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Hospital Prez Looks Back at His 34 Years, End of Community Hospitals Across LI

Kenneth Roberts, Mather Hospital president, signs a banner that will be hung shortly outside the hospital to celebrate its 90th year. Photo by Kyle Barr

It all started with a dream from a local businessman and third-generation shipbuilder who lived in Port Jefferson. 

John Titus Mather passed away in 1928, but he was a huge part of the shipbuilding community during the later 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Before he died, he knew that he wanted to leave a legacy that would help the Port Jeff community for years to come. If only he could see it nine decades later. 

Mather held its cornerstone dedication ceremony May 4, 1929. Photo from Stu Vincent

This year celebrates the 90th anniversary of Mather Hospital, formally known as the John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, named after the man who envisioned the institution. His will clearly outlined that his family and loved ones were to be taken care of, and instructed his executor to “incorporate under the laws of the State of New York a nonsectarian charitable hospital, to be located in said village of Port Jefferson … so designed and constructed as to permit future enlargement, assuming that future needs may justify such action. It is my sincere hope that the citizens of Port Jefferson and vicinity will give their liberal and devoted support to said institution and endeavor to make it a success and a credit to the community,” the Mather website stated. Today, the hospital is decorated with a nautical theme to honor its founder. 

Opening Dec. 29, 1929, the hospital became a staple on Long Island, featuring 54 beds and state-of-the-art technology of its time. 

“Mather Hospital was the first community hospital in the Town of Brookhaven,” said Kenneth Roberts, president of the hospital. “So, for a long time, it was the gem of the community and it remains so to this day.”

And every 10 years or so, it seems like the hospital is adding a new service or wing, constantly evolving to become better than before. In 1962, a new surgical suite, emergency facility and an intensive care unit joined in. The expansion resulted in additional beds, totaling 110. A new psychiatric unit was added in 1973, upgrading the hospital to 203 beds and by 1997, the hospital reached its
current bed count of 248 spots. 

The reason for the constant upgrades was to continue better serving the community, the hospital president said. 

“Technology has changed dramatically,” Roberts said, “And has changed the delivery of health care here.”

Roberts became president of Mather in 1986 and has pioneered dozens of changes throughout the campus. For starters, people don’t smoke on the campus, anymore, which if one weren’t around at that time, came as a shock to the multitudes of hospital staff who weren’t shy of smoking. 

Mather Hospital was also the first hospital on Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, to have a successful in vitro fertilization program that started up in 1988. Being a leader in that program, it eventually became available elsewhere, so in 2008, the program closed to make room for others. 

“We just change with what the community needs,” Roberts said. 

Alongside the hospital, Roberts has also seen the community expand. 

Mather Hospital’s original facade. Photo from Stu Vincent

“I think it’s grown a lot,” he said. “Obviously the traffic, the expansion, the adding of lights on 347, the construction of the third lanes… there’s been a lot of growth in housing and in population out in this area. So basically, we made an attempt to change with the needs of the population.”

As the area grew, so did the competition from St. Charles Hospital down the road, and Stony Brook University Hospital just 15 minutes away. 

“We were the first community hospital and then St. Charles converted itself from a polio institution to a community hospital and we work closely with them to not compete in major services,” Roberts said. “But at the same time, to provide all the services that the community needed.” 

When St. Charles redesigned itself to a hospital in the 1940s, it actually ended up helping Mather which was at 120 percent patient occupancy. 

In 2013, it was recognized as a Magnet-designated hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which recognizes health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. 

Mather employs over 2,600 people, and has more than 600 staff and affiliated physicians. In 2016, the hospital cared for more than 12,500 inpatients and over 40,000 emergency patients. 

In December 2017, Mather formally joined the Northwell Health system as its 23rd hospital, something the hospital president constantly lauded. 

“It was a once-in-a-century decision going from an independent hospital to joining a larger system,” Roberts said. “Once you join a larger system, you’re in that larger system forever and it’s a big decision to make. We were extremely happy and pleased with the amount of resources that Northwell brings to the table.”

