Many of us count on recommendations from other doctors. Thankfully, we are able to provide a list of the doctors whom other doctors recommend in our eighth annual Best Doctors issue.

To make this list, current Best Doctors submit nomination forms naming their peers who excel in their specialties. Nominating a doctor is an honor in itself as it is the only way a doctor can become a Listee and participate in the biennial polling process. If selected, the nominee is renamed as a Best Doctor and added to Best Doctors, Inc.’s database of physicians, and its companion, the Best Doctors in America® list.”.By no means does this list encompass all of Greater Cincinnati’s excellent doctors. Omission from this database does not diminish or disparage the professional abilities and expertise of other local physicians.

Click here for a searchable database of this year's list.



Dr. Debra L. Breneman

TriHealth’s Group Health Associates

Don’t scratch that itch, says Dr. Debra Breneman.

“Anytime you scratch, rub or in any way traumatize the skin, it might make it feel better for a little while, but it always makes it worse because it causes more inflammation and more itch,” she says. 

It might seem a simple thing, but Breneman, who sees patients suffering from simple skin rashes to cutaneous lymphoma, says itching for some skin disorders is worse than pain and more difficult to control. 

As a dermatologist she’s been working on ways for her patients to better control that itch, for example, mixing peppermint oil with other oils and lotions. Peppermint contains menthol that activates cooling receptors in the skin. It gives patients a more economical and customized solution than many over-the-counter remedies, she says.

Breneman is also passionate about educating people about dermatology products. They aren’t regulated by the FDA “so there’s a ton of misinformation,” she says. She’s compiled “Breneman’s Best,” a list of skin products she’s personally used and the science behind them.

Breneman, who grew-up wanting to be a doctor in her native Iowa, says “It may be old-fashioned way of looking at it, but I see medicine as a field of service. I still feel honored that a patient chose to come see me. There’s a reasons they chose me and I feel I owe them something in return.” 

– Mike Boyer


Dr. Joseph K. Choo

Interventional Cardiologist • The Christ Hospital

As an interventional cardiologist, Dr. Joseph K. Choo works on blocked arteries and repairs structural heart problems. Practicing at The Christ Hospital, Choo uses catheter-based, minimally invasive techniques and technologies to diagnose and treat heart disorders, which in the past may have required open-heart surgery. He believes that using these techniques and technologies in place of traditional open- heart surgery is what the future of cardiac care is moving towards. 

For Choo, medicine is a “family business.” His father was a physician, inspiring him and his siblings to follow suit in the field. He knew from childhood that he wanted to take care of people’s health. He has been with The Christ Hospital for 14 years, his first and only practice since he finished training. He enjoys his supportive and dynamic colleagues, and the intellectually challenging and rewarding practice environment with Ohio Heart and Christ Hospital. 

“I grew up and did all of my medical training in the Northeast, and the transition to Cincinnati that my family and I made in 2001 was something of a culture shock,” says Choo. “However, I am happy to say, the last 14 years have been absolutely wonderful. Love my adopted city and community!”

When asked his favorite part about what he does, Choo replies, “The most gratifying aspect of my profession is the look of relief on the faces of my patients and families after I help correct a cardiac condition. Their gratitude makes the 3 a.m. emergency trips into the hospital to care for a critically ill patient all worthwhile.” 

–Jenna Remley

Dr. John M. Hawkins

Psychiatry • Lindner Center of HOPE

When Lindner Center of HOPE opened its doors in August 2008, the highlight of Dr. John Hawkins’s career took hold when he became chief medical director and chief of psychiatry for the clinic.

Beginning his work there in 2006 when ground broke, Hawkins was a member of the original team during its opening stages of planning and hiring. 

Just nine years later, Lindner Center of HOPE has become an inpatient and outpatient clinic that gives access to quality mental health care to the Tristate region.

“What is most important is why Lindner Center of HOPE was created,” says Hawkins. “When Francis and Craig Lindner created the clinic, they had a plan and vision to create an excellence in mental health care in the Cincinnati region.”

As deputy chief research officer, Hawkins actively assists in researching disorders, medical compounds linking to depression and the genetic underpinning of bipolar disorders, and actively researches to find more effective means of medicine for each disorder.

