March 26, 2005 – When Dr. Adam Shapiro and his wife, Pamela Berkowsky, moved to St. Thomas, she offered to spend three months in the office helping him set up shop. Shapiro had just spent 10 years as an ear, nose and throat physician in Virginia and Florida where he routinely saw more than 50 patients a day. When the demands of his job grew beyond making patient care the number one priority, Shapiro began looking for a change. His love of the sea led him back to the Virgin Islands.
"We got married here eight years ago, and every time we came down he would fantasize about living here," says Berkowsky.
When the resident ear, nose and throat doctor decided to retire, everything just fell into place.
"He was ready for a change," says Berkowsky. "I was a Clinton appointee, Gore lost the election. The stars lined up and we got here in 2002."
Three years later, Berkowsky is still at the office as the practice is preparing to expand. This summer Virgin Islands Ear, Nose and Throat will move into the Paragon Medical Building located behind the hospital. The new office will have the only accredited sleep center in the Virgin Islands, and will also include a dizziness and balance rehabilitation center. A physician's assistant is in training to be a registered sleep technician at the new lab. He'll become an expert on things like sleep apnea, a condition more than 25 percent of people suffer from.
"Most people are unaware of it," says Shapiro. "If it's severe they catch it themselves, but most people are dragged in by a significant other. The don't think they have problems."
In the sleep lab, under the medical direction of Dr. David Weisher, experts will measure heart rates, oxygen saturation levels and other parameters to see what's really happening while patients are asleep, whether it's a problem in the brain, an obstructed airway, or a combination. "Right now when someone has a problem we have to go on our best guess, or send people to Puerto Rico or the States," says Shapiro. With state-of-the-art technology at their disposal the experts will be able to fine-tune the appropriate treatment, which may include making dietary and lifestyle changes, using devices, or surgery. Shapiro says with treatment, 90 percent of sleep apnea cases can be improved.
The number one reason people go to the doctor is because of dizziness, according to Shapiro. Those patients will go to through vestibular rehabilitation, working with a physical therapist on a Balance Master to recondition themselves.
Long before plans were put in place to expand the practice, Shapiro had taken the standard otolaryngology – head and neck surgery – practice and added an allergy division. "We have a CLIA-certified blood allergy lab, the only one in Virgin Islands," says Berkowsky. "The traditional way of getting allergy tested is all the skin pricks. Now, they take one tube of blood, and it's a much more exact process to see specifically what you're allergic to. That didn't exist before," she added
Shapiro also has expertise in endoscopic sinus surgery, facial plastics, botox and collagen. Before he came along most of those procedures were done off island. He is also a commercial pilot, an FAA flight medical examiner, a diver, trained in hyperbarics, and has lectured on ear, nose and throat problems associated with diving.
Shapiro will be sharing his expertise in a monthly Source column, "Paging Dr. Shapiro." The columns will now be a regular feature in our Health/Fitness section. Click here to read Dr. Shapiro's first column.
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