A group of nurses at Mather during its early years. Photo from Stu Vincent

Roberts added that there are no independently owned community hospitals on Long Island anymore. It’s a trend that’s predicated on costs and need, something, he said, a single standalone hospital would have a very difficult time doing on its own. Roberts said he sees a future where all hospitals and similar institutions are consolidated under just four or five health care companies.

“There’s a whole host of reasons why hospitals are going the same route, like all the other industries,” he said. “We see in the whole economy everybody’s changing: Airlines are basically consolidating, the big accounting firms … newspapers are consolidating.”

And although things have changed at Mather, Roberts is happy with what the
future holds. 

“I think that the future of Mather Hospital looks very good because of our affiliation with Northwell,” he said. “The services we will provide on a very high-quality basis, and we will continue to innovate and provide the services that the community needs.” 

He added that he is waiting on an approval to start a cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology service at Mather, and plans to grow its outpatient care over the next decade.

Al Kirby, right, and his wife, Dawn, look on as Dr. Henry Tannous donates blood. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook University Hospital doctors and staff members joined a Marine veteran to get a head start on National Blood Donor Month, which runs through January.

“Today is a good reminder of how we can all join together in turning a catastrophic event into a remarkable get together with a lot of potential to save numerous lives.”

— Dr. Henry Tannous

At a Dec. 23 press conference at the hospital, Al Kirby, 52, announced a blood drive to show his gratitude to SBUH doctors and staff members. The Shirley resident’s life was saved Christmas Day 2018 at Stony Brook after 10 hours of surgery where 27 units of blood were needed. Kirby’s doctors, wife, children, friends and family members joined him for the announcement.

“Today is a good reminder of how we can all join together in turning a catastrophic event into a remarkable get together with a lot of potential to save numerous lives,” said Dr. Henry Tannous, co-director of the Stony Brook University Heart Institute and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

According to SBUH officials, one blood donation can potentially save three lives.

“This crucial act of kindness will allow more families like the Kirbys to spend more holidays together,” Tannous said.

Kirby was loading up his car with gifts after a visit to his in-law’s house when he felt an intense stabbing pain in his chest, a rapid heartbeat and a burning sensation in his throat. His wife, Dawn Kirby, called 911 and asked the emergency responders to bring her husband to SBUH. His wife after the press conference said she credits the doctors and those who donated blood for saving her husband’s life and is grateful for his recovery.

“Every day is like Christmas,” she said.

Emergency department providers and the Heart Institute’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab’s team ruled out a coronary blockage and discovered Al Kirby had a severe aortic dissection. It took seven hours in the operating room for doctors to repair the rupture of his main aortic vessel. The procedure also prevented further dissection. The seven-hour operation was followed by another three hours to stop the internal bleeding.

“To me, the doctors are gods here and the staff are beyond angels, because of you I’m alive.”

— Al Kirby

Tannous said the medical team didn’t let their guard down and pushed on until they found a diagnosis. For the operation, he said medical staff members had to leave their families abruptly, and the cardiovascular operating room team worked tirelessly through the night.

“A 9 hour and 52 minutes surgery is surely a test of what’s humanly possible,” Tannous said.

The doctor said the blood bank was a “powerful ally” that had the operating room team’s backs. He added that if one link was missing in the system, the operation wouldn’t have been as successful as it was. Half of those who suffer from the same medical condition die within 24 hours.

Dr. Puja Parikh, interventional cardiologist and co-director of the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Program at SBU Heart Institute, said that since the surgery she has been working with Kirby on controlling his blood pressure and that he is doing well. Uncontrolled blood pressure and underlying aortic aneurysms are risk factors of the condition, even though it’s not known what caused the veteran’s medical emergency.

Kirby said the staff has increased the size of his family.

“To me, the doctors are gods here and the staff are beyond angels, because of you I’m alive, and I thank all of you for donating blood, which allowed someone like me … to be here speaking today,” Kirby said.

After the press conference, the veteran’s family and Stony Brook Medicine team members headed to the blood bank to donate where Tannous was the first to roll up his sleeves.

For more information on how to donate to the Stony Brook Blood Bank, call 631-444-3662 or visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu/patientcare/bloodbank.

