Authors Posts by Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief


Kite. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The visitor comes unexpectedly sneaking around corners, invisible in the air even if you’re staring directly at him.

He is particularly welcome in the summer, when it’s so hot that the sweat on your skin only makes you wet and clammy, without providing much relief.

A cold drink might help, you think. As your fingers take respite from the moisture on the cup, your lips, tongue and mouth journey far from the heat, giving your brain the chance to ignore the signals the rest of your body is sending about how hot and miserable you are.

Short as this comfort is, it’s nothing compared to the effect this guest brings.

I tend to make an odd face when I get too hot, curling my short, thick tongue into my slightly larger lower palate and waiting, as patiently as possible, for the fall to bring cooler temperatures, Halloween costumes, pumpkin pie and, down the road, maybe a snowman that’s taller than me and my son who years ago started bending down to hug his father.

Today, however, during that most amazing of now moments, the guest has arrived, offering the kind of cooling and refreshing massage that lasts much longer than an hour. He charges nothing for his services.

He has an open invitation, of course, but he doesn’t always accept the offer, particularly when he’s traveling elsewhere.

He makes the horseflies scatter and alters the surface of the water, causing the kind of rippling pattern that may inspire a young mathematician eager to find a formula to explain what she sees.

He can interrupt even the most heated of discussions, debates and disagreements. It’s hard to be angry or to make an aggressive point when he’s around. And, in case you ignore him, he has a way of making his presence felt, knocking that stylish hat off your head and into the Long Island Sound, causing that expensive silk scarf to ruffle toward your face, or loosening those carefully tucked bangs.

Powerful as the sun and heat are, he can offer a counterbalance.

He can be cruel, knocking a bird’s nests out of the trees. He can also topple a table filled with carefully cooked cuisine, turning the mouth watering meal into a mess. When he feels like attending a baseball game, he can turn a home run into a fly ball and vice versa.

Ah, but go with him when you’re sailing, flying a kite or just sitting on a hot beach, and he brings the kind of cleansing magic to the air that water brings to a parched plate.

He helps send a kite high into the air, tugging on a line that causes the kite to dart, dive, dip and climb.

On a sailboat, he is the copilot, willing your ship, no matter its size, faster. You don’t need a motor when he’s around and you may not even need to drink that iced tea, lemonade, ice cold beer or soft drink you brought along with you.

After a sail, even on some of the hottest days, but particularly around dusk, he provides cool comfort in much the same way a blanket offers warmth during the coolest nights of the winter.

As he climbs through the nearby trees, he seems to ask you to “shhh.” Then, he waltzes past chimes, tapping each sound singularly and together, singing a unique summer melody that changes with each of his appearances.

He is an equal opportunity flag waver, indifferent to the political leanings of the people who hoisted the revered cloth to the top of a pole.

One of my favorite companions during the summer, I celebrate the cherished breeze, not only for the comfort he affords but for the way he alters the landscape and offers a respite from the heat.

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

By Daniel Dunaief

Clouds and rain often cause people to cancel their plans and seek alternative activities.

The opposite was the case for Katia Lamer this summer. A scientist and Director of Operations of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing, Lamer was in Houston to participate in ESCAPE and TRACER studies to understand the impact of pollution on deep convective cloud formation. 

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

With uncharacteristically dry weather and fewer of the clouds she and others intended to study, she had some down time and created a plan to study the distribution of urban heat. “I am always looking for an opportunity to grow the Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing and try to make the best of every situation,” she said.

Indeed, Lamer and her team launched 32 small, helium-filled party balloons. She and Stony Brook University student Zachary Mages each released 16 balloons every 100 meters while walking a one mile transect from the suburbs to downtown Houston. A mobile observatory followed the balloons and gathered data in real time through a radio link. 

While helium-filled party balloons are not the best option, Lamer said the greater good lay in gathering the kind of data that will be helpful in measuring and monitoring climate change and explained that until some better balloon technology was available, this is what they had to use.

“Typically, we launch the giant radiosonde balloons, but you can’t launch them in a city,” she said because of the lack of space for these larger balloons to rise without hitting obstacles. The balloons also might pass through navigable airspace, disturbing flight traffic.

The smaller party balloons carried sensitive equipment that measured temperature and humidity and had a GPS sensor tucked into foam cups.

“If we can demonstrate that there is significant variability in the vertical distribution of temperature and humidity at those scales, then this would suggest that we should push to increase the resolution of our models to improve climate change projections,” she explained.

By following these balloons closely with a mobile observatory, Lamer and her team can avoid interference from other signals and signal blockage by buildings.

The system they used allowed them to select a cut-off height. Once the balloons reached that altitude, the string that connected the sensors to the balloon burns off and the sensors start free-falling while the balloon climbs until it pops.

The sensors collect continuous data on temperature, humidity and horizontal wind during the ascent and descent. Using the GPS, researchers can collect the sensors.

