Teaching Emergency Medicine in Uncharted Waters

Physicians and Nurses From NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and Jacobi Medical Center Help Seaside Clinic in Montenegro Cope With Massive Influx of Summer Tourists

Jul 13, 2009


Every summer, the seaside town of Ulcinj, Montenegro, swells to more than 10 times its off-season size due to an influx of European tourists that has grown since the end of the Yugoslav Wars in 2001. The result — more emergency patients than the town's small clinic can handle. To address this challenge, physicians and nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx are traveling to the region to teach and assist in emergency medicine and help organize a long-term response.

The third annual effort is co-led by Dr. Alan Ross, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"In July and August, it is not unusual for 50 or more patients a day to come to the clinic in Ulcinj with conditions like heart attacks, trauma and near-drowning. However, like many towns on the Adriatic coast, the clinic has only one physician trained in emergency medicine," says Dr. Ross, a former specialist in East European Studies who has worked in the Balkans for more than 20 years. Dr. Ross also helped found the Illyria Clinic, which opened its doors 10 years ago at the Jacobi Medical Center and is dedicated to treating recent immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. "We are working closely with medical leadership in Montenegro to improve the links between the smaller emergency center and the receiving hospitals in the hope that this will become a model for regional emergency care and that young talented physicians, of which there are many, will decide to become emergency medicine specialists."

Along with Dr. Ross, this summer's initiative is co-led by Dr. Robert Bristow, chair of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's Emergency Management Committee, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the leader of emergency medicine and disaster response training programs in India, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic; and by Dr. Evia Nano, co-director of the Illyria Clinic at the Jacobi Medical Center. Also on the team are NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia's Drs. Satchit Balsari and Heidi Cordi, and nurses Chris Lombardo and Celia Thorne. They are joined by colleagues from Jacobi Medical Center.

In 2008, members of the team helped organize and participate in the first Montenegrin-American Medical Conference. This spring, four Montenegrin physicians visited with physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and Jacobi Medical Center.

The program has the full support of the U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro and the U.S. Army, which has donated supplies to the Ulcinj clinic. Travel is paid for by the Dom Filipaj Foundation in the Bronx and by the Ulcinj Businessmen's Association in Ulcinj. Room and board is provided by the Hotel Mediteran in Ulcinj/Ulqini.

Montenegro is located in the Balkans between Croatia to the north and Albania to the south and is roughly the size of New Jersey.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and its academic partner, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report.

Media Contact:

Gloria Chin 212-305-5587