127 RSOM graduates begin residencies in summer; one-quarter will stay at SB Medicine, others to practice in NY and all over the country

The Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University celebrated its 49th Convocation on May 17 by conferring MD degrees to 127 graduates who will begin their first assignments as resident physicians this coming summer. Collectively, they will practice in New York State and 19 other states. Approximately one-quarter of the class will be residents at Stony Brook Medicine locations.

Peter Igarashi, MD, presided over the convocation for the first time as Dean of the RSOM. He also led the graduates in reciting the Hippocratic or Physicians’ Oath for the first time as MDs. John M. Carethers, MD, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, University of California, San Diego, delivered the Convocation Address.

“All of you are beginning a career in medicine when the need for physicians has never been greater, and the skills you have learned while at Stony Brook have laid the foundation for your career,” said Hal Paz, MD, MS, Executive Vice President for Health Sciences, Stony Brook University, and Chief Executive Officer, Stony Brook University Medicine, who delivered the welcome remarks.

“Among you, we have future residents in internal and emergency medicine, anesthesiology, neurology, psychiatry, and pediatrics, to name just a few – all committed to providing compassionate, patient-centered care in a wide range of communities. I’m delighted to learn that a majority of you are staying in New York, with many beginning your careers right here at Stony Brook.”

One of the new graduates who will remain at Stony Brook Medicine as a resident in Emergency Medicine is Erin Lavin. Remarkably, she gave birth just a day before the Convocation and was on hand – with baby girl – at the ceremony.

“For most of you, almost your entire medical school education has taken place under the oppressive cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is certainly not what you signed up for when you arrived in 2019,” said Dr. Igarashi. “When the pandemic struck New York, you rapidly pivoted to remote learning and social distancing. When in-person clerkships were again permitted but vaccines were not yet widely available, you bravely came into the hospital to learn how to take care of patients. Your resilience and dedication have brought you here today.”

The graduates join more than 5,800 Stony Brook alumni who earned their MD degrees from the RSOM. This latest group of newly minted physicians joins the healthcare workforce in a post-pandemic era that requires a continuing need for more physicians because of such trends as aging populations, the prevalence of chronic diseases, and new long-term illnesses emerging from the pandemic. The transformation of healthcare such as the growth of telemedicine and more specialty care services will also broaden these new physicians’ opportunities.

Primary Care services such as Medicine and Pediatrics will remain as needed and growing practices in our society. According to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2021 report, our country faces primary care shortages ranging from 21,000 to 55,000 practitioners over the next decade. A significant portion (21 percent) of the graduates will enter primary care fields starting with their upcoming residencies.

Some of the new graduates moved into the field of medicine more quickly than the traditional four years. The RSOM’s 3-year MD program continues to add students. This year, 11 students graduated from that track, the highest number in the school’s history.


Brian Defeo

Brian A. DeFeo has been named as Mather Hospital’s VP/Associate Executive Director of Finance. He succeeds Joseph Wisnoski who will remain at Mather in a consulting capacity until the end of 2023 to assist Mr. DeFeo during the transition.

Mr. DeFeo joins Mather Hospital from Northwell STARS (Sports Therapy & Rehab Services) in Melville, where he has held a variety of finance leadership roles since 2007. He currently is Senior Director of Financial Operations of STARS, responsible for the finance and business operations of 23 rehab locations.

Mr. DeFeo received a Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Hofstra University and a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Adelphi University.  He resides in East Northport with his wife and daughter. 

Many participants at last year's walk wore pink for breast cancer awareness. Photo from Mather Hospital

The fight against breast cancer in our community continues on Sunday, May 21 with the Northwell Health Walk at Mather Hospital located at 75 North Country Road in Port Jefferson. 

Presented by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the Walk brings together family, friends and team members for a five-mile walk through the scenic villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre. The day includes a light breakfast, live music by Damaged Goods, raffles, photo props, a walker warm up session, and the popular Pink Your Pooch contest for the best “pinked” pup!

Sponsored by New York Cancer & Blood Specialists and King Quality Construction, the Northwell Health Walk at Port Jefferson benefits the Fortunato Breast Health Center and serves to raise awareness of the need for regular breast cancer screenings starting at age 40. 

Nearly 300,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and early detection through mammograms and other screenings can help find cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. In 2019, only 65 percent of women ages 45 and older were up to date with breast cancer screening, according to the American Cancer Society.

