Meet the Doctor: Simona Rossi, MD
Simona Rossi, MD, is Chair of the Division of Hepatology for Einstein Healthcare Network, and Program Director of the Transplant Hepatology Fellowship. She sees patients at Einstein Hepatology offices in the Klein Professional Building on Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia’s campus, as well as two satellite offices in Princeton, N.J., and Dover, Del., to facilitate patient access to Einstein Hepatology and transplant care.
Dr. Rossi is board certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and transplant hepatology. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital – Kimmel Center School of Medicine, and participates in clinical research at Einstein related to fatty liver, viral hepatitis and immune-mediated liver injury.
We spoke recently with Dr. Rossi about her career, her interests, and hepatology and transplant services at Einstein.
Why did you decide to become a doctor?
When I was younger, I gravitated toward the sciences and was most interested in biology and anatomy. This interest was reinforced in college, where I majored in biology premed. I never really considered other options. I just wanted to be a doctor, and I went down the necessary path to get here.
Tell us about your medical education.
I did my medical school training at Georgetown University School of Medicine. This is where I first became interested in gastroenterology. I knew that ultimately I wanted to do a fellowship in gastroenterology, which first required completion of an internal medicine residency. As I applied to medicine residencies, I wanted to return to the New Jersey area because I wanted to be closer to my family.
I matched at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for my internal medicine residency, and then I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in the gastroenterology fellowship program. During my fellowship, I met Dr. Victor Navarro, who is currently the chair of medicine at Einstein. His passion for hepatology was palpable. He motivated me to consider hepatology as a potential sub-specialty of gastroenterology. So I also pursued a hepatology fellowship at Jefferson.
What attracted you to your specialty?
In my opinion, the pathophysiology of liver disease is fascinating. Hepatology also provides the opportunity to interact with many sub-specialists, and I find that I am always learning from my colleagues, as the liver is so intricately connected to other organ systems.
What further attracts me every day is the relationships I am able to develop with my patients who require long-term care. I find it special to be able to be a part of my patient’s journey with liver disease. I am reminded how incredible medicine is every time someone receives a liver transplant, and I am humbled when I see the tragic loss of life to liver failure.
What are your clinical interests within hepatology?
I see patients along the entire spectrum of liver disease, but I tend to gravitate toward patients with alcohol-related liver disease, perhaps because it saddens me that so many of these patients have chosen alcohol as a way to medicate mental illness or unbearable past trauma. I recognize that alcohol-related liver disease is not free of bias and stigma, and as their doctor I hope to teach them and their families that it is a disease like any other.
What drew you to Einstein?
In 2013, Dr. Navarro was recruited to come to Einstein and offered me the chance to move with him, and I’ve been here ever since. I was very excited for this change in my career. I needed to show what I could do if given the opportunity. Einstein provided me the chance to grow and mature in my specialty. Through hard work, a great team of people on the transplant team, and the support of Einstein administration, I am part of a highly successful liver transplant program with great outcomes.
Why should people choose Einstein for their hepatology and transplant care?
People should choose Einstein because of the uniquely personal manner in which our program helps patients through the transplant process. We’re very “hands on” with our patients, and we have a tightly-knit team that shares a similar philosophy. Our goal is to do whatever we can to help a patient get to liver transplant. Everyone on both sides of the journey is committed to this goal. We have incredible financial advisors, transplant nurses, social workers, medical staff, nutritionists, pharmacists, hepatologists and surgeons who work tirelessly for our patients before and after transplant.
Einstein also has the best patient survival in the region. So not only are we able to get patients transplanted and save lives, but our patients have better outcomes than any other local transplant program.
— Simona Rossi, MD
Patients have to meet certain criteria for transplant. Addiction is not the only reason for transplant, but regardless of where our patients come from and what brought them to where they are, we try super hard to make sure that they get over whatever obstacles are in front of them to get them to a transplant. We have a lot of resources around making sure that patients who may struggle a little bit do not get lost here.
And then, Einstein also has the best patient survival in the region. So not only are we able to get patients transplanted and save lives, but our patients have better outcomes than any other local transplant program.
What’s new with the transplant program and hepatology at Einstein?
Liver transplant in patients who have morbid obesity and liver disease is a unique area of liver transplant that we are expanding at Einstein. Many transplant programs will not consider a patient with morbid obesity, just because of the potential complications related to obesity and healing; whereas, here we are initiating a structured multidisciplinary program for transplant in this population.
What are your interests outside of work?
I am addicted to the Peloton. When the pandemic hit, I was able to get the Peloton bike, and I have been pedaling ever since. I try to ride about five times a week. In my spare time, I’m trying to beat aging and gravity as much as I possibly can. I also love to cook and spend time with my two boys, who are 14 and 10 years old, who obviously are my entire universe, and my two doggies and my husband.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Out of Africa. I love the love story and the scenery and the dialogue.
How about a favorite vacation spot?
Turks and Caicos. They have the most beautiful beaches ever created on earth.
Is there something that most people don’t know about you?
An interesting fact that people don’t know about me is probably that I love to dance even though I am horrifically terrible at it. My kids know I dance and sing all the time around the house, almost to the point where they have to tell me to stop. I think I got that from my mother.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself?
One thing I would say is that I have no idea how I got to where I am today. My parents, my sister and I moved to America from Italy when I was 6 years old. Since they weren’t familiar with the educational system here, my parents were not able to guide me and I had to figure out college admissions on my own. I don’t know how I even applied because I had no idea what colleges were out there. I probably piggybacked on my friends and somehow, with perseverance and a lot of luck and a lot of good people who saw something in me, I’m here. But I’m grateful for what I’ve achieved, and for this I am proud and hope to guide my boys to feel the same about their achievements whatever they may be.
Learn more about treatment of liver disease at Einstein.