A cell phone rings. The man wearing mahogany cowboy boots apologizes profusely but he has to take a call. It's understandable. As Northwell Health's vice chair of surgery and director of solid organ transplantation, one of the certainties of Lewis Teperman's life is this: when a vital organ becomes available, his phone is going to ring.
"This call is important," he says, winking. And it is.
Dr. Teperman is in the middle of procuring something essential. It is one day before Passover and the liver transplant surgeon's family is hosting the Seder. "Could you imagine if there wasn't horseradish?" he says. "The previous person I spoke to said they didn't have any horseradish. At Passover? Nonsense."
He hangs up and smiles. It's the natural byproduct of a successful outcome. The good news for patients is that Dr. Teperman smiles a lot. Back in 2016, he joined Northwell to launch a new liver and transplant program after founding NYU's Organ Transplant Center in Manhattan. He served there for 27 years and now, the born and bred New Yorker is helping make Northwell a destination for transplant services from liver and heart to kidney, bone marrow, islet and more.
But cowboy boots? In New York?
"Been wearing them since my high school days in the Bronx," Dr. Teperman says. "I used to ride horses in Van Cortlandt Park." Manhasset may not be the Wild West but when it comes to transplant services, Long Island does remain largely unchartered territory. So maybe a cowboy mentality and those boots will come in handy.
"I was recruited to make Northwell the best transplant program in the Northeast and there is certainly an opportunity to do that and improve access for Long Islanders," Dr. Teperman said. He notes that the number of Northwell's adult kidney transplants have nearly doubled in one year, going from 34 to 65.
"There are small kidney transplant programs on the Island but we wanted to change that. You're looking at more than seven million people who really didn't have a major transplant program and had to go into the city for care. On Long Island, heart transplantation didn't exist, liver doesn't yet exist, and pediatric transplantation of any kind didn't exist. None of it really existed until we started it. But they will all exist under Northwell. It's a very forward-thinking approach."