Stony Brook University

Coffee and snacks are available, and snacks have been individually wrapped during the pandemic. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

The Ronald McDonald Family Room — a part of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital — has served as a sanctuary for parents and family members who have a child that is in prolonged care of the facility.

Officially opening in 2013, the purpose of the family room is to provide a respite space for parents to spend their downtime while their child is being treated in the hospital, whether that be long or short term. 

However, since the pandemic began, the lounge promptly shut down and is currently awaiting the green light from the hospital to reopen.

“It is sad because it shut down a great resource room,” said Tricia Telemaque, host and board member of the family room. “When we open really depends on the day-to-day and what happens with COVID. However, we are on alert and ready to go back full force.”

Coffee and snacks are available, and snacks have been individually wrapped during the pandemic. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

The lounge emulates an apartment-style environment with countless amenities for family members such as a fully stocked kitchen, private showers and laundry machines.

Pre-pandemic, volunteers would solicit the community to have restaurants, pizza places and bigger chains such as Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s deliver food that the volunteers would serve to the families of the sick children. The lounge offered breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Providing emotional support for families is another key aspect of the volunteer work. Having a person to talk to could serve as a stress reliever for the unfortunate circumstances going on in a parent’s life.

“I remember one day I was sitting in the room and this one woman was folding her laundry and she asked, ‘Could I just sit and talk to you because talking to someone while folding laundry feels normal’ so it really is more of a solace room,” Telemaque said. 

According to her, the children admitted in the hospital also have siblings who come to the lounge and are often forgotten about. The volunteers make sure there are plenty of books and toys to play with, not only for the child admitted but for their siblings too. 

“The intent is to not have any white coats [doctors] in the lounge,” Telemaque said. “So, it’s not a place where doctors and nurses can come in.” 

One of the biggest goals for Ronald McDonald House Charities is to bring awareness to Long Islanders about what the lounge is and its purpose for the families that use it. 

Since the pandemic began, the organization has continued to work hard for families who were suffering through the COVID period. However, donations of food have become more complicated due to the need to have items individually wrapped such as chips and granola bars. 

The family room relies fully on donations from the surrounding community and businesses, as it serves approximately 3,600 families a year, so fundraising is essential for their need to remain active. 

“When I started working in the room, I was amazed at how few of my friends knew that there was a Ronald McDonald [room] here in Stony Brook,” Telemaque said. “So simple awareness that there is such a need for something like this is very important and I think that is an underserved opportunity.” 

The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital has an area where families can sit and talk. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Among many parents who have used the family room, Karen Maher said using the room has been a huge stress reliever on both her and her daughter, who is undergoing cancer treatment.

“I look at the Ronald McDonald House as a blessing,” Maher said. “They really helped my daughter’s treatment go much easier for me and her. They’d bring little gifts for her too, something as simple as a teddy or a blankie.” 

With the help of the lounge and their conveniences, Maher was finally able to get the rest and relaxation she needed.

For more information on how to donate to the Ronald McDonald Family Room in Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, visit www.rmhcnym.org or call 516-775-5683. 

The Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University welcomes fans and filmmakers alike back into its theatres tomorrow night as it features new independent films from over fifteen countries at the Stony Brook Film Festival presented by Island Federal on Thursday, July 22 through Saturday, July 31. The popular Festival, now in its 26th year, brings a highly selective roster of diverse films, making it a favorite of moviegoers and filmmakers alike.

The Festival kicks off with the world premiere of The 5th Man, a documentary on Paul Limmer, a former track coach at Bellmore’s Mepham High School. During his 50-year career there, Limmer racked up hundreds of wins, though director Trey Nelson focuses on the story of all the other kids – the ones who never felt “seen” – until Paul Limmer came into their lives. The film will be preceded by Feeling Through, an Oscar-nominated short featuring deaf-blind actor Robert Tarango of Selden.

Produced by Staller Center, the Festival pairs unforgettable short films with a selection of features you won’t see anywhere else. The Stony Brook Film Festival presented by Island Federal is one of the first film festivals to announce its return, and it brings in filmmakers, cast, and crew who field questions after the screenings, adding a unique interactive dimension to the experience.

In addition to the live in-person Festival, the Stony Brook Film Festival will be screening the Festival virtually following the Live in-person Festival. This Virtual Festival will be available on IndieFlix Festivals August 5-30, and it will be an encore screening of the films shown live at Staller Center.

Please note: The Staller Center for the Arts is committed to your safety and will be following CDC, State, and University guidelines regarding health & safety protocols. All patrons will be required to comply with the guidelines in place at the time of the event.

