Growing in Strength: Expanding Upstate’s Heart Care Program

By: Becca Taurisano

With an influx of new talent, Upstate University Hospital’s heart care program is growing stronger than ever. Bringing experience from some of the nation’s top medical facilities with formal training in specialties like structural interventional cardiology, the program is leveraging the knowledge and talents of the well established heart care team at the region’s only medical university. Upstate has assembled a dynamic group of providers that is expanding the program and offering comprehensive heart health care to Central New York.

Full Range of Services
The heart care program at Upstate University Hospital provides a full range of services—preventative, interventional, surgical, and post-operative. With six cardiology practices in the greater Syracuse area, the heart care team has increased accessibility to care and bolstered their footprint in the community. In addition to Upstate’s downtown Syracuse location, which includes the dedicated Heart and Vascular Center, cardiology consult services are available at Upstate Community Hospital as well.

The heart care team treats all health issues related to the heart including coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation, complex aortic disease including aneurysms, cardiac tumors, and the full spectrum of structural heart disease including closure of small holes in the heart. All the major cardiac surgical services are available, from open surgery to less invasive transcatheter procedures.

The physician team is composed up of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, interventional cardiologists, a structural interventional cardiologist, electrophysiologists, and a cardiac critical care anesthesiologist who is the newest member of the team. They are supported by advanced practice providers (APPs), nurses, operating room staff, perfusionists, cardiac catheterization laboratory staff, anesthesiology staff, imaging staff, and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff.

Preventative education and postoperative treatment are both key components to the heart care program. For congestive heart failure patients, there is an educational support team located in Upstate’s downtown Syracuse location to help patients with lifestyle, dietary information, and support to keep them out of the hospital. This complements  the cardiac rehabilitation program at the Upstate Health Care Center in Syracuse.

Introducing Dr. Marek Polomsky, Cardiac Surgery

Cardiac surgeon Marek Polomsky, MD joined Upstate University Hospital this July as an Assistant Professor of Surgery and the Medical Director for Cardiac Critical Care. He is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and most recently was the Surgical Director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program and the Quality Chair for Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He was attracted to Upstate University Hospital’s status as a teaching hospital, with a long tradition of educating successful medical students and surgical residents and providing top cardiac surgical care, which supports his interest in teaching  and optimizing surgical performance and outcomes.

Cardiac surgeons at Upstate University Hospital benefit from a vast array of institutional resources. This can be found in the operating rooms which are equipped with the latest technology and supported by cardiac anesthesiologists proficient in the specific needs of heart patients such as utilization of transesophageal echocardiograms. “Whatever I need to do procedures, we have it here at Upstate,” said Dr. Polomsky. “The most important resource is our staff. The support from nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, perfusionists, and laboratory technicians, makes this possible. The level of talent here is remarkable.”

Quality is a primary focus for Dr. Polomsky, both intraoperatively and postoperatively. He follows and has implemented protocols for Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS), through which Upstate optimizes postoperative care, such as weaning patients off ventilators and early extubation, minimizing blood transfusions, early mobilization, and focusing on nutrition. For Dr. Polomsky, compassion for his patients is paramount. “I treat each patient as if they were a member of my own family. I make sure they have the appropriate surgery that is based on medical evidence. That is what I am most proud of,” he said. “It is vital for our community to have a strong cardiac care program here, and there is a common goal among all of us for the program to grow.”

Introducing Dr. Michael Fischi, Interventional Cardiology

Michael Fischi, MD, FACC, FSCAI joined Upstate University Hospital in September 2022 as an interventional cardiologist. Using catheters to diagnose and treat heart and vascular conditions, allows patients to avoid open-heart surgery while providing life-saving results. Dr. Fischi has a background in electrical engineering and gravitates toward the tools and technologies utilized in transcatheter procedures. During his cardiology fellowship at Duke, he focused his research on cardiac assist devices, coronary interventional technology, drug-eluting stents and polymer delivery platforms. Dr. Fischi holds U.S. patents for a multi chamber sequentially inflating cardiac assist device, muscle function augmentation, and a novel percutaneous Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). He also did a fellowship in coronary and peripheral vascular intervention at the University of Rochester, is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and is a fellow of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.

