Cutting the ribbon on the new space are, from left, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; North Shore-LIJ CEO and President Michael J. Dowling; Queens World Trade Center health program director Jacqueline Moline, MD; and retired New York Police Department officer Lorelei Sander.
REGO PARK, N.Y. — The North Shore-LIJ Health System announced the relocation of its Queens World Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence with a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 11.
The new 3,650-square-foot center is about 50% larger than the previous space in Flushing, allowing practitioners to accommodate more patients and treat the more than 50 cancers that have been diagnosed in World Trade Center first responders, according to Jacqueline Moline, MD, director of the center.
“Many first responders and others who worked for weeks and months at Ground Zero and debris sites after Sept. 11 are experiencing a range of serious health problems [including] lung disease, asthma and gastroesphogeal disease, as well as a variety of cancers and mental health problems,” said Moline, who also serves as vice president of population health. “Our centers new space will allow us to better provide the needed care for our patients and increase our services as the program expands.”
The federally funded Queens program provides care for more than 3,000 trade center first responders. The new facility, at 97-77 Queens Blvd., houses four exam rooms and a lab for phlebotomy and urinalysis. It offers full pulmonary testing so staff are able to do comprehensive metabolic profiles of each patient, said Charlotte Wihlborg, RN, BSN, the centers nurse manager.
“We conduct an integrated medical questionnaire of every patient who comes through the program,” Wihlborg said.
The questionnaire asks about coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and gastroesophageal disease, among other symptoms. Once completed, physicians perform a targeted medical exam for each patient. Patients include any rescue personnel associated with 9/11 and others who were involved in the days after the attacks but may not have felt symptoms right away, according to Wihlborg.
“Those include members of local unions, police precincts, Verizon workers, Department of Transportation workers and employees of Con Ed,” she said. “We have an outreach program that tries to get to as many of these workers as we can.”
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and retired New York Police Department officer Lorelei Sander were among the guests who participated in the ribbon-cutting.
Sander, a 9/11 first responder, has been a patient in the Queens program since 2011. She worked at the trade center site for several days after the tragedy and as a result, developed a persistent cough, sinus swelling and irritation, and GERD. Despite her ailments, she stayed on the force and retired after 20 years on the job.
The Queens WTC center received $3.85 million under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It is one of seven such centers of excellence in the New York/New Jersey area dedicated to providing medical monitoring, diagnosis and treatment for World Trade Center-related health conditions.
Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.