Covid Guidelines for the STONY BROOK FILM FESTIVAL: At this time, masks are optional for guests who are fully vaccinated. For guests who are unvaccinated or those who are not fully vaccinated, we ask that you continue to wear face masks at all times inside the building.

QUICK FACTS

THE 5TH MAN – Paul Limmer, was a world class track coach at Mepham High School in Bellmore, Long Island.

• Rachel Keller (of Legion, Fargo, Dirty John, and Tokyo Vice) is planning to attend for her film THE FOLLOWING YEAR.

• The entire short film NOISY was filmed on a single subway train ride to Coney Island, with the two actors sitting among regular passengers who ignored them as the film crew sat at the front of the car, hanging on through the lurching stops and starts of the train.

• The feature ANCHORAGE was shot chronologically over five days in the California High Desert with a cast and crew of ten people shoved into a few vehicles. This darkly comic, intense and even frightening film stars director Scott Monahan and screenwriter Dakota Loesch as low-level, opioid-addicted brothers who plan to drive their stash from Florida to Alaska and sell it for a huge profit.

• Ruby Barker, Marina Thompson in Bridgerton starred in HOW TO STOP A RECURRING DREAM before being cast for her role in Bridgerton.

STONY BROOK FILM FESTIVAL

WHEN/WHERE: Thursday, July 22, through Saturday, July 31, at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, or virtually, from the comfort of your own home Thursday, August 5, through Monday, August 23.

TICKETS & INFORMATION: stonybrookfilmfestival.com/
Single-day tickets are $20; virtual passes are $85; festival passes are $125; gold passes are $250

For the Stony Brook Film Festival schedule and descriptions of all films go to stonybrookfilmfestival.com/films/

Pixabay photo
Dr. On Chen. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Now that temperatures are on the rise and humidity is surging , it is important to protect our hearts from the hazards of the summer sun. On Chen, MD, interventional cardiologist and Director of the CCU and Telemetry Units, Outpatient Cardiology Services and the Lipid Program at Stony Brook Medicine, has some suggestions to help you stay heart-safe all summer long.

People with an existing heart condition need to be careful with warmer temperatures, but even a healthy heart can be put under stress when temperatures climb. Following are tips for helping to make your summer heart-safe:

  1. Hydrate. Adequate hydration is nothing less than your best friend as the summer heat moves in. Drinking plenty of water helps regulate your temperature, helps your heart pump more easily and keeps all your organs functioning properly. Remember to drink before you are thirsty, and avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate the body. And, it is important to know that some common heart medications can make you more vulnerable to high heat and increase your hydration needs. Talk to your doctor about your specific hydration needs.

  2. Staying Cool. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, cold compresses (an ice-pack or ice-water filled bottle) applied to your ‘pulse points’ — the areas where your veins are closest to your skin’s surface, including wrists, neck, temples and armpits — can help you cool down.

  3. Eat Water-Rich Foods. You get about 20 percent of your water from the foods you eat. A hot weather diet that emphasizes cold soups, salads and fruits can both satisfy hunger and provide extra fluid. Strawberries, watermelon, peaches, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, peppers and spinach, are all fruits and veggies that are 90 percent or more water.

  4. Know Heat Illness Warning Signs. Spending too much time in extreme heat may lead to heat exhaustion and, in turn, heatstroke, two serious heat-related illnesses in which your body can’t control its temperature.

    1. Heat Exhaustion Symptoms: Heavy sweating, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness and fainting. Treatment: Move to a cool place, loosen clothing, use cold compresses, sip cool (not cold) water. If symptoms persist, call 911.

    2. Heatstroke (also called Sunstroke) Symptoms: Fever of 104 degrees or more; severe headache; behavioral changes; confusion; hot, red skin; no sweating; rapid heartbeat and loss of consciousness. Treatment: Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. Call 911 immediately. Quickly move the individual to a cooler place, use cold compresses, do not give anything to drink.

  5. Know Your Numbers. See your doctor to get a careful look at your “numbers,” including your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, your blood pressure and more. Knowing your numbers and your risk factors are an important part of heart health, especially before engaging in warm-weather activities.

  6. Timing is Everything. Avoid being outdoors during the hottest times of the day, when the sun is at its strongest and temps are at their highest. Your cardiovascular system has to work harder on a hot day in an effort to keep your body cool. In fact, for every degree that your body temperature rises, your heart has to pump an additional ten beats per minute. Everyone is at risk in extreme heat, but high temperatures and humidity are particularly stressful for those who already have a weakened heart.

