Like many surgeons, when Dr. Thomas Romo III graduated medical school, he hopped on a plane to India and Vietnam in order to fix cleft lips. "We felt like we had time and a reason to give back, " he said of himself and his peers who choose to travel the world doing medical procedures before settling down and developing a practice. Though Dr. Romo operated on numerous lips, he realized after a while that the program he was traveling with was only fixing a quarter of the problem. After the lip healed, the palate still did not close correctly and teeth did not grow straight. Patients would experience chronic Eustachian tube problems, resulting in earaches. Dr. Romo wanted to fix the rest of the palate, but the mission that he was with focused solely on lips. "I wanted to change the paradigm, " Dr. Romo declared. Back in New York, he began developing a plan to help children with facial birth defects through all operation stages, not just cosmetic. Dr. Romo admitted that he did not have any experience putting together a foundation, "I did not go to business school, " he pointed out, and therefore it was challenging for him to lay the groundwork of his new venture. He decided to accept only newborns through age twenty-one who were on Medicaid or required other financial assistance, with emphasis on those from the United States. As he phrased it, "Little Baby Face Foundation helps "children from Harlem to Ethiopia. "With his mission in place, Dr. Romo then recruited thirty doctors, including pediatricians, plastic surgeons, and various specialists. This impressive brain trust assembles each month to discuss fifteen to twenty children whose financial statements have been checked. They ask, "Who does this child need to see? " If they are not sure, they bring them in for a "look-see" with each of the doctors. He then went on to say that when these children come in to meet this large group of doctors, they are experiencing something unique - this number of medical professionals is rarely seen in one room. For the entire stay, including during the operation and recovery time, the child and his or her family are taken care of every step of the way: their flights are paid for, "Mario picks them up in a car service, " and they are welcomed with open arms at the Ronald McDonald House. What most impressed me about the Little Baby Face Foundation is that every doctor volunteers his or her time. It has been worked out so that no one needs to perform more than a handful of procedures each month. Occasionally, when Dr. Romo is met with slight reluctance from one of the doctors, he often responds with a poignant, yet witty response: "How much fat do you want to suck and how many boobs do you want to do? Or do you want to change a child's life? "Dr. Romo performs a significant number of the operations. He sometimes ends up doing as many as ten during the winter holidays. Speaking with him is an enlightening experience, as he is so full of energy, compassion, and joviality. He shared a few stories of patients who had touched his heart. He told me about operations that involved a Texan child with nerve paralysis and another from Harlem who was born deaf and missing an ear on one side. On the latter, Dr. Romo performed a cochlear implant and that the child "heard his name said at graduation. "Speaking about a few other patients from abroad, Dr. Romo continued to touch my own heart as he spoke of a child who came from farther afield - in Ethiopia. The girl had a large mass on her neck that no other doctor would touch. Dr. Romo said, "We had to fly her from a small village to Addis Ababa to Dubai to New York. " Not only did the girl have the mass removed, but she also got to have a New York adventure. As he continued on, I learned about a couple from England who came with their eighteen-month old son, who had a tumor falling over his eye. The parents, who were only nineteen and twenty-one, themselves, were given the opportunity to spend several weeks in Manhattan while their child was having his life changed. Dr. Romo is proud of how far the foundation has come since it began in 1990. He recently experienced a year in which he raised enough money in order to pay a small staff. One of the members of his team is his own wife, Diane Romo, who is the surgical coordinator. She deals directly with the children and has the extreme pleasure of contacting families to tell them, "We're going to bring you to New York. "Now that he has a model and a brand, Dr. Romo hopes to expand. "We can helicopter to Chicago, LA, or San Francisco, " he told me excitedly. But he is also devoted to New York, and emphasizes the concept of "New Yorkers helping New Yorkers. " He wishes that more people knew that the Little Baby Face Foundation existed. He said that a lot of hospitals are in the red, which should not be the case, since there are so many doctors willing to occasionally work for free for the sake of the greater good. His need to give to the community in any way he can is inspiring. As he perfectly phrased it for me, "I'm a surgeon. This is the only way I know how to give back. "
This little urban oasis provides families and individuals acupuncture treatment for a wide range of ailments – infertility, stress, and muscular and skeletal pain. Husband and wife founding team Jill Blakeway and Noah Rubinstein have been a functional medical and media presence in the world of acupuncture for years, publishing a number of books, appearing on Bravo, CBS, The Today Show, and lecturing on the benefits of Chinese medicine.
A psychological and cultural resource center combining a bookstore, libraries, training institutes, and continuing education, the C. G. Jung Center serves as a fulcrum for all things Jungian in midtown Manhattan. An air of learnedness wafts throughout the premises, awash in the smell of old books and older dreams. Carl Jung's wide-reaching areas of interest wind their ways through our unconscious, through dreams and myths and memories, and all are represented in the literature available here. The bookstore downstairs has readings on these and more from authors Jungian and otherwise, but the real treasure is the library on the fourth floor. We stopped in and chatted with Robin, a psychoanalyst-in-training who waxed historical on Jung's break with contemporary academics and with Freud, symbols, myths, and newer-age psychoanalytical practices. One of our writers, a once and future psychology student, spent quite a bit of time perusing the literary offerings, happily flipping through tomes from "The Presence of Siva, " to "Existential Psychotherapy" to "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and "Psychopathia Sexualis. " The reading room is carpeted with a large, worn, oriental rug and furnished with colorful squishy seating. Chairs sit in a pleasantly haphazard arrangement around a wooden table, giving the impression that the ghosts of scholars remembered and forgotten were sitting in the room reading just before browsers arrived. Certainly, they have not strayed far from this house of learning.
Shari Auth has been fascinated by non-Western medicine since a young age. “I was into this even as a teenager, ” she tells me. “I was doing meditation and reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead when I was fifteen, in a family that wasn’t doing any of that. I didn’t have hippie parents. I grew up going to McDonald’s drive-thru and getting a Happy Meal like most Americans. But somehow, if I had any introduction, no matter how random it was, I was immediately hungry for it. I had a deeper calling. ”This calling took Shari to China, Thailand, Japan - where she first received acupuncture - Peru, and India. It led her to get certified as a yoga and pilates instructor and practitioner of shamanism. It also allowed her to develop her own forearm massage technique, to become a licensed acupuncturist and board-certified herbalist. Shari even went on to earn a doctorate in Chinese medicine. Ultimately, it brought her to West 22nd Street in 2018, where she and Michelle Larivee co-founded WTHN, a modern acupuncture and healing center at the heart of the country’s most "stressed-out" city. Like exercise, acupuncture must be practiced regularly to be fully effective. Shari and Michelle found, however, that integrating acupuncture into one’s wellness routine was beyond the reach of many New Yorkers. For starters, the market for acupuncture in New York was starkly divided into high-end and low-end practices. The two women decided to bridge this gap by offering top-notch care at more affordable pricing. Each of the acupuncturists at WTHN have a minimum of three years of experience and a master’s degree in Chinese medicine. With minimalist décor and spotless white walls, WTHN evokes a sense of clean calm. This is a new kind of ancient medicine, the space seems to say. It is easy to see how a newcomer to acupuncture could feel welcome here and those are exactly the sort of people Shari and Michelle want to reach. Healing, according to Shari, starts with that first step towards change. “Healing is transformation. Healing is letting go of what’s not working and adopting something that is. ”
Tucked snugly under a brownstone near the Hudson, I nearly missed the Lymphedema Alliance when I visited in June 2016. After guiding me through the tranquil massage and treatment rooms, the receptionist explained, “this is the only complete shop for someone with lymphedema in New York City. " One can find consultation, massage treatments, garment fitting, and wrapping techniques in one place. Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive swelling of a limb or body part, and few to no medical centers are dedicated entirely to the prevention, treatment, and maintenance of this disease. Although the Alliance is an out-of-network concierge clinic, meaning that they offer intensive care to a limited number of privately paying patients every year, the receptionist clarified that other patients and care givers are welcome to walk in and meet one of the therapists to learn more about Lymphedema Alliance’s unique top-to-bottom healthcare.