A L U M N I P R O F I L E S Richard Szumel, MD ’89, and Sophia (Sonia) Kotliar, MD ’89: A Shared Interest in Pathology Leads to Divergent Careers —Continued from page 45 served on the search committee to find a successor to Kenneth Lewis, MD, JD, the hospital’s retiring CEO and president. The committee interviewed and deliberated for months, focusing on the future of Union’s mission and culture as a community hospital. Near the end of the process, to Dr. Szumel’s surprise, the committee offered him the position. “You know what works here and what doesn’t,” he recalls their telling him. “They knew I was fiercely independent in protecting the hospital’s identity, but I already had my dream job and wondered whether I had all of the competencies necessary to serve as CEO.” Dr. Szumel was still weighing the decision when, with one word, Dr. Lewis persuaded him that he had the most important qualification for the position: “integrity.” Sonia Kotliar, MD ’89: Balancing an Ancient Science with a Modern Discipline L “Dr. Szumel’s empathy has earned him the trust of the entire staff. . . . He loves this place, and it loves him back.” — Kenneth Lewis, MD, JD CEO and President, Union Hospital (Retired) “Rich shares the vision for our hospital and has the ability and experience to make it happen. He has a patient-centric approach. He knows that as an independent hospital, we can deliver better value-based, costeffective health care, through collaboration and regionalization,” says Dr. Lewis. “His empathy has earned him the trust of the entire staff; people want to follow him. He loves this place, and it loves him back.” M 46 Robert Wood Johnson I MEDICINE ike many medical students, Sonia Kotliar grew up wanting to become a doctor but entered medical school unsure of her career path. In a third-year rotation, however, she discovered pathology. “I loved sitting around the microscope with Dr. Trelstad and my classmates discussing the day’s cases,” she says. Dr. Kotliar, who had majored in biology at Rutgers University, found the spark she wanted: pathology would be her career choice. She considered other fields, but none felt like a perfect fit for a woman who wanted both a full-time career and space for outside interests, including a family. “For women in medicine, choosing and successfully following a career path was and is extremely difficult,” she says. Pathology, an ancient science, provided modern tools that promised Dr. Kotliar a role improving care for patients with cancer. The issue was close to her heart: both her mother and brother had been diagnosed with cancer while she was in college, and she had gotten her first up-close view of the health care system accompanying them to appointments. A graduate of a large high school in Toms River and a Rutgers College class of 2,000 students, Dr. Kotliar loved the camaraderie of faculty, staff, and fellow students at the medical school. In 1985, Rutgers Medical School was still comparatively small, but students were exposed to a broad range of perspectives. “As difficult as medical school can be, a great group made it a great experience,” she says. “My mother died during the first semester of my first year, and I felt immense support from the students and the administration. It forged strong bonds that continued during clinical rotations, when we traveled to so many hospitals that we called ourselves the ‘Road Scholars.’ Unfortunately, residencies and careers have made it hard to keep up with those old friends.” In her internship and residency at Northwestern, Dr. Kotliar received excellent training in anatomic and clinical pathology and moved on to a fellowship in cytopathology at MD Anderson. Now a member of a specialty practice employed at Bayhealth Medical Center, in Dover, Delaware, she has worked in regional health care settings, community hospitals, and outpatient settings. In addition to frequent interactions with physicians to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan, she particularly enjoys tumor board discussions—a collegial form of continuing education. “With so many new types of testing and therapies like targeted medicine, which uses the tumor profile to design treatment, the world of cancer treatment has changed dramatically,” she says. Dr. Kotliar became involved in the new, fast-evolving field of clinical informatics while serving as a laboratory medical director at St. Francis Hospital, in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2013, she was asked to serve on Bayhealth’s clinical informatics team, which brings together medical, IT,