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Smithtown

Tito was sick and in pain when the group rescued him in New Jersey. Photos from Guardians of Rescue Facebook

A Smithtown-based animal rescue group is continuing to guard the community’s most vulnerable.

Guardians of Rescue, a nonprofit organization, rescued Tito, a seven-year-old Argentine Mastiff who was found in a junkyard in New Jersey Feb. 2. The group works to provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation and assisting other rescue groups. The Guardians said Tito was mistreated, neglected and was near death when they rescued him.

“This dog was in such horrible condition that he could barely walk,” Robert Misseri, founder and president of the nonprofit, said in a statement. “He has been severely neglected and it’s so sad to see. We had to act and do what we can to change things for him.”

Tito is now a healthy and happy dog. Photos from Guardians of Rescue Facebook

According to the group, a good Samaritan in the New Jersey community originally found Tito and told the Guardians about the condition he was living in. The community member said they attempted many times to get Tito’s owner to surrender the dog to no avail, and eventually the Guardians were called in to help. Tito had been living in a mechanic’s shop his whole life and may have been being used for breeding purposes. When rescued he had severe ear infections in both ears, which has lead to hearing loss, was 35 pounds underweight, was living in constant pain and could barely walk. He was also filthy and had teeth that were decaying.

The owner wanted to continue breeding Tito, despite the fact he was emaciated and could barely walk, the group said. After being evaluated by the resident veterinarian, he and members of the Guardians convinced the pet owner to surrender Tito.

“No one knows how much longer he would have survived, but for however long it was painful each day just for him to live,” Dr. Marvin “Moose” Baynes, the Guardians’ resident veterinarian, said in a statement. “Tito is recovering and doing well. He’s lucky to have been rescued and we will do all we can to help him make a recovery.”

The group is ensuring he gets the proper medical care he needs, and will work to find him a proper and loving home where he can live out the rest of his life.

Tito is currently living with Baynes as he continues to have his health evaluated and receive treatment.

Last month, the Guardians rescued a dog named Bear who had been living chained to a doghouse for 15 years. He was adopted in January and now is in a safe and happy home.

Guardians of Rescue has a new show called “The Guardians,” which airs on Animal Planet on Saturdays at 10 p.m. To learn more about the nonprofit or to donate, visit www.guardiansofrescue.org.

St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center of Smithtown will hold a Job Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. Positions are available for registered nurses, patient care assistants and certified nursing assistants in various departments at the hospital. On-site interviews will be held. Bring your resume and license. The fair will be located in the Conference Room in the lower level of the Nursing and Rehab Center at 52 Route 25A, Smithtown. Questions? Call 631-862-3000.

Guardians of Rescue members cut the chain holding Bear. Photo from Guardians of Rescue.

One dog in Smithtown has more than a few guardian angels watching over him.

Bear has spent 15 years chained to a doghouse in the backyard of a Smithtown home, but as of Jan. 23, he’s officially off the leash. The black lab has Guardians of Rescue, a Smithtown-based organization that works to provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation and assisting other rescue groups, to thank for his new-found freedom.

“We received a call about a dog in need of a doghouse,” Robert Misseri, founder and president of the group, said. “But when we got there, it was even worse than that. That’s when we discovered the poor dog had spent his whole life attached to a heavy chain. We knew then and there that we had to do something to make a difference in that dog’s life, and so we did.” The group said Bear had endured harsh winters with little attention.

The guardians said they spoke with the dog owner, who agreed to surrender the animal to the rescue group.

“It’s excellent,” Misseri said as Bear was cut free from the chains. “It’s nice to see the dog get off the chain after 15 years and live out the rest of its life with a nice older family, perhaps who will treat him right. He’ll lay around inside and have a good rest of his life.”

Bear was cut free, loaded into the front seat of a pickup and sent to the groomer. The group is currently searching for a permanent home for Bear.

The rescue group said its plan is to make Bear veggie burgers, take him to dog parks, on car rides and even get him into an indoor pool. The helpers also want to make sure he’s able to spend some time lying in front of a warm fireplace.