The environment at Upstate University Hospital was a major draw for Dr. Fischi, with its focus on a heart care team that works well together and encourages learning to support patient care. “We have a nurturing environment here. People are encouraged to develop new skills and are not afraid to ask questions. Our staff is well-trained and equipped to handle emergent situations,” he said.

One of his focuses is on developing relationships with other area hospitals, primary care physicians, and external cardiology practices. “Referring physicians are looking to work with people who will provide their patients with quality care, inform them of the results of the procedure, and take care of their patients in a timely manner, without having to jump through a lot of hoops,” he said. “We are in the position to offer that to them here at Upstate.”

Team Approach to Patient Care

The cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at Upstate use a team approach, using direct communication and constant collaboration to ensure patients receive the best possible care. Larry Charlamb, MD, Interim Chief of Cardiology said, “The cardiac surgeons are our closest allies in treating patients. It is a natural allegiance for all of us to work together to provide care.” The cardiology and cardiac surgery teams confer regularly to discuss patient cases and develop the best treatment plan moving forward.

Cardiac surgeon Marek Polomsky, MD, said, “Every patient is discussed in a team setting and is cared for in a collaborative manner.” In addition, a joint cardiology, cardiac surgery, and vascular surgery conference meets once a month, where the heart care team shares perspectives on the diagnostic evaluation process, treatment, and outcomes of complex cardiovascular and aortic cases. There are echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG), and cardiac catheter laboratory conferences conducted regularly as well.

Introducing Dr. Srikanth Yandrapalli, Structural Interventional Cardiology

Srikanth Yandrapalli, MD, FACC joined Upstate University Hospital this July as a Structural Interventional Cardiologist. Following his role as Chief Resident of Internal Medicine at New York Medical College at Westchester Medical Center, Dr. Yandrapalli completed three fellowships in cardiovascular diseases: interventional and structural cardiology at New York Medical College; Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School; and Brown University Hospitals. He also worked as an interventional cardiologist at Brown University hospitals. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular diseases, and Interventional Cardiology.

Dr. Yandrapalli is one of the few formally trained structural interventional cardiologists in Central New York. Structural interventional cardiology is a specialized field that manages structural abnormalities or defects within the heart including the valves, the muscle, and the septum or chambers. It bridges the gap between surgery and medicine, allowing patients to receive treatment in a less invasive way.

For structural cardiology procedures, planning is essential and the first step is imaging. Utilizing CT Scan imaging and advanced perioperative transesophageal echocardiography with 3D technologies, the staff can create 3D models of the patient’s anatomy in order to determine the feasibility and approach to managing a structural heart condition. “This ensures a really good roadmap. I have to know what to expect so that we can provide safe and effective treatment to our patients,” Dr. Yandrapalli said.

Through his training, Dr. Yandrapalli has cultivated knowledge of the latest tools and technology. “I have learned not just how to do these procedures, but also how to navigate complications and risks that may arise, so we can more safely treat patients,” he said. Upstate University Hospital leadership is committed to providing advanced services and is focused on improving the access to the minimally invasive procedures Dr. Yandrapalli performs, including providing the latest technology available. “Technology plays a really important role in what I do. We want to offer the least invasive treatment available to our patients and we are committed to doing that at Upstate,” he said.

“The cardiac surgeons are our closest allies in treating patients. It is a natural allegiance for all of us to work together to provide care.”

Looking Ahead to the Future With a strong  foundation and the support of senior leadership, the heart program can continue to add new offerings to its service line. Upstate Medical University Department of Medicine Chair, Cynthia Taub, MD and Upstate University Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Amy Tucker, MD are both cardiologists with extensive background in clinical practice and program development. With leadership laser-focused on the prioritization of heart care, Upstate is positioned to see tremendous growth in the coming years by serving the needs of the community. “We are building on the strengths of the academic medical setting where we can offer an even greater range of cardiac services, such as the expertise needed for patients in our Cancer  Center whose treatment may affect the heart, or patients in our obstetrics/maternal fetal medicine program who have cardiac conditions during pregnancy. There is room to develop more preventative care and address care disparities. We have the system and expertise to offer that,” said Dr. Taub.

