We had to juggle his busy schedule for this interview, so we met at 7 a.m. in his office before office hours.
I first met Dr. Bruce Menkowitz many years ago when I was referred to him for my ongoing left knee problems. The knee was originally injured when I was a teenager. And the situation was very painful and impacted my walking and my life.
Joint replacement was somewhat in the early stages. Most doctors considered me too young for the surgery. On my first visit with Dr. Menkowitz, he stated that he operated according to need and not age.
“Did I ever tell you that you are my hero?”
Many more orthopedic surgeries were to follow for other parts of my body, but it was the first one had the most impact on my life.
He came to Norristown in 1977. He was trained in joints and joint replacements. His position was to lead Montgomery Hospital in that field. Dr. Menkowitz studied pre-medicine at La Salle. In 1968, he went to Temple Medical School and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1984, he and Dr. Samuel Puleo joined forces at Montgomery Hospital.
Montgomery Hospital merged with Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and became Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. In 2012, a new hospital to was built on Germantown Pike near Whitehall Road in East Norriton. The facility will expand by joining forces with Jefferson Health Care.
Today, Dr. Menkowitz is chief of surgery. He stated that the hospital and connecting facilities are a great gift to the community. It is state-of-the-art and the best equipped to care for patients’ health issues. Residents no longer need to go into Center City for the best care; it is here. Medical care has developed to being teamwork.
Bruce and his wife, Shelley, have been married for 46 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Both lead very busy lives in the community and with their children and each other. They enjoy cooking; both have been guests on my cooking shows — he once and he twice with her assistance. He has a collection of vintage and rally automobiles, and together they participate in professional road rallies. He works in wood, making small boxes and spoons. Having attended art school, he is able to draw pictures for his patients of their upcoming procedures. I still have the very first one he drew for me in 1984. He is handy with the needle and thread (a good thing for his patients, as he has a nice switch).
He and his older brother, Dr. Elliot Menkowitz, grew up in the Cheltenham section of Philadelphia. While the name Menkowitz was not too familiar in the area, Menkowitz is actually quite a common name from where his family came from: Belarus. Depending on where you are looking in history, it could have been part of Poland or part of Russia. They were a family of tailors, bringing their craft to America. Prize processions of the family are the shears used by their grandfather and great-grandfather.
The following recipe is a favorite of the Menkowitz family with a little switch for breakfast.
Middle Eastern Tomato Sauce with Eggs
1 large yellow onion — chopped
2 green bell peppers — chopped
2 garlic cloves — peeled and chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. sweet paprika
½ tsp. cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
6 vine-ripe tomatoes — chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp. sugar
6 large eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large cast iron skillet. Add onion, green peppers, garlic, spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and sugar. Simmer until mixture begins to reduce, about 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Using a wooden spoon, make six indentations or “wells” in the tomato mixture. Make sure the indentations are spread out. Gently crack one egg into each indentation. Reduce the heat, cover the skillet and cook until eggs whites are set. Uncover, and sprinkle with parsley and mint. You can add more black or red pepper flakes. Serve with warm pita, challah bread or your choice of crusty bread.
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