“Our mission is to help rescue as many animals as we can, but we can’t do it without the help of the community,” Misseri said. “One phone call from someone in the community set the wheels in motion that have changed Bear’s life. That’s a true success story and why we exist.”

Guardians of Rescue has a new show “The Guardians,” which airs on Animal Planet Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show depicts the work of the group as they travel Long Island rescuing animals and providing them with a better life.

The community can assist the group by watching out for animals in need and contacting the organization when they see one in distress. To learn more or get involved, visit www.guardiansofrescue.org.

From left, Chamber of Commerce Directer Christopher Brivio, 2nd Vice President Ayman Awad, Executive Director Barbara Franco, Chamber Secretary Susan Hughes, Dr. Jessie Chusid, President and CEO of Northwell Health Michael Dowling (with scissors), Suffolk Country Legislator Robert Trotta, Dr. Jason Naidich and Dr. David Seligman in front of the new facility. Photo courtesy of Northwell Health

RIBBON CUTTING

Members of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce and Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) recently hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for Northwell Health’s latest venture, a $12.8 million, state-of-the-art radiology center named Northwell Health Imaging, located at 226 Middle Country Road in Smithtown. Northwell Health leadership and staff were on hand to mark the momentous event.

The 10,000 square foot facility offers a full range of diagnostic testing services for the community including MRI, low-dose CT, ultrasound, image-guided biopsies, bone densitometry and digital X-ray. It also offers comprehensive breast imaging services such as 3D mammograms, breast ultrasounds, breast MRIs and breast biopsies. Open 5 days a week, the facility has early morning and evening appointments. For more information, call 631-775-3456 or visit www.northwell.edu.

From left, Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Kings Park Chamber of Commerce Vice President Linda Henninger pose with a check for money to fund revitalization efforts. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a result of recent state and county funding, community leaders and advocates will finally see the culmination of their hard work in planning a revitalization of downtown Kings Park and downtown Smithtown.

It was all smiles at the Kings Park Long Island Railroad Station last week as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced construction of a $20 million sewer system long sought after in the hamlet’s downtown is now able to move forward as a result of recent allocations from N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Suffolk County.

Just days after Cuomo said in his State of the State speech he would invest $40 million to build local sewer systems in Kings Park and Smithtown, the county executive presented Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) with a $200,000 check made out to the Town of Smithtown from Suffolk County to advance the community’s proposed Revitalizing Kings Park Downtown action plan, as well as a finalized draft plan developed by Vecchio and his planning team.

Bellone joked, of course, that the governor “had to come in with a slightly bigger check” than the county’s before pointing out the true movers and shakers of the revitalization plans.

“Credit doesn’t belong to any politician,” Bellone said at the event. “I’m certainly not taking credit … the credit belongs to the community. This does not happen without the community. The fact that several levels of government are coming together and funding efforts to revitalize in Kings Park and Smithtown in the downtowns reflects that the community has led the way with engaged community-based planning.”

Regarding the development of a sewer system in downtown Smithtown, Bellone said he’s directed the Suffolk County public works commissioner to begin securing an engineering and design team and have a design made up within the next six to eight weeks.

Bellone said the revitalization team of Kings Park accomplished the hard part of coming together and building a consensus around the plan and, in doing “the nitty-gritty grassroots work,” the governor took notice and it now has the resources necessary to get the job done.

“These county and state funds will help [Suffolk County] achieve our number one economic development goal: make our region once again attractive to young people by building vibrant downtowns,” he said. “These are the high knowledge, high skilled individuals we need in our region to create good paying jobs and build a 21st century economy.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, called the hamlet a special place to live and said with the development of its downtown it will be even better.

“There’s a reason why Kings Park and Smithtown are two of the most popular areas for people to move to in Suffolk County and that’s because of our assets,” Lehman said. “We have it all here — the people, open space, two state parks, town parks, terrific municipal workers. What we were lagging in was our downtown.”

Vecchio, with whom Bellone toured downtown Smithtown last year as the supervisor laid out his broad-based vision for revitalization, told Bellone he was grateful for all he’s done.

