long trek from the mountains and hillsides line up for relief of all types of musculoskeletal pain and sprains, from farm accidents or other work-related injuries to motor vehicle crashes.

“Some of these people have never seen a doctor,” said Dr. Kirschen, a past president of AAOM who also makes house calls for bedridden residents of the city.

When he’s not at the clinic relieving pain, he’s training doctors and medical residents from Guadalajara and other far-flung locales such as China, Romania and Greece, to administer treatments such as prolotherapy, platelet rich plasma and stem cell injections that stimulate the body’s natural ability to repair tissue. Through instruction and hands-on workshops, he helps these physicians begin the two-year process toward certification in pain management.

“We are the barefoot doctors down there,” he said. “We don’t have high-tech stuff. We have local anesthetic and sugar water [dextrose solution used in pain treatments], yet we can turn the disease process around using these simple techniques.”