Dr. Stacy Loeb Brings Home the Gold for Prostate Cancer Research
by Betsy Haberl
Dr. Stacy Loeb met Dr. William J. Catalona when she was a student at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Their relationship began as mentor and mentee, but now they are colleagues in the field of medical research. This year, Dr. Loeb received the American Urological Association’s Gold Cystoscope Award for her outstanding contributions to urology.
The Gold Cystoscope Award is given annually to a urologist who has made a significant impact within the first ten years of completing their residency. Dr. Loeb received the honor for her research to enhance the value of prostate cancer screening and active surveillance.
From mentorship to friendship to colleagues in research
Dr. Catalona mentored Dr. Loeb from the earliest days of her career in medicine, and through the years they’ve worked together and supported each other on numerous research projects. She said, “Dr. Catalona is amazing. He was my original mentor. I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work with him ever since. He taught me all about the research process, how to write a paper, and how to give a scientific lecture,” she said.
She added that while Dr. Catalona has helped so many patients, his reach is even bigger than that. “One of his most important legacies is even beyond the patients that he reaches directly or his own research publications. It’s in all the physicians and scientists, who he developed and nurtured, that have gone out into the field to help many more patients and to advance research in a lot of ways.”
Researching for the patient’s best interests
As Professor of Urology and Population Health at New York University and the Manhattan Veterans Affairs, Dr. Loeb’s research focuses on two areas. The first is improving prostate cancer care across the spectrum, including developing smarter methods of detection and individualized treatment approaches. She’s done a lot of work on reducing biopsy complications and improving active surveillance. She’s also looking for ways to help men with the disease and their families to have better quality of life, such as her current grants looking at how prostate cancer affects sexual health for couples, and on how the disease affects sleep.
“From the very beginning of screening to long-term survivors, my objective has been to make improvements at each step along the way, and to focus on both the patient and his family members. This is something that can have an impact not only on the patient, but on those around them,”
Harnessing the internet’s potential for health communications
Her other research focuses on digital health, especially social media, and how to use these tools to reach more patients and their families with accurate information and reduce any negative impact, such as the spread of misinformation. Considering the nature of the internet, this can be challenging, but Dr. Loeb feels there is great potential to reach—and help—a broader audience through the internet.
Dr. Loeb is very active on social media and believes it’s an important tool to promote evidence-based medicine. “It also provides a glimpse of unmet needs of our patients and their families, which we can integrate into our practice for a patient-centered experience,” she said.
She’s particularly excited about two of her current research projects. The first project looks at the impact of the online environment on health disparities in prostate cancer. “It’s well documented that Black men have higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, higher mortality, and worse quality of life. We’re looking at the racial representation in online materials about prostate cancer, and the impact of online information on decision-making among Black men with prostate cancer and their families,” she said.
She also is conducting research on ways to battle medical misinformation on the internet. “This issue of misinformation is a very hot topic and is causing significant issues across our society in many domains. How do we combat misinformation in the healthcare sector?” she said. To this aim, she is collaborating with computer scientists to develop machine learning algorithms targeting misinformation in online videos about prostate cancer. Thus far, the algorithm has 74% accuracy. “We are looking for additional funding to continue training the model to make it more accurate. One day, we hope to provide a smarter search filter for patients and their families,” she said.
A New York life with healthy habits and a rescue poodle
Dr. Loeb lives in New York with her husband—and fellow urologist—Dr. James Borin. “There’s a lot of urology around our house,” she laughed, “but balanced with our wonderful fur-baby.” She’s referring to their adopted rescue standard poodle, named Bo. They enjoy taking Bo to dog events around the city, dog parks, and dog cafes. She also volunteers at the Best Friends Animal Society.
During the pandemic, Dr. Loeb has tried to find ways to stay positive and forge a better future. She maintained her passion for fitness even though her gym was closed, the weather was cold, and she needed to remain socially distanced in a city with a dense population. She had to get creative, such as lifting beverage bottles as weights for resistance training, all while staying in her “tiny New York apartment.” She said, “I think anything is possible if you make an effort.”
She’s also shifted to a plant-based diet and had fun learning new ways to cook, from trying new vegetables to discovering new spices. “For health and environmental reasons, it was exciting to go towards a plant-based diet. I feel better equipped to counsel my patients with prostate cancer. We recognize the great importance of reducing meat intake, while increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables and tomatoes for prostate cancer,” she said. “People are very concerned about the oil they put in their car. We should be even more concerned about fueling our bodies with the best quality ingredients that we can,” she said.
Congratulations to The One-and-Only Stacy Loeb
by Dr. Catalona
I am proud on the occasion of Stacy’s Gold Cystoscope award from the American Urological Association. Often, I am congratulated on “having discovered” Stacy Loeb and being her early mentor. Invariably and honestly, I respond that Stacy never needed much mentoring. She’s a self-starter with every attribute necessary for success—highly intelligent, resourceful, determined, a hard-worker, and an excellent writer and lecturer. She is figuratively and literally a lovely person with a delightful, outgoing personality.
She is fun-loving, makes friends easily, and revels in interacting across all cultures. Consequently, she has many national and international collaborations and has emerged at her young age as one of the most famous, well-liked, and respected urologists in the world.
Stacy focuses on what she loves, including a deep expertise in social media, where she has become a leader in urology. Her scientific rigor and expertise has earned her prestigious honors and research awards from the National Institutes of Health and other academic organizations. I address my email messages to Stacy with: “To the OAOSL” (The One-and-Only Stacy Loeb). All this, and yet there’s no arrogance! Stacy is humble, sensitive, caring, an animal lover, and a genuine humanitarian.
It would be remiss not to mention her supportive family. Stacy’s natural father died when she was eight years old, and into her teenage years, she was raised by her mother, Marsha, her beloved late “Nana” (Rita Levinson) and “Papa” (Paul Levinson, a World War II veteran who battled prostate cancer and with whom she shared a special bond. Subsequently, and to the present, her stepfather, Aaron Zimmerman, has provided unwavering love, support, and advocacy.
Today, Stacy braves the perilous streets of the Big Apple (sometimes to the applause of the public from their windows) as an intrepid, front-line healthcare hero, with her husband, James Borin, a talented, widely respected urologic surgeon at NYU, and a “double-winner” in his own right.