Health & Wellness
Top Doctors 2023
In this, the 37th iteration of our Top Doctors list, we take some of the guesswork out of finding a physician by honoring some of the most esteemed professionals in the area, as chosen by their peers."
Edited by Christianna McCausland
Photography by Mike Morgan
Baltimore is a physician's town.We have multiple world-class class institutions here—teaching hospitals, community hospitals, and specialty practices—such that we are spoiled for choice when it comes to managing our care. According to the Maryland Health Care Commission, the Baltimore readership area alone employs nearly 8,000 doctors. It can all be a little overwhelming.
In this, the 37th iteration of our Top Doctors list, we take some of the guesswork out of finding a physician by honoring some of the most esteemed professionals in the area, as chosen by their peers. The list gives us the opportunity to recognize those at the top of their fields—emergency medicine and research, for example—as well as highlight many doctors with whom you can make an appointment.
In our feature story, “Fire in the Brain,” we look at the progressive and potentially debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis (MS). As many as one million people in the U.S. have the disease and, with celebrities like Selma Blair and Christina Applegate publicly sharing their own diagnoses, MS is receiving more attention than ever. Yet, as senior contributing writer Corey McLaughlin writes, the disease is often misdiagnosed and remains somewhat misunderstood. Drawing on his own personal experience having loved ones with MS, McLaughlin offers readers important, accurate information about the disease from area physicians and researchers at the forefront of finding ways to better understand, diagnosis, and treat it.
TO ARRIVE AT OUR RESULTS, we held open nominations on our website, baltimoremagazine.com, where thousands of physicians nominated the peers they believe are preeminent in their fields. After nominations closed, a furious Excel number-crunch got us to our preliminary list, which we vetted to ensure that all doctors are licensed and in good standing. The list is never prescriptive, but rather a dynamic reflection of the physicians nominated that year; one year we may have a large number of a particular specialty, the next year that specialty may not appear at all if we didn’t receive sufficient nominations in the field. Finally, we turned the list over to our four-physician panel of advisers, whom we rely on for their professional expertise and inside intel on the medical community, for one last review. (Advisers are not eligible to be included on the list in the year they serve.)
DR. BIMAL ASHAR
Bimal Ashar, M.D., M.B.A., is a professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the clinical director for the Division of General Internal Medicine, and the director of the Executive and Preventive Health Program. His research interests include preventive medicine, dietary supplements, and medical education. He is also editor of The Johns Hopkins Internal Medicine Board Review, a member of the Society of General Internal Medicine, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians.
DR. MELVIN S. BLANCHARD
Melvin S. Blanchard, M.D., F.A.C.P., is the chair- man of medicine at GBMC and adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. Most recently, he was chairman of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM). He was also professor of medicine, vice chair for Medical Education in the Department of Medicine, and chief of General Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Blanchard earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from University of Tennessee Health Science Center and completed his residency in internal medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University.
DR. JENNIFER TAYLOR
Jennifer Taylor, M.D., earned her medical degree at State University of New York at Buffalo and completed her residency in OB-GYN at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She now practices at Mercy Medical Center. Board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, she has participated in several research initiatives and has numerous honors, publications, and presentations to her credit. She is a fellow of the American College of OB-GYN, and a member of the American Medical Association and the Douglass Obstetrics and Gynecology Society.
DR. SAMUEL SMITH
Samuel Smith, M.D., is vice president and chief medical officer for Northwest Hospital. Prior to assuming this role, he served as the chief quality officer and chair of the Department of Gynecology for the hospital. Smith earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, completed his residency at George- town University Medical Center, and completed his fellowship in reproductive endocrinology-infertility at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology-infertility.
You're on TikTok as @dr_ear_wax. What made you start your account? I downloaded TikTok during the first COVID quarantine...and one day I came across an audiology-related profile that was dabbling in earwax content. I already had the passion for cleaning ears, so I bought some basic filming equipment and posted my first video in October of 2021. I use my platform to educate the public on the importance of hearing health and preventing noise-induced hearing loss, while also grossing them out with the earwax content.
You have more than one million followers now. How do you balance online fame with being a doctor? Having a strong team allows me time to run my practice, work on content creation, and be the mom I always hoped to be, while also still making some time for my own hobbies.
