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Dr. Saud A. Sadiq: Damage Control

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Dr. Saud A. Sadiq never looks at his watch when he's talking to a patient, even when the visit stretches into a second hour. Sadiq, a neurologist who heads the year-old Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, doesn't feel he has a choice in the matter. "You have to have a lifelong relationship with your patient if you're dealing with MS," he says. Sadiq begins that relationship by including a patient's family in those famously lengthy visits and unhesitatingly gives out his home number (not that it's necessary: He's at the center seven days a week). When not in his office, he's in the research lab, searching for the cause of the disease -- which affects about 350,000 people, mostly women, in this country. He's also investigating the possibility of repairing the damage MS inflicts on the myelin sheaths that insulate the nerves; current treatment can only arrest it. Outside the lab, though, MS is Sadiq's secondary concern. "I never deal with diseases," he says. "I deal with human beings. I address all their issues about life. I make them almost a relative." "He's a very special physician," says Dr. Norman Latov, the professor of neurology at Columbia University who directed Sadiq's research during his fellowship in neuroimmunology. "He's very caring, very passionate." It is only within the past decade that treatments have been developed to stop the advance of MS and, in rare cases, actually restore lost function. Sadiq describes this as "a period of revolution." One patient was using a motorized scooter to get around before she began once-a-month immunoglobulin treatment; now she's ambulatory. "I don't worship people, but I worship him," she says. "I think he's pretty incredible." Another patient, who was planning a summer trip to Europe when she was diagnosed, says Sadiq's gift is making her feel she has some control over her disease. "I was panicked about going away. He said, 'I know doctors all over the world. If you get sick, call me and I'll refer you. You've got to live your life. You just take a deep breath and stop worrying.' " "First I was more interested in finding causes of things," Sadiq muses, "but now I'm more involved with the human aspect of medicine. It's a privilege to be able to treat these patients. It's everything in my life."


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