  7. Be Sun Savvy. A sunburn can dehydrate you and impede your body’s ability to cool. If you’re going to be outside during the peak sun of the day, be sure to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you head out. Reapply every couple of hours.

  8. Dress for Sun-cess. Think loose, light-colored clothing (to help reflect heat) that is made of a lightweight, breathable fabric like cotton. Add well-ventilated shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, shades and sunscreen and you’re good to go.

  9. Pace Yourself. Make your warm weather workouts shorter and slower, aim for morning or evening when the temps and humidity are lower, choose shady pathways and trails or an air-conditioned space. Work with your healthcare team to develop a plan that is best for you.

  10. Listen to your body. If you aren’t used to regular exercise, are over 50, have heart disease or have questions about your heart health, see your doctor before participating in any strenuous outdoor summer activities.

Although anyone can be affected by heat illness, people with heart disease are at greater risk.

For more information, visit www.heart.stonybrookmedicine.edu or call (631) 44-HEART.

Rebecca Smith at the Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland, where the scientist did field work during the 2015 Astrobiology Summer School. Photo from Rebecca Smith

By Daniel Dunaief

Rocks may not speak, move or eat, but they can and do tell stories.

Recognizing the value and importance of the ancient narrative rocks on Earth and on other planets provide, NASA sent vehicles to Mars, including the rover Perseverance, which landed on February 18 of this year.

Perseverance brought seven instruments, most of them identified by the acronym-loving teams at NASA, that carry out various investigations, such as searching for clues about a water-rich environment that may have sustained life about 3.5 billion years ago.

Several instrument teams developed and monitor these pieces of equipment, including Joel Hurowitz, Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University and Deputy Principal Investigator on the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PiXL.

In addition to the instrument leads, NASA chose participating scientists who can contribute to several teams, providing scientific support for a host of questions that might arise as the rover explores the terrain of the Red Planet 128 million miles from Earth.

Rebecca Smith, a post-doctoral researcher at Stony Brook in Geosciences Professor Scott McLennan’s lab, is one such participating scientist.

“I get to move around between all these different groups, which is fun,” said Smith, whose appointment will last for three years. While the Mars2020 program takes up about 20 percent of Smith’s time, the remainder is focused on the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Smith is likely to spend almost all of her time on Mars2020 starting this September.

Smith has helped make the science plans for the rover. The scientist and other researchers help select targets for the instruments that will help answer specific science questions. For this work, they collaborate with different science teams. Smith plans to get more involved with specific instrument teams soon, including SuperCam, PiXL and Sherloc.

For Smith’s own research, the scientist has a suite of rock samples that include lacustrine carbonates and hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks. The volcanic rocks formed under conditions that might be analogous to those once present in Jezero crater, where the rover landed and is currently maneuvering. The crater is just north of the Martian equator and has a delta that once long ago contained water and, potentially, life.

On Earth, Smith is using versions of the SuperCam, PiXL, and Sherloc to understand how these rocks would look to different instruments and determine what baseline measurements they need to tell the different types of rocks apart using the instruments aboard the rover.

Smith has studied rocks on Earth located in Hawaii, Iceland and the glaciers in the Three Sisters Volcanic Complex in Oregon.

Many planetary geologists use Earth as an analog to understand geologic processes on other planets. It is still uncertain if the climate of early Mars was warn and wet or cold and icy and wet, Smith explained in an email, adding, “It is possible the minerals we see with the rovers and from orbit can help us answer this question.” 

Most of the work the scientist been involved with is trying to understand how Mars-like volcanic rocks chemically weather under different climates.

Through previous research on Mars, scientists discovered that large regions had poorly crystalline materials. The poorly crystalline nature of the materials makes them difficult to identify using rover-based or orbiter-based instruments.

“The fact that they could have formed in the presence of water makes them important to understand,” Smith explained.

Part of the work Smith is doing is to understand if poorly crystalline material formed by water have specific properties that relate to the environment or climate in which they formed.

Smith said the bigger picture question of the work the teams are doing is, “was there life on Mars? If not, why not? We think that Mars, for the first billion years or so, was pretty similar to Earth around the same time and Earth developed life.”

Indeed, Earth had liquid water on its surface, which provided a habitat for microbial life about 3.5 billion years ago.

The ancient rock record on Mars provides a better-preserved history because the Red Planet doesn’t have plate tectonics.

“Based on what we know about Earth, if life ever developed on early Mars, it would likely have been microbial,” Smith wrote.

