By Carol Gelman

The Winship Cancer Institute’s community oncology center at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital is bringing Emory Healthcare’s innovative cancer care to people who live in and near Sandy Springs.

The center, directed by oncologist Stephen Szabo with the help of colleague Robert Klafter, offers access to clinical trials and provides a safe, cost-effective outpatient alternative to hospital care and individualized treatment plans that enhance convenience and lower overall costs.

Oncologists Stephen Szabo and Robert Klafter have been friends for 16 years.

Oncologists Stephen Szabo and Robert Klafter have been friends for 16 years.

At a time when doctor’s visits often seemed rushed and impersonal, the community oncology center fits within a countertrend toward more personalized health care where it’s possible.

“This is a powerful model of care,” Szabo said, “not a patchwork of oncologists. The new program combines the best aspects of community and academic oncology by providing seamless patient care within one medical system.

The community oncology practice, which opened in May 2015, enables patients to experience the Winship model of care — “Exceptional care, support and an individualized plan utilizing the most advanced treatment possible” — without driving to Clifton Road east of Atlanta in DeKalb County.

The center consists of generalists, oncologists and a range of subspecialties to provide a continuum of care. The inclusion of generalists in an oncology practice helps streamline the process of medical care and prevent duplication of services.

All of the physicians are employed by Emory Healthcare under the umbrella of Woodruff Health Services.

“Our patients have the advantage of receiving state-of-the-art treatment right in their own community with the resources of a nationally recognized university system,” Szabo said. “This program provides great depth of care to our patients, ranging from a compassionate team of nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers to the technical expertise of very specialized physicians.”

Szabo, an Atlanta native, and Klafter, who is from New York, have been friends for 16 years. They have teamed up to create a state-of-the-art community medical practice fully integrated within Emory.

The two board-certified oncologists have much in common besides both completing their fellowships at the Winship Cancer Institute. Both gave up private practices before joining Winship. Both are assistant professors in the hematology and medical oncology department at the Emory University School of Medicine. Both have records of being named top doctors in their states in a variety of publications: Atlanta Magazine and U.S. News & World Report for Szabo; New York Magazine and other New York-area lists for Klafter.

Winship at St. Joseph’s, 5665 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and 678-843-7001, has become their oncology program of choice to provide cutting-edge and compassionate care in Sandy Springs that’s the equal of the Emory Winship Cancer Center. Cancer care at the Winship Cancer Institute has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as first in Georgia and in the top 25 nationally.

Szabo and Klafter emphasize compassion, dedication and the return of old-fashioned values as key components to how they practice medicine. They said they are willing to take the time to provide that additional level of comfort so often forgotten in medicine today.

“We are here for our patients in a way that other doctors are not,” Klafter said. “We give out our cellphone numbers. We are available and committed to the caring and the well-being of our patients.”

Their goal is simple: to provide lifelong compassionate care. How will they do it?

“One patient at a time,” Szabo said.