Photographs by John Wagner
Dr. Brooke Moore, pediatric pulmonologist at Children's Respiratory and Critical Care Specialists, and Dr. Henri Roukoz, a cardiac electrophysiologist at University of Minnesota Health Heart Center
When Dr. Amy Fox, a surgeon, first meets with her cancer patients, she blocks off an hour to make sure she answers every question—unusual in the days of 15-minute office visits. Dr. Henri Roukoz, a cardiac electrophysiologist, perseveres when treating patients with atrial fibrillation, working for hours to find the perfect solution long after most physicians might have given up. For Dr. Brooke Moore, a pediatric pulmonologist, a fundamental key to care is forming a strong connection with her young patients so she can ensure their treatment progresses with them as they grow and change.
Traits like these make for exceptional physicians—doctors who stand out because they go above and beyond. For some, it might involve working simultaneously on a micro level with patients and on a macro level for the public good. For others, it means caring for patients while trying to improve treatments and techniques. And though patients find top-notch doctors of all ages, physicians who are newly established in their careers have started making their mark with their own brand of practicing medicine. It comes in many forms.
Roukoz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, treats patients with heart rhythm disorders, trains other physicians completing fellowships in cardiac electrophysiology, and researches new methods for treating cardiac arrhythmias. Known for treating and refusing to give up on patients suffering from ventricular tachycardia storm, which is a rhythm that can lead to cardiac arrest, he works tirelessly to find solutions that stabilize them for further treatment. “My personality has something to do with it. But it’s also being young and having a lot of energy and having a lot of hope, which is what this generation is about,” says Roukoz. “You have access to newer technology and can push the limit and the level of what’s possible.”
Dr. Gary Francis, professor of medicine, Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation chair in adult clinical cardiology at the U of M, and interim chief of its cardiovascular division, notices some common threads among the rising stars in medicine. In addition to being highly adept with technology, this up-and-coming set is whip-smart and unafraid to ask tough questions. “They are willing to challenge dogma, which is good and a tribute to them,” Francis says. “Even though we thought for years that X is a standard treatment, they might bring up new data to suggest that Y is a better pathway. They want to think critically about why we do what we do. It’s a time of great change, and it’s good for medicine.”
Dr. Elizabeth Smith, vice president of medical operations, primary care clinical service line for Allina Health Group, also notices a few trends among the newer set of physicians. For starters, many strive for more of a work-life balance. That often entails focusing on one setting—practicing in the hospital, clinic, or nursing home, instead of making rounds at all three—and ensuring that they don’t constantly work brutal hours. And that’s a good thing, she says. Less stressed-out physicians experience less burnout. They are more likely to stay healthy themselves, which all leads to better care for patients.
Smith also sees physicians emphasizing strong and lasting relationships with patients to provide a continuity of care. They also stress open communication with patients. “I am very impressed with their commitment to patient satisfaction, developing relationships with them, and thinking about patients in the context of their lives—the whole person,” she says.
For Moore, forging strong relationships with patients that extend throughout their childhoods is essential and an important reason why she chose her specialty. As a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Respiratory and Critical Care Specialists, Moore treats kids with asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other breathing problems at the clinic and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “I see the same patients over long periods of time, and we try really hard in our practice to have continuity with them. If I see someone, they don’t follow-up with my partner,” Moore says. “I see the patient and decide what I think is wrong and implement a plan. Hopefully they get better and hopefully you can walk with them along their path.”
Dr. Amy Fox, surgeon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater.
Though Fox, a general surgeon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, focuses mainly on surgery for patients with breast, thyroid, and adrenal diseases, including cancers, and doesn’t treat patients throughout their lives, she recognizes that her patients often are reeling from their cancer diagnosis and experiencing enormous stress, so she spends as much time as needed with them, answering all of their questions. During Fox’s first consultation with patients, she writes down detailed information about their surgery on a piece of paper that they can take home. There is just so much information to absorb in one sitting.
