Primary care physician caring for Central Square patients for seven years

THANKS to our 2006 sponsors:

Oswego County Business



2006 Healthcare Hero
Dr. Lawrence Koss

A 50-year-old patient in an underserved community has his first check-up in over a decade. His primary care physician diagnoses a minor health problem that, if left unchecked, could develop into something more serious.

"It's not uncommon to see people who haven't seen a physician in over 20 years," explains Lawrence Koss, an M.D. and primary care physician at Lifetime Health Center in Central Square. "To be able to save lives by detecting heart disease or early cancers makes a huge difference for these people. It's very rewarding."

A youthful man with a disarming demeanor, Koss fell in love with human anatomy in high school, when his biology class exposed him to the body's inner workings. It was then that he knew his future profession lay within the medical field. But primary care wasn't Koss' specialty of choice when he first attended medical school. He had originally intended to pursue pediatrics. "But then I realized that I liked the full spectrum of treatment, adults and children," explains Koss. Koss describes his ability to balance his family life with his medical practice to be among his most significant accomplishments. When he's not putting in hours at Lifetime, he's at home with his wife Andrea and three children: Beau, Lauren and Adam.

In a sense, he views all his responsibilities as family ones. "Every patient is treated like a family member," says Koss. "Enjoying both of my families allows me to look forward to waking up and going to work as much as I enjoy going home in the evening." In the seven years since he's been practicing at his current location, Koss' "second family" has grown from practically non-existent to the point where Lifetime has had to hire additional providers to help manage his workload.

Says patient Cherie Sardella of Koss: "He takes time with his patients and is kind and helpful. He's always thorough and friendly. He's a great doctor."

Koss has been recognized by his peers for outstanding work in his field. Colleague and Department Chairman Kaushal B. Nanavati, M.D. described him in an application for the 2004 AAFP Foundation Pfizer Teacher Development Awards as being among "the top 5 percent of physicians I have ever known." Nanavati also described Koss as someone he looks to as a valued advisor to both his colleagues and medical students, for whom he provides training. "Dr. Koss has repeatedly been able to act on promises made so that his peers and patients know he is sincere when reaching out to lend a helping hand," says Nanavati. Nanavati rated Koss a nine out of 10 in clinical competence and a 10 out of 10 in both teaching skills and personal/professional development. Koss has also been honored with the National Award for Excellence as Teaching Physician by the American Academy of Family Practice Foundation.

One of Koss' favorite work-related tasks is educating his patients about a disease many are not familiar with: colon cancer. "Most of the time people are not going to come to your office and ask for a colonoscopy or colon cancer screening," says Koss. "But it's one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Being able to potentially save their lives by having them go for the study is very rewarding.

Closing the gap in knowledge between patient and physician is one of the doctor's passions. To that end, Koss has chaired patient education committees as well as served as a consultant for Syracuse's Channel 9. He also gives "Health Talks" as part of Lifetime Health Medical Group's educational series. The free sessions are held the third Tuesday of every month. Koss addresses attendees about health topics like high cholesterol, memory loss and migraines in layman's terms. Attendees can then ask Koss any health-related question they have in mind.

But education goes both ways. Koss says one of the most important skills a primary care physician can learn is how to listen. "I think every patient has an important story to tell, a lot to teach each physician," he says. "What they have to say is important in understanding how to treat them." Koss says there's no cookie cutter approach to dealing with patients and that being a good physician means adapting to the needs of the individual.

Koss' accomplishments haven't been limited to seeing patients. He's also undertaken medical research. Following research that showed hand washing significantly reduced the risk of infection prior to surgeries, Koss conducted original research in 1997 to determine whether or not preventive hand washing would reduce absenteeism in children. His study found children missed fewer days of school when they washed their hands at scheduled intervals throughout the day.