The Long Road Home
Einstein Medical Center Montgomery offers comprehensive cancer care, through treatment and beyond
by Leigh Stuart

Cancer is a terrifying word, and a life-changing one. A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, and the winding road of treatment and recovery is tumultuous. For those reasons, securing the care of knowledgeable and skilled practitioners is vital. In the northeastern United States, there are many great hospitals offering advanced oncology care but in the Philadelphia area, patients turn to Einstein Healthcare Network to ease their minds and heal their bodies.

The newest Einstein facility, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, has been helping patients recover since it opened its doors in 2012.

Jennifer Chalfin Simmons, M.D., FACS, chief of breast surgery and director of the Breast Program at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery’s Women’s Center, has been with the institution since its founding four years ago. Dr. Simmons, who is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American College of Surgeons, says it is “a miracle and my utmost privilege” to help women navigate the cataclysmal waters of breast cancer.

All oncology patients have the benefit of the experience of individuals known as “nurse navigators.” These professionals have diverse backgrounds in support and scheduling, and assist patients in their journey, from diagnosis through palliative care—or symptom management—all the way through the completion of treatment and the survivorship stage.

The job of the nurse navigators, explains William A. Biermann, M.D., M.B.A., FACP, medical director of medical oncology at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, is to “help people go through the system with less hassle.” This even includes assisting patients with financial counseling, when needed. (Dr. Biermann knows the importance of assistance through care, as he had a heart transplant in 2001 and spent weeks in intensive care and eight months in rehabilitation.)

William J. Tester, M.D., FACP, chair of medical oncology for Einstein Healthcare Network, has served Einstein as director of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center in Philadelphia for 20 years. Since Einstein Montgomery opened, Dr. Tester has split his time between that facility and Einstein’s flagship hospital in Philadelphia.

“Einstein, for me, is clearly home,” says Dr. Tester, who is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology. “It’s new, it’s modern … it’s a beautiful location, it’s soothing, the rooms are really large, and there’s a welcoming atmosphere here.”

“The relatively new facilities were designed to make this a more comfortable place,” adds Dr. Biermann, who is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology, and is chair of the cancer committee at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery.

The facilities are not just comfortable but also at the forefront of technology. Utilizing advanced tools including tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D breast imaging, which combines mammography and CAT scan technology, clinicians are able to get more accurate diagnoses, thus cutting down on the number of patients who must get multiple tests done to ensure accuracy. This increased precision has also lowered the biopsy rate for patients.

“I think that it has served to alleviate a lot of anxiety for women,” Dr. Simmons says of the technology. “It has significantly reduced our callback rates at the same time being able to detect tiny cancers way before they become clinically relevant.”

Another boon to patients has been Einstein’s commitment to, and in-depth involvement in, clinical trials. Through these, patients have access to cutting-edge, revolutionary treatments months or even years before such treatments are officially cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“[Ours is] a really well-rounded program, but we haven’t forgotten that we’re trying to work with the community, with patients and their families,” Dr. Biermann says.

“There are several accredited programs in the area. What makes us special is our personal touch,” Dr. Simmons adds. “We make it a point to really know our patients. We work with each patient, and their families, to successfully navigate all aspects of their care. More than that though, we help them to deal with the issues that arise in the course of treatment. We go above and beyond what is expected of us. Never do our patients feel as if they are on their own. We’re not only trying to meet our patients’ medical needs, we’re helping them to manage every aspect of their lives.”

Einstein’s team knows that a cancer diagnosis is one of the most harrowing events a person can face in their lives, and as such, Einstein recognizes the need for patients to have every means of support available to them. During chemotherapy, for example, patients are free to invite companions.

“I think the infusion suite is very comfortable, convenient, and we welcome family members,” Dr. Tester says. “This is a major, major life event for a patient and it can clearly be overwhelming at times, and having good family support makes a big difference.”

More than even the advanced technology, skilled staff and state-of-the-art facility, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery is an institution that cares. This extends into Einstein’s survivorship program.

“After treatment, we try to help people find a better place,” Dr. Simmons says.

Dr. Biermann explains that the survivorship concept was borne several years ago from an Institute of Medicine report that noted a dearth in post-treatment care for cancer survivors. Issues such as diabetes and hypertension can occur and “those things get lost,” Dr. Biermann explains; such is not the case with Einstein’s survivorship program, through which caring professionals assist survivors long after treatment has ended. “I think we’re a little further along than other institutions in terms of our survivorship program,” he says.

“I know a lot of doctors in a lot of hospitals, and I could send my family members anywhere, really,” Dr. Tester says. “I come here myself and my family does, too. I think it’s really got the best of both worlds. … I think Einstein Philadelphia, and now Einstein Montgomery, give a nice balance between a first-rate suburban hospital and a full-service tertiary care hospital. I’ve always felt that way about Philadelphia, and I now feel that way about Einstein Montgomery. I’m very comfortable with my family coming here, and I think that says it all.”

Einstein Medical Center Montgomery
559 W. Germantown Pike
East Norriton, PA 19403

Photograph by Jody Robinson