In addition, Fox provides patients with her e-mail address and encourages them to send questions; she is more than willing to respond quickly to ease their minds. And being at home or on vacation doesn’t stop Fox from calling patients with pathology results or information about next steps. “For me, it’s being there for my patients during that critical time period and taking that extra step for them,” says Fox. “A surgeon might only see a patient three or four times, but in dealing with the type of disease we’re dealing with, you can really make a good connection with them. I’m there to help them get through all of this.”
For many of today’s up-and-coming physicians, treating patients is paramount. But they typically have other objectives and interests beyond this work that drew them to medicine. Many teach residents, do research, travel globally on medical missions, or engage the public in health issues. Moore, for instance, recently was tapped by her city to lead its Tick Task Force. It’s addressing a high prevalence of Lyme disease in North Oaks by taking a multi-tier approach to reducing deer ticks—a good use for her master’s degree in public health. She also serves as associate director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Children’s and donates time to raising money to find a cure.
Moore wants to make a contribution for individuals and the bigger picture. “Certainly when you see an individual patient you’re able to help them, and that makes you feel good. But when you’re able to help a larger community, whether it’s the community I live in with Lyme disease or the CF community, the potential for a greater impact is the biggest motivator for me.”
Similar motivations drive Roukoz, who enjoys sharing his knowledge of electrophysiology with other physicians. Some come from around the world to train at the U of M, where he teaches them procedures they can bring back to their own countries. He also researches invasive and noninvasive treatment of arrhythmias, engages in community-based education about heart disease, and is part of a team that travels to rural hospitals to train physicians in advanced congestive heart failure treatments. “My goal is to keep pushing the limit of the possible, helping the patients we now think are beyond help,” says Roukoz.
As these doctors confront challenges and find new avenues of hope, all while providing excellent care to their patients, we all benefit from their enthusiasm and passion for practicing medicine.
The Rising Stars List
This is the second edition of our Top Doctors Rising Stars list. While our Top Doctors list has always recognized medical excellence in our community, with this edition we turn our attention to outstanding physicians who have been fully licensed to practice for approximately 10 years or less. This list includes 318 doctors in 44 specialties. When compiling any list of this nature, research is essential. For this survey, the doctors included in this list were selected after a peer-nomination process. From there, candidates were grouped into 44 specialties and evaluated on myriad factors, including (but not limited to) professional achievement, review by an expert panel, extensive research, and disciplinary history. Only doctors who acquired the highest total points from the surveys, research, and blue-ribbon panel review were selected to this list. Of course, no list is perfect. Many qualified doctors who are providing excellent care are not included on this year’s list. However, if you’re looking for exceptional physicians who have earned the confidence and high regard of their peers, you can start your search here (or go to mspmag.com/medicalguide). This year’s Rising Stars also will join a prestigious group of similarly selected doctors in more than 30 areas around the country—see them all at superdoctors.com.
Editor’s Note: Many of our Rising Stars have specialty certification recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. This board certification requires substantial additional training in a doctor’s area of practice. We encourage you to discuss this board certification with your doctor to determine its relevance to your medical needs. More information about board certification is available at abms.org.
© 2016 MSP Communications. All rights reserved. See disclaimer below.
© 2016 MSP Communications. All rights reserved. Super Doctors® is a registered trademark of MSP Communications.
Disclaimer: The information presented is not medical advice, nor is Super Doctors a physician referral service. We strive to maintain a high degree of accuracy in the information provided. We make no claim, promise, or guarantee about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in the directory. Selecting a physician is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising. Super Doctors is the name of a publication, not a title or moniker conferred upon individual physicians. No representation is made that the quality of services provided by the physicians listed will be greater than that of other licensed physicians, and past results do not guarantee future success. Super Doctors is an independent publisher that has developed its own selection methodology; it is not affiliated with any federal, state, or regulatory body. Self-designated practice specialties listed in Super Doctors do not imply “recognition” or “endorsement” of any field of medical practice, nor do they imply certification by a Member Medical Specialty Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or that the physician has competence to practice the specialty. List research concluded February 12, 2016.