Other goals of Mars2020 include characterizing the climate and the geology. Both goals focus on looking for evidence of ancient habitable environments and characterizing those to understand a host of details, such as the pH of the water, the temperature and details about how long the water was on the surface.

Part of the reason NASA put out a call for participating scientists is to “bridge instrument data” from different pieces of equipment, Smith explained.

“I love the collaborative nature of working on a team like this,” Smith offered. “Everybody is interested in getting the most important information and doing the best job that we can.”

Smith enjoys the opportunity to study potentially conflicting signals in rocks to determine what they indicate about the past.“Geology is just so complex. It’s a big puzzle. Forces have been acting over a very long period of time and forces change over time. We are trying to tease apart what happened and when.”

While Smith works at Stony Brook, the post-doctoral scientist returned to California during the pandemic to live closer to her family. After finishing the current research program, Smith plans to remain open to various options, including teaching.

Smith appreciates the opportunity to work on the Mars 2020 mission, adding, “I’m really grateful for that during this past year in particular.”

In addition to the bypass surgery, Stony Brook surgeons regularly perform the full spectrum of cardiac lifesaving procedures including Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), Mitral Valve Repair, Electrophysiology and Cardiac Catheterization. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

The Cardiothoracic Surgery Division at Stony Brook University Heart Institute has earned a distinguished three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for its patient care and outcomes in isolated coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedures in 2020. The three-star rating, which denotes the highest category of quality, places Stony Brook University Hospital among the elite for heart bypass surgery in the United States and Canada. The Stony Brook Heart Institute received two back-to-back three-star ratings from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) in 2017 and 2018, and now an overall three-star rating for 2020.

This elite rating is reflective of our entire organization’s commitment to quality and safety — from preoperative planning to thorough coordination among multidisciplinary team members — for the optimal outcome for the patient receiving cardiac care,” says Margaret McGovern, MD, PhD, Dean for Clinical Affairs and Vice President, Health System Clinical Programs.

“At Stony Brook, we take great pride in our comprehensive heart program that has a long legacy of bringing the highest quality standards to benefit our patients and their families,” says Carol Gomes, Chief Executive Office, Stony Brook University Hospital. “And we remain laser-focused on serving our community with the most advanced technology, our outstanding cardiovascular staff and the full spectrum of lifesaving cardiac interventions.”

“The three-star rating is a testament to our team’s deep commitment to bringing the best in cardiac care to our community,” says Henry J. Tannous, MD, Co-Director of the Heart Institute, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and General T.F. Cheng Chair, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. “Patients can have peace of mind knowing they’re getting care from one of the top-rated facilities in the nation.”

The STS star rating system is one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded overall measures of quality in health care, rating the benchmarked outcomes of cardiothoracic surgery programs across the United States and Canada. The star rating is calculated using a combination of quality measures for specific procedures performed by an STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database participant. For 2020, 6.1% of participants received the three-star rating for isolated CABG surgery.

“The Society of Thoracic Surgeons congratulates STS National Database participants who have received three-star ratings,” said David M. Shahian, MD, chair of the Task Force on Quality Measurement. “Participation in the Database and public reporting demonstrates a commitment to quality improvement in health care delivery and helps provide patients and their families with meaningful information to help them make informed decisions about health care.”

The STS National Database was established in 1989 as an initiative for quality improvement and patient safety among cardiothoracic surgeons. The Database includes four components: the Adult Cardiac Surgery Database (ACSD), the Congenital Heart Surgery Database (CHSD), the General Thoracic Surgery Database (GTSD), and the mechanical circulatory support database (Intermacs). The STS ACSD houses approximately 7.4 million surgical records and gathers information from more than 3,500 participating physicians, including surgeons and anesthesiologists from more than 90% of groups that perform heart surgery in the US. STS public reporting online enables STS ACSD participants to voluntarily report to each other and the public their heart surgery scores and star ratings.

“The STS rating is based on the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery’s experience in coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery, and we believe that the quality and expertise illustrated by the top rating is reflective of the entire Heart Institute’s dedication to excellence in patient care,” says Dr. Tannous.