Dr. David Fiorella and Dr. Eric Niegelberg are spearheading the Mobile Stroke Unit Program. Photo provided by Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

In June, Diana Squitieri of Holbrook wasn’t making sense. Her son Joe noticed that she was also stumbling while her face was drooping.

When he brought her to his car to take her to the hospital, she became so disoriented that he asked his wife, Erin, to call 911. That decision, and the new vehicle that arrived, may have saved her life.

A Stony Brook University Hospital mobile stroke unit, which went into service two months before Squitieri’s symptoms developed, immediately started assessing her symptoms.

Each of the two units is a mobile stroke emergency room, which allows Stony Brook doctors to determine whether the patient has a blocked vessel or bleeding in the brain.

If the process of getting to the hospital and determining her condition had taken any longer, Joe Squitieri is convinced he “could have been burying her.”

For bringing these two stroke units to Suffolk County, the TBR News Media is pleased to recognize the team of medical professionals at Stony Brook Medicine who provide life-saving care for stroke victims.

The Squitieri family. Photo provided by the Squitieri family

Suffolk County is “one of only a few places in the entire United States to have these units,” said Dr. David Fiorella, the co-director of the Stony Brook Cerebrovascular Center.

Stony Brook hopes to add a third unit within the next year.

Through the end of September, the two units had received 550 calls. Of those, about half of the patients had a stroke. Some received anti-clotting drugs while in transit to the hospital, while an evaluation of others en route alerted surgeons to the need for rapid intervention.

Every minute during a stroke could endanger as many as two million brain cells, Fiorella said. That means cutting down on the time to receive medicine or to have surgery potentially saves millions of brain cells, which can improve the quality and quantity of a person’s life.

Squitieri is one of 23 people transported in the stroke unit who had an emergency surgical procedure to remove the clot.

Numerous people contributed to bringing these mobile units to Stony Brook, including Eric Niegelberg, the associate director of Operations for Emergency Services and Internal Medicine; Michael Guido, the co-director of the Stroke Center; Eileen Conlon, the RN coordinator of the stroke unit; and Carol Gomes, the interim CEO of Stony Brook Hospital.

Niegelberg appreciated Fiorella’s efforts.

“It was only through [Fiorella’s] leadership and perseverance that we were able to launch this program,” Niegelberg said in an email. Fiorella spent considerable time meeting with county legislators, EMS committees and EMS agencies to rally support for this program.

Fiorella appreciated the joint effort that made this lifesaving service possible. He was grateful that Gomes “saw the value” of this service. “Without her dedication, this would never have happened.”

Gomes believes the stroke units provide “an extraordinary medical service” while improving the quality of life for the community, she wrote in an email.

The mobile stroke units, which have four specialized personnel on board, are equipped with technology that allows Stony Brook neurologists to examine and diagnose each patient.

The outcomes for patients are better because of the earlier delivery of care, Fiorella said. Hospital stays are also shorter, lowering the cost of care.

Squitieri and her son Joe are thankful that the mobile stroke unit arrived at her home when it did.

Diana Squitieri recalled being scared during her stroke and said the crew took “wonderful care of me.”

Joe Squitieri called the stroke unit a “godsend.”

 

 

Stock photo

By Saul Hymes, M.D.

Dr. Saul Hymes

Make sure you and your loved ones are ready for the flu season by getting vaccinated. While the best time to get vaccinated is October or November, you can get vaccinated before the flu season and even in December or later. We don’t yet know what type of season we will encounter, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Cold or flu: How can you tell?

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and tends to be more severe than a cold. A cold is caused by a different virus and has milder symptoms. People with the flu will usually have fever, muscle aches and more fatigue.

The flu can also cause very severe complications including pneumonia and can lead to hospitalization and death. More mild cases may be indistinguishable from a cold and the duration can be the same (about 5-7 days). There may be times when you’re uncertain if you have the flu or a cold, so it’s good to know that there’s a test to diagnose the influenza virus, which most doctors’ offices and ERs are able to perform.

Treating the flu vs. a cold

Both are treated with rest and lots of fluids, while the pain and fever associated with either can be treated with medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Influenza may also be treated with a direct antiviral medication, Tamiflu. However, depending on risk factors and the person’s age, not all people with influenza need Tamiflu. This should be discussed with your physician. 