By developing relationships with regional hospitals, primary care physicians, and cardiology groups, Upstate looks to further expand its access. In the last year, catheter laboratory volume has increased by 50% and referrals have risen as well. Two of the cardiac catheter laboratories are being updated, featuring the most up-to-date technology available for the interventional cardiologists to perform transcatheter procedures. The heart care program also plans to recruit additional staff in several areas including electrophysiology, advanced cardiac imaging, advanced heart failure cardiology to expand access to services.

Private Equity in Health Care and the Impact on Non Profit Care


I have worked my entire career in government or nonprofits. It has led me to see the value of models that protect access to care for those who are underserved. The non profit model uses profits to re-invest in the provision of care in the community. Income is derived from profitable areas of care . Where the cost of care is not covered by insurance or there is no insurance, donors, grants and government subsidies often fill the gap.

For many years in New York State, regulations prevented private equity firms and for profit models to provide health care in some areas.

That’s changing.

Private equity seeks to make a profit. When a private equity firm buys a non profit provider or starts a new health care business, it’s expected to produce income for investors. It’s a common business model in this country.

At the same time we need to provide care to our communities that may not be profitable.

In Plunder, by Brendan Ballou, he provides a good analysis of the growing concerns about the impact of private equity in our society. The book looks at examples of private equity acquisitions in long-term care that drain income to other related corporations, leaving the non profit organization without resources to provide adequate care.

Another important study from the Columbia School of Public Health published this past July, was the first thorough review of global private equity ownership in medical settings. It stated, “Private equity investment was most closely associated with increases in costs for payers and patients in some cases as high as 32%. Private equity ownership was also associated with mixed to harmful effects on healthcare quality, while the impact on health outcomes and operations was inconclusive.”

So is one model preferable over the other, can they co exist or collaborate? Can the efficiencies from a private equity operation help not for profits find ways to reduce overhead for sustainability? Venture Philanthropy seeks to apply the principles of venture capital to achieve charitable objectives. There are several experiments going on where private capital invests in philanthropic goals such as Bain Capital’s , New Profit. Jeffrey Walker in the Stanford Innovation Review, March 2019 says private equity is showing that in order for nonprofits to succeed in this new financial environment they need to demonstrate better measurement of results, and management expertise. Investors are hands on advisors to a business and he suggests that donor expertise is often prevented from transferring their knowledge to the non profit setting.

This is a complicated arena , and one that could change the face of years of community care. Covid has placed great financial pressure on many large providers, and private equity acquisitions are adding to that financial pressure.

We need to continue to watch the impact in our communities of mergers, acquisitions and closures in health care and advocate on behalf of access and delivery of care.


Plunder, Brendan Ballou, 2023, Public Affairs

Columbia School of Public Health

The Emerging Capital Markets for Non Profits, Kaplan and Grossmn,

Stanford Social Innovation Review,

Kathryn Ruscitto, Advisor, can be reached at or at

The Newest Member of the Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists Neck & Back TeamL Jessica Albanese, MD

As the newest member of the Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists Neck & Back Team, Jessica Albanese MD brings nearly seven years of experience to the care of spinal conditions and injuries. Dr. Albanese received her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and earned her medical degree from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. She completed her residency at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Prior to joining SOS in August, Dr. Albanese completed a fellowship in adult spine surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Q What orthopedic specialty do you practice?
Dr. Albanese: I diagnose and care for spinal conditions and injuries from age 12 and up. I treat a variety of spine disorders: degenerative conditions, such as scoliosis, stenosis, degenerative disk disease, deformity. Spinal infection and spinal tumors. Traumatic injuries— fractures and dislocations.

Q Why did you choose the spine?
Dr. Albanese: I actually started orthopedics wanting to treat trauma-fixing broken bones, fractures, acute injuries. But once I learned more about the orthopedic specialties, I discovered I like the spine. I thought the pathology of spinal injuries and conditions was really interesting. There are a lot of complex issues with the spine and a lot of ways to solve a problem. Then there is the surgery itself—I enjoy operating around the spinal cord and the nerves. There is a lot of innovation going on right now, so there are a lot of solutions we can offer patients.

