Health & Wellness

New thoracic surgeon boosts hospital's level of care

by Jeff Meade
Posted 5/2/24

With the recent arrival of Dr. Joseph Friedberg at Temple Lung Center at Chestnut Hill, the community hospital now has a dedicated thoracic surgeon.

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Health & Wellness

New thoracic surgeon boosts hospital's level of care


With the recent arrival of Dr. Joseph Friedberg at Temple Lung Center at Chestnut Hill, the community’s hometown hospital now has a dedicated thoracic surgeon.

“I had my first office hours two weeks ago,” said Dr. Friedberg, also thoracic surgeon-in-chief of Temple University Health System, “so it’s hot off the presses. We (Temple) have a large thoracic surgery division, but I’m the first one at Chestnut Hill.” 

Chestnut Hill Hospital has provided intermittent thoracic surgical services in the past, he added, but as far as a dedicated thoracic surgeon is concerned, that’s an entirely new service offered by Temple Lung Center at Chestnut Hill.  

Friedberg represents just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Temple’s thoracic surgical services, which include chest wall reconstructions, lung volume reduction surgery, pulmonary resections, and many other intricate surgeries.  

“We (at Temple) have people who specialize in absolutely every aspect of thoracic surgery,” Friedberg explained. “The other thing you get is surgery for extremely high-risk patients or cases that are combined with cardiac surgery. We can seamlessly take patients down for surgery on our main campus and then conduct the remainder of their follow-up and post-operative care at Chestnut Hill if that’s more convenient for them. And then, we’re also bringing to bear all of the medical oncology specialists at Fox Chase as well.” 

Temple Lung Center first came to Chestnut Hill Hospital in July 2018, but over the years, it has developed an incredibly deep bench of physicians and other experts dedicated to helping people maintain healthier lungs – from asthma to chronic obstructive lung disease to lung cancer, and beyond.

Dr. William Shapiro, pulmonary critical care doctor at Chestnut Hill Hospital and Temple Lung Center, explained “We have an outpatient clinic, and we also have rounds in the intensive care unit. We take care of all the patients in the ICU, and there are pulmonary consults throughout the hospital.”

In addition, Shapiro said, the Lung Center offers sub-specialists in a wide variety of areas, like asthma, lung transplants, sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension and sleep medicine. It’s specialty care, he adds, but at a community hospital.

The arrival of thoracic surgical expertise is a game-changer for the community, Shapiro said, but it’s important to point out that many other pulmonary procedures are offered through the Lung Center, including bronchoscopy, lung biopsies and thoracentesis (a procedure to remove fluid or air from around the lungs).

Another pioneering offering is the Temple Healthy Chest Initiative, in which a low-dose CT scan checks for lung-related issues such as lung cancer, COPD and emphysema, but other conditions as well, such as cardiac calcification — all to catch potentially serious diseases and conditions early. Depending on what the scan turns up, you might need to see a cardiologist instead of a pulmonologist. It’s the next step beyond lung cancer screening. 

It’s reasonable to expect that the Lung Center at Chestnut Hill is going to draw patients from the city’s Northwest neighborhoods – some of them underserved populations – but the quality of care and reputation of Temple’s lung specialists are such that patients can and do come from everywhere.

Regarding thoracic surgery services, Friedberg said, his first patients at the Chestnut Hill Lung Center came from the Chestnut Hill area, but ultimately, “We would like this care to be available to patients from anywhere. You’re talking about excellent care at an excellent hospital and a very nice place with very nice people. It’s a very user-friendly environment for high-level medical evaluations and care in our field.” Shapiro’s experience is similar. “The majority of our patients are from Northwest Philadelphia — Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Germantown, Roxborough, but also the suburbs just north of here, like Ambler and Oreland,” he said.

That said, he says, some patients do come to the Lung Center from hundreds of miles away. Shapiro, in particular, has some patients who come from New Jersey and Delaware.

Friedberg recalls one case, a 17-hour operation for a very advanced cancer. “The patient was told at multiple places that it was inoperable,” Friedberg said. “The patient was a doctor, and now he’s back at work.”

Friedberg is currently seeing another patient with a similar condition, also told by other doctors that her condition is inoperable. 

“I think we can help her,” he said. “That has the potential to dramatically impact the course of her disease and potentially save her life. We don't want to be the best-kept secret for something like this, so getting the word out is important. What we have at Chestnut Hill is a very high-end practice in a smaller, user-friendly environment, and that’s not that common.”