Grateful patient gift to the Upstate Foundation endows Urology professorship at Upstate Medical University
Through a gift to the Upstate Foundation, Phillip Capozzi, MD, a local anesthesiologist, has created an endowed professorship in the Department of Urology, in recognition of the care and support he received during his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.
The Dr. Phillip Capozzi, MD, Endowed Professorship in Urology will be held by Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Urology.
An endowed professorship is traditionally one of the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member.
“If I had a son, I’d like him to be just like Dr. Bratslavsky,” Capozzi said. “Not only is he an outstanding clinician, but he’s one of the most compassionate physicians I know.”
“The endowed professorship celebrates the skill and leadership of Dr. Gennady Bratslavsky and is an enduring tribute to Dr. Phillip Capozzi,” said Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD. “We are grateful for Dr. Capozzi’s service to the Syracuse medical community and his appreciation for Upstate.”
“I am indeed humbled by this action on the part of my patient, Dr. Phillip Capozzi,” said Bratslavsky. “He is an extraordinary individual who I have come to know not only as a patient, but a friend. Bringing the best medicine has to offer is my responsibility to every patient.”
“The decision to fund an endowed professorship is an important one,” said Eileen Pezzi, Upstate vice president of development and executive director of the Upstate Foundation. “We are humbled that Dr. Capozzi has chosen the Upstate Foundation and Upstate Medical University for this significant support of our mission.”
Capozzi’s introduction to Bratslavsky came in 2019 after a routine exam with Upstate urologist Zahi Makhuli, MD. Out of concern for what he found during Capozzi’s exam, Makhuli ordered a biopsy of the prostate.
“Dr. Makhuli called me from out of town and told me I had a very aggressive tumor that needs immediate attention,” Capozzi said.
The next day Capozzi underwent a battery of tests and scans. The results pointed to one treatment as a remedy for the cancer: a radical prostatectomy. Capozzi was anxious about where to go to find the best surgeon.
“Dr. Makhuli said you can stay right here,” recalled Capozzi, “he introduced me to Dr. Bratslavsky.
“I might be Dr. Bratslavsky’s biggest supporter,” Capozzi said. “He has helped me in every way through this disease.”
On July 9 Bratslavsky performed robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy and extended lymph node dissection. During the surgery, he removed Capozzi’s prostate and 43 lymph nodes, six of which were malignant.
“I was home the next day after surgery and all of a sudden my doorbell rings,” Capozzi said. “I open the door and there’s Dr. Bratslavsky standing in my doorway asking me how I’m doing. He’s been by my side on this adventure ever since.”
For a time after the surgery, follow-up scans were all negative, but Capozzi’s PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) readings continued to rise.
Bratslavsky suggested a visit to the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md., where a special PET scanner could be used to see even the tiniest traces of cancer.
Bratslavsky’s career includes time at the NCI/NIH, where he served as a senior staff with the NCI's Urologic Oncology Branch since 2007. He also served as a clinical fellow in urologic oncology from 2005 to 2007. He also is also serving as a consultant to the Gastroenterology and Urology Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as a Steering Committee member of the Genitourinary Oncology Center of Excellence for the Clinical Research Center of the National Institutes of Health. Since 2018, he has served as president of the SUO-CTC (Society of Urologic Oncology-Clinical Trial Consortium).
The PET scanner detected more cancerous lymph nodes. Bratslavsky’s next move was to perform genetic testing.
The genetic testing showed that Capozzi possessed the BRCA-1 gene, which put him a greater risk for a more aggressive prostate cancer. The gene is most commonly associated with breast cancer, but its presence in men can indicate a high risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Bratslavsky and his colleague Alina Basnet, M.D., immediately started Capozzi on a new drug that since has received FDA approval for treating this form of aggressive prostate cancer.
Capozzi had and continues to have excellent response to therapy with his PSA now being undectable. He continues to practice medicine and exercises regularly.
As if Capozzi’s medical care is not enough for him to sing the praises of Upstate’s Department of Urology, he credits Makhuli, his longtime physician and friend with getting him to re-apply to medical school.
As an undergraduate, Capozzi was pre-med, but did not get accepted to medical school until seventeen years later, at the age of 39 and at the urging of Makhuli and his wife, Marion, Capozzi left his successful real estate career for medicine and was accepted at New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y.
He has been an anesthesiologist in Syracuse for 20 years.
To donate to the Phillip Capozzi, MD, Endowed Professorship in Urology, visit www.upstatefoundation.org/donate or call 315-464-4416.
Caption: Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, (at left) with Phillip Capozzi, MD.