Q Orthopedics in general is a very male-dominated field. In 2022, Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report found that the number of female orthopedic surgeons was at 9 percent. How do you feel about that?
Dr. Albanese: That’s actually starting to change. It’s important for patients to see more diversity, to have more options when seeking care. It’s exciting to be part of that change, growing the number of women in the field.

I’d like to help introduce The Perry Initiative ( locally. They offer a Medical Student Outreach Program that provides a hands-on introduction to orthopedic surgery for women in medical school. Participants are connected with local mentors and peers while completing two surgical simulations and participating in discussions. I hope to be a role model and show girls and young women that orthopedics is a viable option for them. Exposure is the largest limiting factor: If you don’t know the opportunity is there, you don’t know to pursue it.

Dr. Albanese is accepting new patients. Appointments can be made by calling 315 251-3232 or visiting to request an appointment.

Returning to CNY: As the Newest Surgeon on the Joint Replacement Team at SOS: David A. Quinzi, MD

David A. Quinzi, MD is returning toCentral New York as the newest surgeon on the Joint Replacement Team at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists. Dr. Quinzi received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and earned his medical degree at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. He completed his residency at the University of Rochester Medical Center and in July completed a one-year fellowship in adult reconstruction surgery at the Rothman Institute in New Jersey.

Q What type of orthopedic specialty do you practice?
Dr. Quinzi: I am a joint replacement surgeon for the hip and knee, performing joint replacement for hip and knee arthritis whether for general wear and tear or other reasons such as post traumatic arthritis. I also perform revision hip and knee arthroplasty for dysfunction or wear of previously replaced joints. I think that joint replacement as a sub-specialty has an innate ability to get people active again and doing what they like to do. Arthritis is a big quality of life killer, and giving people new joints is a great way to get people active and back to enjoying life and the things they like to do.

Overall, knee arthritis is more common than arthritis in the hip, although both are prevalent. The bulk of joint replacement surgeries are performed for arthritis whether it’s standard wear and tear (think tires wearing out), or arthritis related to previous trauma. Avascular necrosis can cause joint collapse and pain as well.

Q How has robotic technology changed the way you perform surgeries?
Dr. Quinzi: Robotics is the more modern way to perform knee replacements. It was available toward the mid-portion of my residency, and in fellowship it was a large portion of my training. Fifty percent of the knee replacements I performed used robotic technology. I think it adds benefit in patients that have arthritis with significant deformities. It further helps with planning how a surgeon will perform the surgery and allows you to more accurately rotate the components for a more “patient” specific technique.

Q Are there other ways joint replacement surgery has changed?
Dr. Quinzi: There are multiple approaches to hip replacement— posterior, anterior and lateral—and there has been a shift towards the anterior approach overall which is the approach I utilize. With the direct anterior approach you use a pathway between muscle planes so you don’t cut muscles which I think helps with early recovery. It’s also easy to obtain x rays intraoperatively, which helps with positioning and sizing the components as well as leg length restoration.

Q Do you have a philosophy about patient care you’d like to share?
Dr. Quinzi: Medicine today can be very mechanical and robotic. I try to keep it
very conversational with my patients. I like to talk about their day-to-day activities and find commonalities with them. I treat their conditions with those activities in mind. I try to stay away from typing notes while I’m with the patient and make it more informal.

Q You are from Upstate New York. Where did you grow up and why did you decide to return?

Dr. Quinzi: I from Rochester and my wife is from Fayetteville. We attended medical school for four years here at Upstate Medical University. She’s an anesthesiologist and we were lucky enough to couples-match together at the University of Rochester Medical Center. We love it here, so we decided to come back, settle down and raise our family. We just had a baby in August and we have another daughter who is 2 1/2. My wife is taking a little time off and will start back to work in November as an anesthesiologist in town.

Dr. Quinzi is accepting new patients. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 315 251-3100, extension 9814 or by visiting to request an appointment.

Grieving Families Act: Necessary Adjustment to an Antiquated Statute or Disastrous for New York Health Care?

Round two of the Grieving Families Act has slight changes but is substantially the same one vetoed by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year, citing the need to evaluate the “impact of these massive changes to the economy, small businesses, individuals, the state’s complex healthcare system.”