While researchers have studied urban heat using mesoscale models and satellite data, that analysis does not have the spatial resolution to understand community scale variability. Urban winds also remain understudied, particularly the winds above the surface, she explained.

Winds transport pollutants, harmful contaminants, and heat, which may be relieved on some streets and trapped on others.

Michael Jensen, principal investigator for the Tracking Aerosol Convection interaction Experiment, or TRACER and meteorologist at BNL, explained that Lamer is “focused on what’s going on in the urban centers.” Having a truck that can move around and collect data makes the kind of experiment Lamer is conducting possible. Jensen described what Lamer and her colleagues are doing as “unique.”

New York model 

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

Lamer had conducted similar experiments in New York to measure winds. The CMAS mobile observatory’s first experiment took place in Manhattan around the One Vanderbilt skyscraper, which is 1,400 feet high and is next to Grand Central Terminal. No balloons were launched as part of that first experiment.She launched the small radiosonde balloons for the first time this summer in Houston around the 990 foot tall Wells Fargo complex. 

Of the 32 balloons she and Mages launched, they collected data from 24. The group lost connection to some of the balloons, while interference and signal blockage disrupted the data flow from others.

Lamer plans to use the information to explore how green spaces such as parks and blue infrastructure including fountains have the potential to provide some comfort to people in the immediate area.

Such observations will provide additional insight beyond numerical models into how large an area a park can cool in the context of the configuration of a neighborhood.

This kind of urban work can have numerous applications.

Lamer suggested it could play a role in urban planning and in national security, as officials need to know the dispersement of pollutants and chemicals. Understanding wind patterns on a fine scale can help inform models that indicate areas that might be affected by an accidental release of chemicals or a deliberate attack against residents.

Bigger picture

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo by Steven Andrade/ BNL

Lamer is gathering data from cities to understand the scale of heterogeneity in properties such as heat and humidity, among others. If conditions are horizontally and vertically homogeneous, only a few permanent stations would be necessary to monitor the city. If conditions are much more varied, more measurement stations would be necessary.

One way to perform this assessment is to use mobile observatories that collect data. The ones Lamer has deployed use low-cost, research-grade instruments for street level and column wide observations.

Over the ensuing decades, Lamer expects that the specific conditions will likely change. Collecting and analyzing data now will enable scientists to develop a baseline awareness of typical urban conditions.

Scientific origins

A native of St.-Dominique, a small farmer’s village in Quebec Canada, Lamer was impressed by storms as she was growing up. She would often watch them outside her window, fascinated by what she was witnessing. After watching the Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton movie Twister, she wanted to invent her own version of the Dorothy instrument and start chasing storms.

When she spoke with her high school guidance counselor about her interest in tornadoes, which do not occur in Quebec, the counselor said she was the first person to express such a professional passion and had no idea how to advise her.

Lamer, who grew up speaking French, attended McGill University in Montreal, where she studied earth system science, aspects of geology and geography and a range of earth-related topics.

Instead of studying or tracking tornadoes, she has worked on cloud physics and cloud dynamics. Hearing about how clouds are the biggest wild card in climate change projections, she decided to embrace the challenge.

During her three years at BNL, Lamer, who lives with her husband and children in Stony Brook, has appreciated the chance to “push the envelope and be creative,” she said. “I really hope to stay in the field of urban meteorology.”

The reported rate of positive tests for COVID-19 is likely well below the actual infection rate, particularly for the highly-transmissible BA.5 strain of Omicron, health care officials said.

“I expect that we’re at least double, and we’re probably significantly higher than double,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “I, like many others, am quite concerned for the fall and winter.”

Indeed, with positive results for PCR tests in the range of 10 to 12% during the summer, the percentage of people who might contract the most infectious variant of the virus yet could surge in the colder months, when students return to school and people spend more time indoors.

The good news so far is that the number of people who have been hospitalized with COVID has stayed relatively steady at Stony Brook University Hospital, at around 50.

Over the past few weeks, the number hasn’t dipped below 40 or gone above 75, which means that the current infections generally aren’t causing hospitalizations, Nachman said.

“While COVID-19 rates may be higher than reported, cases are less severe than they were at earlier stages of the pandemic and hospitalizations are fewer,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Service, explained in an email. “Vaccinations play a large role in the reduction of hospitalizations.”

The number of people hospitalized with COVID on Long Island averages about 450 per day, which is down from 4,000 in April of 2020 and 2,200 in January of 2022, according to the county Department of Health.

Suffolk County hosted a back to school test kit distribution event on Tuesday at the H. Lee Dennison Building for parents and residents.

Raising awareness of monkeypox

At the same time, government and health care officials are dedicating more resources to combat the threat from monkeypox, a virus with symptoms including fever, headaches, exhaustion and a rash that can last two to four weeks.

In Suffolk County, the number of confirmed cases has climbed to 22 as of the beginning of August, according to Department of Health officials.

