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Maspeth cardiologist brings friendly back

TimesLedger Newspapers

The days of house call doctors with little black bags are long gone, but a good bedside manner remains a primary concern to at least one Maspeth cardiologist.

Dr. Gregory Gustafson, a board-certified cardiologist, at 72-41 Grand Ave., returned to providing private medical care to residents after a year working exclusively for New York Hospital Queens. His previous experience serving the Maspeth community made returning an easy decision.

“I grew up in a small village and Maspeth reminded me of that environment,” said Gustafson, 63, who is from a small northwestern New Jersey town. “Everyone knew each other. It had a strong, tight-knit community feel.”

The doctor’s first go-round in a Maspeth private practice began with a mere two to three days per week away from the catheterization laboratory at NYHQ.

“I never intended for that office to get all that busy. I mainly started going there to get away from the radiation at the cath lab,” he said. “But we ended up with a strong following of very loyal patients. I think the attention they received was unusual for them. We gave people the time they needed. There was an understanding that problems aren’t solved in 10 minutes and we needed to go in-depth with patients.”

Gustafson said a support system of great colleagues is what makes a practice successful. When patients first come into a doctor’s office, Gustafson knows it can be a nerve-wracking experience.

“A patient’s previous experience with physicians can be very cold and challenging and intimidating. It’s important when they come in that they meet someone that’s warm, accommodating and puts them at ease,” he said. “Relieving the anxiety of the initial confrontation is crucial. I believe in the user-friendliness of a doctor.”

Remembering his early days in medical school, Gustafson said he always enjoyed the extra time he spent with people and recalled being castigated by doctors for the amount of time he devoted to patients on a personal basis.

“They try to teach the exact opposite in medical school,” he said. “They want you to be imposing — to move quickly from patient to patient.”

That is how a profit-driven doctor operates, according to Gustafson, but when dealing with common cardiac problems — irregular heartbeat, chest discomfort, heart valve problems, just to name a few — there are steps a doctor can take pre-treatment that deal directly with the bad habits that cause such ailments.

These steps begin with getting to know the patient. Doctors need to know if the patient is overweight, if they smoke, if they have high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol problems or genetic heart issues. These factors, when mixed with the stresses and anxiety of everyday life, can render a person’s heart health vulnerable to a number of diseases.

“In New York, the bad economy and high cost of living is a big part of what physicians have to deal with. The effects of family, financial and emotional stress can bring on disease,” he said. “The aspect of my practice of taking time with folks and working through emotional and personal issues is what binds me to the community.”

With Gustafson, the Maspeth community has access to the expertise, treatments and technology of the Heart Hospital of Queens at NYHQ. The difference is patients receive those standards with the added benefit of a doctor whose main drive above all else is one of the basic tenants of medicine.

“You just have to do what is right,” he said. “And if you are not prepared to do that, why practice medicine?”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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