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Jose Prince: Pediatric surgeon heads premier trauma center

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Dr. Jose Prince’s history with Queens began in an apartment he shared with his parents and two brothers near Elmhurst Hospital.

His parents had come to Queens from their native Cuba. In their home country, his mother and father were neighbors, but Prince’s father was a counter-revolutionary against Fidel Castro and his life became endangered due to his political beliefs.

Prince eventually became a doctor, a decision he partially attributed to his fond memories of his grandfather.

“My grandfather in Cuba was a pediatrician, so I grew up with the stories of him,” he said, though Prince noted that he only saw him sparingly. “And the stories stuck.”

Prince is now the medical director of the Pediatric Trauma Center at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. In October, the center was designated as a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center, the largest such center in New York state and the only Level 1 pediatric trauma facility in all of Long Island and New York City. Prince estimated that the center’s urgent care facilities see approximately 70,000 pediatric patients per year. Prince, who lived in Floral Park as an adolescent, said the designation was a personal triumph.

“I grew up in this neighborhood. I’m not doing this program because it’s a job,” he said. “My kids drive around Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Nassau County and it’s very important to me.”

The process of making the medical center a Level 1 facility took about three years and required a substantial influx of new investment and hires. The designation means that the center has the resources and staff to respond quickly and efficiently to critically ill or injured pediatric patients.

The center also conducts extensive training, including mock traumas with mannequins that are able to speak to physicians while they are being ‘treated.’ Under Prince’s guidance, the center increased its efforts to promote injury prevention, and the center’s injury prevention coordinator reached more than 10,000 people last year in visits to schools and other facilities.

Prince said it was essential for New York City to have high-quality and accessible pediatric trauma centers, especially considering the dangers arising from crowded traffic conditions or mass-casualty incidents. He said the medical center always tried to release the information it gathered from research to other hospitals to ensure their best practices would be widely disseminated.

“I’m proud that we’re a part of being able to do that well,” he said, “and helping others around us to do that well.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Updated 2:45 pm, May 27, 2016
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