Working with Northwell Health and Stony Brook University, the county has been providing monkeypox vaccinations. The county expects to get more vaccines later this month, although the demand continues to exceed the supply.

Governor Kathy Hochul (D) declared a state of emergency on July 29 over the outbreak, which will allow a faster response and enhance the distribution of vaccines in the state. The governors of California and Illinois have also declared states of emergency over a virus that is rarely fatal but is painful and can cause scarring. The more vulnerable populations include pregnant women, young children, people who are immunocompromised and individuals who have a history of eczema.

Nachman said the response from the governor was a “way of getting ahead” of the spread of the virus.

The state of emergency “raises everyone’s concern,” Nachman said. “When you go to a local physician, more people are thinking, looking and testing [for monkeypox]. Testing is critical” to confirm cases and to reduce the spread.

Vaccinations, which involve getting two shots that are four weeks apart, can accelerate the immune response, Nachman said.

Stony Brook hopes in the next few weeks to work on a National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial with children, pregnant and postpartum women on a potential treatment for the virus.

Spread during physical contact, the large majority of monkeypox cases have occurred among men who have been intimate with other men.

Pigott has been working closely with the community to promote prevention efforts and vaccinations. He spoke on Monday at a forum hosted by the LGBT Network, where he said gay or bisexual men in their 20s and 30s were at the highest risk.

Other viruses

In addition to COVID concerns for the fall, Nachman explained that other seasonal respiratory viruses have become more prevalent and problematic through the summer.

Flu has historically been a winter virus, starting in late November or early December and ebbing in its infectiousness around March.

In 2022, the flu season stretched through June. At the same time, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, typically starts in November and lasts through February.

“We had RSV all summer long,” Nachman said. “We never had a break.”

Nachman is concerned that the overlap among the viruses with infection rates may increase at the same time.

“I worry about the juxtaposition with other respiratory pathogens” that have exceeded their usual seasonal limitations, Nachman added.

Those other viruses are highly contagious, but were limited in their spread when people were wearing masks. Once people stopped taking precautions for COVID, these other viruses also spread.

“No one had been exposed, and it was like a match to tinder,” Nachman said. “It spread through the population” after few people had contracted these illnesses.

Health care providers urged people to take several steps to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.

“If you’re sick, please don’t go to work,” Nachman said. ‘If your child is sick, please don’t send them to school.”

People also need to practice safe cough techniques. If they need to cough or sneeze, they should minimize the number of aerosolized particles by covering their nose and mouth or coughing into their clothing.

A plea for proper vaccinations

With a reluctance to return to the widespread use of masks or other restrictions that might limit the spread of COVID, health care officials continue to urge people to benefit from the protection vaccines provide.

Indeed, most of the people who have required more extensive medical care at Stony Brook University Hospital have not been fully vaccinated.

Some of those who have required medical attention received a single dose of a vaccine over two years ago, which is effectively not vaccinated, she said.

Nachman expects that COVID vaccinations may become required as they are for measles mumps and rubella and other diseases for students to attend class in person.

“I do see in the future that will happen,” Nachman said. “Not vaccinating hurts the child and the entire community.”

Lucas Films

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When times are tough, we can use nostalgia as a bittersweet salve.

Nostalgia serves as both a source of comfort, allowing us to step out of our current situations, while also providing a longing for something that may be impossible to find or rediscover.

To that end, I’d like to share a nostalgic and a not nostalgic list.

— Being out of touch. I know that may seem odd, particularly for someone whose job involves keeping people in touch with information, but I miss the days when people couldn’t find me. I remember getting a beeper for the first time and thinking this was a slippery slope to nonstop accountability.

— Snow days. In the most intense heat of the summer, it’s easy to become nostalgic for the unplanned gift of a day off from school and, way back when, for some time at home with my parents. The night before a snow day, I would go to a particular window in the backyard, turn on the light and assess the size of the snowflakes. If they were too big, the temperature was likely far too warm and the snow would likely turn into rain. Smaller and super numerous snowflakes, like a colony of termites building a home, could work their magic overnight, causing the trees to bend in front of my window.

— Cultural excitement. We are so divided on so many issues these days, but I miss the general excitement that comes from blockbuster movies. I remember the experience of seeing the movie “Star Wars” in a packed theater and the excited conversation from people as the John Williams music sent them home happy.

— The meaningful sitcom. “M*A*S*H” somehow combined humor and drama, blending comedy with intense situations in an army hospital in the Korean War. The sitcom “Mom,” which deals with addiction, friendship, familial issues and loss, brought the same impressive acting to difficult situations softened by humor.

— Eating less healthy food. I miss the ability to eat a burger, fries and onion rings at one of my favorite restaurants (RIP The Good Steer) without having that food interrupt my sleep, create unfortunate digestive experiences or contribute to an expanding girth.