About Stony Brook University Heart Institute:

Stony Brook University Heart Institute is located within Stony Brook University Hospital as part of Long Island’s premier university-based medical center. The Heart Institute offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The staff includes full-time and community-based, board-certified cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, as well as specially trained anesthesiologists, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, surgical technologists, perfusionists, and other support staff. Their combined expertise provides state-of-the-art interventional and surgical capabilities in 24-hour cardiac catheterization labs and surgical suites. And while the Heart Institute clinical staff offers the latest advances in medicine, its physician-scientists are also actively enhancing knowledge of the heart and blood vessels through basic biomedical studies and clinical research. To learn more, visit www.heart.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

About STS:

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) is a not-for-profit organization that represents more than 7,500 surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide who are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for surgeries of the heart, lung, and esophagus, as well as other surgical procedures within the chest. The Society’s mission is to advance cardiothoracic surgeons’ delivery of the highest quality patient care through collaboration, education, research, and advocacy.

A scene from Willow. Photo courtesy of Banana Films
Watch in-person or virtually this year!

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts turns into a movie lover’s mecca when new independent films screen at the Stony Brook Film Festival on evenings and weekends from Thursday, July 22 to Saturday, July 31. The popular festival, now in its 26th year, pairs memorable short films with an array of features you won’t see anywhere else, making it a favorite of moviegoers and filmmakers alike.

The live, in-person screening of the film festival, presented by Island Federal, will be followed up by a virtual festival from Aug. 5 to 30 on the IndieFlix Festivals app. 

Presented by Island Federal, the 2021 Festival lineup boasts 35 films from over 15 countries and includes never-before-seen features from around the globe. The Festival kicks off with the world premiere of The 5th Man, a documentary on Paul Limmer, a former track coach at Bellmore’s Mepham High School. During his 50-year career there, Limmer racked up hundreds of wins, though director Trey Nelson focuses on the story of all the other kids – the ones who never felt “seen” – until Paul Limmer came into their lives. 

The film will be preceded by Feeling Through, an Oscar-nominated short featuring deaf-blind actor Robert Tarango of Selden. Other must-see features include Yamina Benguigui’s Sisters, starring Isabelle Adjani and Maïwenn, a finely crafted reflection on memory and belonging to two worlds and As Far As I Know, an uncompromising film that wrestles with questions of perspective and victimhood. Milcho Manchevski’s newest masterpiece Willow is resplendent in unforgettable images and unconventional narrative. Closing out the 2021 Festival is the intense and complexly drawn sports drama Final Set.

FILM SCHEDULE

OPENING NIGHT

Thursday, July 22 at 8 p.m.

Feature: The 5th Man, United States

Short: Feeling Through, United States

 

Friday, July 23 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Risks & Side Effects, Germany

Short: David, United States

Friday, July 23 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Red River Road, United States

Short: The Following Year, Spain

 

Saturday, July 24 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Sisters, France

Short: Girls Are Strong Here, U.S.

Saturday, July 24 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Games People Play, Finland

Short: Off Duty, United States

 

Sunday, July 25 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Persona Non Grata, Denmark

Short: On the Sidewalk, at Night, U.S.

Sunday, July 25 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Anchorage, United States

Short: The Saverini Widow, France

 

Monday, July 26 at 7 p.m.

Feature: As Far As I Know, Hungary

Short: DA YIE, Ghana

Monday, July 26 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Willow, Republic of Northern Macedonia, Hungary, Belgium

Short: The Night I Left America, U.S.

 

Tuesday, July 27 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Fire in the Mountains, India

Short: The Music Video, Canada

Tuesday, July 27 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Everything in the End, U.S.

Short: Max is Bleeding, U.S.

 

Wednesday, July 28 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Sun Children, Iran

Short: Noisy, United States

Wednesday, July 28 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: The Castle, Lithuania, Ireland

Short: Inverno (Timo’s Winter), Italy

 

Thursday, July 29 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Murder at Cinema North, Israel

Short: Devek, Israel

Thursday, July 29 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: How to Stop a Recurring Dream, United Kingdom

Short: This Uncertain Moment, U.S.

 

Friday, July 30 at 7 p.m.

Feature: Lorelei, United States

Short: Swipe, United States

Friday, July 30 at 9:15 p.m.

Feature: Perfumes, France

Short: Ganef, United Kingdom

 

CLOSING NIGHT

Saturday, July 31 at 8 p.m.

Feature: Final Set, France

CLOSING NIGHT AWARDS

10:30 p.m.

Ticket information

All live screenings are held at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook in the 1,000-seat Main Stage theater. Festival passes are on sale for $125, which guarantees entry to all live films at the Staller Center in July. Virtual passes are $85 with guaranteed access to all virtual films. For $250 you can purchase a Gold Pass, which guarantees entry and preferred seating for all live films at the Staller Center in July and full access to the Virtual Festival. Student passes are also available. For more information or to order, call the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-2787 or visit stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

*This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Summer Times supplement on June 24, 2021.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Rain can put a damper on life, as the two children at the beginning of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat shared and as the itsy bitsy spider that went up the water spout only to get washed out again discovered.