Who is at risk? 

People who are over the age of 65, adults and children with conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease need to get a flu shot. Pregnant women and people who live in facilities like nursing homes are also encouraged to get a flu shot. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get their yearly flu vaccine. There are documented benefits from this, including reductions in illnesses, related doctors’ visits and missed work or school. Even an imperfect vaccination can contribute to fewer hospitalizations and deaths from influenza. 

Dispelling the myths

Some people think that the flu shot can cause the flu. Not true. While some people get a little soreness or redness where they get the shot, it goes away in a day or two. And the nasal mist flu vaccine might cause nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and cough. But the risk of a severe allergic reaction is very rare — it’s less than one in four million. 

Others say the flu shot doesn’t work, which is also not true. Most of the time, the flu shot will prevent the flu. In scientific studies, the effectiveness of the flu shot has ranged from 70 to 90 percent when there’s a good match between circulating viruses and those in the vaccine. 

Habits that can help

Help keep the flu at bay. Avoid those who are ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, then cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder (not into your hands). Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Stay home from work if you’re sick. Keep your children out of school and after-school activities if they’re sick.  

At Stony Brook University Hospital, we also encourage visitors who may be experiencing symptoms not to visit their loved ones in the hospital until they are healthy. 

If you would like to get a flu shot, we can refer you to a provider in your area. Call Stony Brook Medicine’s HealthConnect at 631-444-4000 or visit your physician or local pharmacy.

Dr. Saul Hymes is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and specialist in pediatric infectious disease at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

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Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a woman in Port Jefferson Station Oct 15.

Kaitlyn Schaal was driving a 2001 Jeep Cherokee southbound on Old Town Road when the vehicle crossed the northbound lane and struck a tree on the east side of the road at Greenhaven Drive at 6:03 a.m.

Schaal, 19, of 60 Chestnut St., Mount Sinai, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652.

 

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Bob Rodriguez and his wife Wesam Hassanin. Photo by David Luces

For Bob Rodriquez, owner and brewmaster of Po’Boy Brewery, located at 200 Wilson St., Building E, in Port Jefferson Station, it’s all about making his customers feel like family and keeping them on their toes with the constant variety of beer and cider options. 

Rodriguez shows how brewing is done. Photo by David Luces

Rodriquez said he had a dream to open up a brewery of his own for quite some time, first beginning home brewing as a hobby in his garage. As he got better at the craft, he began entering his own creations into competitions and racked up a number of awards along the way. 

For the past two years, Rodriquez has amassed a dedicated group of customers.

“It is a life changer, it definitely took over our lives,” he said. 

What makes Po’Boy stand out from other breweries is that it releases a new cider weekly and a new beer every two weeks. 

“It’s fun for me, I get to create new recipes and people come back to see what’s new,” Rodriquez said. 

The owner said everyone, for the most part, finds out about new releases the day of. They send the new menu to a customer email list and share it through social media. Even the bartenders find out the same time the customers do. 

Rodriquez enjoys making new creations. 

“I wake up — OK, I want to make this,” he said. “Let me see if I have the ingredients, if not I’ll get it and then in the next couple of days I make it. I like to keep it a surprise for everyone.” 

Behind the tasting room are three tanks that Rodriquez uses to make his new creations. From there, it goes to the breweries cold room which is the final step before it gets put on tap for customers to enjoy. 

“Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

— Bob Rodriguez

While big companies may use a full automated system and more man power, Rodriquez does it all by himself. 

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of physical labor — you sweat,” he said. 

Wesam Hassanin, Rodriquez’s wife and bar manager at the brewery, said most places you go to they’ll have their mainstays, and only once in a while they will add another option. 

“We have a lot of regulars, they come in often, so we want to keep it fun for them,” she said. “It’s all [Rodriguez’s] ideas, he’s like a mad scientist,” she said. 

While the business has taken off for the couple, as of now they only operate the brewery from Wednesday through Sunday. Both of them have jobs working at Stony Brook Hospital. Rodriguez has been a nurse practitioner for the past 25 years while his wife works as a senior administrator in the surgery department. 

“I said I’d go part-time when I hit 25 years and that has made it a little easier — opening up this place was much more difficult to do than getting my doctorate in nursing,” Rodriquez said jokingly.

Since Po’Boy opened in January 2017, the menu has grown from eight to 16 beers and ciders on tap. Last December, they began distributing to local businesses including Prohibition Kitchen among others. 

“What I really love about it is the people that come here, the atmosphere and the comradery is really awesome,” Keegan Johnson, a bar regular from Setauket said. “Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

Johnson praised Rodriguez’s craftsmanship. 

“I appreciate the craft — you see someone that really enjoys what they are doing,” he said. “You can tell he loves what he does, he loves making people happy.”

Po’Boy Brewery has created a large following in a short amount of time. Photo by David Luces

Po’Boy has been recognized islandwide as it was one of News 12’s fan-picked winners in its Brewery Battle poll. Regulars come from all over Long Island, and even beyond.

Yolanda Ramos, of Brooklyn, said she and friends make the drive down to Port Jeff just to come to Po’Boy. 

“We all walk in strangers and we walk out making so many new friends,” she said.  “It’s just a beautiful place.”

Ramos said she started enjoying ciders because of Rodriguez. 

“I was never a cider person until I came here,” she said. 

Johnson said Rodriquez takes it to another level and dubs him “the chemist.” 

“He understands what people like,” he said. 

Rodriquez is proud of what he able to cultivate over the past two years. 

“This is something they can identify with: This is Port Jeff Station, this is Po’Boy,” he said. “They feel like they are a part of this.”

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With the start of the school year less than a month away, school officials and parents are in the midst of adjusting to stricter state immunization requirements for children that will eliminate exemption from vaccines due to religious beliefs.  

The new measure, which took effect immediately after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed it into law June 13, comes in the wake of numerous measles cases throughout the country including cases in Brooklyn and Rockland County. This year, over 1,000 new measles cases have been reported — the highest in 27 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“We are responsible for implementing the new state immunization regulations exactly as they are written.”

— Marianne Cartisano

New York joins four other states — California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia — in eliminating the religious exemption.

While school districts have been notifying parents and guardians about the new requirements through posts on their websites and letters sent in the mail, the new law remains to be a divisive topic. 

Advocates of the religious exemption say that eliminating it violates their freedom of religion rights. 

South Setauket and Setauket parents Dayna Whaley and Trisha Vasquez, respectively, both ardent anti-vaccine advocates, both said they had a religious exemption for their children but they and others are now considering home-schooling or even moving out of the state. 

“God made us in his image and didn’t make us with an incomplete immune system that needed to be injected with toxic chemicals in order to keep us healthy,” said Vasquez, 50. She added she does not subscribe to any one religion but still believes in God. She has a 9-year-old child in the Three Village Central School District. 

Whaley, 41, of the Jewish faith, said the options are very limited for her daughter, Grayson, who will be entering kindergarten. 

“With religious exemption eliminated, what other things can I look at that maybe could get my child [back] into school,” she said. 

In mid-June, the Three Village school district sent out a letter to parents/guardians alerting them of the new legislation signed by the governor. It advised them that every student entering or attending public school must be immunized against poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcal disease and meningococcal disease. 

Other school districts have also had to quickly deal with the law over the summer. Marianne Cartisano, superintendent of the Miller Place School District, said the number of exemptions in the district was estimated at 60 students, but the number has been reduced over the past several weeks. 

“Miller Place School District remains committed to ensuring a safe school environment for all of our students, while understanding parents have the right to choose if and when they immunize their children,” the superintendent said in an email. “We are responsible for implementing the new state immunization regulations exactly as they are written.”

“You look at the plastic bag ban — you have until 2020 to adjust to that, but our children are thrown out of school immediately and we are scrambling to figure out what to do here.”

— Dayna Whaley

The Miller Place super added the district has no option but to comply.

“We have no authority to deviate from these regulations and must adhere to the guidance provided to our district from the Department of Health and or Office of Children and Family Services,” she said. “During this time of potential transition, we look forward to supporting students and families throughout the vaccination and enrollment processes.”