“Thank you for those accolades but I have no doubt in my mind that it was your intercession with the governor that brought the $40 million to the Town of Smithtown and Kings Park,” Vecchio said to the county executive. “I know everybody here is thinking at this moment … when will we get the check?”

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Members of the Smithtown Youth Bureau hard at work. Photo from Stacey Sanders.

Smithtown is well aware that a community can’t prosper without happy and healthy kids, which is why it continues to give its young people a voice in how things operate.

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) announced the appointment of four residents to the Youth Advisory Board, a group of 19 high school students and nine adults from across the town who work alongside the Smithtown Youth Bureau and advise the town board on ways to address and accommodate the needs of young people in the community, at a public meeting Jan. 3.

The newly appointed members, Esther Jung, Julie Delaney, Denise Massimo and Kathleen Knoll Ehrhard, were accepted through an application on the town board website. As part of the process, each candidate had to write a brief letter to Vecchio detailing what they would like to accomplish in terms of youth matters and why they believed they would be valuable assets to the town.

For Jung, a 16-year-old junior at Commack High School, an issue she’s passionate about is her generation’s overattachment to technology, which she said she hopes to find a solution to in her time on the Advisory Board.

“Everyday at school I see students on their phones in class and I think the community would benefit if we brainstormed on how to limit teens and adolescents from consuming their time with technology,” Jung said. “We could have a more face-to-face conversation with people and go back to where we were once before.”

Each of the new members’ terms commenced Jan. 1, 2017, and will run through Dec. 31, 2019.

According to town code, Smithtown recognizes its youth deserves special attention and assistance in dealing with their needs, and the Youth Board acts as the voice of Youth Bureau policy.

With a third of its members under the age of 21, the board is certainly a fitting representation of its target demographic.

“These are young people that know how to interact with other young people,” Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. “They go to schools to help out, are involved with various local activities, and serve as liaisons between the town board and young people. I see it as a great interaction and we’re very proud to have them.”

Members meet once a month to develop and coordinate activities that help make the lives of their families and other children better and encourage community participation.

Just in the past year, the Advisory Board worked together with the Youth Bureau to bring Global Youth Service Day to multiple school districts, celebrating and mobilizing those in Smithtown under 21 who have improved their communities through service, as well as a Safe Summer Nights Pool Night at the Smithtown Landing Country Club for grades 6 and up. The board has developed community education seminars and empowerment programs for students focusing on a range of important topics, like the dangers of underage drinking.

A fundraising campaign was held to provide school supplies to kids in need as well as a food drive for Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. Working predominantly with schools, volunteers help the bureau provide enrichment programs, intervention programs for kids experiencing difficulties or exhibiting behavioral issues, substance abuse prevention programs and anger management programs.

Stacey Sanders, executive director of the Youth Bureau and secretary of the Advisory Board, said the board has a needs assessment committee, a youth empowerment committee, a social media committee and a board training committee.

“The board helps keep the supervisor and [town officials] aware of the needs and beliefs of what’s needed, what residents are actually feeling — adults and youth — and the problems faced in the community,” she said.

Alexis Davitashivili, a junior at Commack High School who joined the Advisory B`oard in September, said her favorite initiative so far was when she and other student volunteers went to a local grocery store and placed approximately 1,100 stickers on alcohol cases to try and put a stop to underage drinking. The stickers read “Your Actions Matter! Preventing underage drinking is everyone’s responsibility.”

“It’s important for young people to get involved in their community because they’re kind of the faces of the community,” she said. “Although older people are involved, not all younger children listen to adults. Hearing things from a teen or someone close to your age is going to have more of an affect on them and the community as a whole. It might even help the adults open their eyes, like ‘oh if a child can do it, so can I.’”

If you’re a high school student or adult interested in joining the Youth Advisory Board, call the Youth Bureau at 631-360-7595 for more information.

Pat Westlake, executive director at the pantry, smiles surrounded by donations. Photo from Ted Ryan

By Ted Ryan

On March 4, 1984, the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry opened its doors for the first time, and it has served the community in full force ever since. For their support of residents in need, the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry is recognized as the Times Beacon News Media People of the Year.

The food pantry was established to assist the residents of Smithtown who need help feeding their families and is made up of seven churches within Smithtown: the Byzantine Church of the Resurrection, the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, the Smithtown United Methodist Church, St. Andrews Lutheran Church, St. James Episcopal Church, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and St. James Lutheran Church.

According to Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry Executive Coordinator Pat Westlake, it has only gotten more and more successful since its creation.

“They helped about 40 people that first year,” said Westlake. The number has grown each year as more and more people needed help.

The food pantry’s accomplishments are entirely based on the community’s largesse and support.

“People in town are very generous … everything is donated or we purchase it with donations that people give,” Westlake said. “Everyone here is a volunteer, no one gets paid … we depend on this community.”

Each of the seven churches has its own coordinator, and the churches rotate who is running the emergency food pantry every month. The coordinator from each church runs the daily operations and has at least three volunteers working every day.

The people who come to the food pantry go beyond just the poor. In Smithtown, the list of profiles of those who ask for food is longer and more diverse than one might expect.

“Most of the clients come when there’s a problem,” Westlake said. “They lose a job, they get downsized, there’s illness in the family, senior citizens taking in grandchildren, divorces. Most of our clients need a helping hand through that rough time, and that’s what we’re here for.”

“There are many more people in the community of Smithtown that need assistance than you would ever imagine.”

— Jean Kelly

With so much need from the community, there are many who rise to the challenge to give to the unfortunate.

During the Thanksgiving season of 2015, a man gave food to the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. He opened his trunk to reveal more than $100 worth of food to be dropped off.

After thanking the man for the generous donation, Westlake said she ask for his name. “He replied, ‘Joe, just Joe.’ He wouldn’t give his last name.”

After asking what the food pantry was short on, Joe came back the next day with another trunk full of food as well as a dozen turkeys for the Thanksgiving season.

After Westlake thanked Joe for his generosity, he responded, “You helped me a couple of years ago and I always promised I’d pay back.”

It’s because of residents like Joe that the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry has been able to give to those in need for 32 years.

The food pantry has been a big help to the community, and local legislatures such as Smithtown Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) recognize its role.

“The Food Pantry is a most wonderful organization that does great work for those in need,” Vecchio said. “The pantry lives up to the perception that we should feed the hungry. I am proud of the fact that the pantry is part of our town.”

Jean Kelly, the coordinator at St. Thomas of Canterbury, supervises the food pantry every seventh month and said that people may be surprised how many Smithtown citizens are in need.

“There are many more people in the community of Smithtown that need assistance than you would ever imagine,” she said in a phone interview. ““If they do come in, many people cry; they’re embarrassed. But we try to make them feel comfortable, [we] don’t want them in any way to feel that they are in any way a burden to anyone.”

The Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry is located at 90 Edgewater Avenue in Smithtown. You can call 631-265-7676 to see what donations are most needed or if you need help feeding yourself or your family.

Mike Borella, left, stands with his parents, Carolyn and James Borella, at their family nursery in Nesconset. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Carolyn and James Borella of Borella Nursery have been making Smithtown a better, kinder and prettier place to live for decades — although they would probably refuse to take any credit for that.

The Borellas, whose family business of wholesale growing officially started in 1958, have gone out of their way to beautify just about every inch of the town, often free of charge, and that’s just a small percentage of the dynamic duo’s selfless efforts.

For all they’ve done to help their community and its people thrive, the Borellas have been recognized as Times Beacon News Media People of the Year.

Carolyn Borella, 61, said everything they do comes from the heart.

“We love living here, we love this community [and] all the businesses; we want people to live here and we want Smithtown to stay beautiful,” she said in an interview.

“[They] are two of the kindest, most giving and hard working people I have come to know.”
— Mike Donnelly

James Borella, 55, who was raised in the house that still stands next to the nursery, said he can’t imagine ever leaving where he’s been his whole life.

