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Dr. Benjamin Graef
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Dr. Molly Shaw
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Dr. Ian James Alexander
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Dr. Christ Kyriakedes
Finding that ideal doctor when you’re in need may often be a headache. You need a health care practitioner who’s reliable, empathetic and most of all, someone you can trust. After all, they’re holding your life in their hands. And what’s more important than that?
Whether you’ve received a diagnosis and you need a medical specialist or you’re just looking for a new physician, finding the right doctor is vital for the health and well-being of you and your loved ones.
In The Best Doctors in America® 2013-2014 list, you’ll find 215 Greater Akron physicians in 63 specialties — a reference guide for all your medical needs.
Akron Life is also highlighting four of the area’s best doctors — from a pediatrician and emergency room physician, to an orthopaedic surgeon and a sleep medicine specialist. So whether your child has fallen ill, you have an emergency or a broken bone, or you just can’t sleep at night, you can depend upon any of these doctors to provide the health care specialization that you need.
Dr. Benjamin Graef
Sleep Medicine, Summa Health System
Building relationships is what makes this doctor different.
When it comes to sleep disorders, Dr. Benjamin Graef has seen it all: from sleepwalking and insomnia, to more extreme disorders like narcolepsy and sleep apnea.
Graef says he’s always been the kind of compassionate person who wants to make a difference, and pursuing a career in medicine seemed to be a natural fit for him.
“At the end of life, it’s the differences you make in people’s lives that become your legacy,” he says. “If you have none, you don’t have one.”
Graef studied at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his medical residency at the Akron City Hospital. When it came time for him to choose a specialization, he chose sleep medicine because he wanted to help his patients achieve the benefits of “a good night’s sleep.”
One of his greatest moments in sleep medicine, he says, has been working with the founders of sleep medicine at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. “Dr. Bill Dement should be every sleep doctor’s hero,” he says. Dement is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on sleep, sleep disorders and the dangers of sleep deprivation.
Graef says over the years, there has been an increase in sleep disorders mainly due to a rise in sleep deprivation and obesity. “Our 24-hour society has impacted sleep considerably,” he says.
Educating people on how deadly sleep apnea can actually be is one of the most challenging parts of Graef’s job. Sleep apnea is a common disorder where people briefly stop breathing during sleep, and it often keeps the person from a restful and normal sleep.
The most rewarding part of practicing sleep medicine is “seeing people get their lives back,” Graef says, “and having them hug you when they do.”
Graef says he treats his patients like family members, and that’s what sets his practice apart from those of other physicians.
“I take time to explain what’s going on with the patients’ sleep and give them options,” he says. “I try to get to know them as people and not as diagnoses. Many doctors don’t do this, and patients tell me so.”
Practicing medicine, Graef says, can’t simply be learned by reading textbooks or sitting in a classroom. “It’s the ability to connect with others on a non-physician level,” he says. “You either have it or you don’t. And patients know the difference.”
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, Graef is a runner and has “killed two treadmills in the past five years training for marathons and half marathons.” He also likes to “travel overseas and get to know people outside of tourist areas, play with cutting edge gadgets, make people laugh and blog.” — Samara Sands
Dr. Molly Shaw
Pediatrician, Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics
Kids are this doctor’s life — at work and at home
Becoming a doctor wasn’t an easy decision for Dr. Molly Shaw, pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics.
Shaw always liked science and was interested in the medical field, but was intimidated and overwhelmed with the commitment to medical school. During her years at the University of Dayton, her advisors and friends gave her the confidence she needed to succeed.
“Most people are not lucky enough to have a job they love,” she says. “I knew that if I committed to the challenge of becoming a doctor that I would, hopefully, be one of those people.”
She attended Wright State University School of Medicine, and while choosing to become a physician was originally a struggle, specializing in pediatrics was the easiest decision of her life.
“The more I learned about the unique and challenging aspects of caring for children, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” she says. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is getting to know families and becoming part of their lives. I love seeing my patients become big sisters and brothers. I love when they’re excited to see me. I’ve had many families tell me that their children play check-up at home and fight over who gets to be ‘Dr. Shaw.’ It doesn’t get better than that.”
Shaw says her job isn’t only to help her patients but also to provide assurance to the parents of the patients. And, she loves when the parents say, ‘Thank you, I feel much better.’
Although she cares for children of all ages, Shaw’s passion lies with premature babies. Her second son was born premature at 31 weeks and spent five weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“Parents usually feel stressed, overwhelmed and scared when their baby comes home,” she says. “I love guiding parents through the early challenges and helping celebrate the amazing milestone these babies achieve in the first few years.”
Akron Children’s Hospital has a reputation of excellence and professional support for patients and families, and Shaw says the challenge in today’s medical field is trying to provide every patient with the time and care that they need.
She says the hospital’s Electronic Medical Records were recently converted to a new, fully integrated system that provides many advantages. Some of these include incorporating an online portal for patients and parents to easily access immunization records, test results, health summaries, as well as the opportunity to request appointments, request prescription refills and send secure messages to health care providers and staff.