— Letting our dog roam the neighborhood. Our current dog is rarely off his leash. Decades ago, we’d ask our dog if he wanted to go out, he’d run to the door and return to play when he heard us outside or to have his evening meal and play at night. He walked himself.

— My dad. My father had the uncanny ability to make me laugh, even and especially when I was frustrated. Seeing my sour face, he’d come toward me in a battle of wills he knew he’d win. He’d make a strange face or do something unpredictable, forcing me to smile despite myself.

Okay, so, how about a few things for which I am not nostalgic.

— The rear-facing seat of a station wagon. The seat often didn’t have much room, because we also packed bags and suitcases back there, and was facing the wrong way, which meant that nausea, particularly on tight turns, was a constant companion.

— The Yankees around 1990. With a respectful nod to Don Mattingly, those teams were pretty close to unwatchable. 

— Marching band practice. I loved so many parts of my musical upbringing, but marching band doesn’t make the list. We sweat for hours on hot fields. During performances, our heavy, unflattering uniforms trapped heat and felt stiffer than denim that had dried too quickly.

— Going to the airport to change tickets. Awful as today’s airline experiences are, we drove to the airport and waited in line to change tickets. Today, we can go online, where systems are busy and the airlines tells us to try back later.

— Waiting for carpools. To borrow from J.D. Salinger and William Golding, waiting for exhausted parents to pick up a collection of teenagers dripping with Holden Caulfield angst was akin to living through a sociological “Lord of the Flies” experiment.

The temperatures at the poles are heating up more rapidly than those at the equator. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

On any given day, heat waves can bring record-breaking temperatures, while winter storms can include below average cold temperatures or snow.

Edmund Chang. Photo from SBU

Weather and climate experts don’t generally make too much of a single day or even a few days amid an otherwise normal trend. But, then, enough of these exceptional days over the course of years can skew models of the climate, which refers to average temperature and atmospheric conditions for a region.

If the climate is steady, “we should see approximately the same number of hot and cold records being broken,” said Edmund Chang, Professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. “Over the past few decades, we have seen many more hot records being broken than cold records, indicating the climate is getting hotter.”

Recent heat

Indeed, just last week, before a heatwave hit the northeastern United States, the United Kingdom reported the hottest day on record, with the temperature at Heathrow Airport reaching above 104 degrees.

Erinna Bowman, who grew up in Stony Brook and has lived in London since 2009, said the temperature felt “like a desert,” with hot, dry heat radiating up in the urban setting. Most homes in London don’t have air conditioning, although public spaces like supermarkets and retail stores do.

“I’m accustomed to the summer getting quite hot, so I was able to cope,” said Bowman. Indeed, London is usually considerably cooler during the summer, with average temperatures around 73 degrees.

Michael Jensen. Photo from BNL

News coverage of the two extraordinarily hot days in London “was very much framed in the context of a changing climate,” Bowman said. The discussion of a hotter temperature doesn’t typically use the words “climate change,” but, instead, describes the phenomenon as “global heating.”

For climate researchers in the area, the weather this summer has also presented unusual challenges.

Brookhaven National Laboratory meteorologist Michael Jensen spent four years planning for an extensive study of convective clouds in Houston, in a study called Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions, or Tracer.

“Our expectation is that we would be overwhelmed” with data from storms produced in the city, he said. “That’s not what we’re experiencing.”

The weather, which has been “extremely hot and extremely dry,” has been more typical of late August or early September. “This makes us wonder what August is going to look like,” he said.

Jensen, however, is optimistic that his extensive preparation and numerous pieces of equipment to gather meteorological data will enable him to collect considerable information.

Warming at the poles

Broadly speaking, heat waves have extended for longer periods of time in part because the temperatures at the poles are heating up more rapidly than those at the equator. The temperature difference between the tropics and the poles causes a background flow from west to east that pushes storms along, Chang explained.

The North Pole, however, has been warming faster than the tropics. A paper by his research group showed that the lower temperature gradient led to a weakening of the storm track.

When summer Atlantic storms pass by, they provide relief from the heat and can induce more clouds that can lead to cooler temperatures. Weakening these storms can lead to fewer clouds and less cooler air to relieve the heat, Chang added.

Rising sea levels

Malcolm Bowman. Photo from SBU

Malcolm Bowman, who is Erinna Bowman’s father and is Distinguished Service Professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, believes the recent ice melting in Greenland, which has been about 10 degrees above normal, could lead to a rise in sea levels of about one inch this summer. “It will slowly return to near normal as the fresh water melt spreads slowly over all the world’s oceans,” he added.

Bowman, who has studied sea level rises and is working on mitigation plans for the New York area in the event of a future major storm, is concerned about the rest of the hurricane season after the level of warming in the oceans this summer. 

“Those hurricanes which follow a path over the ocean, especially following the Gulf Stream, will remain strong and may gather additional strength from the heat of the underlying water,” he explained in an email.