The New York law requires that parents and guardians provide proof of their child’s immunization within 14 days after the first day of school. Also, within 30 days of the first day of school, parents or guardians must show that they scheduled appointments for follow-up doses for their children. 

Some required immunizations include those against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox).

Until June 30, 2020, a child can attend school if they receive the first age-appropriate dose in each immunization series within 14 days from the first day of school attendance and can show within 30 days that they have scheduled age-appropriate appointments for required follow-up doses, according to NYS Department of Health officials. By June 30, 2020, all students attending school should be fully up-to-date with their required immunizations. 

One option Whaley and others have looked at is seeking a medical exemption from state, but she said it is extremely difficult to obtain one as an individual has to fit a certain medical profile. 

“Even if we wanted a medical exemption, try finding a doctor that will write one for you or even allow you in their practice,” the South Setauket resident said.

Anti-vaccine proponents are a small but growing group of advocates who argue against vaccination. The group often relies on scientifically disputed pieces of information. The vast majority of the scientific and medical communities have rejected their arguments. 

Beyond the scientific arguments, the Setauket parents took issue with the law going into effect immediately. 

“You look at the plastic bag ban — you have until 2020 to adjust to that, but our children are thrown out of school immediately and we are scrambling to figure out what to do here,” Whaley said. 

Both parents say they are weighing potential co-op and home-schooling options for their children. They said moving would introduce its own host of difficulties.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said she is glad to have this level of protection for all children in Suffolk County. 

“Just as seat belts protect all kids, even those that don’t like them or feel they are too confining, vaccines will now protect all of our children,” the division chief said. “There is abundant data that shows that when we vaccinate all kids, we not only protect them, but also their parents and grandparents. The vaccine law is not specific to measles and includes all vaccines appropriate for school-aged children.”

“Just as seat belts protect all kids, even those that don’t like them or feel they are too confining, vaccines will now protect all of our children.”

— Sharon Nachman

According to a report by the New York Health Foundation, 26,217 students statewide, had religious exemptions from vaccinations during the 2017-18 school year. 

Nachman said with the implementation of the new requirements, she and her colleagues have seen an increase in both questions about vaccinations, about the numbers of children who are getting their initial vaccines as well as those who are getting up to date with their vaccines. 

“Community protection is a real event,” Nachman said. “As we have seen with the recent measles outbreaks, the only way to combat these outbreaks is by protecting all the children in our community.”

Nachman said the Pediatric Infectious Diseases division at Stony Brook often discusses the scientific data with families who have questions, but those who come in with their minds made up about the risks and benefits of vaccines, especially those who are against them, will rarely agree with the need to vaccinate.

From left to right: Daniel Lozeau, Galo Del Heirro, Alexander Dagum, Marissa Ayasse, Richard J Scriven. Photo from SBU

By David Luces

For one Ecuadorian native, attending a lecture by Stony Brook Medicine doctors changed his life.

Galo Del Hierro, 44, who works for the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos, was attending a lecture given by the Stony Brook Medicine team about skin cancer screenings and prevention in the archipelago. After the lecture, Del Hierro approached Alexander Dagum, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at Stony Brook, and showed him a lesion he had on his right eyelid that was not going away and had grown bigger in the last couple of years.

“He came up to me and said, ‘I’ve had this spot that has gotten larger for some time,’” Dagum said. “I looked at it and thought it was pretty suspicious and told him he should see one of our dermatologists.”

The team’s trip in March was part of a mission through Blanca’s House, a Long Island non-profit organization that works to bring much-needed, quality medical care to countries and communities throughout Latin America. The seven-person team from Stony Brook planned on providing screenings and other care for the local community. As they further examined Del Hierro, they realized they might have to bring him 3,051 miles away to Stony Brook for care.

Dr. Daniel Lozeau, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook Medicine, took a look at Del Hierro’s lesion and determined that they needed to do a biopsy. After testing was done, Del Hierro was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

Lozeau said given the location of the melanoma it would make it difficult to remove.

“On the eyelid you have less room to work with,” he said. “It not like when it’s on someone’s back, where we have a lot more real estate [to work with].”