The sponsors wrote in their justification on, “New York’s wrongful death statute is over 175 years old, and it is unfortunately out of step with nearly every other state because New York’s laws prohibit grief-stricken families from recovering damages for their emotional suffering from the death of their loved one.”

The current law, which awards compensation for pecuniary loss only, impacts most harshly on children, seniors, women and people of color – people who often have no income, significantly less income or who have been traditionally undervalued in our society.

How does the act change the current wrongful death statute? The act changes who can file suit from relatives in line for direct inheritance to include those with a close relationship to the decedent. Clearly, it greatly expands those given the right to sue with little clarification on the definition of “close relationship.” Also, lawsuits previously included a single request for compensation tied to economic damages; now grief, loss of consortium and sympathy may be included.

While proponents note that the emotional component is part of most other states’ wrongful death statutes, it neglects the fact that, unlike the Grieving Families Act, most states have a cap on this type of compensation. With no cap, quantifying grief will lead to astronomical payouts. Adding to the speed at which these payouts will come to fruition, the changes will be applied to any cause of action that accrues after July 1, 2018.

Although one can see the merits of the justification noted above, it ignores the realities of its impact on the state. The state leading in claims and payout amounts will be a windfall for plaintiffs’ attorneys. Malpractice carriers are already struggling with upticks in claim frequency and the dramatic rise in award amounts. The act will add to the pressures already in play. To maintain solvency, carriers and the Insurance Department will keep a close eye on
these trends, which might indicate the
need for increased rates.

As we all know, the healthcare sector in some ways is still recovering economically. The margins that most hospitals and small practices operate under are often slim. Any increase will have a significant impact on the ability of dedicated healthcare workers to provide quality care. The sad truth is that underserved or undervalued individuals – the ones the act intends to help – will be the ones to suffer disproportionately from the misguided attempts to correct the current statute.

Most involved feel the act will be approved by Gov. Hochul in some form; it is such a high-profile legislation that garners a great deal of sympathy, and it is incumbent upon everyone to reach out to ensure any change is done in a manner that will not harm those it is meant to help. I leave you with this final thought from New York State Medical Society President Paul A. Pipia, M.D.

“We urge Gov. Hochul to veto this legislation again and call for the creation of a workgroup that can develop balanced legislation that will expand the rights of grieving families without devastating our healthcare system in the process.”

I encourage you to reach out to Gov. Hochul (@govkathyhochul) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more information, please contact Jenn Negley, Vice President, Risk Strategies Company at 267 251-2233 or JNegley@

Syracuse Community Health: Continued Expansion Under New Leadership

Over the past five-and-a-half years, Syracuse Community Health has undergone significant change and laid the groundwork for exciting transformations still to come. Led by Mark Hall, who joined Syracuse Community Health as interim President and CEO in 2018 and came on full-time in 2019, the health care organization has been serving the Syracuse community since the 1960s. With Hall at the helm over the past several years, Syracuse Community Health has begun efforts to expand care into surrounding areas in Onondaga County, is nearing the completion of a brand-new, state-of-the-art building and is planning a family medicine residency program, all while maintaining the central mission of serving patients and those who have difficulty accessing quality health care.

This year will mark the beginning of another new chapter for Syracuse Community Health when Keith Cuttler takes over as President and CEO on November 1. Cuttler joined Syracuse Community Health in 2021 as Chief Operating Officer and also took over the role of Chief Business Development Officer in 2022. His over twenty years of experience working in health care has included leadership roles at several local hospitals, including serving as the President and CEO of East Hill Medical Center in Auburn, NY.

As Hall prepares to hand over the baton to Cuttler, he outlined the achievements from his tenure at Syracuse Community Health (SCH) that have laid the groundwork for continued growth and success for the organization under Cuttler’s leadership, to expand its footprint throughout Onondaga County.

“One success we’ve experienced over the past several years has been the financial turnaround. A little over five years ago, we were in a dire financial position, but now we’re very much on solid footing. Secondly, we’re excited to see the fruition of our plans to construct a new building at 930 South Salina Street, which will be opening to the public over the next month. Thirdly, we have pulled together a strong management and senior executive team, which includes Keith, who we were blessed to have join us almost two years ago. SCH now has a great foundation on which to grow under Keith’s leadership,” said Hall.