As it turns out, rain, clouds, wind and foul weather can reduce the trading decisions of people who buy and sell large sums of money in stocks, as they grapple with their own reactions to clouds that they’d like to go away and come again some other day.

Danling Jiang

Danling Jiang, associate dean of research and faculty development in Stony Brook University’s College of Business; Lin Sun, Assistant Professor at George Mason University; and Dylan Norris, Assistant Professor at Troy University recently published a study in which they explored the effect of cloudy or inclement weather in the two weeks before an earnings surprise on investor reactions.

Every three months, public companies provide a detailed disclosure of their profits and losses, giving investors a chance to look over the equivalent of a quarterly report card.

Like helicopter parents who monitor every line, sentence and word in a report card, institutional investors tend to have a stronger reaction, either positively or negatively, if those numbers are considerably different than they expected. An “A” in advanced calculus might be like profits that exceed estimates by 10 percent, while a “C” might be the equivalent of an unexpected loss in a business that had been doing well.

As it turns out, institutional investors are less likely to react as strongly, at least initially, to an earnings surprise if the skies in the two weeks before they review the earnings announcements are cloudy or unpleasant.

“We find strong supporting evidence in our empirical tests which reveal increases in the pre-announcement unpleasant weather of institutional investors results in muted immediate market responses to earnings news and amplified port-earnings-announcement drifts,” Jiang explained in an email.

Over the course of two to three months, the stock price reflects a more typical pattern that aligns with the direction of the earnings surprise.

The researchers published their work in the Journal of Corporate Finance.

These results, which came from an analysis of reactions to earnings surprises from 1990 to 2016, validate and extend previous efforts to understand how weather affects investor decisions.

Earlier studies revealed the effects of weather on individuals’ psychological and physiological states, according to Jiang.

“These effects have also been shown to influence financial decisions and security prices, even through the actions of sophisticated market participants such as market makers and security analysts,” she said.

The three academics started working together when Lin and Jiang were faculty and Norris was a PhD student at Florida State University.

“We were fascinated by the idea present in prior research that weather seems a perfect exogenous shock to investor psychology and physiology,” said Jiang. “This exogenous feature allows us to draw some causality of psychology on market pricing in a new setting with institutional investors and earnings announcements.”

The researchers chose the years 1990 to 2016 because they had the data in their possession.

“We tried to ensure that our sample period was long enough to confirm the weather effect was a persistent force throughout time and not merely a phenomenon of a small segment in time,” said Jiang who added that solving the weather-related muted effect by adding brighter lights to a trading floor could backfire, as excessive bright lights can have negative effects.

“Overillumination can cause fatigue, stress and anxiety,” she explained. “It is also likely that most traders are subject to the weather at some point during the day” through arriving at work, leaving for lunch or glancing out the window. That means the weather still likely influences them even when they may be in a brightly-lit indoor setting.

The researchers used two measures of weather conditions. One integrated wind, cloud and rain, and the other used cloud cover only. Both measures produced similar findings.

Using earlier studies and their own research, it appears accounting for the combined effect of simultaneous weather parameters or focusing on cloud cover better captures any physiological or psychological effects as opposed to using wind or rain alone, said Jiang.

Public companies are unlikely to trigger a more muted response to earnings surprises by recruiting investors from areas with greater cloud cover, as prior research demonstrated that seasonal climate norms don’t appear to affect the behavior of investors once they acclimate, so to speak, to the weather.

In addition to the 14-day window to create the weather measures, the researchers generated a seven-day measure that showed similar results.

Announcement day weather may also affect market reactions to earnings news and “we do not discredit its importance,” Jiang said. Indeed, other research has shown that the weather in New York City at the time of an earnings announcement impacts market reactions.

The explanation for the muted reaction to earnings is based on psychological and physiological reactions of institutional investors to weather, including anxiety and sadness as well as fatigue and decreased activity.

“In addition to causing delayed information processing, weather could cause a reduction in energy amongst some traders,” said Jiang

That means institutional investors may struggle with the same factors that made the boy and Sally from The Cat in the Hat struggle while it was “too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. So we sat in the house, we did nothing at all,” Dr. Seuss wrote.