“I have a lot of friends retiring shortly or [who] have retired and they’re all moving and say ‘why don’t you move and retire out in the Carolinas or Florida?’ I say ‘there ain’t no way in hell I’m leaving here.’ Everything I love is within this town.”

When she’s not serving in the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, Smithtown Business and Professional Women’s Network or at the Smithtown Historical Society planning festivals and taking care of the farm animals sheltered there, Carolyn Borella joins her husband in going to local restaurants to put poinsettias in their windows, donating leftover flowers and plants from their greenhouses to spruce up town hall, and growing vegetable flats for different churches to feed the local hungry.

With their son Mike Borella, 37, who works with them at the nursery, the Borellas built the first Garden of Freedom — a special garden decorated with statues, American flags and a banner thanking those who serve the country as firefighters, police officers, military personnel, as well as K9 dogs — in New York, for which they were recently recognized at a dedication and community celebration by Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) and Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset).

According to Martin Aponte, president of the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park in Smithtown, the two have been instrumental in providing whatever the site needs since it opened in 2011.

“They have been so gracious with supplying us plants and bulbs and trees at no cost,” he said. “Around Christmastime, they have been giving us so much roping and so many wreaths; they are a staple in the town of Smithtown and their hamlet of Nesconset.”

Aponte said the Borellas are great people who believe in giving back.

“They’ve been generous with so many others throughout the community,” he said.

Just mentioning their names ushers in a wave of praise and admiration among Smithtown residents.

“[They] are two of the kindest, most giving and hard working people I have come to know,” Mike Donnelly, organizer of Smithtown’s 350th anniversary parade said, in which the couple was honored. “Their level of helping [and] sharing is beyond what most people are capable of being aware of. Running into them always makes me feel good.”

Christine DeAugustino, president of the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, said the Borellas have been quietly supporting the town behind the scenes for years.

Speaking specifically about Carolyn Borella, DeAugustino said “the woman’s got a heart of gold.”

Carolyn Borella, known for loving all people and animals alike, recently held a fundraiser at the historical society and raised $6,000 for the maintenance and feeding of the animals, which include horses, ponies, sheep, chickens and barn cats. Fittingly, she also served as Mrs. Claus for holiday celebrations in Nesconset.

Carolyn Borella said her mother inspired her to give back.

“[Growing up] in Valley Stream, we were very money-challenged and I was raised by my mother, who was both my mother and my father because my father left when I was a very young girl,” she said. “My mother taught me three things: Soap and water is cheap; you will always be clean. I know how to cook and grow a garden, so you will always have food. And I will teach you what’s in your heart, and you will be the richest girl in the world … and I am; I may not have everything but I have it all.”

The couple met March 28, 1987, and got married 90 days later on July 3 at the foot of her mother’s hospital bed right before she died. They’ve been inseparable ever since.

“There ain’t no way in hell I’m leaving here. Everything I love is within this town.”
— James Borella

She said they have a complete ying-yang dynamic, and the fact they get along so well working together 365 days a year, 7 days a week, is a testament to that.

The nursery business came from James Borella’s family. His mother was raised in the world of greenhouses as his grandfather had a string of them in Flushing, Queens, back in the 1930s and ’40s. His father, on the other hand, was a potato farmer who would eventually be persuaded to drop his trade and start a nursery with his wife.

As James Borella said, it wasn’t much of a challenge for his father since working in the greenhouse is just “glorified farming.”

When his parents were retiring and mulling over the idea of closing down their long-running business, James Borella, who had been an employee, couldn’t bear seeing all their hard work disappear and decided to take it over in 1990.

From there, he was a one-man-band working behind the desk, growing in the greenhouses, hopping in the truck to deliver everything, until about 1995 when it was all getting too much for him to carry on his own.

He said he went to his wife and asked if she could come in and help, and she joined in, committed to building something together with him.

“That’s when Borella Nursery really started to go in a completely different direction and become the Borella Nursery it is today,” Mike Borella said, who works mostly in sales but also drives and delivers and helps customers. “From then until now, we’ve probably tripled our business.”

