By Kim lucey Millen / Photography by STAN GODLEWSKI
It’s something we all do every day but rarely talk about: going to the bathroom. Well, most of us rarely talk about it. As a urologist, and part of the Men’s Health Institute team at Trinity Health Of New England, Abe D’Amato, M.D., talks about it all day long. And he said patients should too, especially if they’re experiencing issues affecting their quality of life, such as frequently having to urinate, incontinence, erectile dysfunction or the extreme pain of kidney stones. “No matter what it is, I guarantee your doctor has heard or seen something that is both more embarrassing and more off the wall,” said Dr. D’Amato. “Don’t be afraid to talk to us about it, because we can’t fix what we don’t know about.”
The fixing is Dr. D’Amato’s favorite part of this job. “There’s always something during the day that stands out to me,” he reflected. “Today, for example, three patients had kidney stones. Eliminating those is instantly rewarding, getting rid of the worst pain anyone can experience with any condition and making it better all at once.”
The variety of cases and conditions Dr. D’Amato sees as a urologist can really span the spectrum. “Some days you can diagnose someone’s condition they’ve been miserable with for years, make it go away and give them their life back. It can also be the day you sit down and have a really hard conversation with a patient because of a new cancer diagnosis. Cancer is a hard diagnosis, but once we’ve found it, we have options. And, in many cases now, there are things we can do to slow it down enough that it’ll become a chronic condition, and not a death sentence.”
Finding His Place
It took a journey of more than 1,800 miles for Dr. D’Amato to get to Connecticut, and quite a big cultural change. Now practicing in urban areas of the Nutmeg State, he grew up in a small town in the mountains of Colorado. “If it goes fast downhill, I’ve done it,” stated Dr. D’Amato. He played hockey, hiked, biked, skied and fly fished. His freshman year of high school the “world’s greatest science teacher” got him interested in biology, so he decided to go to college for science, eventually moving on to medical school at the University of Colorado. Planning to head back to a small town in the mountains, he focused on primary care at first; however, when he did his surgery rotation in his third year, he said he was hooked. “It was immediately obvious I was a surgeon,” he explained. “The only thing is, general surgery felt like there wasn’t a good balance of surgery and medicine, so I started looking for a specialty.”
He found it through the chairman of urology at the nearby Veterans Affairs Hospital. Learning there is where Dr. D’Amato said he really fell in love with the field. “It checked all the boxes,” he said. “A variety of surgeries, different medical care of patients, critical thinking, and establishing and maintaining relationships.”
His residency brought him out to the East Coast, and Stonybrook University on Long Island. Dr. D’Amato’s mother grew up there before she went out to Colorado, but he said it was still a big change and a lifestyle adjustment. The fantastic training at Stonybrook certainly helped. “The hands-on training was incredible,” Dr. D’Amato stated. “By the time I was chief resident, I had done it all. A host of different surgeries and 25 kidney transplants.” But if training is what brought the doctor to the East Coast, love is what’s kept him here. He met his wife, who is from Long Island, rotating through the Intensive Care Unit in his second year of residency. He arrived in Connecticut to start his career and found his way to Trinity Health Of New England just over a year ago, joining a team that’s focused on providing the community with the highest quality and safest care, tailored to an individual’s unique needs.
Men’s Health Institute
Trinity Health Of New England’s Men’s Health Institute is growing with locations in Cheshire, Middlebury, Hartford, Bloomfield and Enfield. They offer men complete care for the issues that are unique to them, according to Dr. D’Amato. Part of that is due to several big breakthroughs in treating prostate cancer, a very common disease estimated to affect 80% of men in some form. But even though many men may have the disease, Dr. D’Amato said only about 3% will actually die from it.
“Back when I started medical school, there wasn’t much we could do,” Dr. D’Amato said. “Now, 20 years later, we’ve found a host of new treatments to slow it down enough that men can live with the cancer for decades, turning it instead into a chronic condition.” Another new tool in the toolbox is genetic testing, using cells in urine to see how predisposed men may be to cancer. “It helps us to define the two categories: who will likely need cancer therapy in the future and who doesn’t need to worry about it. It makes for an exciting time in prostate cancer treatment, because we can make that decision up front, before they have to go through invasive tests and get a diagnosis.”
For those who do need radiation therapy, Trinity Health Of New England’s Saint Francis Hospital is the only hospital in Connecticut to offer CyberKnife technology. CyberKnife is a specialized robotic radiation machine that can deliver precise, targeted, intense radiation to tumors anywhere in the body. It’s a non-invasive treatment that does not require an operation, anesthesia or hospital stay. Since the radiation delivery is so precise, surrounding organs and tissues to the tumor are not affected. But, most importantly, it offers those precise results, fast. Dr. D’Amato said the technology allows the team to do treatments that used to take weeks, in just five days.
Restoring Quality of Life
So many issues in the field of urology are not talked about often since they are often embarrassing to open up about and feel private in nature, but in reality are very common. For instance, Dr. D’Amato said that some people’s entire lives can revolve around how close they are to a toilet.
“I even remember my own mother telling me while I was in my residency that she didn’t like working out anymore because she was leaking,” he said. “We can stop that and give patients their lives back.” He said many lower urinary symptoms can now be solved with new medicines coming onto the market that have nearly zero side effects, low drug interaction and are very inexpensive.
His team is also continuing to expand the Emergency Department Stone Program, which connects a patient experiencing the extreme pain of a kidney stone with a nurse navigator. The nurse navigator helps patients make a next-day appointment with a urologist and, in some cases, skip the emergency room all together. “Our hope is that this program can continue to decrease unnecessary trips to the ER,” explained Dr. D’Amato. “And absolutely shorten the amount of time patients are dealing with kidney stone pain.”
A New Place to Treat Patients
Among the breakthroughs in programs, treatments and technologies, Trinity Health Of New England also just opened up a new Access Center in Bloomfield. “It’s gorgeous,” said Dr. D’Amato, who will be practicing there two days a week. “Lots of thought went into the design, layout and aesthetics of the building; patients have been blown away at how brand new everything is.”
He said opening new centers like this allows for a big footprint and lots of opportunities for patients to visit doctors in person, in a location that is convenient and easy to access. Trinity Health Of New England’s robust telemedicine network makes patient contact even more convenient.
“I can continue to treat patients even if I’m not physically where they are that day,” added Dr. D’Amato. “It allows me to follow up with my patients in both Bloomfield and Waterbury and connect with those in the Hartford and Enfield region. We don’t have to wait until the following week when I’m physically there.”
The Access Center includes urology, cardiology, general surgery, laboratory services, medical infusion, primary care, sports medicine, ultrasound services and vascular care. To book an appointment, call (860) 714-2990 or visit trinityhealthofne.org/bloomfield.
For more information about Trinity Health Of New England’s Men’s Health Institute or to book an appointment, visit trinityhealthofne.org/men.
Kimberly Millen is a freelance journalist with more than two decades of experience in both print and broadcast media. She lives in New England with her husband and son, exploring all that each of the four seasons has to offer.
Stan Godlewski is an editorial, corporate and healthcare photographer based in Connecticut and working primarily between Boston and New York City.