Administering care with trust, the life accomplishments of José A. Bossbaly
Dr. José A. Bossbaly's 34-year history of service to Philadelphia's Hispanic community.
As a physician with over 30 years of experience, Dr. Jose A. Bossbaly met and cared for numerous individuals throughout his medical career.
When he reflects on his journey, he talks about the fact that he has always treated each individual patient as if they are his only patient.
“[I] try to make those patients feel that they’re special [and] put all my efforts into that particular encounter so that they feel that their needs are being met,” Dr. Bossbaly said in an interview with AL DÍA.
Now, Dr. Bossbaly is being honored by AL DÍA with a Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual AL DÍA Top Doctors event for his decades-long commitment to providing health and treatment for patients, particularly for the underserved Hispanic community in Philadelphia.
Looking back at his profession, Dr. Bossbaly says it has been an “enriched experience” to be able to take care of patients, whether in an office setting at a hospital or making house calls.
“I've been able to meet patients at all levels, pretty much meet them where they are,” he said.
As a physician of Hispanic descent, Bossbaly has played a key role in providing health to the Hispanic community in Philadelphia.
Bossbaly recalled a time a few years ago in which he was waiting in line at the cash register of a grocery store. As he went up to the counter, the cashier looked up and recognized him. He had been her doctor when she was in the hospital years prior with a case of endocarditis.
She told him that since she was released from the hospital, she had bought a house, got married, and found a job.
“I would have never known that unless I had cross paths with her,” said Bossbaly.
“We don't always know that, but that made me feel good. I felt that I contributed to someone's recovery and that sort of set them on their way to have a more fulfilling life,” he added.
That is a shining example of the impact Bossbaly has had on the patients he has cared for throughout his career.
Dr. Bossbaly was born and raised in New York City in a Hispanic household. While he is the child of parents originally from Cuba, their lineages were rather unique.
His mother was born and raised in Cuba to parents who emigrated from Spain during the 1920s and 1930s. His father was born and raised in Cuba to Armenian parents who initially emigrated to Cuba before arriving in the United States.
Because both parents work, the young Bossbaly was raised by his grandparents who didn’t speak a word of English.
When Bossbaly’s father was a teenager in Cuba, he expressed an interest in medicine. However, given the fact that he was one of six children, along with the financial constraints his family endured, it was not possible for him to pursue a career in the field.
Despite that, Bossbaly described his father as a “self-made man” who worked as a tailor and eventually opened up his own business.
“I used to kid around with him,” said Bossbaly. “He became a tailor, which required almost as much precision as a surgeon.”
His father’s interest in the sciences was evident in the household. His parents purchased a health encyclopedia dated in the 1940s and Bossbaly started to consume the book at an early age.
“As a child, I used to flip through the pages of the encyclopedia reading about diseases,” he said. “And I was somewhat fascinated by the whole concept of health and disease.”
“Between the health encyclopedia and the interest in science, medicine was on my radar as a potential interest,” Bossbaly said.
Yet, Bossbaly didn’t make the decision that medicine was the career path he wanted to pursue until the end of his undergraduate studies at Fordham University, where he earned a degree in biology.
His next steps saw him attend Universidad Centro de Estudios Tecnologicos in the Dominican Republic to study medicine.
While Bossbaly was already fluent in Spanish, his time in the Dominican Republic helped hone his Spanish-speaking skills and his assimilation into Hispanic culture.
After earning his medical degree, he completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center in New York City.
Even though there are an estimated 59.8 million Hispanics in the United States, the latter are severely underrepresented in medical schools, which leads to an underrepresentation of Hispanic physicians.
According to 2018 statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), only about 5.8% of active physicians in the United States identify as Hispanic.
When Bossbaly first arrived in Philadelphia from New York City in 1986, he said, that’s when he noticed the lack of Hispanics within the medical profession.
“There’s not enough doctors and practitioners to really meet the needs of the Hispanic population at large,” said Bossbaly.
It became very apparent to him when he started to take care of patients in Philadelphia’s Hispanic community.
Particularly in urban communities across the city, Bossbaly saw how underserved Hispanics were. He saw the lack of primary care providers that could speak Spanish fluently and effectively engage with the Hispanic community.
“I realized that there was an imbalance between the ability of the medical community to provide culturally and linguistic sensitive practitioners who would really be able to communicate and identify with the patient population and Hispanic community,” Bossbaly said.
Currently, Bossbaly is a board-certified internal medicine specialist at Mercado Medical Practice, one of the most widely-recognized medical centers within the Hispanic community in Philadelphia.
Being an internal medicine specialist takes Bossbaly back to the days of his childhood, when the doctor would come to his home and administer care to him when he was sick.
“When I was growing up... the quintessential concept of a physician for me was a generalist, someone who could do mostly anything within reason,” he said.
He liked the idea of orchestrating patient care and addressing the various aspects that constitute health, from diseases to organ systems and mental health.
So naturally, his interest drifted toward internal medicine, as the practice allows him to get to know his patients on a more personal level.
“I like the fact that you get to know your patients, that they rely on you and that you feel that you're providing a worthwhile service,” Bossbaly said.
For Bossbaly, being able to work at Mercado Medical Practice, specifically, is particularly rewarding because he is able to fill a void that is needed within the Hispanic community.
With honesty, sensitivity, encouragement and motivation, Bossbaly is able to build a level of trust with his patients that has allowed him to be successful throughout his career as a physician.
“After all, this is a partnership,” he said. “Trust is really the most important, as if there’s a potential to erode trust between the patient and physician, then the success of treatment is going to fall short.
“It’s important that patients perceive that you’re acting in their best interest,” he added.
Within the Hispanic community in particular, being able to effectively communicate and be privy to cultural nuances of the population has played a big role in ability to provide care for them.
On Jan. 27, AL DÍA will be awarding Dr. Bossbaly with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2021 AL DÍA Top Doctors event.
“I never imagined that this would come my way, but now that it has, when I critically look at it, I think to myself that it has more to do with the persistence, what moves you and your passion,” he said.
It’s Bossbaly’s passion to help others, make a difference and provide care and treatment that will help his patients live longer, healthier lives.
To that end, he doesn’t see what he does as a job, but rather a part of who he is.
Despite the differences that may exist among patients, as a physician, Bossbaly was taught to concentrate on what makes us all the same.
“The reality is that we all ultimately suffer, we become ill. We feel pain. We feel joy. We have fears,” he said. “When a person comes to you, you have to look beyond what makes people different and try to concentrate on what brings us together.”
“And if you do that, then I think you'll do a better job of what it is that you're there to do.”
Over the decades, that is the approach Bossbaly has taken in order to provide the best care possible for all his patients.
“For me, life isn’t going to change,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing, and hopefully try to do it better with each passing day.”