He said he wanted to make it known there are things besides working that his parents enjoy, like being in the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club.

But, naturally, the couple has taken it upon themselves to donate all the plants there, as well as organize three movie nights during the summer at Long Beach for the yacht club community.

“We set up a painter’s tarp, bring the movie, I bring a cotton candy machine and popcorn,” Carolyn Borella said. “It’s all free.”

Visitors to the new exhibit, Forest to Forest, can meet a box turtle up close and personal. Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

By Erika Riley

A tropical rainforest comes to life on the second floor of the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, and that magic will only expand with the addition of a new interactive experience coming later this month. The new exhibit, titled Forest to Forest, speaks to the touch, smell, visuals and sounds of the local Long Island woodlands and will officially open on Dec. 26.

The new room, which is located off of the rainforest exhibit on the second floor, aims to be as interactive as possible, allowing visitors the opportunity to use four senses (as taste is excluded) to experience the natural world, but all indoors and warm from the winter chill.

The project was led by Program Director Eric Young. “We wanted to build something to give them things they couldn’t necessarily see in the outdoors, but also times of year like this where they can’t experience the outdoors,” Young said.

One of the most exciting features is the addition of the crawl space underneath the box turtle exhibit. Children, as well as adults, can crawl through the underground world beneath the forest floor, look through a small window to view the forest floor above and peak at the center’s resident box turtles in their enclosure. There are already little dioramas installed into the walls of the crawl space showcasing different kinds of wildlife.

According to Young, visitors can also sniff containers with forest smells and explore a touch table that features different textures of objects found in the forest. “While they are doing all of this, they can take in the amazing artistry of the room as they play I Spy to explore the forest and field murals around the room,” he said. There will also be interactive computer programs set up in the room, such as one that plays an audiofile of a bird call, and visitors must click on the picture of the bird that they think makes that call. Once they click correctly, they can read information about that bird.

Young is planning on bringing in trees and plants from the area to utilize for the touch and smell parts of the interactive exhibit. All of the wildlife featured in the room will represent local plants and animals that are found in the surrounding woodlands. Any plants that are brought into the room will be directly from Sweetbriar’s woods on the property.

One of the main goals of the new room is to increase children’s excitement and appreciation of nature. According to Young, the involvement with the natural world is a three-step process. One: Help them appreciate the natural world. Two: Help them understand the natural world. Three: They want to get involved with the natural world. “If you don’t care about something, you don’t want to take care of it,” Young said.

Young enlisted the help of artist and head curator at Sweetbriar Jenine Bendicksen and carpenter John Scorola on this project. While Young credits himself as coming up with the idea, he gives them the credit for making it come to life. “It takes a village,” he said.

The exhibit is made possible by a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts Decentralization program. The money was eventually allocated by the Huntington Arts Council to Sweetbriar, and they used it to finally do something with the room previously and affectionately known as Turtle Town. Once the exhibit opens, Young hopes to keep expanding it and making it even better throughout the years.

Sweetbriar Nature Center is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown and is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends. For more information, please call 631-979-6344 or visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. Admission to the self-guided exhibit is $2 per person, which includes the rainforest room. Proceeds will go toward the upkeep of the exhibit.

About the author: Stony Brook resident Erika Riley is a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She is interning at TBR during her winter break and hopes to advance in the world of journalism and publishing after graduation.

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Doctors David Seligman, left, Jesse Chusid, center, and Jason Naidich, right, stand in front of one of the new machines at the center. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Residents of Smithtown and its surrounding neighborhoods now have easy access to quality radiologic care that eliminates the need for long and distressing hospital visits.

At Northwell Health Imaging at Smithtown, patients in need of a wide variety of diagnostic testing services including MRIs, low-dose CAT scans and ultrasounds are guaranteed the ease of a private practice with the expertise and equipment of an academic medical center.

The center, which took two years to build, provides 3D mammograms, bone density tests, digital X-rays and biopsies, all within a spa-inspired atmosphere that’s warm and comforting to its patients.

