Local Physician to Bike Across Country to Raise Money for Liver Health
We all remember how much fun it was to ride a bicycle when we were young. But what if riding a bike could make a difference and help Keys residents suffering from liver disease?
Dr. Neal Rakov, a gastroenterologist at Mariners Hospital, will embark on a 3,300-mile cross-country bicycle journey March 1 in San Diego. He anticipates finishing April 20 at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, Fla. His goal: To help increase awareness of liver disease and to raise $50,000 for Mariners Hospital’s liver health program.
(Photo: Dr. Neal Rakov turns into the Mariners Hospital parking lot as he finishes one of his preparation rides for his cross-country bicycle ride. Dr. Rakov, a gastroenterologist at Mariners Hospital, is undertaking a 3,300-mile cross-country bicycle journey to help increase awareness of liver disease and to raise $50,000 for Mariners Hospital’s liver health program.)
Liver disease is the fourth leading cause of death in people between the ages of 45 and 54 in the United States. “People with liver disease are often stigmatized, because liver disease is often associated with poor lifestyle choices,” said Dr. Rakov. “Many people assume that liver disease is caused primarily by alcohol and drug abuse. While alcohol and drug abuse continue to be one of the causes, the truth is that liver disease can occur for many other reasons including the mounting obesity rate in the United States.” There are more than 100 liver diseases affecting 30 million Americans, or one in 10 U.S. residents, of every age and ethnicity from every social and economic background.
Like the rest of the nation, Monroe County, Fla., where Dr. Rakov practices medicine, is seeing an ever-increasing number of people with liver diseases such as hepatitis C, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver cancer. Of the 67 Florida counties, Monroe ranks third in the number of deaths from liver disease.
Statistics on the prevalence of liver disease are startling:
Up to 5.4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection. About 65 percent and 75 percent of the infected populations are unaware that they are infected with HBV and HCV, respectively;
- Up to 25 percent of Americans may have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that can cause life-threatening liver damage;
- Primary liver cancer is one of the few cancers on the rise in the United States; and
- Chronic liver disease/cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.
“Many of the patients I see in my office have liver disease,” Dr. Rakov said. “I decided to do this cross-country bicycle ride not only to raise awareness but to raise money so that Mariners Hospital could offer more services to people with liver disease. For example, I would love to be able to do pre-transplant liver evaluations here in the Keys, so patients wouldn’t have to drive to Miami for that service. We have about 10 to 15 patients a year who are on the transplant list.
“Many liver diseases are preventable or reversible and nearly all are less expensive to treat if detected early,” Dr. Rakov said. “Part of the money I raise will go to education and awareness. If I can help one person live a longer, fuller life as a result of this ride, it will be worth every pedal stroke.”
If you are interested in contributing to Rakov’s Ride, you can visit BaptistHealth.net/RakovsRide or contact Wendy Gentes, development officer for the Mariners Hospital Foundation, at WendyRG@BaptistHealth.net.
Mariners Hospital is part of Baptist Health South Florida, the largest faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare organization in the region. In addition to Mariners Hospital, Baptist Health includes Baptist Hospital, South Miami Hospital, Baptist Children’s Hospital, Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute, Homestead Hospital, Doctors Hospital, West Kendall Baptist Hospital and Baptist Outpatient Services. Baptist Health Foundation, the organization’s fundraising arm, supports services at all hospitals and facilities affiliated with Baptist Health.
Contact: Sheila Konczewski, 305-434-1020