Evolving Care Through New Construction and a Residency Program

As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Syracuse Community Health centers around a mission to provide individuals with access to quality health care services. While never losing sight of this foundational purpose, Cuttler is looking forward to continuing the growth of the organization that was initially spearheaded by Hall. “I’m excited to continue efforts toward providing access to quality care to a much larger population than has traditionally been the case. There’s strong recognition that there are folks all over Onondaga County and in Central New York that are suffering from poverty. We don’t just have poverty located within three small zip codes and everyone outside those zip codes is in the middle or upper class. We have poverty everywhere and people who need access to health care everywhere,” Cuttler explained. 

The brand-new, state-of-the-art medical facility opening soon at 930 South Salina Street is the first major component of Syracuse Community Health’s expansion into offering care to a wider population in need of health services. Looking further down the road, the planned Family Medicine Residency Program that will begin in 2024 will transform Syracuse Community Health into a teaching health center where primary care physicians will receive specialized experience from learning at a Federally Qualified Health Center. For Cuttler, these developments at Syracuse Community Health will launch the health center into a new stage in its evolution.

“The opening of the new building at 930 South Salina Street is effectively turning a page and starting a new chapter for Syracuse Community Health,” Cuttler said. “It is there that we show the greater community that Syracuse Community Health is an ambulatory care provider that’s multi-disciplinary and provides extraordinary health care in an exceptional environment with stateof- the art equipment. Beyond that, we’re very excited about the new residency program and about the transformation of the organization into a teaching health center. I believe we’ll be only the third teaching FQHC in the State, and we’ll be the primary trainers of family medicine physicians going forward. Both the new building and the upcoming residency program give us that leg up and that opportunity to really open up our services to a much broader audience.” 

A Continuum of Success into the Future 

Cuttler emphasized that although these changes are publicly taking place alongside a shift in leadership at Syracuse Community Health, the outcomes are by no means resulting from the transition of Hall to himself as President and CEO. 

“It’s sort of like growing a plant: you plant a seed and the roots grow first, but it’s only later that you see the flower come up. What the public will begin to see as we transition leadership has actually been growing and taking place over the last five plus years, and particularly with the new building. Those plans languished on a shelf for years and years and Mark was the one that gave that project life. We wouldn’t be opening a new building next month if he hadn’t made executing on those plans a priority,” Cuttler stated. 

As for Hall, he isn’t retiring, but rather shifting his focus back to the business he created 18 years ago, M.S. Hall + Associates. Even though he’s resigning from his official role at SCH, his connection with Syracuse Community Health is one that won’t be completely ending anytime soon. 

“My connection to the health center will always be strong, being that this is where I received care when I was a child when my parents would bring me here,” said Hall. “I’ll always be connected, whether directly or indirectly, formally or informally as we move into the future.”

Drakos Clinical Dynamics

Enhances Healthcare Accessibility with Expanded Services in Central New York

In a healthcare landscape teeming with both challenges and opportunities, Drakos Dynamics has emerged as a pivotal player in Central New York, with successful healthcare services like a dedicated pediatric urgent care in Liverpool (Clay Medical Center). Drakos Pediatric Urgent Care opened in May as a unique option to help address the shortage of accessible pediatric healthcare in Central New York. 

The company is now furthering its commitment to the region with ambitious plans that are not only expansive but also strategically focused. The company will be opening Drakos Urgent Care in Cicero with an expanded portfolio that will provide comprehensive care for the entire community, including adults, as part of Drakos’ mission to continue addressing gaps in healthcare, one of those most critical being increasing access to high quality care. These services include urgent care services, a full vaccination program, X-rays, ADHD screenings, weight loss and metabolic health management, a comprehensive lab onsite, full respiratory panels, sexual health, and more.

“Since opening Drakos Pediatric Urgent Care in May, we’ve provided care for more than 1,000 patients,” says Drakos Founder and CEO Heather Drake Bianchi. “With the urgent care in Cicero, it’s not just about expanding our services, it’s about access. It’s about ensuring that we continue to fill crucial gaps in the healthcare system here in Central New York. This is a data-driven decision. We’ve reviewed the epidemiological trends and identified a need. It’s proactive healthcare delivery, aligned with regional demands, to help address current and future shortages.” 