When Shaw isn’t at the hospital, she devotes her spare time to her children. Her two boys, ages 9 and 6, keep her on-the-go with their football, basketball and baseball practices. She also exercises regularly and tries to serve healthy meals to her kids. She ran her first 5K this past spring and has others in the works for next year. — Caitlyn Callahan
Dr. Ian James Alexander
Orthopedic Surgery, Medina Hospital (A Cleveland Clinic Hospital)
Support is the key to success.
When Dr. Ian James Alexander was in the eighth grade, he read a series of books written by a physician about his experiences working in Laos and Cambodia. From that point on, Alexander knew he wanted to be a doctor as well.
“Medicine just seemed like an exciting field,” he says. “A profession that allowed me to work with people that was both intellectually stimulating and, at the same time, would allow me to work with my hands.”
Throughout most of medical school, Alexander planned on being a general surgeon, but when he took an elective on trauma surgery and orthopaedic service at San Francisco General Hospital, he knew orthopaedics was the right field for him.
“Putting together broken bones with plates and screws just seemed like a lot of fun, and I could see that I could enjoy doing orthopaedic surgery for the rest of my life,” he says.
Orthopaedic surgeons work with painful disorders involving the joints, bones, muscles and tendons. If a person has problems with his neck, back, arms or legs, “there’s a good chance that a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon is in your future,” Alexander says.
One of Alexander’s greatest experiences in orthopaedics is interacting with and teaching surgeons in other countries. He also enjoys helping his patients one-on-one.
“The most rewarding part of my job is having patients that have suffered — often for decades — with pain that has limited their activities, return to activities that they haven’t been able to do for years,” he says.
Alexander says his specialty at Medina Hospital is reconstructing complex deformities of the foot and ankle and helping patients “that have had less than optimal outcomes from prior foot surgery.”
“I believe it’s my willingness to listen to patients, to understand their problems in the context of their lives, to take time to explain what’s causing their problems and what we can do to help them, and to truly care about the patients’ well-being that makes my practice different,” he says.
Alexander adds that he’s blessed to have the love, support and understanding of his wife and kids, parents and co-workers.
“One cannot underestimate the importance those around us play in our success and happiness,” he says. “Medina, and specifically Medina Hospital, is a terrific place to work. I can’t say enough good things about the excellent nursing care my patients get. And every day, my patients comment to me how our office staff is so friendly and helpful.”
To stay healthy, Alexander works outdoors whenever he can and occasionally rides his bike. And, he’s in the process of writing two novels, although his practice has been keeping him busy lately.
“I need about a month or two in the tropics to get the novels done, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon,” he says. — Samara Sands
Dr. Christ Kyriakedes
Emergency Room Doctor, Akron General Medical Center
From a childhood desire to a lifelong career
Though Christ Kyriakedes’ first attempt to get into medical school was unsuccessful, his childhood dream of helping people turned into determination when his mother died of pancreatic cancer. She had always wanted him to pursue a career in medicine.
While in undergraduate and graduate school at The University of Akron, he worked as an orderly in the emergency department at St. Thomas Hospital. He went on to attend Kirksville College of Medicine, followed by an osteopathic internship and residency in emergency medicine.
“My years as an orderly at St. Thomas convinced me that I could make a difference for people acutely injured or sick,” he says. “I craved the variety, the fast pace and the instant gratification of helping people in acute need. I noticed that of all the physicians whom I came into contact with in the emergency department seemed to be the most satisfied with their profession and their place in delivering health care to our society.”
In 1992 he began teaching at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (now called Northeast Ohio Medical University) and has been residency director of emergency medicine since 2001.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping people who have nowhere else to turn,” he says. “No other profession in medicine is waiting up at night with specialized skills to stabilize all types of emergencies.”
Kyriakedes says the demand for emergency medicine is going to increase due to Obamacare. The new Affordable Care Act is expected to force millions of people across the country to seek emergency departments for their health care due to physician shortages in primary care and other specialties, delays in receiving health care and lack of insurance coverage.
But, he adds, Akron General’s emergency rooms are strategically positioned throughout Summit County to meet these needs with board-certified ER docs.
“No one in this county does it better than Akron General,” he says. “We’re that personal hospital that cares for each individual patient. This hospital has allowed me to provide the best care I was capable of in the earlier years of my career and continues to do so.”
In his 25 years in medicine, Kyriakedes has cared for more than 160,000 patients. In addition to teaching, he provides relief to patients at an acupuncture practice and works 22 to 24 night shifts each month in the emergency room.
“Most physicians and friends say I’m not human with my schedule,” he says. “Despite all this, I vacation frequently with my wife and adult children, golf on a regular basis and enjoy Cleveland-area sports with friends and family.”
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, Kyriakedes runs on a regular basis, lifts weights and prepares healthy food for himself and his wife. — Caitlyn Callahan