While institutional investors don’t do nothing at all, they are less active, at least according to the recent research, than they are when the sun shines brightly, reliably and more consistently.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

An electroencephalogram (EEG) study of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) identified a neural signal that may help explain the variation of how those with ASD perceive or understand the mental states of others (called “Theory of Mind”). Led by Matthew Lerner, PhD, of Stony Brook University, the study is published in Clinical Psychological Science.

While challenges with Theory of Mind have long been associated with ASD, it is now known that many people with ASD do not struggle with his sort of perspective-taking. For example, those with increased autism symptoms do not necessarily exhibit increased deficits in the understanding others socially, and vice versa. However, this variability in Theory of Mind is not well understood.

A total of 78 adolescents ages 11 to 17 participated in the study, most with ASD. With the EEG in place, the participants viewed Theory of Mind vignettes of social scenes and made mental state inferences on the characters’ behavior as their brain activity was recorded.

“We know the brains of those with ASD process social experiences differently, yet little work has linked these differences directly to Theory of Mind,” says Lerner, Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry & Pediatrics in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook. “In our study, we first identified an electrical brain-based marker that relates to Theory of Mind ability in typically-developing teens, and found that it does so in ASD, too. This marker, called the Late Positive Complex (LPC), seems to reflect one’s ability to hold and reflect an idea or situation in one’s mind.”

Lerner and his team found that LPC scores in ASD adolescents related to better Theory of Mind accuracy and fewer ASD symptoms. More importantly, The LPC statistically explained the relationship between ASD symptoms and Theory of Mind accuracy, suggesting that this EEG signal may explain why some individuals with ASD struggle with Theory of Mind.

“Essentially, if this marker is present in someone with ASD, they do not seem to have trouble with Theory of Mind, but if it is absent they do.”

The authors point out that evidence from the EEG study suggests that deficits in Theory of Mind reasoning in those with ASD occur relatively early in the brain process of perception, and stem from difficulties holding an idea or image in mind when it is no longer visible.

They conclude that “the current findings increase understanding of the neural mechanisms implicated in social-cognitive functioning in ASD and further inform clinical practice, research and theory involving social cognition in ASD.”

 

Above, microscopic image showing brown, antibody-based staining of keratin 17 (K17) in bladder cancer. Image from Shroyer Lab, Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

Detectives often look for the smallest clue that links a culprit to a crime. A fingerprint on the frame of a stolen Picasso painting, a shoe print from a outside a window of a house that was robbed or a blood sample can provide the kind of forensic evidence that helps police and, eventually, district attorneys track and convict criminals.

Kenneth Shroyer MD, PhD                  Photo from SBU

The same process holds true in the world of disease detection. Researchers hope to use small and, ideally, noninvasive clues that will provide a diagnosis, enabling scientists and doctors to link symptoms to the molecular markers of a disease and, ultimately, to an effective remedy for these culprits that rob families of precious time with their relatives.

For years, Ken Shroyer, the Marvin Kuschner Professor and Chair of Pathology at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, has been working with a protein called keratin 17.

A part of embryological development, keratin 17 was, at first, like a witness who appeared at the scene of one crime after another. The presence of this specific protein, which is unusual in adults, appeared to be something of a fluke.

Until it wasn’t.

Shroyer and a former member of his lab, Luisa Escobar-Hoyos, who is now an Assistant Professor at Yale, recently published two papers that build on their previous work with this protein. One paper, which was published in Cancer Cytopathology, links the protein to pancreatic cancer. The other, published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, provides a potentially easier way to diagnose bladder cancer, or urothelial carcinoma.

Each paper suggests that, like an abundance of suspicious fingerprints at the crime scene, the presence of keratin 17 can, and likely does, have diagnostic relevance.

Pancreatic cancer

A particularly nettlesome disease, pancreatic cancer, which researchers at Stony Brook and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, including CSHL Cancer Center Director David Tuveson, have been studying for years, has a poor prognosis upon diagnosis.

During a process called surgical resection, doctors have been able to determine the virulence of pancreatic cancer by looking at a larger number of cells.

Shroyer and Escobar Hoyos, however, used a needle biopsy, in which they took considerably fewer cells, to see whether they could develop a k17 score that would correlate with the most aggressive subtype of the cancer.

“We took cases that had been evaluated by needle biopsy and then had a subsequent surgical resection to compare the two results,” Shroyer said. They were able to show that the “needle biopsy specimens gave results that were as useful as working with the whole tumor in predicting the survival of the patient.”