Bowman is the principal investigator on a project titled “Long Island South Shore Sea Gates Study.”

He is studying the potential benefit of six possible sea gates that would be located across inlets along Nassau and Suffolk County. He also suggests that south shore sand dunes would need to be built up to a height of 14 feet above normal high tide.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has come up with a tentatively selected plan for New York Harbor that it will release some time in the fall. Bowman anticipates the study will be controversial as the struggle between green and grey infrastructure — using natural processes to manage the water as opposed to sending it somewhere else — heats up.

As for the current heat waves, Bowman believes they are a consistent and validating extension of climate change.

Model simulations

In his lab, Chang has been looking at model simulations and is trying to understand what physical processes are involved. He is comparing these simulations with observations to determine the effectiveness of these projections.

To be sure, one of the many challenges of understanding the weather and climate is that numerous factors can influence specific conditions.

“Chaos in the atmosphere could give rise to large variations in weather” and to occasional extremes, Chang said. 

Before coming to any conclusions about longer term patterns or changes in climate, Chang said he and other climate modelers examine collections of models of the atmosphere to assess how likely specific conditions may occur due to chaos even without climate change.

“We have to rule out” climate variability to understand and appreciate the mechanisms involved in any short term changes in the weather, he added.

Still, Chang said he and other researchers are certain that high levels of summer heat will be a part of future climate patterns. 

“We are confident that the increase in temperature will result in more episodes of heat waves,” he said.

wedding table

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The son of my wife’s sister, my nephew, is older than I was when I met him.

It’s not so surprising, then, that he would be getting married, especially not after a long-term relationship that transitioned years ago from a matter of if to when in terms of marriage.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the next generation entering these milestone moments when I feel like my wife and I only recently got married, which clearly wasn’t such a recent event.

One of my first memories of my nephew, who was six years old when I babysat for his younger brother while he and his parents went to see “The Lion King” on Broadway, was of this enthusiastic child who wanted to participate in adult conversations.

On his way out the door, he promised to give me a thorough review of the show. While he was gone, his brother and I called my future wife. His younger brother pretended he was me and kept asking me what to say. Fortunately for him, my wife is as playful as he, and went along with the gag for a giggle-fest of a conversation.

A few years later, my sister-in-law told me she overheard her children discussing my marriage to their aunt. Her younger son was excited to add the title “uncle” to my name, while the older one wasn’t sure he wanted to call me “uncle.”

Not eager to stand on ceremony, I told him he could continue to call me “Dan,” although the uncle title quickly became a natural part of our interactions.

Over the years, I have reveled in his achievements, enjoyed hearing about his adventures, travels and jobs and have admired the joy he feels when he spends time with his fiancée.

He laughs, shares stories and dances with her at family parties.

With their wedding approaching in the next few days, it’s hard to believe that my wife and I will be members of the older generation.

Unlike my uncles and aunts, who attended my brother’s wedding in the summer and, generally, passed on my wedding in the winter, my wife and I have every intention of spending most of the wedding on the dance floor.

Yes, we’re older, and we likely won’t have the same modern dance moves that the next generation will likely display, but we love a great party and, what’s more, we love to celebrate life together.

As I did when we had a party for our daughter’s 16th birthday, I will likely sweat through my button down shirt and will probably drape my suit jacket over the back of the chair and won’t touch it until we’re clearing out the room.

At some point, someone with a video camera may come over to my wife and me, asking us to share our thoughts on this auspicious occasion.

I’m sure I will think about my antediluvian uncle, who was asked a similar question at my brother’s wedding.

After a long, reflective pause and with his customary flat affect, he looked directly into the camera. “It’s a sense o’ hyum’ah,” he suggested.

Listening to his wife whose voice cut through concrete as she exclaimed about everything from how much she loved my younger brother the best to how wonderful and delicious the food at any event was, I could see the importance of humor.

While my wife and I have reveled in making each other laugh, I don’t think I’ll repeat that line, even if it does apply, in part because it belongs to my uncle.

Instead, I may tell them to dance as often as they can and to enjoy the little moments, like the sound of a child’s laughter or the excited review of a Broadway show from a six-year-old.

Dr. Nick Fitterman with a copy of the $1 million check from New York State. Photo from Northwell Health

With financial support from New York State, Huntington Hospital is building it, and they hope undocumented and uninsured community members will have an easier time receiving care.

Dr. Nick Fitterman with a copy of the $1 million check from New York State. Photo from Northwell Health

At the former site of a Capital One Bank building at 1572 New York Avenue in Huntington Station, Huntington Hospital is renovating the building to create the Northwell Family Health Center at Huntington.

The center, which will open in the fall of 2023, will replace the Dolan Family Health Center in Greenlawn and will provide preventive care for children and adults.

The square footage of the new center will be about the same as the original family center but will have more clinical space. The current location in Greenlawn, which is 26 years old and will remain open until the Huntington Station location is up and running, has 3,000 square feet for meeting space. Huntington Hospital will dedicate that space to clinical programs.