The hundreds of participants at this annual event walk for a family member or friend fighting breast cancer, a survivor who conquered breast cancer, or in memory of someone whose life was cut short by this disease.

The event will be held simultaneously with other walks in Riverhead, Jones Beach, Staten Island and Yorktown Heights. Last year’s Northwell Health Walk raised a total of nearly $1 million.

Check-in/registration starts at 8:30 a.m. with an opening ceremony at 9:45 a.m. followed by the walk at 10 a.m. To register, pleasevisit

Joel Gonzalez, right, with his wife Amanda, daughter Isabella and son Julian. Photo courtesy Gonzalez

Joel Gonzalez was waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. During the day, if he ate too quickly, he felt like food was getting stuck in his throat.

In 2018, Gonzalez, who lives in Coram and is a high school counselor, was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. A small hiatal hernia, in which part of his stomach bulged through an opening in his diaphragm and into his chest, caused the condition.

Gonzalez started taking medications, which helped relieve the symptoms and enabled him to sleep without experiencing discomfort or waking up suddenly.

In August 2022, after learning that his hiatal hernia had gotten slightly larger and deciding he didn’t want to continue taking reflux medicine for the rest of his life, he met with Dr. Arif Ahmad, director of the St. Charles and St. Catherine of Siena Acid Reflux and Hiatal Hernia Centers of Excellence, to discuss the possibility of surgery.

Gonzalez was so convinced that the surgery would help and confident in Dr. Ahmad’s experience that he scheduled the procedure during that first meeting. Since his November surgery, which took about an hour, he hasn’t had any GERD symptoms and is not taking any medication for the condition.

Gonzalez said he would “absolutely” recommend the surgical procedure, which became a “simple decision” after consulting with Dr. Ahmad.

Caused by a mechanical problem with a valve at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter that allows stomach acid to enter the esophagus, GERD affects over 20% of the population.

Symptoms of GERD vary, which means doctors can and do take a range of approaches to treatment.

Hospitals, including St. Charles, St. Catherine of Siena, Stony Brook and Huntington Hospital, have been ramping up their efforts to evaluate and treat GERD.

Port Jefferson-based St. Charles and Smithtown-based St. Catherine of Siena, both part of the Catholic Health system, have been expanding these services at the Acid Reflux and Hiatal Hernia Centers of Excellence.

“There is a big need” for this increasingly focused effort to help patients dealing with the symptoms of GERD, said Dr. Ahmad.

At St. Charles and St. Catherine, Dr. Ahmad, who has been doing hiatal hernia and GERD-correcting surgery for over 25 years, created the center to ensure that the nurses on the floor, the people who do the testing, and the recovery staff are aware of the specific needs of these patients.

Dr. Ahmad has done presentations for the staff to ensure they have “the highest level of expertise,” he added.

Dr. Ahmad, also the director of the Center of Excellence in Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Mather Hospital, said he could perform surgery, if a patient needs it, at any of the hospitals, depending on a patient’s request.

Stony Brook’s efforts

At the same time, Stony Brook recently created a multidisciplinary Esophageal Center at Stony Brook Medicine, designed to provide a collaborative care model for diagnosing and treating GERD.

The center provides minimally invasive endoscopic treatments as well as surgical options.

Dr. Lionel D’Souza, chief of endoscopy, said the center provides a cohesiveness that “allows an evaluation by a group of people who are experts and can communicate with each other” to provide a patient-specific plan.

Dr. D’Souza suggested people seek medical attention from their primary care physician or gastroenterologist if they experience any of the following conditions: heartburn every day or severe heartburn several times a week, trouble swallowing, food getting stuck in the throat, anemia, blood in the stool or weight loss without another explanation.

Other partners in the Stony Brook GERD Center include Dr. Olga Aroniadis, chief of the division of gastroenterology, Dr. Alexandra Guillaume, director of the gastrointestinal motility center, and Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas, chief of the division of bariatric, foregut and advanced GI surgery at Stony Brook Medicine and director of Stony Brook’s bariatric and metabolic weight loss center.

“When someone has a lot of excess weight, the chance of developing GERD is a lot higher,” Dr. Spaniolas said. “Sometimes, getting patients through a program to facilitate with weight loss can help [people] avoid GI symptoms, such as heartburn.”

