By Julia Szabo
As medicine becomes increasingly specialized, necessitating more visits to different doctors, here’s one specialist practice that residents of Suffolk County can’t wait to check out: the Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center. Founded at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in 2014 and nicknamed “The Tick Clinic,” a new health facility opens this month in Hampton Bays, bringing peace of mind to the East End. The timing couldn’t be better, with Long Islanders outside enjoying the final half of the summer—and disease-carrying parasites out in force to prey upon them (particularly on the East End, where ticks are rampant). Stony Brook Southampton is committed to having a practitioner, infectious disease physician, Sandeep Gandhi, MD, on-site once weekly (Wednesdays) to see patients year-round, plus a nurse practitioner one day a week, Tuesdays, for the summer months. Appointments are necessary, as it’s not a walk-in clinic.
The robust new tick center has drawn the attention of a leader in the field: pediatric specialist Sharon Nachman, MD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, SUNY Stony Brook. Earlier this year, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer used the center as part of a clinical trial—Phase 3 of a Lyme disease vaccine study of children ages 5 to 17—and community participation was enthusiastic. “We were one of the first pediatric sites to participate in the trial, with a lot of interest from the community, and we are following those children,” says Nachman. “Children are at high risk for Lyme disease, and the reason is that they’re frequently playing in grassy areas, and taking baths and showers that are not observed, so they’re not looking at their backs or the backs of their legs,” the doctor explains. “A big part of the tick center is talking with families, encouraging them to add a tick check to their routine, along with brushing their teeth. We’re here to remind families that a tick that has not fed for 48 hours will not transmit disease, so it’s really important to perform the same routine every single evening. Thoroughly check your back, arms, and legs, and get used to that routine. Because at the end of the day, preventing Lyme transmission is all about education.”
Adds Anna-Marie Wellins, DNP, clinical associate professor, Stony Brook University School of Nursing: “We are excited about the tick center, because patients throughout Suffolk County can receive care in a centralized location, Hampton Bays, in a beautiful space. It’s not too far west or too far east, with easy access off 27.”
The center’s help line nurse will continue to field calls from the public (600 last year alone, from all over New York State, the U.S. and internationally); callers receive expert advice on tick removal, help deciphering lab results, and referrals. Upon request, they also receive copies of the Tick-Borne Disease Reference Handbook for Long Island and the Northeast. (Call help line nurse Rebecca Young at 631.726.TICK; for printed copies of the handbook, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Nachman or a member of her staff will see pediatric patients at the Center on Mondays; adult patients will be treated by Gandhi and Wellins. “To have this dedicated location, so centrally located,” says Wellins, a Water Mill resident, “this is what we’ve hoped for so many years, and now it’s finally come to fruition.” eastendtickresource.org