The new location is “aligned with public transportation to improve the access for the people it serves,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director at Huntington Hospital. About 30% of the people who currently go to the Greenlawn facility have difficulty getting to the location. “Many of the people [the new site] serves can walk to the center.”

Working with Island Harvest, the Northwell Family Health Center will address food insecurity as well as overall health. Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart failure will receive nutritional counseling which, coupled with the food banks, can provide the appropriate and necessary foods.

Those patients without diseases will also have access to fresh food through Island Harvest, Fitterman said.

In addition to providing a place for people who otherwise might not have a health care connection, the site will reduce some of the burden created when people use an emergency room for conditions that, when properly monitored, won’t require urgent services.

“When you come to a health care center like this, you get a continuity of care,” said Fitterman. That provides “better outcomes at a lower cost.”

At the Greenlawn facility on Wednesday, state Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) presented the health center with a $1 million grant from New York State which will support the transition to the new facility, Fitterman said.

Donations from community members also help the center, which is being built to address a “gap in our community,” which exists in every community across the country, the doctor said.

On Wednesday, the Dolan Family Health Center in Greenlawn planned to host a baby shower for over 40 women who were expecting children.

The women are “single moms with no network of support,” Fitterman said. With balloons and tables filled with wrapped supplies like diapers, “we are connecting them to each other” to provide connections among these families.

The people coming to the center would otherwise not get antenatal care, which not only “improves their heath, but improves the health of their unborn babies,” Fitterman added.

Stony Brook Breast Cancer Screening mobile truck. (8/24/18)

By Daniel Dunaief

Some groups of people on Long Island have a much higher incidence of a particular type of cancer than others.

On an age adjusted rate, African American men, for example, were almost twice as likely to develop prostate cancer from 2014 to 2018 as Caucasians. Out of 100,000 African American men, 216.6 had prostate cancer compared with 123.9 out of 100,000 white men, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Linda Mermelstein. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Linda Mermelstein, Associate Director of Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Office for Community Outreach and Engagement, is working with her team to address those stark differences and to empower members of the community to protect their health and make informed decisions.

“A lot of our focus is on addressing disparities” in cancer care in various communities throughout Long Island, Dr. Mermelstein said. 

The Cancer Center Outreach and Engagement office has taken numerous steps to inform the public about research and care. The center has a Mobile Mammography Unit, which travels into communities to provide access to screening for breast cancer.

On June 5, at the Latina Sisters Support Inc. Spanish Fair in Brentwood, the Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement staff provided mobile mammography screening and cancer prevention and screening education.

At that event, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services provided human papillomavirus and Covid-19 vaccines and Stony Brook School of Health Professionals offered blood pressure screening.

An information chasm

Dr. Jedan Phillips. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Jedan Phillips, Medical Director for Stony Brook Health Outreach and Medical Education and Associate Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine at the Renaissance School of Medicine, explained that Covid-19 exposed the “chasm” between what the health care profession believed and the reality of what works and what doesn’t.

During the pandemic, Stony Brook University brought a vaccination pod to Uniondale in Nassau County, which is a predominantly African American community. “Because we had no relationship there, we might have wasted over 200 doses of the vaccine” as residents were reluctant to get vaccinated, he said. “Even though [Stony Brook] offered something that would help, people chose against it. It’s not about the vaccine. It’s something deeper.”

Dr. Phillips said East Elmhurst, Queens, where he grew up, was “ravaged by Covid. I know at least 10 people in my community who were regular figures in my life that died. I saw how vulnerable of a position we were in as a group and I felt I needed to get involved.”

Dr. Phillips, who has a family medical practice in East Patchogue, together with Dr. Yuri Jadotte, Assistant Professor and Associate Program Director for the Preventive Medicine Residency in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook, created three focus groups to survey the views and understanding of African American men on prostate cancer.

Many African American men don’t get screened for prostate cancer, even though such screenings could lead to earlier treatment and better outcomes.

By listening to what inspires African American men throughout Long Island to take action, Dr. Phillips hopes to tailor information to that type of delivery.

“It’s important to listen and understand,” Dr. Phillips said. Understanding what motivates people and seeking to provide the formats in which they prefer to access information can help establish a community connection and demonstrate cultural compassion.

Part of Dr. Phillips’s focus on preventive medicine comes from his experience with his father, who died from complications related to diabetes. His father, who was an inspiration for him, “didn’t live life in a preventive way,” which made managing his health more difficult, Dr. Phillips said.

With the numerous programs offered by the Office for Community Outreach and Engagement, Dr. Mermelstein said the group has four primary goals.

Dr. Jedan Phillips provides medical care.