Stony Brook will see patients in different parts of its network and then, depending on the needs, will determine who is best-suited to start their work up and treatment, Dr. Spaniolas added.

While a potential option, surgery is among a host of choices for people who have ongoing heartburn.

Huntington Hospital, meanwhile, will begin offering esophageal motility testing starting in June. Patients can call Northwell Health’s Heartburn and Reflux Center to schedule an appointment.

A team of gastroenterologists, surgeons and dietitians will work with patients at Huntington to determine the cause of GERD and possible treatments, according to Dr. David Purow, chief of gastroenterology.

Soft foods

Those who have surgery return to solid foods gradually.

Marlene Cross, a resident of St. James who struggled with GERD for about a decade, had the procedure in March.

For the first few weeks, she ate primarily liquids, with some protein drinks and puddings. She added Farina and oatmeal to her diet and then could eat flaky fish.

At 83, Cross, who lost sleep because of GERD-induced heartburn, said the surgery was a success.

“I’m not running a marathon, but I’m definitely feeling a lot better,” said Cross, who is a retired teacher’s assistant for special education students.

Cross urged others who might benefit from surgery to “see a specialist and ask questions and do it” if the doctor recommends it. “The younger you do it, the better.”

Tony & Mary Liedtke, center, with RMHC NYM CEO Matt Campo (left, jacket & sunglasses) and the Suffolk County Police Emerald Society Pipes & Drums, which performed before the awards ceremony. Photo by @hoonsohnvisuals

Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro honored Tony Liedtke and the Liedtke Organization at its 6th Annual Stony Brook Golf Outing & Dinner at the Baiting Hollow Country Club recently, raising more than $150,000 to RMHC NYM activities supporting families with children receiving medical care in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The funds will support existing RMHC NYM programs that help families with children receiving medical care.

Tony Liedtke, right, with grandson Anthony Liedtke, Jr. (hat) with Jennifer Nicholson, COO, and Matt Campo, CEO.

“This event, like so many we celebrate, honors the commitment of Long Islanders who have their heart in the right place and back it up with action,” said Matt Campo, CEO of RMHC NYM. “We are grateful for the leadership of Tony Liedtke and his whole family, making sure our families have the help, support and resources that we provide.”

Founder Tony Liedtke started his journey with McDonald’s after he returned from Vietnam, first as a manager trainee and later growing into an owner/operator with nine store locations across the region. Over that time, he has helped McDonald’s grow into new technologies, piloting the first 24-hour store in the country and introducing credit card payments in the late 1990s, resulting in millions of dollars in increased sales across the country.

Today, Tony leads a senior management team that includes his daughter Jaime and other members of his family. He has paid his good fortune forward with philanthropy, supporting local Boy Scout troops and rebuilding the Long Beach McDonald’s store after Super Storm Sandy. He’s also been an integral part of the Stony Brook Advisory Council that is spearheading the drive to build a Ronald McDonald House in Suffolk County to serve families there.

About Baiting Hollow Country Club 

The Baiting Hollow Country Club is a privately owned, members-only golf club located in the rolling hills of Long Island’s north shore, just 10 miles from the Hamptons.  The golf course, designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, has been restored to its former glory in recent years and a magnificent 25,000 square foot Clubhouse was completed in 2008.

About Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro 

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) New York Metro provides free lodging, meals and emotional support to keep families seeking medical treatment for their sick children near the care they need and the families they love.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with 1 in 5 people being diagnosed with it in their lifetime. May is designated as National Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month and with summer right around the corner, it’s important to know how to keep your family sun-safe during outdoor activities. This past Saturday, May 13, families across Long Island attended Block the Sun, Not the Fun hosted by Stony Brook Cancer Center at Smith Haven Mall.

The interactive, fun, and educational event featured family fun opportunities presented by Healthcare and Community Partners and Stony Brook’s Wolfie mascot aimed at promoting sun safety and teaching the community about preventing skin cancer. Before the mall event, Stony Brook Cancer Center and Stony Brook Dermatology Associates hosted free skin cancer screenings for nearly hundred individuals and Dr. Tara Huston, Director of the Melanoma Disease Management Team at Stony Brook Medicine, led an educational program for patients about melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson has begun construction of a new $52 million, 26,000-square-foot Emergency Department that will maximize patient privacy and caregiver support, increase process efficiencies, and incorporate the best practices for patient safety. Ground was broken for the new facility on May 4. 