Dagum said if people in the Galapagos had anything serious, they would have to go over to the mainland in Ecuador, which is quite far. Initially, he tried to find a doctor on the mainland to perform the surgery for Del Hierro instead of bringing him to Stony Brook as it was more convenient for Del Hierro, but he couldn’t find anyone that could do it.

Lozeau said the cancer Del Hierro had is aggressive, and he could have lost his eye and his life.

Dagum then got clearance to perform the surgery as a teaching case at Stony Brook Medicine and with help from the Darwin Foundation and Blanca’s House, Del Hierro was able to come to Stony Brook for the surgery in May.

The Stony Brook plastic surgeon said the procedure takes several days and requires using skin grafts to reconstruct and support the lower eyelid.

“It was important they we got [the melanoma] out as quickly as possible,” Dagum said.

Dagum and colleagues removed the lesion in full around his eyelids, and reconstructed skin around the eyelid so Del Hierro could see properly and blink normally. He had a second procedure to adjust the eyelid.

The Ecuadorian native said through a translator that he was grateful and impressed with the care he received at Stony Brook.

Del Hierro said that he had first noticed the spot on his eyelid when he was 18 years old.

“It was a tiny little dot, and I didn’t really think much of it, I thought it was just a mole,” he said.

He admitted when he first got his diagnosis, he was worried for himself and his family, but trusted Dagum and the team.

With the procedures complete, Dagum said they are waiting for the swelling to go down and everything should settle in and heal up in the next couple of months.

Dagum expects Del Hierro to live normally; however, he recommends he should continue to get screened and have the eyelid area examined periodically.

Del Hierro’s case and the team’s experiences bring to light the importance of skin cancer screening and skin protection, especially during the summer season.

Lozeau said the Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.

“Most important thing is to constantly re-apply frequently every couple of hours,” he said. “Hats are good to wear and make sure you have eye protection.”

The dermatologist said when it comes to skin cancer, if one notices a spot that hasn’t gone away or has grown in size, he or she should get it checked out. Also, he mentioned spots that constantly bleed or scab over.

“Galo was really fortunate. He was at the right place at the right time,” Lozeau said.

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook University is preparing for the next academic year.

On June 20, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. sent an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that the State University of New York Board of Trustees appointed Provost Michael Bernstein interim president of SBU. The new position will be effective on or about Aug. 1.

“Michael is an outstanding selection for this role,” Stanley said in the email. “During his three-year tenure as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook he has made extraordinary contributions to every aspect of the university. His decisive and energetic leadership has been welcome and needed, and Stony Brook University is fortunate to have his steady hand at the helm going forward.”

On May 28, it was announced that Stanley will be leaving SBU and taking on the role of president at Michigan State University.

According to a press release from SBU, Bernstein was appointed provost in October 2016, and he oversaw initiatives aimed at supporting the school’s missions in research, scholarship, art-making and teaching. Before SBU, Bernstein served as the John Christie Barr professor of History and Economics and provost and chief academic officer at Tulane University in New Orleans from 2007 through 2016.

“I am filled with enormous gratitude for the opportunity to serve Stony Brook University in this new role,” Bernstein said in a statement. “Our university is a spectacular place — and it flourishes today due to the impact of an exemplary decade of accomplishment, growth and excellence that is Sam Stanley’s legacy. I eagerly look forward to my ongoing work with faculty, staff and students in pursuit of our shared mission as one of the nation’s premier academic institutions.”

Brendan Boyce, center, with Xiangjiao Yi, left, and Jinbo Li, who are graduate students at the University of Rochester. Photo by Jianguo Tao.

By Daniel Dunaief

Chances are high you won’t see Dr. Brendan Boyce when you visit a doctor. You will, however, benefit from his presence at Stony Brook University Hospital and on Long Island if you have bone or soft tissue lesions and you need an expert pathologist to diagnose what might be happening in your body.

A professor at the University of Rochester for 20 years, the internationally renowned Boyce joined the Renaissance School of Medicine at SBU in November, splitting his time between Rochester and Long Island.