“We want to monitor and understand what is the cancer burden in our catchment area” which includes Nassau and Suffolk County, she said. “Much of our activities are identifying the issues in terms of cancer” and understanding any barriers towards cancer care, like education, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Secondly, she wants to provide cancer prevention services, screening, education and community navigation. Third, the group has a bi-directional engagement, with researchers getting to know the community and community advocates and the community learning about the research process.

Finally, the group seeks to catalyze the research by focusing on disparities, providing research services to the entire community based on specific needs.

One of Dr. Mermelstein’s first actions after heading up this team in 2019 was to create a community advisory council for the Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Janine Logan, Vice President of Communications and Population Health with the Long Island Health Collaborative, serves on that advisory council.“What I’m most excited about is that the committee understands the importance of knowing what your community thinks and needs,” Logan said.

Logan is pleased with the work the Stony Brook Cancer Center has done to educate residents about the lifestyle behaviors that can contribute to cancer, such as smoking, inactivity, and nutrition.

“They’ve done a lot of work in reaching out and educating communities to help them understand that these simple, modifiable behaviors can reduce their risk” of developing cancer, Logan said.

The effort at the Cancer Center to educate the public about the danger’s of the sun dovetails with some of the work she has done at the Long Island Health Collaborative.

Indeed, the Cancer Center Community Outreach and Engagement hosted a “Block the sun, not the fun” gathering on May 7 at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove.

The Stony Brook Cancer Center is also working with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Cancer Prevention and Health Promotion Coalition to provide information about sunscreen safety.

In addition to the disparity among African American men who develop prostate cancer, the outreach effort also addressed the difference among hispanic women who have a higher incidence of cervical cancer than the non-hispanic Caucasian population.

In Suffolk County, about 10.2 Hispanic and Latino women out of 100,000 Hispanic and Latino women develop cervical cancer, which is higher than the 5.9 per 100,000 for white, non-Hispanic women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Human papillomarvirus is estimated to cause about 36,500 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the United States. The HPV vaccination, which works best before exposure to the virus, can prevent 33,700 of those cancers. Because the vaccine doesn’t prevent all cancers, women still need screening to protect themselves.

Previously employed for 22 years with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Dr. Mermelstein, who has a medical degree and a master’s in public health, briefly retired, before taking this job at Stony Brook.

“I wanted to do something to help address cancer after I retired, and so I contacted Stony Brook Cancer Center and began in this position about four months after I retired,” she explained.

Those interested in reaching out to the Office for Community Outreach and Engagement can call 631-444-4263 or email [email protected]

Baseball game Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I was born in March, so, of course, I wished I were born in the summer.

My brothers were both born in the heat of the summer, which means they could go to a warm beach on their birthdays, sail across some waterway around Long Island, and celebrate the passage of another year without a midterm on their big day or, even worse, the day after their birthday.

But, the real reason I wished my birthday came during the summer was so that I could attend a Yankees game.

When my birthday rolled around, pitchers and catchers were often reporting to spring training, getting ready for the marathon of each baseball season.

When my son was born in July, sandwiched between a host of other family birthdays on both sides of the family, I figured he would have the chance to pursue the kind of unfulfilled baseball fantasy that I could only imagine as I was memorizing facts, figures and formulas for another set of tests before, during and immediately after my annual rite of passage.

Recently, we celebrated his birthday by going to one of the last few Yankees games before the All-Star break. 

We had the privilege of attending a weekend game, when neither of us felt the need to work or meet a deadline.

My son is taking a summer course for which he was supposed to have a virtual test the day before we went to a game. The computer system crashed that day, and the professor suggested everyone take it the next day.

The system, however, continued not to work, perhaps obeying a secret wish my son made over his customized birthday cake, giving him the opportunity to enjoy the entire day with little to no responsibility other than to reply to all the well wishers and to compliment them on their melodic singing.

The game itself became a blowout early, as the Yankees scored run after run, and the Red Sox seemed to retreat to the safety of the dugout soon after coming up to bat.

Both of us ate more than we normally do in a day, celebrating the outing and reveling in the moment, high-fiving each other and the reveling strangers in Yankees jerseys in front of us.

While the packed stadium started to clear out when the game seemed out of reach for the visitors, we remained in our seats until the last pitch, soaking up the sun, predicting the outcomes of each pitcher-hitter match up and observing the small games-within-a-game that comes from watching the defense change its positioning for each hitter.

It still confounds me that a team could leave the third base line completely open, shift all the infielders towards right field, and still, the hitter won’t push the ball in a place where he could get a single or double. After all, if they heeded the advice of Hall of Famer Willie Keeler who suggested they “hit it where they ain’t,” these batters could get a hit, raise their batting average and contribute to a rally just by pushing the ball to a huge expanse of open and unprotected grass in fair territory.

Amid the many relaxing and enjoyable moments of connection with my son, he shared that he kind of wished he had born in the winter. After all, he said, he loves hockey and always imagined going to an NHL game on his birthday.

I suppose the grass is always greener, even on your birthday.

