Our Physicians: Spotlight on Dr. Nurko

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An internationally recognized expert in motility and functional gastrointestinal disorders, Samuel Nurko, MD, MPH, is at the forefront of his field. That, coupled with his warm and easy-going demeanor, immediately puts people at ease. Perhaps that's why children and parents alike find him so easy to talk to when it comes to gastrointestinal and bowel disorders.

"Although some of the issues kids have and the procedures we perform can be embarrassing for kids," says Dr. Nurko, "once they realize they're not the only ones with these problems, they quickly open up."

Putting patients and their parents at ease can also be attributed to Dr. Nurko's patient-centered approach. He works with the entire family to find the best treatment options for that particular child. One of the most important parts of any visit, he says, is to listen specifically to the child's concerns -- not just the parents'.

Early influences

Dr. Nurko's interest in gastroenterology was sparked early on. "Being from Mexico, I was always interested in finding better ways to treat malnutrition and diarrhea, which are serious but common problems there," he says.

After receiving his medical degree from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Dr. Nurko completed his pediatric residency at Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, and his fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at Boston Children's Hospital.

After completing his training here, Dr. Nurko returned to his native Mexico where he developed a unique and groundbreaking formula designed to treat malnutrition and diarrhea.

Creating unique programs at Boston Children's

Dr. Nurko returned to Boston Children's in 1993, where he created a state of the art motility unit, and has introduced many new tests and innovative treatments for children with motility disorders.

He now heads the Motility and Gastrointestinal Disorders Center at Boston Children's where he cares for children with common motility problems ranging from gastroesophageal reflux to constipation as well as more complex issues like Hirschprung's disease, pseudo-obstruction and achalasia. The center takes care of complex patients from all over the city, state, the United States and the world.

Dr. Nurko is also a founder and key member of the Center for Continence of Urine and Bowel (CUB) which treats children with fecal and urinary incontinence. The first of its kind, the CUB program at Boston Children's offers a unique multidisciplinary model that coordinates the complex care needs of patients who are often under the care of many specialists at one time.

Rewarding work

"What's so rewarding about CUB," says Dr. Nurko, "is that we have really improved the quality of life for our patients by helping them with the social issues that accompany incontinence disorders, as well as addressing the surgical issues."

With the success of the CUB program, Dr. Nurko has recently collaborated with physicians from Boston Children's pulmonary medicine, otolaryngology and other specialties to launch the Aerodigestive Center uses a model similar to CUB to treat children with airway, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal disorders. Also in the works at Boston Children's is a Center for Functional Bowel Disorders.

At Boston Children's and beyond

Teaching is a high priority for Dr. Nurko; besides training fellows and residents at Boston Children's -- many of whom have gone on to direct motility programs at other hospitals throughout the United States and internationally -- he provides education and outreach to the community and parent groups. Of particular interest to him is mentoring students, particularly minority students, who are thinking about becoming doctors.

When not working, Dr. Nurko enjoys classical music and spending as much time as possible with his family.

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO