Class of 2024

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic association president, Ira Costell and vice president, Carolyn Sagliocca at the May 28 meeting. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association held its monthly meeting at the Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, May 28, where members discussed various projects and concerns surrounding the community.

Headlining the meeting, civic president, Ira Costell addressed the current status of the Train Car Park located off Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station. 

The park has recently undergone a remodeling project after a car accident displaced the preexisting park. The renovated park will be unveiled July 3 with a celebratory free concert for the community and a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Community members interested can purchase a custom-inscribed brick to be placed in the park. All proceeds will go toward the local chamber of commerce to restore the flagpole damaged from the accident.

Following mention of the Train Car Park project, Costell shared the winners of the civic association’s scholarship — awarded to two Comsewogue High School students who have displayed remarkable community service. The winners will be announced and given their respective scholarships in June.

Concerns addressed

Ongoing concerns in the community also had a place at the table on May 28. Residents and civic members shared disquiet over the few homeless individuals frequently found sleeping near the Train Car Park. 

One resident recalled a woman and a man allegedly engaging in “inappropriate activities” and soliciting money from drivers along the roadway. Costell and civic association vice president, Carolyn Sagliocca, plan to coordinate with the Suffolk County COPE and mental health services to help mitigate this issue.

“We have been communicating extensively with Officer Berry — a Suffolk County COPE officer. Berry just wrote a letter because it’s not only at the Train Car Park, we had an encampment that was right outside the library across the street.” Costell said.

Another concern addressed was that of the proposed Staller development — an ongoing issue in this community. At the last meeting, the civic addressed the Town of Brookhaven in a letter asking for a comprehensive traffic study for the area surrounding the proposed development. [See story “Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic requests traffic study,” TBR News Media website, May 3.] 

Since the submission of the letter, the civic has not heard from the town or any other respective members. 

“I’m planning on going up to the Town Board at the next meeting to remind them that we would like a seat at the table. We’re entitled — with this kind of development facing us — to have a voice, and we want that heard and respected beyond just the public hearing, for not just that development but multiple developments,” Costell said.

Guest presentations

Irene Michalos and Carol Carter spoke before the civic association about their respective organizations — both seeking to provide a better life for children and families in need.

Michalos heads the Agape Meals for Kids program which provides meals for food-insecure children. 

“There are over 70,000 children on Long Island who are experiencing food insecurity,” Michalos said.

The Agape program provides backpacks with kid-friendly food for children and subsequently delivers the packed bags to partnering school districts each Friday during the school year. 

Contrarily, Carol Carter began her support campaign with a goal to help those experiencing substance use and abuse with a focus on adolescents. Her program, Sunshine Alternative Education & Prevention Center, uses a variety of prevention and education programs to help build drug-free and violence-free communities.

“Erase the stigma. This is something that we need to talk about because everyone has been touched by someone who might have an issue,” Carter shared. “It doesn’t have to be a family member, but a friend who has a problem, maybe related to substance use and abuse.” 

For those in need or interested in more information about these programs visit the websites www.agapemealsforkids.org and sunshinepreventionctr.org.

The next Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting will be held on June 20 at the Comsewogue Public Library.

Middle Country Central School District. File photo

The Middle Country Central School District announced that Michael Cosmo from Centereach High School and Saitta Roy from Newfield High School are their schools’ respective Class of 2024 valedictorians, while Gregory Mears from Centereach High School and Danica Lyktey from Newfield High School are the salutatorians.

Throughout their four years in high school, these students excelled academically, were active community members, and participated in various extracurricular activities.

Centereach High School Class of 2024 valedictorian Michael Cosmo achieved outstanding academic success during his high school tenure. His weighted GPA of 103.9 is a testament to his dedication and hard work. Michael’s academic achievements include completing 13 AP classes and two additional college-level courses. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

Beyond academics, Michael has made significant contributions to all facets of Centereach High School. He serves as the GO treasurer, demonstrating his leadership and involvement in school activities. Michael’s talents extend to the arts and athletics as well. He excels as a musician, playing the trumpet in the school’s jazz band and pit orchestra, and as a varsity basketball player and captain of the varsity tennis team. He has been recognized as an Academic All-County player by Suffolk County basketball coaches.

Moreover, Michael has shown a commitment to community service, tutoring elementary students, volunteering at basketball camps, and participating in Tri-M Music Honor Society-sponsored events. After graduation, Michael plans to pursue a career in law at Georgetown University, building on his internships with local lawmakers during high school.

Centereach High School Class of 2024 salutatorian Gregory Mears also achieved academic success. His combined SAT score of 1530 places him in the top 1% of all students nationally. Gregory has completed 11 AP classes and four additional college-level courses, earning recognition as an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholarship Commended student. He is a valued member of the National Honor Society, the French Honor Society, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

In addition to his academic achievements, Gregory is deeply involved in Centereach High School’s co-curricular activities. He holds the position of vice president of the science club, co-founded the school’s chess club, and actively participates in Tri-M Music Honor Society-sponsored events. Gregory’s commitment to community service is evident through his hours spent with the Avalon Nature Initiative in Stony Brook. As a talented musician, he serves as principal bassist in the Philharmonic and chamber orchestras. Gregory embodies the spirit of the music department and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. After graduation, Gregory plans to pursue English literature at Colby College in Maine.

Newfield High School Class of 2024 valedictorian Saitta Roy boasts a weighted GPA of 102.19 and will have the potential to graduate in June with more than 30 college credits. She keeps herself busy as a member of the school’s mock trial team, the crochet club, the newspaper club, and the pit orchestra. She is also the vice president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and president of the National Honor Society.

Outside of school, Saitta works at the Middle Country Public Library and serves as a tutor, also known as a homework pal, for elementary-age students. Saitta has accumulated over 100 hours of community service as a book buddy, making donations to Stony Brook Hospital through the crochet club, serving food at the New Lane Elementary School MVP dance, and running a station at the Bicycle Path Literacy Expo through the National Honor Society. Saitta will be attending the University of Notre Dame, where she will major in mechanical engineering on her way to law school.

Newfield High School Class of 2024 salutatorian Danica Lyktey earned the number two spot out of 324 seniors, maintaining a 101.68 weighted GPA. She took a total of 15 AP and college-level classes throughout her high school career. Danica has the potential to graduate with more than 40 college credits.

Danica is an active member of the Spanish Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and is part of the school’s varsity kickline. Outside of school, she is a competitive dancer at Inspirations Performing Arts Centre and this year she is teaching a class for 3- to 6-year-old students. Danica will be attending SUNY Binghamton in the fall, majoring in psychology.

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website: www.mccsd.net.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Tis the season for the opposite of schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude, as you may know, suggests happiness at someone else’s misery. Not being a German speaker, I understand that “schaden” means “damage” or “harm” and “freude” means “joy,” or, if you prefer, is the last name of the founder of psychoanalysis, which, I guess, is either supposed to make you happy or more self aware, coupled with an “e” at the end to make it harder to spell, so that you can feel schadenfreude when someone misspells the word.

So, why, in an era when so many others are so happy to enjoy the misery of those on the other end of an ideological spectrum, is it the era of the opposite of schadenfreude?

Well, look around! You might notice people in caps and gowns, completing their journeys through an educational curriculum strewn with considerably more obstacles than most four-year periods, starting with the dislocation caused by Covid.

Students couldn’t meet their classmates, except on zoom, skype or social media. They got to know each other through the facial expressions they could see online or through the images on their screens, as some of their professors’ children played with LEGOs, their cats climbed across keyboards, or their neighbors took their daily jogs in neon colors.

These graduates endured dislocation, loneliness, and, in some cases, prolonged exposure to family members whose watchful eye and judgment they thought they were finally escaping. They remained trapped in the family fishbowl.

Uncertainty, which is, admittedly, part of life, became even greater, as they didn’t know when they could go back to normal. When, they wondered, could they take a brief nap in a biochemistry class while a professor described reactions on an overhead projector in a slightly dimmed room?

For a while, they couldn’t chat with people on the way to the dining hall or at a party or mixer, they couldn’t compare the challenges of helicopter parenting and they couldn’t wonder what it would be like to leave their home country, travel thousands of miles away, and only speak to their parents once or twice a month.

And then, slowly, the fog of the pandemic lifted, giving them a chance to see each other in person, to listen to the questions others asked, and to have those moments when they could teach or learn outside of class while enjoying a late-night pizza.

Yes, these are remarkable high school, college, graduate school and night school students. We can and should be happy for them, celebrating their resilience and determination. They learned to multitask and adapt in ways most graduates don’t endure.

As we clap for them, we might need to fight the urge to wonder “what about me?” Or, perhaps, to think “What was hard about school when I went?” or, if perhaps “I could have been a doctor, except for the science part.” (Thanks to Woody Harrelson in the movie “Doc Hollywood” for that line).

Yes, you had challenges, but this day and time isn’t about you. It’s about these students who not only graduated, but will also contribute to the world, realizing their dreams, the goals of their parents and/or grandparents, and their communities, who need professionals in a range of fields to contribute to society.

This is our time to shine as a part of a support system, to acknowledge, to admire, and to elevate those who will likely encounter future difficulties, knowing that they already triumphed under extreme circumstances.

Oh, and if you crave schadenfreude, people have seized on numerous other outlets for their free-floating frustrations, laughing at the disappointed voters whose candidates are no longer in the race or who seem poised for an agonizing defeat.

Graduations, however, are not a zero sum game, where you win and I lose or I win and you lose. We all win when these graduates design beautiful homes that raise the property value in our neighborhood, when they help us with legal challenges, and when they hold our hands and provide medical guidance during future health threats.

Let’s hold back on our urge to pinch them in their pictures, to put them in their place when they seem happy with themselves, or to talk about ourselves instead of them, and let’s admire them for their pothole-filled journey and wish them well in the days, months and years ahead.

125 graduates of the Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University received their MD degrees in 2024. Photo by Arthur Fredericks

By Daniel Dunaief

On May 14, the Renaissance School of Medicine celebrated 50 years since its first graduating class, as 125 students entered the ranks of medical doctor.

The newly minted doctors completed an unusual journey that began in the midst of Covid-19 and concluded with a commencement address delivered by former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci currently serves as Distinguished University Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the McCourt School of Public Policy and also serves as Distinguished Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

“I have been fortunate to have had the privilege of delivering several commencement addresses over the years,” Dr. Fauci began. “Invariably, I have included in those addresses a reference to the fact that I was in your shoes many years ago when I graduated from medical school.”

This graduating class, however, has gone through a journey that “has been exceptional and, in some cases unprecedented,” Dr. Fauci added.

Indeed, the Class of 2024 started classes remotely, learning a wide range of course online, including anatomy.

“Imagine taking anatomy online?” Dr. Bill Wertheim, interim Executive Vice President for Stony Brook Medicine, said in an interview. “Imagine how challenging that is.”

Dr. Wertheim was pleased with the willingness, perseverance and determination of the class to make whatever contribution they could in responding to the pandemic.

The members of this class “were incredibly engaged. They rolled up their sleeves and pitched in wherever they could to help the hospital manage the patients they were taking care of,” said Wertheim, which included putting together plastic gowns when the school struggled to find supplies and staffing respite areas.

“Hats off to them” for their continued zeal and enthusiasm learning amid such challenges, including social issues that roiled the country during their medical training, Wertheim said.

Student experience

For Maame Yaa Brako, who was born in Ghana and moved to Ontario, Canada when she was 11, the beginning of medical school online was both a blessing and a curse.

Starting her medical education remotely meant she could spend time with the support system of her family, which she found reassuring.

At the same time, however, she felt removed from the medical community at the Renaissance School of Medicine, which would become her home once the school was able to lift some restrictions.

For Brako, Covid provided a “salient reminder” of why she was studying to become a doctor, helping people with challenges to their health. “It was a constant reminder of why this field is so important.”

Brako appreciated her supportive classmates, who provided helpful links with studying and answered questions.

Despite the unusual beginning, Brako feels like she is “super close” to her fellow graduates.

Brako was thrilled that Dr. Fauci gave the commencement address, as she recalled how CNN was on all the time during the pandemic and he became a “staple in our household.”

Brako will continue her medical training with a residency at Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where she will enter a residency in obstetrics and gynecology.

Mahesh Tiwari, meanwhile, already had his feet under him when medical school started four years ago. Tiwari, who is going to be a resident in internal medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, earned his bachelor’s degree at Stony Brook.

He was able to facilitate the transition to Long Island for his classmates, passing along his “love for the area,” recognizing the hidden gems culturally, musically and artistically, he said.

After eight years at Stony Brook, Tiwari suggested he would miss a combination of a world-class research institution with an unparalleled biomedical education. He also enjoyed the easy access to nature and seascapes.

A look back

Until 1980, Stony Brook didn’t have a hospital, which meant that the medical students had to travel throughout the area to gain clinical experience.

“Students were intrepid, traveling all across Long Island, deep into Nassau County, Queens and New York City,” said Wertheim.

In those first years, students learned the craft of medicine in trailers, as they awaited the construction of buildings.

Several graduates of Stony Brook from decades ago who currently practice medicine on Long Island shared their thoughts and perspective on this landmark graduation.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, graduated from Stony Brook Medical School in 1983.

In the early years, the students were an “eclectic group who were somewhat different than the typical medical school students,” which is not the case now, Nachman said.

When Nachman joined the faculty at Stony Brook, the medical school didn’t have a division of pediatric infectious diseases. Now, the group has four full time faculty with nurse practitioners.

The medical school, which was renamed the Renaissance School of Medicine in 2018 after more than 100 families at Renaissance Technologies made significant donations, recognizes that research is “part of our mission statement.”

Stony Brook played an important role in a number of medical advances, including Dr. Jorge Benach’s discovery of the organism that causes Lyme Disease.

Stony Brook is “not just a medical school, it’s part of the university setting,” added Nachman. “It’s a hospital, it has multiple specialties, it’s an academic center and it’s here to stay. We’re not just the new kids on the block.”

Departments like interventional radiology, which didn’t exist in the past, are now a staple of medical education.

Dr. David Silberhartz, a psychiatrist in Setauket who graduated in 1980, appreciated the “extraordinary experience” of attending medical school with a range of people from different backgrounds and experiences. He counts three of the members of his class, whom he met his first day, as his best friends.

Silberhartz, who planned to attend commencement activities, described the landmark graduation as a “wonderful celebration.”

Aldustus Jordan III spent 43 years at the medical school, retiring as Associate Dean for Student Affairs in January 2019.

While he had the word “dean” in his title, Jordan suggested that his job was to be a “dad” to medical students, offering them an opportunity to share their thoughts, concerns and challenges.

As the school grew from a low of 18 students to a high of 150 in 2021, Jordan focused on keeping the small town flavor, so students didn’t become numbers.

“I wanted to make sure we kept that homey feeling, despite our growth,” said Jordan.

Jordan suggested that all medical schools recognize the need for doctors not only knowing their craft, but also having the extra touch in human contact.

“We put our money where our mouth is,” Jordan said. “We put a whole curriculum around that” which makes a difference in terms of patient outcomes.

Jordan urged future candidates to any medical school, including Stony Brook, to speak with people about their experiences and to use interviews as a chance to speak candidly with faculty.

“When you have down time, you have to enjoy the environment, you have to enjoy where you live,” Jordan said.

As for his own choice of doctors, Jordan has such confidence in the education students receive at Stony Brook that he’s not only a former dean, but he’s also a patient.

His primary care physician is a SBU alumni, as is his ophthalmologist.

“If I can’t trust the product, who can?” Jordan asked.

As for Fauci, in addition to encouraging doctors to listen and be prepared to use data to make informed decisions, he also suggested that students find ways to cultivate a positive work life balance.

“Many of you will be in serious and important positions relatively soon,” Fauci said. “There are so many other things to live for and be happy about. Reach for them and relish the joy.”