Thrilled and energized by receiving an award this summer in her very specialized field of medicine, Great Neck Estates Dr. Lillian Harvey-Banchik took a vacation with her husband, Mark, to Iceland to enjoy a well-earned break from the rigors of her job.
But Dr. Harvey-Banchik didn’t do much resting at all, she admitted, succumbing to her dedication to her patients and to her unusual practice, one that most people are unaware of, home parenteral nutrition (HPEN).
HPEN refers to patients who must be fed at home either intravenously or through a feeding tube. Harvey-Banchik was named this year’s winner of the Nan Couts Award by the Oley Foundation for her efforts to “educate, empower and improve the life of HPEN consumers.”
“I was on the phone every day in Iceland talking to hospitals, talking to pharmacies and discussing patients,” she said. “But I’ll be honest. I don’t consider what I do all that special. But I am always available 24/7/365.”
In reality, what she does have that is so special is a deep connection to her patients.
“I mean,” she explained, “my patients are trying to live as normal a life as possible. They’re trying to get out and do things, trying to be active. They want to do everything they possibly can do. If they’re willing to do that then I need to be available for them.”
Her practice concerns patients who cannot either swallow or digest and absorb food normally. She also sees patients who are affected by inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease or who cannot tolerate gluten in their diet.
“It’s about people who can no longer eat, or were born without the ability to eat, who have to be fed by intravenous methods,” she said. “It used to be that they had to spend their lives in the hospital. The Oley Foundation has worked to make this possible to be done at home.
“Now we have patients who can go home and can go to work and they live as regular a life as possible. Kids can go to school. They can run around on the playground. They can do everything that their physical condition allows them to do.
“In the old days, a lot of people, when they went home from the hospital, would die of starvation, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
“We probably have only about 300 physicians in the country certified in this,” she added. “But we also have a lot of dietitians, pharmacists and nurse practitioners who are also certified in this.” Doctors must pass two different exams to gain certification and the number certified is so few that some areas in the United States are without qualified specialists.
The doctor has lived in the Estates with her husband (an anesthesiologist) since 1991. They’ve been married for 28 years and have two children, Natasha (24) a physics teacher in San Diego and Joseph (21) who is studying at Indiana University.
Harvey-Banchik has a private practice in New Hyde Park but has been associated with North Shore University Hospital for 28 years.
She is a graduate of the NYU School of Medicine.
“I was knocked speechless,” she admitted, when she learned of the Couts Award. “And anybody who knows me knows that when I’m speechless that’s an unbelievable, rare event.”