Aaron Boster, Director, OhioHealth Multiple Sclerosis Center

Dr. Aaron Boster's career path became fated when he was 12. He watched his mother and grandmother cry in frustration when they couldn't get his uncle's doctor on the phone to talk about a problem he was having due to his multiple sclerosis.

“I told my mother I would learn to do it better that day,” Boster says. “I didn't know what I was telling her, I didn't know I'd be in school for 27 grades or that I'd be bald when I was done training. What I knew is that no family in central Ohio should be made to feel like that.”

After schooling, Boster wound up working in a very theoretical setting—one that wasn't quite scratching his decades-long itch to help people in more practical ways. He discovered that an “ivory tower academic environment” wasn't the way he could best be successful. When he is talking about why he loves his current role, it's easy to see that he's meant to be near patients.

One of his patients, Susan Saxbe, has been affected not only by Boster's medical decisions regarding her primary progressive MS, but also by his bedside manner.

“He has a special way of making me feel like I am the only one in his universe. … I leave every appointment feeling hopeful,” she says. “And in my opinion, the name Aaron Boster is synonymous with hope.”

“I have a unique privilege and honor of hopscotching through the intimate lives of a couple thousand families,” Boster says. “I get to attend proverbially—or sometimes physically—high school graduation, wedding, first child, divorce, second wedding. … I am privileged to hear and learn things about people they won't tell their priest and they won't tell their spouse.”

And the setting that provides him with this privilege is at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, in the MS Interdisciplinary Center that he helped build starting in December 2015. It was built to be holistic, providing for every need of its 3,000-plus MS patients, even in such details as proximity to parking—an average of 200 steps from the free valet into the clinic. When a patient gets evaluated, he or she has the opportunity to meet with a neuro-ophthalmologist; physical, speech and occupational therapists; dietician and social worker, as determined through initial evaluation. Traditionally, a patient would have needed to schedule these specialist appointments separately. This approach meets the wildly varying needs of those with MS, since no journey with the disease looks the same.

Included in Boster's successes is the training of four clinical neuroimmunologists in fellowship, one of which—his prodigy—works in North Carolina at the MS Center of Excellence. He says in the Jewish faith, there is a concept called a double mitzvah, where something good is done for someone and it cannot be repaid. That is how he likes to think of the work of the people he has mentored and trained. “Those are families I'll never meet,” he says. “I get to help them indirectly from my trainees.”

At his clinic, he introduced a fully-automated intake system that allows patients to complete necessary tests and forms via iPad without supervision. He has also spoken all over the world, received countless awards, and most importantly, has helped individual patients and families reach countless goals.

One such example is of an MS patient who is also a physician. Boster says before treatment, people would accuse her of being drunk on days when she was especially lacking muscle control, walking up and down hallways slowly, holding onto side rails.

“When I asked her, ‘What's the most exciting part about this for you?' … She said, ‘When I was diagnosed with MS, I had to throw away my high-heeled shoes. I couldn't wear them anymore, and it hurt.' She now wears two-inch heels,” Boster says, with tears in his eyes. “That's really cool. I can tell 25 other stories that are similar, but the point is that I get to celebrate with them.”

As for his legacy, he doesn't care so much about being remembered as he cares about his life's work continuing. “I hope that my legacy isn't a plaque or a name or picture; I want my legacy to be a living, breathing center of excellence where people know they'll get the best care in the United States.”

Finalists

L. Mark Dean, CEO, Ohio Comprehensive Imaging Technologies

While some doctors in Dr. L. Mark Dean's position may be thinking about retirement, he is thinking about how to provide radiology services. Ohio Comprehensive Imaging Technologies is the company he founded to do it.

OCIT offers imaging and pain care in an environment small enough to provide focused services. One focus of Dean's is coming to the aid of those addicted to opioids and experiencing chronic pain.

Another efforts is medical missions work. He has provided medical care to Honduran villages and also to veterans at the Chalmers P. Wylie Veterans Affairs Medical Center, sometimes at great disadvantage to himself. While giving care at the medical center, OCIT was between contracts and overloaded with cases. Now, the center is able to provide near real-time care.

Peter Lafferty, Radiologist, Riverside Radiology and Interventional Associates

Besides being a doctor, Peter Lafferty is a problem-solver.

During his 32-year tenure at Riverside Radiology and Interventional Associates, Lafferty has provided guidance for developing tools to make the job more efficient, lower costs and improve healthcare quality, primarily through a focus on the disclosure of imaging data. These tools include Clinical Decision Support, which allows referring physicians to consult with RRIA radiologists in real time, Lucid Peer Review, which provides radiologists with peer-reviewed studies while the patient is present, and RadAssist, which offers studies for physicians to read that are within their areas of expertise.

Lafferty's advances are in an effort to make radiology imaging cross-institutional and shape the healthcare industry into one that is patient-driven.