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Top Doctors 2011 Profile: Michelle Abis, M.D., Internal Medicine in Red Hook

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The number of primary-care physicians like Michelle Abis, M.D., is shrinking across the Valley — and the nation — as more and more doctors opt instead to train for a particular medical specialty.

“Being a primary-care physician is a very challenging, yet rewarding specialty,” Abis says. “Being a jack-of-all-trades means keeping up to date with all subspecialties — which can be difficult, time-wise — especially with the plethora of new medical information being published.” In addition, general practitioners earn far less than their counterparts who specialize. According to a report by the Medical Group Management Association, in 2009 general practitioners earned a median salary of $191,401, as opposed to, say, dermatologists, who earned a median salary of $385,088.

But the pros definitely outweigh the cons, she adds. “On the other hand, it’s rewarding that, as a primary-care physician, you get to know your patient as a whole. You’re involved in all aspects of their health.”

And it’s never dull. “During a typical day, I might deal with everything from a simple upper respiratory tract infection to more complex problems like uncontrolled blood pressure, diabetes, chest pain, and more.” Her patients usually range from about 16 years old and up, she says.

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Click here to view the Hudson Valley’s Top Doctors 2011 (opens PDF)

Abis, a board-certified internist, is affiliated with Northern Dutchess Hospital, as well as with Health Quest Medical Practice in Rhinebeck, where she sees patients along with another board-certified physician, Dr. Sharagim Kemp.

A native of the Philippines, Abis grew up in a family of teachers and lawyers, “except for an aunt who was eccentric enough to study chemistry,” she laughs. “I always wanted to be a physician. I suspect it was a result of brainwashing by my grandmother. As a little kid, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, she would prompt me to say, ‘A doctor.’ Then came a time when I said it on my own. I didn’t really consider wanting to do anything else. It was my grandmother’s greatest desire, and it became my goal — which I pursued until it was achieved.”

Abis, 44, graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and moved to New York City for her internal medicine residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. She received accolades there, including an award for Excellence in Academic and Clinical Medicine; she also served as the hospital’s chief resident. “But all that is ancient history,” she says modestly.

She and her husband, Dr. Leopoldo Abis, Jr., also a board-certified general internist, previously practiced at a medical group in laid-back Millinocket, Maine, before moving to the Hudson Valley in 1999. They live in Red Hook with a 14-year-old Shih Tzu named Sammi.

(Continue on next page)

» Visit Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
» Visit Health Quest Medical Practice in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, NY
» View the complete list of Top Doctors 2011
» Go to the Hudson Valley Health Guide for more doctors in the Hudson Valley, NY

 

Abis — known as a passionate advocate for patient care — believes the biggest issue facing patients these days is a basic one: access to health care. “Even patients with Medicare are having problems with things like medication coverage, which is concerning,” she notes. And as a physician, bureaucracy can trigger headaches, too: “The biggest issues facing doctors include navigating the maze of regulations and meeting performance measures — while trying to provide the best care you can give to your patients.”

Still, it’s an exciting time to be a doctor, says Abis. She points out medical advances such as new treatments on the horizon for venous thromboembolism, or VTE — a silent but potentially deadly condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein. “There’s also new information coming out on diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia, which could hopefully lead to better diagnostic tests.”

When it comes to dealing with her busy schedule, she says, “I try to take it a day at a time, and make sure to take breaks and vacations once in a while.”

top doctors list

Click here to view the Hudson Valley’s Top Doctors 2011 (opens PDF)

Having two doctors in the family helps, too, she says. “Since my husband is a physician himself, he’s very understanding and supportive. He’s an excellent cook, too, which is helpful since I need directions to boil an egg,” she laughs. Her favorite free-time activities include reading fiction, ballroom dancing (“although I’m not very good at it”), and rooting for the New York Yankees.

“I like working in the Hudson Valley,” she adds. “It gives you that small-town feeling of knowing your patients and the people you work with — that’s true even at the hospital. Living in the Red Hook/Rhinebeck area is ideal for us. There’s less traffic and congestion, but at the same time, this area is loaded with cultural activities and restaurants. And it’s just two hours from New York City.”

Her pointers for good health? “It’s as simple and as difficult as a healthy diet — with special emphasis on portion control — and regular exercise — which, ideally, should include both aerobic and strength-training exercises. In order for these measures to work and be effective, it has to be a lifestyle change.”

» Visit Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
» Visit Health Quest Medical Practice in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, NY
» View the complete list of Top Doctors 2011
» Go to the Hudson Valley Health Guide for more doctors in the Hudson Valley, NY

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