Joseph S. Cervia, MD, MBA, FACP, FAAP, FIDSA, AAHIVS
Hofstra North Shore – LIJ Health System, Manhasset, New York
HealthCare Partners IPA & MSO, Long Island, New York
After graduating as valedictorian of his class at New York Medical College in 1984, and following a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics in 1988, Dr. Cervia completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at the New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center in 1990. Cervia joined the faculty of the State University of New York, Stony Brook School of Medicine as Assistant Professor and served as the Founding Director of the Pediatric-Maternal HIV Service at Nassau County Medical Center from 1990 to 1992. He then returned to Cornell as Director of the Program for Children with AIDS at the New York Hospital and was the Principal Investigator of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Unit from 1992 to 1999, earning the rank of Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine in 1996. In 1999, Cervia launched and assumed leadership of the Comprehensive HIV Care and Research Center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the Long Island Campus of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he achieved the rank of Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics in 2004.
Cervia also joined Pall Corporation, an international leader in filtration, separation, and purification technologies as Global Medical Director and Senior Vice President in 2004, earning an MBA in Health Care Management with Graduate Honors in 2007, championing organizational focus upon preventing health care-associated infections, and promoting broader access to high-quality, cost-effective health care. This focus brought Cervia to HealthCare Partners, IPA & MSO, where he currently serves as Regional Medical Director.
Today, in addition to serving as Regional Medical Director for HealthCare Partners IPA & MSO, Cervia is a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Hofstra North Shore – LIJ School of Medicine where he cares for patients at the Center for AIDS Research and Treatment in Manhasset, New York. Since his days as a medical student in the early 1980s, Cervia has been caring for adults and children with HIV. Now, as a board-certified internist, pediatrician, adult and pediatric infectious disease specialist, and an HIV Specialist™, Cervia reflects; “I have dedicated much of my career to establishing and leading multi-disciplinary teams in battling HIV andother infectious diseases in both children and adults, and to education and research in prevention, therapeutics, complicating illnesses, and quality of life issues. In recent years, I have been privileged to provide continuity of care for a number of long-established patients, a growing number of whom are over the age of 50.”
When asked why he pursued specializing in HIV care, Cervia says, “The vocation to serve people most in need brought me to medicine to begin with. While a young medical student at the dawn of the HIV pandemic, it became apparent to me that the care of those infected with and affected by this virus would likely prove to be the challenge and the opportunity of my professional lifetime.”
Like many of his colleagues, Cervia is heartened by the scientific and clinical advances to which he and his contemporaries have been privileged to contribute. “Collectively, these developments have resulted in vastly improved outcomes for our patients. The heartrending funerals that we once attended have given way to luminous birthdays, graduations, and weddings. Incredibly, we have come so far, so rapidly, racing an epidemic barely recognized three decades ago,” says Cervia. Nevertheless, as observed in society’s early response to HIV, inadequate understanding still contributes to stigma, which in turn, precludes many from seeking timely diagnosis and appropriate care.
Cervia attributes much of the success of his practice to the model of multidisciplinary primary care with integrated HIV subspecialty services offered by teams consisting of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, social work case managers, mental health professionals, nutritionists, chaplains, and other dedicated caregivers. This team approach helps Cervia motivate his patients to adhere to their treatment regimens. Team members have often developed long-standing and intimate bonds with patients and family members. The very strength of these bonds, forged by shared struggle against demons such as poverty and its associated calamities, social stigmatization, substance abuse, and all too often, the concurrent illness and death of multiple family members, has made it possible to compassionately and systematically address the needs of individuals and families battling HIV. Cervia and his team rely on these relationships to partner with their patients in promoting optimal adherence to therapy.
Translating promising basic and clinical and research findings into standards of care requires attention to regular communication among experts, and between those experts and front line providers, patients, and caregivers. For many years, comprehensive HIV care guidelines have been widely available and regularly updated, each version prominentlymarked with a freshness, or ‘last updated’ date. This practice became all the more relevant as the pace of research progress accelerated. Cervia considers himself privileged to have participated in and chaired research and clinical guidelines committees, which have helped bring the best fruits of research to bear up
on the lives of patients.
Looking back, Cervia reflects on what might arguably have been the darkest days of the HIV epidemic. “I shared a vision with my pediatric HIV team of a time in the not too distant future when we would be able to hang a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on the clinic door. It seemed laughable at the time, but we kept smiling, and working to bring reality to that vision. We are not quite there, but I maintain hope that we will see that day.”
Outside of his professional life, Cervia and his wife Denise, a pediatric endocrinologist, and children David, Lisa, and Michael make their home on Long Island, New York. His family shares a passion for their time together, and for contributing to their community. Over the years, Cervia has become more active in volunteering as a lector and religious education instructor for his parish church, and working to assist the chronically ill and their caregivers.
When asked why he is an AAHIVM Member, Cervia says, “The value of team effort extends to clinical care and research infrastructures. The pace of developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS could never have been attained without strong industry, academic, community, and government collaboration. In my view, AAHIVM serves a vital role in establishing, nurturing, and maintaining such collaboration.”
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