Meet the Doctor: Catherine Anastasopoulou, MD, PhD
Catherine Anastasopoulou, MD, PhD, is The Steven, Daniel and Douglas Altman Chair of Endocrinology at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. She is certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Anastasopoulou is a Fellow of the American College of Endocrinology.
We recently spoke with Dr. Anastasopoulou about her career, her interests, and endocrinology at Einstein.
Q; Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A: Many people influenced my decision to become a doctor, including my mother, my grandmother, other family members, as well as teachers and professors at school. I can’t pinpoint one specific person because they all inspired me to become a physician in different ways. As a teenager growing up in Greece, I saw my grandmother and aunt, who both had diabetes, give themselves insulin injections each day, and this piqued my interest in how the human body and our hormones work. It also helped solidify my decision to pursue medicine.
As soon as I started medical school, I knew I was interested in endocrinology and my interest never changed, but just strengthened more over the course of my medical training.
I’m grateful to everyone who played a part in guiding my path to becoming a physician.
Q: Can you tell us about your clinical interests?
A: Within the field of endocrinology, my area of interest is osteoporosis and bone diseases. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to gradually thin and weaken, making them susceptible to break.
I’ve been an advocate for bone health my entire career. Osteoporosis can be a debilitating disease because of the risk of fractures, and I believe the condition is still underdiagnosed and undertreated. I think there needs to be more education about bone health in the medical community, including the importance of screening high-risk patients early in order to prevent the condition, or, for those diagnosed, to begin treatment as soon as possible. For instance, every woman should be screened for osteoporosis after menopause, when bone loss occurs due to a decrease in estrogen levels. We should not wait for a woman to have a fracture in order to find out she has osteoporosis.
I’m particularly interested in transplant osteoporosis, which can result from steroids or other anti-rejection medications that people who have undergone a transplant are required to take. Starting later this year, I will be the principal investigator on a research study at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia on the treatment of transplantation osteoporosis. The study will test the efficacy of a medication to prevent bone loss in patients who have undergone a liver transplant.
Q: What is your approach to patient care?
A: My aim is to establish a trusting relationship with patients so they feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns. To help develop a good doctor-patient relationship, I usually spend a good amount of time with each patient to make sure they understand their medical condition, whether it’s a bone health issue, diabetes or a thyroid problem, as well as their treatment options and the rationale for my treatment recommendations. Patients are able to partner with me in their care only if they fully understand their medical condition.
The role of Chair of Endocrinology involves a mix of patient care and administrative responsibilities. As Chair, I have come to understand the benefit of maintaining a good balance between clinical work and administrative work. I wear both hats and serve as a bridge between the two.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a physician?
A: What I find most rewarding is providing patients with the tools they need to manage their condition and stay healthy. The motto “knowledge is power” is so true! What’s especially rewarding is when patients work hard to control or improve their condition and I see how proud they are of their accomplishment. Their progress helps keep them motivated.
Teaching medical students, residents, and fellows is another one of my responsibilities and one which I’ve always found extremely gratifying. We have medical students from Jefferson University Hospital and from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine who rotate through Einstein on several occasions. It’s rewarding to know that we’re helping to shape the next generation of physicians.
It’s especially interesting when we have doctors from different countries from around the world who visit us so they can observe and learn how the American medical system works. For the past couple years, this international group spent a couple weeks in Endocrinology as one of their rotations. It’s a pleasure to host them so we can also learn about how the medical system works in their countries.
Einstein has a long history of dedication to education and teaching future physicians and health care professionals. My goal is to maintain the quality of our teaching and training to the highest standards. On a personal note, I hope some of my enthusiasm and passion for endocrinology rubs off on our students and residents.
Q: What drew you to Einstein Healthcare Network?
A: After earning my medical degree from the University of Athens in Greece, I came here as an international graduate student seeking a residency position. I liked everything I read about the program and also had friends at Einstein Medical Center, so I applied and it was a match. I first completed my residency here, and after that I went to Los Angeles at the University of Southern California Medical Cente,r where I completed a fellowship in endocrinology.
After I completed the fellowship, I returned to Philadelphia and joined Arthur Chernoff, MD, a long-term endocrinologist with Einstein Medical Center who had offered me a position as partner in his practice even before I completed my endocrine training. I was delighted to accept the job offer from him as I had worked with him during my residency and was well aware of his clinical expertise and extraordinary dedication to patients’ care.
When Dr. Chernoff was offered the position of Chair of the Endocrine Department at Einstein in 2002, I was also asked to be a member of his team to help establish a strong Endocrine Department. We both accepted the positions and Dr. Chernoff became my mentor. He retired in 2017 after serving as Einstein’s Chair of Endocrinology for 15 years. I am honored to continue the good work that Dr. Chernoff started and which lives on today.
Q: What is new in endocrinology at Einstein?
A: First of all, I’m pleased that endocrinology is offered at multiple Einstein locations to make it easier for patients living in different neighborhoods to access our services. We currently have active clinics at our main location, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, as well as at Einstein Medical Center Elkins Park, Einstein Center One, Einstein Healthcare Network at Holmesburg, and at Einstein at Germantown.
The biggest new thing during the past few years is the opening of walk-in clinics at two locations for people with endocrine problems. On Thursday mornings, there’s a walk-in clinic focused on diabetes management in the Klein Building on the Einstein Philadelphia campus, and on Tuesday mornings there’s a walk-in clinic on the Einstein Medical Center Elkins Park campus that covers all endocrine diseases.
The clinics have really helped people who need prompt medical attention because they’re able to come in without waiting for an appointment. This way they get an initial evaluation, and from that point on, they’re plugged in for regular follow-up care. The walk-in clinics make it easier for patients to come in and have their immediate needs taken care of while opening the door for ongoing care.
Q: What would you like to share about yourself?
A: I am completely dedicated to my patients’ care. However, my No. 1 priority has always been my family. I have two teenage daughters who I’m proud to say are bright and beautiful. It’s been challenging being a physician with a full patient load while raising children, but I’ve always done my best to juggle things so I could attend their school or extracurricular activities.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: As someone born and raised in Greece, one of my favorite movies is My Life in Ruins, which stars Nia Vardalos (who wrote My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Richard Dreyfuss. It’s a romantic comedy that takes place among the ruins of Greece and it’s about a woman who’s waiting to hear if she got a special job in the United States while working as a tour guide. I’ve seen it a bunch of times and never get tired of it.
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: For me to really enjoy a book, it has to be in Greek language. I love Greek literature – whether it’s old, classical Greek literature or a new piece of modern Greek literature. When I was younger, I read all the Greek classics. I have to say, though, that I mostly enjoy reading paper books so I can turn the pages, rather than reading on a digital device!
Q: Do you have a special destination to visit?
A: Greece is my all-time favorite place to go back and visit – no surprise there, of course, and yes, you can accuse me of being biased! I have family in Greece and I save up my vacation time so every two years I can take a whole month of vacation to Greece to visit family and friends and enjoy the magnificent beaches on the Greek Islands. This helps me recharge my batteries.
At each visit, I find a different spot in Greece to explore and enjoy. There are so many amazing islands in the Aegean Sea and this past summer my family and I spent one week of our vacation on the Greek island of Naxos. I am still dreaming of the clear waters and beautiful sandy beaches. I could go back there any time!
Learn more about Einstein Endocrinology.