Dr. Ken Shroyer, the chair of the Department of Pathology, reached out to Boyce with an unusual bone tumor case last spring. After that discussion, the two considered the possibility of Boyce adding his bone and soft tissue pathology expertise to the growing department. Boyce was receptive to the idea, particularly because his daughter Jacqueline lives in Woodbury with two of his seven grandchildren.

For local patients, Boyce adds a relatively rare expertise that could shorten the time for a diagnosis and improve the ability for doctors to determine the best course of action during surgeries.

“While the patient is already undergoing a surgical procedure, the preliminary diagnosis can guide the process of the surgery,” said Shroyer. “That’s difficult to achieve if we are dependent on an outside consultant. It happens, more or less in real time, if Boyce can look at the slides as they are being prepared and while the patient is still on the operating table.”

Prior to Boyce’s arrival, Stony Brook functioned the same way most academic medical centers do around the country when it came to bone and soft tissue cancers or disorders.

“There are only a handful of soft tissue and bone surgical pathology subspecialists around the country,” Shroyer said. “There’s an insufficient number of such individuals to make it practical like this at every medical school in the country.”

Many of these cases are “rare” and most pathologists do not see enough cases to feel comfortable diagnosing them without help from an expert, Boyce explained.

Boyce “was recruited here to help this program at Stony Brook continue to grow,” Shroyer said. “He enhances the overall scope of the training we can provide to our pathology residents through his subspecialty expertise. Everything he does here is integrated with the educational mission” of the medical school.

While bone and soft tissue tumors are relatively rare compared to other common cancers, such as colorectal or breast cancer, they do occur often enough that Stony Brook has developed a practice to diagnose and treat them, which requires the support of experts in pathology. Stony Brook hired Dr. Fazel Khan a few years ago as the orthopedic surgeon to do this work.

“To establish a successful service, there needs to be a mechanism to financially support that service that’s not solely dependent on the number of cases provided,” Shroyer said.

Boyce’s recruitment was made possible by “investments from Stony Brook University Hospital and the School of Medicine, in addition to support from the Department of Orthopedics and Pathology.”

Shroyer was thrilled that Boyce brings not only his expertise but his deep and well-developed background to Stony Brook.

It was “important to me that he was not only a highly skilled surgical pathologist, but also was a physician scientist, which made him a very attractive recruit,” Shroyer said.

Indeed, while Boyce will provide pathology services to Stony Brook, he will continue to maintain a laboratory at the University of Rochester.

Boyce’s research is “focused on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the formation of osteoclasts and their activity,” Boyce said. He emphasizes the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines and NF-Kappa B, which are transcription factors that relay cytokine signaling from the cell surface to the nucleus.

These factors drive osteoclast formation and activity in conditions affecting the skeleton, which include rheumatoid arthritis, postmenopausal and age-related osteoporosis and cancers affecting the skeleton.

Osteoclasts degrade bone, which carve out deformities or the equivalent of potholes in the bone, while osteoblasts help rebuild the bone, repaving the equivalent of the roads after the osteoclasts have cleared the path. There are over a million sites of bone remodeling in the normal human skeleton and the number of these increases in diseases.

Boyce has studied various aspects of how bone remodeling occurs and how it becomes disturbed in a variety of pathological settings by using animal models. He uses cellular and molecular biological techniques to answer these questions.

On behalf of Boyce and three other researchers, the University of Rochester Medical Center just finished licensing a compound to a company in China that he recently contacted, which will do animal studies that will test the toxicity of a treatment for myeloma.

At this point, Boyce is applying in July for another five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health for research in his Rochester lab. He hopes to renew another NIH grant next year, which he has for four years. After he renews that grant, he will continue writing up papers and studies with residents and collaborating on basic science at Stony Brook as well.

Boyce and his wife Ann, have three children and seven grandchildren. Originally from Scotland, Boyce has participated in Glasgow University Alumni activities in the United States, including in New York City, where he walked in this year’s Tartan Parade with his daughters and their children.

As for his work at Stony Brook, Boyce is enjoying the opportunity to contribute to the community.

“The setting and faculty are very nice and congenial and I’ve been made to feel welcome,” he said.