To be fair, though, he did add that wasn’t a genuine wish, as he was thrilled to attend baseball games on his actual birthday, and he was pleased that, in every other year, he didn’t have to worry about exams.

The first is of a spinner shark swimming among a school of bunker. Photo from Chris Paparo

After four confirmed shark bites in the last three weeks on the south shore of Long Island, state and local authorities are actively monitoring swimming areas for these apex predators, with lifeguards, helicopters and drones on the lookout for a variety of sharks.

A sandbar shark with a satellite tag. Photo from Chris Paparo

“As New Yorkers and visitors alike head to our beautiful Long Island beaches to enjoy the summer, our top priority is their safety,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement. “We are taking action to expand patrols for sharks and protect beachgoers from potentially dangerous situations.”

Earlier this month, a lifeguard was engaged in a safety exercise at Smith Point beach when a shark bit him in the chest. A paddle boarder, meanwhile, was bitten by a shark in Smith Bay on Fire Island.

Responding to the potential threat of interactions between swimmers and sharks, Hochul added several safety measures. Park Police boats will patrol waters around the island, while federal, state and county partnerships will share resources and information about shark sightings and better support to identify sharks in the area.

State park safety guidelines will suspend swimming after a shark sighting so the shoreline can be monitored with drones. Swimming may resume at least an hour after the last sighting.

Shark researchers said these predatory fish have always been around Long Island.

The southern side of Long Island likely has more species of shark than the north.

“The Atlantic Ocean, on the south shore of Long Island, has seen a notable increase in shark activity and sightings over the last two years,” a spokesman for Gov. Hochul explained in an email. The Long Island Sound, on the north shore, “has sharks but not this level of activity.”

The three most common sharks around Long Island are the sandbar shark, the dusky shark and the sand tiger shark, said Christopher Paparo, Southampton Marine Science Center manager at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Conservation success

The increase in shark populations around the island is a “conservation success story,” particularly because sharks around the world are on the decline.

“We have something special in New York,” Paparo said.

From the 1950s until the 1970s, sharks around the area were heavily fished to the point where the populations declined precipitously.

At the same time, cleaning up the waters around Long Island by reducing ocean dumping and enforcing regulations has made it possible for the sharks and the fish they hunt, such as bunker, to recover.

“The habitat has improved and it can house more sharks in the summertime” than earlier, said Dr. Robert Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, a global nonprofit organization collecting unprecedented data on sharks to help return the oceans to balance and abundance.

“Finally, a good story in marine conservation and a return of our oceans to health and abundance,” Hueter added.

While shark attacks generate considerable headlines, the threat from these marine fish is considerably less than it is for other dangers, such as driving to the beach, which produces far more injuries due to car accidents.

Last year, Paparo said, fewer than 100 shark attacks occurred throughout the world.

“I understand the fear of sharks,” driven in part by movies about them, Paparo said. But “people aren’t afraid of their cars” and they aren’t as focused on drownings, even though about 4,000 people drown in a typical year in the United States.

Hueter said he typically cringes around the Fourth of July holiday because that week is often the height of the beach season, when the larger number of people in habitats where sharks live can lead to bites.

More often than not, the damage sharks around Long Island inflict on humans involves bites, rather than attacks.

“Long Island is becoming the new Florida,” Hueter said. In Florida, people are bitten on their ankles or hands, as small to mid-sized sharks are not interested in people, he added.

While sharks have increased in numbers around Long Island, so have marine mammals, such as whales. On a recent morning last week, Paparo saw three humpback whales before he came to work.

People hunted whales, just as they did sharks, through the 70s, causing their numbers to decline.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Measures to lower risk

People concerned about sharks can take several steps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with them.

Residents and guests should try not to swim at dawn and dusk when sharks typically feed more often.

Additionally, swimmers who encounter a school of bunker, also known as Atlantic menhaden, should avoid the area, as sharks might mistake a person as a larger and slower swimming part of such a school.

Sea birds hovering over an area may be an indication of schooling bunker, a Hochul spokesman explained.

While it’s less likely here than in Cape Cod, seal colonies are a potential threat, as they can attract adult great white sharks. Long Island has become home to some juvenile great white sharks, which are about 4 feet in length.

The governor’s office also encouraged people to swim in lifeguarded areas and with a buddy.

If a shark bites, experts suggest getting out of the water. A swimmer can try to fend off a shark by hitting it in the nose. People should also avoid swimming near areas where others are fishing.

Shark bites, Hueter said, require medical attention because of the damaged skin and the bacteria from shark teeth.

“You want to get good medical help to clean the wound” if a shark bites, Hueter said.

Still rebuilding

Hueter and Paparo added that the number of sharks still hasn’t reached the same levels as they had been decades ago.

“We do have some healthy shark populations,” Hueter said. “Others are still rebuilding. We are not even close to what they used to be if you go back before the overfishing in the 1950s and 1960s.”