PH Specialist Story
Roxana Sulica, MD
Meet Dr. Roxana Sulica: A Voice of Support for PH Patients
Dr. Roxana Sulica received her medical degree from the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania, and completed her fellowship in pulmonary critical care and a dedicated clinical and research fellowship in pulmonary hypertension at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, New York.
Dr. Sulica has served on the editorial board of the journal Advances in Pulmonary Hypertension, as well as a reviewer for numerous scientific journals, including Chest, Critical Care Medicine, Respiratory Medicine and Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. She currently serves as principal investigator in several international, multicenter trials examining novel treatments for PH.
You specialize in internal medicine. What sparked your interest in pulmonary hypertension?
I am a pulmonary critical care physician working in the PH field for the past 12 years, and I devote 85-90 percent of my time to PH. My interest has been sparked by the challenge, the unknown, the dynamism, the complexity of the field and, most importantly, by the utmost inner beauty of my patients.
What advances have you seen in the treatment of PH patients since you started practicing?
I started when Flolan® was the only therapeutic option for PH patients, and I’ve witnessed and actively participated in the development of the entire pharmacopeia that we currently have available.
What do you find to be the most encouraging advances currently taking place in the PH field?
I have always been impressed with the medical community’s enthusiasm and interest in raising the bar at each turn and to keep fighting for a cure for PH. We’ve come a long way, and we’re gladly following the same path to the end.
You’ve been working in the field of PH for a long time. Do any cases or patients really stand out to you and why?
This question is hard to answer because even now, after years of experience, each patient still teaches me a new lesson, and they continue to surprise me with the intricacies of their disease. Most recently, after using goal-directed therapy like most experts in the field do, I started to believe that we are probably using the parenteral prostacyclins a bit too late, at least in some PH patients.
How did you become involved with PHA?
PHA has always been a wonderful help and mentor to me. I have been on the editorial board of Advances in Pulmonary Hypertension, PHA’s medical journal. I have directed CME symposia sponsored by PHA, and I try not to miss any of the international meetings. PHA has great impact on our activity, and I am profoundly grateful to the work and enthusiasm of the organization.
You are active with local support groups, particularly the NYC Beth Israel group. What do you find rewarding about this involvement?
I use these meetings to shed light on medical aspects of the disease, to provide psychological support and to generally educate patients about their disease, such as organizing cooking classes targeted to their pathology or inviting other healthcare professionals to talk, such as psychologists and rehabilitation technicians. It is extremely rewarding to be able to take care of the entire human being.
You are involved with the 2012 PHA on the Road: PH Patients and Families Education Forums as committee co-chair of the New Jersey program. What do you envision for this program, and what do you hope attendees will gain from it?
We hope to gain awareness and to help to demystify this field. We also hope to improve relationships with front-line physicians and facilitate the care of these patients since I believe this is still an underserved population.
What is the most important piece of advice you give your PH patients?
My most important advice for the patients is to seek care in a specialized PH center. We are all thrilled to work in conjunction with the local and referring physician, but this is not a common cardiac or pulmonary disease to be taken lightly. It requires experience, dedication, expertise — none of these being built overnight. At a PH center, we are endowed with multiple resources to facilitate patient care. I’d like to mention the team that is working with me because I would not be here without them: Nakia Mitchell, my coordinator of 12 years, and Rebecca Fenton, my clinical nurse coordinator, both of whom are devoted to the program to the highest extent possible.
Do you have any advice for new practitioners in the PH field?
You are welcome on board, but there are dues to be paid: your time, your knowledge and your commitment. PH has to be treated with deep knowledge, respect and involvement.
Interview conducted by Rebecca Kurikeshu, PHA Medical Outreach Program Associate