In recognition of the tremendous support to Mather Hospital from the Frey Family of Port Jefferson, the new facility will be named the Frey Family Emergency Department. The new Emergency Department will be double the size of Mather’s current Emergency Department and will create an environment that maximizes patient privacy and caregiver support, increases process efficiencies, and incorporates the best practices for patient safety.

“I’ve lived in the community since the 1960s. There have been countless times over the decades that Mather has provided excellent health care for our family and friends,” said Kathryn Frey, who also serves on Mather’s Advisory and Foundation Boards. “Everyone will benefit from our new expanded Emergency Department.”

“This is one of the most ambitious building projects in Mather Hospital’s history,” said Executive Director Kevin McGeachy. “We are re-imagining what emergency care can be for our community. The Emergency Department is our font door. More than three quarters of the patients who are admitted to Mather come in through our ED.” 

The new facility will be located on the north side of the hospital campus. It will feature individual private rooms and use a split-flow design that has proven to accelerate treatment and discharge of patients with lower-acuity conditions and speed hospital admissions for patients with higher-acuity conditions. The facility will include imaging services including X-ray, ultrasound, and CT technology; isolation rooms for infectious disease control; and a dedicated treatment area for those experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“Our new ED will provide a healing environment that meets the needs of our community when  they are experiencing an emergency: space for patients and their loved ones to be comfortable, privacy to allow clear communication with our healthcare providers, and a format that lets our staff work more efficiently so they can spend more time at the bedside,” said Adam Wos, MD, Director of Emergency Medicine at Mather.

Mather’s current Emergency Department sees almost 40,000 patients annually, making the new facility essential to the care of the community. The construction of the new Emergency Department is expected to be completed in 2025.

File photo/TBR News Media

Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson has received a 2023 Outstanding Patient Experience Award™ from Healthgrades. This distinction places Mather Hospital among the top 10 percent of hospitals nationwide for patient experience, according to Healthgrades, the leading marketplace that connects people with the right doctor and hospital. Mather Hospital has received the Outstanding Patient Experience Award for three consecutive years (2021-2023). 

The award recognizes hospitals that provide an overall outstanding patient experience and is based on ten measures related to doctor and nurse communication, hospital cleanliness and noise levels, and medication and post-discharge care instructions using data from surveys of the hospital’s own patients. Patient experience is the sum of all interactions, shaped by a healthcare organization’s culture, that influence patients’ perceptions across the continuum of care.

“It is our goal at Mather to constantly evaluate and improve every aspect of our patients’ experience from the moment they walk through our doors,” said Executive Director Kevin McGeachy. “This applies not only to the outstanding clinical care they receive but everything from the quality of the food to the cleanliness of their rooms. I am proud of our entire team for this recognition for the third consecutive year.”

 Earlier this year, Mather also received Healthgrades 2023 America’s 250 Best Hospitals Award™. In addition, Healthgrades awarded Mather the 2023 America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Gastrointestinal Surgery Award™, the 2023 Gastrointestinal Care Excellence Award™, the 2023 Gastrointestinal Surgery Excellence Award™, the 2023 Critical Care Excellence Award™.  Mather also received the Pulmonary Care Excellence Award™ for an 8th consecutive year (2016-2023) and the Bariatric Surgery Excellence Award™ for a fifth year in a row (2019-2023).  

For this annual analysis, Healthgrades evaluated 3,138 hospitals that submitted at least 100 patient experience surveys to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, covering admissions from January 2021 through December 2021. Of those hospitals evaluated, 419 hospitals outperformed their peers – based on their patients’ responses – to achieve this award.

Healthgrades evaluates performance by applying a scoring methodology to ten patient experience measures, using data collected from HCAHPS survey of the hospital’s own patients. 

Survey questions focus on patients’ perspectives of their care in the hospital, from cleanliness and noise levels in patient rooms to medication explanations and hospital staff responsiveness to 

patients’ needs. The measures also include whether a patient would recommend the hospital to friends or family and their overall rating of the hospital.

“We applaud all recipients of the Healthgrades 2023 Outstanding Patient Experience Award for putting patient experience front and center within their organizations,” said Brad Bowman, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Data Science at Healthgrades. “We commend these hospitals for their ongoing commitment to prioritizing an exceptional patient experience, while ensuring the health and safety of their patients.”

Consumers can visit for more information on how Healthgrades measures hospital quality and access the complete methodology here. An easy-to-understand overview of Healthgrades’ complete patient experience methodology is also available here.

From left, Dr. Eric Cioe Peña, Dr. Anas Sawas, Abit Soylu, Amen Alhadi, Dr. Onat Akin, the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey Reyhan Ozgur, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, and Dr. Banu Aygun stand next to medical supplies earmarked for Turkey and Syria. Photo courtesy of Northwell Health

Standing with medical providers of Turkish and Syrian descent, Michael J. Dowling, Northwell Health’s president and CEO, announced on March 3 that the health system is sending 22 pallets of needed medical and disaster relief supplies to the devastated regions after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6 that claimed more than 48,000 lives and left millions displaced.

With Reyhan Ozgur, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey, on hand at Northwell’s Integrated Distribution Center in Bethpage, this announcement comes a day shy of the one-year anniversary of Northwell sending humanitarian relief supplies in support of health providers in Ukraine at the start of a war waged by Russian forces. 

“We’re all part of one global family,” said Dowling. “And when there’s one part of the family in severe distress, we as a health care organization have to be concerned about people in other parts of the world.”

As with Ukraine relief, Northwell is working with longstanding partner Medshare to transport supplies from New York into the affected regions. In addition, Northwell’s Center for Global Health (CGH) is networking with local leaders on the ground to fund relief efforts where they’ll make the greatest impact.

“We are gathering specialized supplies that are difficult to procure locally, things like dialysis kits, trauma supplies that are now already strained in Europe because of the war in Ukraine,” said Eric Cioe Peña, MD, director of the CGH, who’s helping spearhead these efforts.

After the shock

Disaster relief efforts in Turkey and Syria have been continually plagued by high-magnitude aftershocks in already devastated areas, with the most recent 5.6 magnitude on Feb. 27, compounding the crisis.

Northwell has once again aligned with international relief partners, such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — more commonly known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders — to provide direct medical care to survivors and people in need of basic care. The Northwell Health Turkey-Syria relief fund was also created to bring direct equitable financial support to the disaster areas.

This was welcomed news to Abit Soylu, a paramedic with Northwell’s Center for Emergency Medical Services, whose family lives in Turkey. Soylu lost his cousin and her son when their home collapsed in the initial quake.

“It’s hard for me because I’m not there and I’m heartbroken here not being able to help them,” he said. “It took five days for them to find them in the rubble.”

Mr. Soylu was joined by Amen Alhadi, a flight paramedic with Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) who has family in Syria and Anas Sawas, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, who spoke about the limited humanitarian access into Syria from the civil war, now strained by the earthquake.

Also at the event were Onat Akin, MD, a Northwell pathologist with family in Turkey, and Banu Aygun MD, a pediatric oncologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. The two discussed the medical risks children face in that region due to the lack of access to care and clean water. Scabies and cholera can spread quickly and other illness from lack of vaccinations.

“Aside from losing their homes, their schools, their friends, some of them are unfortunately orphans,” Dr. Aygun said. “The physical scars are very big, but the psychological scars are much deeper.”

“We’re a culturally dynamic health system,” Dr. Cioe Peña said. “Like in Ukraine, working with MSF and our teammates that hail from these regions will help us build sustainable relationships to get materials and funds to the right place and care for more people.” 

Disaster 24/7 on-call: 

In the weeks that followed the invasion of Ukraine, Northwell Health deployed its integrated telehealth service to provide 24/7 assistance to health care providers to consult and offer guidance on civilian and military patient care. The program has provided more than 350 consults to clinicians caring for patients of blast injury and gunfire, to women with perinatal care needs and patients awaiting organ transplant.

Northwell looks to deploy this same strategy in Turkey and Syria and offer 24/7 access to complement medical care there. “When we launched this program, we quickly realized that using this as a peer-to-peer platform offered the most benefit and impact to the medical community in Ukraine,” said Dr. Cioe Peña.

“We have an obligation and responsibility. It’s part of the culture of Northwell: Any time anyone is in trouble — whether it’s domestic or overseas — we do our best to help,” added Dowling. “If we have the ability and the resources to help — and we obviously have the will — then we should help. That’s why we’re in the health care business. … It’s something we’ve always done, it’s something we always do.”

To donate and support the Northwell Health CGH Turkey/Relief fund visit: