If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, finding the right care can be a matter of life and death. To identify the leading medical institutions in the country for various conditions, ranging from cancer and heart disease to Parkinson's disease and degenerative joint disease, we recently spoke with Carey Gold, a medical advocate who has provided expert guidance to individuals and families faced with serious medical diagnoses for the past 20 years.

Before traveling, obtain copies of all your pertinent medical records to take with you or double-check to make sure that they have been forwarded). Also check with your insurance carrier about coverage and pre-certifications. If you are unable to travel, many of the institutions offer second opinions by mail and/or telephone.

Mr. Gold's recommendations for four key medical specialties (institutions are listed alphabetically)...


  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston, 877-332-4294, www.Dfbucc.org.
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, 410-955-5000, www.bopkinsmedicine.org kimmel_cancer_center/.
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas, Houston, 877-632-6789, www. Mdanderson.org.
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, 212-639-2000, www.mskcc. org.

Other excellent options: Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, Minnesota...Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, North Carolina...University of California, Los Angeles, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center...University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Cardiology And Cardiothoracic Surgery

  • Cleveland Clinic, The Heart & Vascular Institute, Cleveland, 800-659-7822, www.mycleve landclinic.org/heart.
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Heart and Vascular Institute, Baltimore, 410-955-5000, www.bopkinsmedicine.org beart_vascular_in stitute.
  • Mayo Clinic, Cardiovascular Diseases, Rochester, Minnesota, 507-284-2511, www.majo clinic.org/cardiovascular disease-rst.
  • St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, The Texas Heart Institute, Houston, 832-355-4011, www.texasheartinstitute.org.

Other excellent options: Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center, Boston... New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center and Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute, New York City... Stanford Heart Center, Palo Alto, California... Duke Heart Center, Durham, North Carolina.

*When seeking cancer care, whenever possible, it's wise to look for one of the 40 institutions (such as those listed here) that have been designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive Cancer Center.

Neurology And Neurosurgery

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Baltimore, 410-955-5000, www. hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Boston, 617-726-5533, www.massgeneral.org/neurology.
  • New York-Presbyterian, The Neurological Institute and Neuroscience Center, New York City, 212-305-2500, www.nyp.org/services neurology.html.
  • University of California, San Francisco, Neurological Disorders, San Francisco, 888689-8273, www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/neuro logical_disorders.

Other excellent options: Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago...departments of neurology and neurosurgery at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina... Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota... University of Pittsburgh.

Orthopedic Surgery

  • Cleveland Clinic, The Orthopedic & Rheumatologic Institute, Cleveland, 800-223-2273, www.myclevelandclinic.org/ortho.
  • Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City, 212-606-1000, www.hss.edu.
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine, Orthopedic Surgery, Baltimore, 410-955-3870, www.hopkins ortho.org
  • Mayo Clinic, Orthopedic Surgery, Rochester, Minnesota, 507-284-2511, www.mayoclinic. org/orthopedic surgery.

Other excellent options: Washington University Orthopedics in the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis... departments of orthopedic surgery at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.. The University of Iowa, Iowa City... University of Pittsburgh... Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

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