A needle biopsy, with a k17 score that reflects the virulence of cancer, could be especially helpful with those cancers for which a patient is not a candidate for a surgical resection.“That makes this type of analysis available to any patient with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, rather than limiting it to the small subset of cases that are able to undergo surgery,” Shroyer said. 

Ultimately, however, a k17 score is not the goal for the chairman of the pathology department.

Indeed, Shroyer would like to use that score as a biomarker that could differentiate patient subtypes, enabling doctors to determine a therapy that would prove most reliable for different groups of people battling pancreatic cancer.

The recently published report establishes the foundation of whether it’s possible to detect and get meaningful conclusions from a needle biopsy in terms of treatment options.

At this point, Shroyer isn’t sure whether these results increase the potential clinical benefit of a needle biopsy.

“Although this paper supports that hypothesis, we are not prepared yet to use k17 to guide clinical decision making,” Shroyer said.

Bladder cancer

Each year, doctors and hospitals diagnose about 81,000 cases of bladder cancer in the United States. The detection of this cancer can be difficult and expensive and often includes an invasive procedure.

Shroyer, however, developed a k17 protein test that is designed to provide a reliable diagnostic marker that labs can get from a urine sample, which is often part of an annual physical exam.

The problem with bladder cancer cytopathology is that the sensitivity and specificity aren’t high enough. Cells sometimes appear suggestive or indeterminate when the patient doesn’t have cancer.

“There has been interest in finding biomarkers to improve diagnostic accuracy,” Shroyer said. 

Shroyer applied for patent protection for a k17 assay he developed through the Stony Brook Technology Transfer office and is working with KDx Diagnostics. The work builds on “previous observations that k17 detects bladder cancer in biopsies,” Shroyer said. He reported a “high level of sensitivity and specificity” that went beyond that with other biomarkers.

Indeed, in urine tests of 36 cases confirmed by biopsy, 35 showed elevated levels of the protein.

KDx, a start up biotechnology company that has a license with The Research Foundation for The State University of New York, is developing the test commercially.

The Food and Drug Administration gave KDx a breakthrough device designation for its assay test for k17.

Additionally, such a test could reveal whether bladder cancer that appears to be in remission may have recurred.

This type of test could help doctors with the initial diagnosis and with follow up efforts, Shroyer said.“Do patients have bladder cancer, yes or no?” he asked. “The tools are not entirely accurate. We want to be able to give a more accurate answer to that pretty simple question.”

From left, Eleanor Lalima and Lisa Figueroa Filosa. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Two best friends on Long Island are now sharing a bond like no other, a set of kidneys.

Eleanor Lalima of Ronkonkoma and Lisa Figueroa Filosa of Deer Park have been best friends since they met in the 1st grade. Through getting married and having children of their own, the duo have stayed close throughout their more than 30 year friendship, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone they knew when Lisa answered the call to help out when her friend needed her most.

Eleanor has been battling kidney disease since age 16. Not only did she face the disease, but she lost both her mother and her brother to kidney disease. While a patient at Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH), Eleanor learned her next treatment option was receiving a kidney transplant. 

Soon after, Eleanor put out a call for help on Facebook. Several of Eleanor’s family and friends reached out right away to get tested including her lifelong best friend Lisa. Lisa was actually the first to get tested and called Eleanor to tell her she had a good match for a transplant.

“My mother was on the transplant list for over 8 years due to her rare blood type and she didn’t get the same chance I have now,” says Eleanor. “To get a kidney in such a short time is really amazing and it gives me a chance at a better life.”

Dr. Wayne Waltzer, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Urology and Director of Kidney Transplantation Program at Stony Brook University Hospital, and Dr. Frank Darras, Clinical/Medical Director of the Renal Transplantation Program at Stony Brook University Hospital, who cared for other members of her family, played a large role in Eleanor’s treatment at Stony Brook.

“Kidney disease can take a toll on an entire family. Being a transplant surgeon and being able to assist in restoring one’s quality of life is truly a rewarding experience,” said Dr. Darras. “But the true hero here is Lisa. Without her none of this would have been possible!”

On May 25, spirits were high as Eleanor and Lisa went in for surgery at SBUH. The surgery was a success and the friends were discharged within a week.

“Just when you think a lifelong friendship can’t be any stronger, you share a kidney,” said Lisa.

Kidney disease affects an estimated 37 million people in the U.S. (15% of the adult population; more than 1 in 7 adults). It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the National Kidney Foundation, causing more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer.

For more information about Kidney Transplantation Services at Stony Brook Medicine, visit stonybrookmedicine.edu/patientcare/transplant.