On Dec. 8, a ribbon cutting was held in the lobby of the $2.8 million facility — even though it officially opened to the public in early September. Northwell Health’s staff, local medical community members and dignitaries gathered to celebrate the center, which stands as the fourth imaging center in Suffolk County; the others are located in Huntington, Bay Shore and Islip.

“It’s convenient and far more patient-friendly and structured here … access is easier.”
—David Seligman

David Seligman, vice president of imaging services at Northwell Health, said radiology has become a much more community-based service and there isn’t much of a need anymore to go to the hospital for a brain scan, chest scan or mammogram. He said the quality of care at the center is just as good as it is in the best hospitals, but the experience for the patient is far better, especially in terms of scheduling and predictability.

“It’s convenient and far more patient-friendly and structured here … access is easier,” Seligman said at the ribbon cutting. “The environment obviously is intended to be spa-like; it’s quiet, inviting, private. We try to get patients in and out so they don’t have to waste an entire day coming in for a CT study [for instance]. The response to these community-based practices is far more positive in the general population.”

He said he’s excited because he knows patients who come to the center are going to have a high-quality and efficient experience.

Dr. Jesse Chusid, senior vice president of imaging services and a diagnostic radiologist said Northwell Health wanted to offer an alternative to the hassles associated with a hospital.

“When you go to a hospital, the parking isn’t very good, you have to walk through a giant building that’s complicated, signage is not always optimal and you’re in a place with a lot of sick patients,” Chusid said. “It’s not always a comfortable setting to be in when you’re a well person just going for a checkup, so I think you get to avoid all that by coming to an outpatient facility like this one. Everybody likes the way this facility is laid out; it’s comfortable for people. When you’re coming in for health care, it’s anxiety producing, everybody is always worried when they walk in the door so if you have an environment that’s warm and welcoming with people who can comfort then it makes the whole experience a lot easier and that’s what we have here.”

He said Northwell Health has Long Island’s largest group of fellowship-trained, subspecialized radiologists in its health system — upwards of 170, although only two will be at the center day to day, one more focused on general kinds of imaging and the other on women’s imaging and breast health.

The large group of radiologists across the system allows for focused expertise on specific problems patients might have. By interpreting and studying results in their specialized fields, the radiologists have proven to make more accurate diagnoses.

“The whole goal is to make it easy and convenient for patients to get the imaging they need and then route those images to somebody who’s uniquely trained to be able to give an expert interpretation.”
—Jesse Chusid

Even though not all the experts are in the building, if an imaging is done, it can be immediately shared with other radiologists in their network with the technology to which they have access.

“The whole goal is to make it easy and convenient for patients to get the imaging they need and then route those images to somebody who’s uniquely trained to be able to give an expert interpretation,” Chusid said.

He said the center invests a lot in newer technology and plans to keep doing so.

“The direction not just in radiology but in all of health care is toward telemedicine, and providing services remotely, which makes for more convenient access for patients and allows you to spread out subspecialized resources over a big network like this,” the senior vice president said. “By making a virtual network, you can get those images everywhere.”

The facility contains the sort of equipment found in major hospitals, like their CT scan, which is sleeker and less claustrophobic than most. While some scans have more depth and seem to encase anybody inside it, the one available at the center is much more open and patient-friendly.

Chusid said mammographers can take 3D images in breast cancer screenings to better detect early phases of cancer and get treatment started at a quicker pace.

The radiologists are also trained to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures. If a scan is performed and they notice something in the liver or thyroid gland, for example, they can do a biopsy with a needle and send that tissue to a pathologist to get a definitive answer on what it is.

Dr. Jason Naidich, chairman of the Radiology Department at Northwell Health, said having this high level of equipment in the local community is great for patients.

“It means they don’t have to travel to a big academic medical center to get this level of care,” Naidich said. “In radiology, the quality of the service you get is based largely on the equipment that is used. We also try to make it as convenient as possible for patients, so we have extended hours … evening hours, weekend hours. It’s important to make sure we’re accessible to patients who work during the day.”

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