Rafael Lefkowitz, MD, is an occupational and environmental medicine specialist at Yale Medicine. He has a background in chemistry and biochemistry in addition to his medical school training and uses it to understand illnesses caused by hazardous exposures in the workplace. Many of Dr. Lefkowitz’s patients are veterans who may have been exposed to chemicals during their service.
Dr. Lefkowitz first became interested in occupational and environmental medicine after finishing his residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “What I was most interested in was stopping preventable illnesses from happening by looking at the environments that people were spending the most time in,” he says. In addition, he believes that by recommending changes to the environment, he has the potential to change the lives of not only the patient, but everyone else who works in that environment. “We get to help more patients than just the one in our office,” he says.
When Dr. Lefkowitz first meets with patients, he conducts a lengthy interview to understand their current and past work environments, as well as where they spend their free time. He may also collect data by visiting the workplace or performing a literature review on the suspected environmental toxins. All gathered information is then brought to the larger occupational health and medicine team, who then makes a decision about the treatment plan. “I hope that patients will feel that we listened and understood the core of their questions,” he says. “I also hope that they trust we will do our best to find answers to their questions.”
In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Lefkowitz conducts research on the occupational health hazards of the seafaring working population.