As many local urgent cares are closing temporarily or shutting permanently, Drake Bianchi is passionate about the company’s responsibility to serve the community, especially as experts already see the start of another challenging respiratory season.

Drakos Pediatric Urgent Care observed an early uptick in both COVID-19 and strep infections, starting as early as the end of August – much earlier than normal. Local teachers shared that schools were grappling with significant numbers of students falling ill with COVID-19, strep throat, or influenza, even before October had arrived. This pattern immediately raised concerns about another potentially challenging respiratory season, impacting both kids and parents alike.

“We want to be a resource to truly anyone in our community in need of outstanding, convenient care, and to other healthcare facilities by helping ease the stress in emergency rooms and across the healthcare system at large,” says Drake Bianchi. “We’re here for the long haul to serve this community.”

Drakos has other major plans, too. The company’s ethos has always been to provide healthcare without walls— innovating to overcome barriers and bring quality healthcare to people when and where they need it. The company began in 2020 with its subsidiary, CineMedics, which focused on providing medical testing and services on medical sets.

Now Drakos is adapting what it learned with CineMedics and designing mobile care to reach underprivileged and remote areas, along with anywhere that suffers from access issues. According to the Urgent Care Association, 89 percent of the U.S. population can drive to an urgent care in 20 minutes or less, but only 15 percent of urgent cares are in urban areas and only 9 percent are in rural areas – a gap that contributes to healthcare
access challenges.

“Our origin story is rooted in mobile care. Mobile clinics are redefining healthcare accessibility,” says Drake Bianchi. “That matters in a community that has one of the highest rates of segregated poverty in the country and underserved immigrant communities and is surrounded by rural areas where regional hospitals have closed at alarming rates. The entire Drakos team is incredibly motivated to use our skills to serve people in our community who struggle to access healthcare.”

Despite being one of the most technologically advanced and affluent nations globally, the United States falls short in terms of healthcare access both locally and nationally. That’s why Drakos is also committed to using mobile healthcare, as well as the physical locations in Cicero and Liverpool, to address these healthcare disparities.

Data from the New York State Department of Health 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Health Indicators by County and Region reveal that 1 in 10 Central New Yorkers don’t have a regular health care provider, 1 in 7 struggles with mental health more than 14 days per month, and 1 in 10 report overall poor physical health. Additionally, of those who do have a primary care provider, nearly 25 percent don’t see their doctor for a checkup each year.

“If we really want to improve our fellow citizens and neighbors, everyone needs regular care for their physical and mental health,” says Drake Bianchi. “We understand that mobility issues, geographic hurdles, and other challenges can hinder timely and appropriate access to healthcare services for everyone. One of our lessons from working in Hollywood is that a lack of time can be a major healthcare access issue for everyone. Although their access to wealth and specialized care obviously differs greatly, one thing a parent working two jobs struggling to make a living and a movie star working on set for 16 hours per day often have in common is the feeling that they just don’t have time to see a doctor. We look at all the factors impacting healthcare access and think, ‘where can our skills help?’”

As Drakos works toward its goal of becoming a long lasting part of the region’s healthcare infrastructure, the team is working with local nonprofits and businesses to create new alliances that will increase healthcare for all.

“All of our plans focus on innovative solutions that incorporate a network of physical brick and mortar locations, mobile, and virtual care. We aim to set a precedent for agile, effective healthcare delivery,” states Drake Bianchi. “At our core, the Drakos team is passionate about bringing together data, science, and action to drive decisions and create a more accessible, convenient healthcare network in Central New York, so everyone can receive high quality healthcare when they need it.”

For healthcare leaders seeking to understand the future contours of healthcare in Central New York, Drakos serves as a case study in thoughtful expansion and effective communication. By strategically widening their services and using innovative technologies and approaches, they are not just serving the community —they are actively helping to shape it. Their data driven, communityfocused approach promises to make them a lasting fixture in Central New York’s healthcare. 

For more information, please see www.