Hawkins additionally works vigorously to diagnose, find treatment and build relationships for the patients coming to the hospital. 

Prior to working at the clinic, Dr Hawkins worked as a psychiatrist at a communal mental health center offering clinical care to the residents. Hawkins graduated from medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin and received his residency and fellowship at the University of Cincinnati where he began researching and teaching the clinical residents. 

“Here at the Linder Center of HOPE, we are working around the clock to build the best mental health care possible for the well-being of our patients,” says Hawkins. 

– Chelsea Cox

Dr. Gurjit Khurana Hershey

Director of Allergy Research, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Greater Cincinnati has been called “allergy alley” for the prevalence of childhood and adult allergies, but Dr. Gurjit Khurana Hershey, who holds both a medical degree and a Ph.D. in immunology, is working to change that. This year she received the World Allergy Organization Scientific Achievement Award for her work.

She’s led an allergy research lab focused on asthma since coming to Cincinnati Children’s. “One in six kids in Ohio has asthma,” she says. “We need to better understand this disease.”
She’s also director of the medical scientist-training program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Cincinnati’s allergy issues are not just due to ragweed and tree pollen but also its traffic, Hershey says.

“We have a lot of traffic-related pollution and that’s been shown to cause asthma,” she says.

That’s one of the areas her research staff of about 20 has focused on. Another is genomic markers that will identify specific therapies for severe asthma patients. 

“We’re trying to understand specific groups or individuals who don’t respond to therapy, or have severe disease, and how we might identify those patients and what’s the best treatment in that specific subset,” she says. That research will lead to a flurry of personal therapies for asthma patients in the near future, she says.

Longer term, she says, are preventative strategies such as looking at intestinal bacteria that protect against asthma or make it more likely to get the disease.

“There is a lot of interest in replacing those bacteria in the intestines, to see if can prevent asthma,” she says.

– Mike Boyer

Dr. Lisa Joliat

Internal Medicine Specialis, Mercy Health Physicians

The biggest change that Dr. Lisa Joliat has seen in her more than 20 years as an internal medicine specialist is that today she is treating more people with diabetes.

“Absolutely,” she says. “Just because that’s what common in the population.”

Helping her patients prevent and manage diabetes with the least amount of medication is Joliat’s passion. “That’s what I enjoy doing with patients is teaching them how to avoid it and how to manage it with the minimum of medication,” she says. 

So how can patients avoid getting diabetes or manage the disease with a minimum of medication? “It’s always the lifestyle piece,” says Joliat. “Eating well and … staying active. There’s no substitute for those two things.”

Healthy eating should start with a plant-based diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, says Joliat. “It’s going to be a mostly whole-foods type diet leaning toward plant based without a lot of processed foods,” she says.

The staying active part of the lifestyle piece should be whatever activity patients like. “Because that’s what you’ll stick with,” says Joliat. A perfect exercise regime would include aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance training for a total of at least 150 minutes per week, she says. 

—Eric Spangler

Dr. Michael A. Thomas

Director • UC Health’s Center for Reproductive Health

The advances that have been made in reproductive health in the last 30 years stretch beyond what doctors could ever have imagined, says Dr. Michael A. Thomas, director of UC Health’s Center for Reproductive Health. The state-of-the-art facility is home to researchers and practitioners that are dedicated to finding new ways to “help form families,” says Thomas.

When he began his time at UC Health in 1988, the rate of successful in vitro fertilization procedures was only 12 to 15 percent. Now the success rate has risen to 50 to 60 percent, according to Thomas. But that isn’t the only advancement that has been made. 

The center has developed ways to help older patients increase their likelihood of conception and a healthy pregnancy. They’ve also created a Center for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to help women suffering from infertility because of the disease. Most recently, UC Health partnered with Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital to help patients that have been diagnosed with cancer to protect their chances of having a child after chemotherapy. 

“I’m very lucky and honored to be in a field where patients allow us to take care of them,” says Thomas. “I love what I do. We’re helping to populate the future of Cincinnati.” 

And since 1988, he and his team at UC Health have helped conceive more than 5,000 babies for a diverse array of families. Next summer, UC Health plans to open another Reproductive Health Center with all of these amenities in Columbus to reach even more families in need. 

– Amber Lynch