Vol. 18, No.3

Feb. 10 - 23,  2004


Monte Doc's Unique Approaches to Pain
Maggots and Masks


Leon Margolin gets a lot done in a week.
As a resident in the Outpatient Rehabilitation and Pain Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center, he works the usual crazy hours of a young doctor. But somehow Margolin, 31, finds the time to work on promising medical inventions and other scientific pursuits.
Lately, Margolin has been working on a new device that relieves headache pain, which he began researching as a medical student. “Headaches are a big issue in pain management,” said Margolin, a Russian immigrant, in his 10th floor Norwood apartment. “There are many medications, but all have side effects and are expensive and also have tolerance effects. People use more and more medications, and as they do, they have more side effects. This becomes a vicious cycle.”
Margolin’s new device is a headache mask that is non-invasive, easily portable and designed for self-use. It is based on a non-invasive technique, similar to that of acupuncture. Margolin says the device has no side effects and is “very efficient.” He also stresses that, unlike acupuncture, there are no needles. The device simply uses the same principles as acupuncture, that of reflex points on the body. The device recently won the Kaye Prize for Scientific Innovation and the Pfizer Scholars in Pain Management award.  Now, Margolin is in negotiations with research firms interested in developing the invention further. Margolin was also recognized for his work in November, when he won the Resident/Fellow Research Award of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain.
Margolin’s passion for medicine has its roots in his Moscow childhood. He had dreams of attending the University of Moscow and, as a high school student, even won awards from the university in a national science competition. But when Margolin applied to the university, he says he was rejected because he was not involved in a young Communist league. Instead, he had connections with the Democratic and Jewish undergrounds.
In 1991, when Margolin was 16, his family emigrated to Israel, where he attended Hadassah Medical School and graduated with high honors. This led to an internship in Internal Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital and subsequently to his Montefiore residency.
Professor Avital Fast, who is chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Montefiore, said Margolin’s accomplishments are impressive. “He is a bright physician who is doing everything expected and more,” Fast said. “He has a great future ahead of him [and] his device looks very promising.”
In addition to the headache mask, Margolin has another obsession of late. He is studying the use of maggots for chronic wound care. “It’s been known since the time of the American Civil War that injured soldiers with maggots do better than soldiers without,” Margolin explained. “Maggots eat dead tissue and then become immobile, so you can simply collect them from the wound.” Maggots also kill bacteria, Margolin said, and therefore help to stop infections from spreading. He thinks it can help patients with diabetes, which is the number one cause of non-traumatic amputations. The maggots could stop the infection, eat all the dead tissue and perhaps help the patient avoid amputation.
Margolin is an active member of Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway and he often spends part of his Saturdays visiting Jewish patients at Montefiore, who might otherwise not have visitors due to the custom of not driving on the Sabbath.
Margolin lives in Norwood with his wife Lina, and their two children, Danielle, 2 and Michelle, 8 months. Margolin admits that dividing his time is difficult, but he seems to know what is important. “I find time to sleep and time for my family, don’t worry,” Margolin said.

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