What's your favorite part of the job? We believe anyone who walks through our door who wants to improve their hearing should have the ability to do so regardless of their financial situation, so we started a hearing aid donation program for those who cannot afford hearing aids. Surprising patients with donated hearing aids is the best feeling ever. —Molly Szymanski
What inspired you to go into the field of pediatrics? I always loved kids. Even as a child myself, I had a propensity for caring for other kids. I had some health issues that made me particularly sensitive to the needs of others. I thought I was going to go into obstetrics and gynecology, but realized very early on that my primary interest was with the babies.
What made you choose to work with newborns? I loved the mathematics associated with ICU work. The NICU [neonatal ICU] was more appealing to me than the PICU [pediatric ICU], because I enjoyed being a part of the beginning of a life. The NICU further drew me in as I worked with families during some of the most difficult and some of the most rewarding days of their lives. Working in the NICU and with NICU families became my ministry.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Hands down, the most rewarding part of my job is the relationship forged with the families and watching the story unfold. —Molly Szymanski
Why did you specifically choose to pursue maternal and fetal medicine? My last clinical rotation was obstetrics and gynecology, and I delivered a baby on that rotation. I thought it was the most marvelous, wonderful, amazing thing and such a privilege to be able to usher in a life. And I was so amazed by that, that I decided to change all my plans at the last minute.
What inspired you to open your yoga studio, Replenish Yoga and Meditation? It was a combination of knowing the health benefits of yoga and wanting to give communities that didn’t necessarily have access or knowledge of yoga a space to come and practice authentically.
How do you balance work life, mom life, and business owner life? I think they all work together and in a symbiotic kind of way. It’s my desire to heal and help that comes together in medicine and yoga, and I also cultivate wellness in my family with motherhood and in my marriage. I just think it all works together. One feeds the other.—Sasha Allen
What drew you to psychiatry? From a young age, I found myself drawn to the sciences, specifically biology. I chose psychiatry specifically because I felt like it gave me the opportunity to connect with individuals as people rather than just “patients.”
If you weren't a psychiatrist, what would you be? I would have pursued my passion for cricket as a professional player. I’m a big cricket fan and follow it religiously, but I also enjoyed playing it in my youth. It’s such an exciting and dynamic sport where anything can happen.
Why Baltimore? As my children were growing up, my wife and I wanted to be surrounded by an environment full of diversity and creativity.
What advice do you have for future generations who may be interested in psychiatry? Psychiatry is a field that may appear challenging, since people struggling with their mental health are sometimes not able to make the best decisions for themselves and may not be as engaged in their own treatment. However, when you are able to successfully administer treatment and grant individuals resources, being able to see the alleviation and the increased quality of life as a result is extremely rewarding. —James Consoli
Why did you get into the field of medicine? I have always been interested in biology and physiology, trying to understand how the body works. And with my Nigerian background, there is an expectation of excellence, so it’s either you are a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.
What made you choose pain management? What better way to make a difference than to alleviate pain from people’s lives?
What do you bring to the field of pain management that is unique? I believe the level of empathy I bring to my patients is my superpower. Because chronic pain changes your reality, it affects your emotions, your personal relationships with your family and friends, your work, sleep, etc. It literally makes you feel your life has come to a stop, like you are no longer living. Patients really appreciate a doctor who can empathize with this. This helps them and makes them aware they are not alone in this battle against chronic pain. —Sasha Allen
How did you get into sports medicine? I’ve always enjoyed sports and competition. Building a connection with an athlete and then watching that athlete return over the next months stronger, healthier, and pain-free is extremely rewarding.
Why focus on the shoulder and elbow specifically? Whether it’s a 16-year-old with a dislocating shoulder, a 56-year-old with a humerus fracture, or a 70-year-old with arthritis, the breadth of shoulder and elbow surgery is what keeps me engaged. Each day is different and it challenges me to continue to fine-tune and improve.
What injury-prevention advice do you give athletes? Rather than repeating the same exercises or one sport year-round, the body was designed to adapt to many activities. I recommend adhering to a varied program, with seasonal modifications for weight-training, cardio, and core-strengthening. That plus always giving 15 minutes for warm-ups are the keys to staying injury-free. —Joseph Martinak