When Dr. Brahim Ardolic was named executive director of Staten Island University Hospital in May, he made his fundamental goal for the locally focused institution quite clear: To ensure the medical needs of all Staten Islanders are being met so residents will not have to leave the borough for medical care.
“One thing that you’ll hear me say over and over again is that Staten Islanders should never have to leave Staten Island for care,” Dr. Ardolic noted during his first official meet and greet in July. “The hospital has received many recent awards — outstanding achievement from the Commission on Cancer; the Gold Plus Quality Award for Stroke Care; and recognition for our mortality rates in some key areas of surgery — and they are all wonderful recognitions. But what these awards and these mortality rate statistics actually demonstrate is that you are getting the same or better care here at SIUH than you would if you left the borough. That is why we make such a big deal about these recognitions. They are not just feathers in our cap; they are an actual physical demonstration that we can do it the same way here and we can do it better. And we’re very proud of that fact.”
Dr. Ardolic, who was born in Montenegro, came to Stapleton with his family in 1973. When his father got a job as an apartment superintendent in Bensonhurst, the Ardolics lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment for seven years before purchasing a home in Prince’s Bay.
“I slept in the living room from the time I was 6 until the time I was 13,” Dr. Ardolic said about his meager beginnings. “My father worked hard to achieve his American dream and purchase a home for our family.”
Dr. Ardolic graduated from Tottenville High School before attending medical school at SUNY Downstate and completing his residency at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn before signing on with SIUH in 2004. He worked as the director of Emergency Medicine before being named chair of the department in 2007, leading the hospital through a complete expansion of the ER, transforming the unit into a modern academic facility with a regional and national presence. He also was instrumental in establishing the hospital’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program, injecting the hospital’s staff with a team of talented emergency medicine physicians.
During his 11-year tenure as chairman of Emergency Medicine, he led his department through some of the borough’s most challenging events, including Hurricane Irene, Super Storm Sandy and the city’s cataclysmic conflict with the Ebola virus.
“When you’re trained as an emergency physician, crisis management is kind of part and parcel of what you do,” he said. “But you approach each challenge as you would a crashing patient and look for every opportunity to improve the process and right the ship.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Ardolic was named western region vice president of Northwell Health’s emergency medicine service line, with administrative oversight of the health system’s emergency departments in Manhattan, Staten Island and in Westchester County. When he accepted his appointment as executive director of the hospital, he called it a “tremendous honor.”
“I have strong ties to this community and will do everything in my power to build upon this hospital’s excellence,” he said. “You don’t have to be a physician to do this job. But as a doctor I have an understanding and the ability to know what our physicians are going through every day.”
He says he is wholly committed to bringing all types of medical innovation to borough residents.
“When I say want to meet the needs of the community I am not only referring to the fanciest, shiniest machines,” he said. “Our services are being upgraded too: The needs of child psychiatry and addiction services in Staten Island are incredibly vast; I want to continue to take what we already have — which is an impeccable array of services — and continue to enhance it.”
Dr. Ardolic spoke of new hires in both thoracic and gastroenterology oncology — particular areas of service that research determined were pulling patients from the borough.
“If people are leaving the Island to get it done, then we’re not doing enough,” he said. “We want to continue to refine where we can; continue to look for an additional two, five or even 10 Staten Islanders to stay and get their care here.”
He cited the hospital’s newly opened robotic fluoroscopy unit, the only one of its kind on the Eastern Seaboard, as an example of that advanced level of care. And under Dr. Ardolic’s leadership, the hospital is also participating in several major clinical trials.
“At SIUH we are focused on developing clinical trials in areas where the most cutting-edge care is attached,” Dr. Ardolic said, detailing some of the hospital’s research studies that are aimed at determining whether new medical strategies, treatments, medications and diagnostic procedures are more effective than those already in place.
“A classic example is cancer,” Dr. Ardolic continued. “There are these big networks that create the current studies and offer the treatments to institutions across the country. We offer many national clinical trials here that investigate how certain kinds of cancer respond to new therapies. Our involvement in these research studies allows us access to the most aggressive, up-to-date care we can possibly offer. And whether you’re enrolled in the clinical trial here or in Manhattan, you’re getting the exact same care. It’s a facet of care that we hope to continue to grow in the future.”
And with the hospital’s new equipment — both a revolutionary cardiac catheterization lab and biplane angiography suite were introduced at SIUH within the past two years — national health networks are taking notice of what Northwell Health has to offer.
“Many Staten Islanders will go to big cancer centers in Manhattan, searching for the most up-to-date care. There, they are likely to get a surgery and become enrolled in a clinical trial. What they don’t realize is that we are very often a part of those same exact clinical trials. So at SIUH they could receive the same nationally recognized care and not have to cross two bridges and spend countless hours commuting to get it.”
In his free time, the 46-year-old doctor enjoys partaking in Cross Fit classes and running Spartan races. He says family and fitness are a major part of his life.
“I’ve been married for 25 years and have two wonderful children,” he concluded. “I’m a member of this community looking for every opportunity to do amazing things for the people of this borough. I look forward to and welcome this new opportunity to serve the residents of Staten Island.”