“Dr. Sanchez honors Englewood Hospital and its patients every day with his devotion to his patients, his dedication to medicine and his leadership in the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer,” said Medical Center President and CEO Douglas A. Duchak. “We are privileged to have Dr. Sanchez as an integral part of the Englewood Hospital family, and very proud of this recognition.”
No one tells the story of Dr. Sanchez’s work better than his patients. Eleven years ago, Jill Fader, a young mother with four small children, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Minutes before, the doctor had performed a fine needle aspiration, during which cells from a suspicious lump are removed in a non-surgical procedure and examined by a pathologist.
“Approximately 20 minutes after Dr. Sanchez performed the test, he returned with the terrible news,” remembers Jill. But what could have been an unbearable moment was, instead, the beginning of her treatment and healing. “He spoke calmly, laying out the next steps as he gave me the strength to process what was happening. He told me, ‘No matter what this is, we’re going to take care of it.’ He gave me confidence, hope and optimism. I knew I was in good hands.”
Jill firmly believes the procedure saved her life. “I had a very aggressive tumor, and the procedure allowed me to be diagnosed immediately,” she recalls. “That led to an immediate referral to a surgeon and the immediate removal of the tumor before it spread to my lymph nodes. Today, having breast cancer is a distant memory, but the kind of care, and caring, that I experienced then remains permanently etched in my heart and mind.”
Dr. Sanchez’s pioneering work in the field of breast cancer has become the centerpiece of his life. Since 1990, he has been the medical director of what is now called The Leslie Simon Breast Care and Cytodiagnosis Center, a service that recorded 47,238 patient visits in 2009. Dr. Sanchez was the forward-looking force behind the establishment of the center and has been its medical director since it opened.
Back then, a woman who found a breast lump would most likely go several weeks or longer without a diagnosis, and that piece of crucial information would usually come only after an open surgical procedure and a lengthy, uncomfortable recuperative period. “I knew we could do better,” said Dr. Sanchez. The center quickly came to be known for personalized care, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and integrated services that eased the way for patients. Its rapid growth and superior track record for finding even the smallest tumors has shown the critical need for the center and the value of its innovative multidisciplinary approach.
Dr. Sanchez is board-certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and cytopathology, a branch of pathology that studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level. Having once considered specializing in other fields of medicine, it was the challenges of pathology that drew him. “The microscope always intrigued me,” he said. “I asked a senior internist, ‘What do you think about pathology?’ His answer was, ‘It’s okay, but you will never be able to know everything.’ That answer encouraged me to go into pathology.”
Much of Dr. Sanchez’s contribution to healthcare has occurred behind the scenes. “Miguel led a cultural revolution, gradually gathering the support of other physicians and hospital staff,” said Chief of Oncology Michael Schleider, MD, who has worked with Dr. Sanchez for more than 30 years. “We were able to build a model of care that put the patient first and significantly streamlined the diagnosis and treatment process. We learned and grew together.”
The advantages of fine needle aspiration over open surgical biopsy became apparent, and other breast care centers followed suit. “Miguel ‘resuscitated’ the use of fine needle aspiration, which had largely fallen out of use,” said Dr. Schleider.
Dr. Sanchez’s devotion to his patients is an inspiration to many. “Miguel understands what is right for the patient, and he’ll do it,” said Dr. Schleider. “He is a highly ethical person with a good perspective, a super human being with a strong sense of humanity, a physician for whom medicine is a profession and not a job. He lives the tradition of a physician as the patient’s friend. He’ll even personally go to bat with an insurance company for a patient.”
General surgeon and breast surgeon Barry Sussman, MD, has witnessed Dr. Sanchez’s dedication first-hand on many occasions. “Miguel has been extremely generous in giving of his time and talents to the hospital, and highly instrumental in its growth and expansion,” said Dr. Sussman. “He is a tireless worker and is exceptionally loyal to Englewood Hospital.”
During Dr. Sanchez’s 35 years of service at Englewood Hospital, he has held numerous important positions, including chief of pathology, president of the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center Medical Staff, and chairman of the Tumor Board. Dr. Sanchez also heads the weekly Breast Management Conference, which has met continuously since its inception 20 years ago. At the conference, physicians and staff members from various areas of specialty review every breast cancer case, discuss treatment options and share concerns. “The majority of people come every week,” said Dr. Sussman. “That alone gives you an idea of the importance of the conference.”
Ultimately, it is Dr. Sanchez’s dedication to patients like Jill Fader that speaks best to his work. “Miguel Sanchez is a superior clinician, a visionary leader, and a dedicated physician known for his empathy and, quite notably, his willingness to share with his patients as much time as they require,” said Dr. Sussman. “That’s a wonderful thing to be able to say about a physician.”
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More on Miguel A. Sanchez, MD…
Miguel A. Sanchez, MD, medical director of The Leslie Simon Breast Care and Cytodiagnosis Center at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, is an internationally acclaimed leader and pioneer in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. Widely known for his dedication and caring nature, he is also a highly respected researcher, lecturer and world-renowned expert in breast care.
Dr. Sanchez was born in Madrid, Spain, and received his medical degree from the University of Madrid. After medical school, he trained at various well-respected institutions in Europe and the United States. He has been an attending physician at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center since 1975, chief of pathology since 1991, and a member of the Board of Trustees since 1985.
Under his leadership, the Medical Center has earned a reputation for outstanding breast care and leading cytopathology services. The Leslie Simon Breast Care Center, which was founded in 1990 under the doctor’s leadership, has become an international model for comprehensive breast care centers. Approximately 6,500 biopsies are performed by Englewood’s pathologists every year, 60 percent of the breast and 40 percent of other organs, especially the thyroid.
In his spare time Dr. Sanchez is a well-respected Egyptologist who speaks internationally on ancient Egyptian medicine, a learned opera fan who lectures on opera analysis and a committed amateur golfer. He lives in Bergen County, NJ, and is the proud father of two adult sons, Julian and Thomas.
Medal of The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, 1987
Honorary Member of the Society of Radiologists of Central America and Panama, 1988
Honorary Member of the Central American Society of Pathology, 1988
Award for Contributions on Breast Cancer Care. Zonta International, October 10, 1995
American Cancer Society Award: Physicians in the Forefront, March 1997
Herbert Dardik Award in Research and Education, 2004
Susan G. Komen Foundation Honoree, Annual Pink Tie Ball, 2004
Nicaraguan Medal of Medical Merit, 2004
The Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology YC Oertel Award, Interventional Pathologist of the Year. For Outstanding Contributions in the Practice and Teaching of FNA, February 2005
International Academy of Pathology
American Society of Cytopathology
Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology
Fellow of the College of American Pathologists
Society for Health and Human Values
Physicians for Social Responsibility (IPPNW - Nobel Peace Prize 1985)
Memorial Hospital Pathology Alumni Association
Medical Advisory Board, The Susan G. Komen Foundation
International Society of Breast Pathologists
ARCE (American Research Center on Egypt)
IAE (International Association of Egyptologists)