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Stony Brook Trauma Center, Suffolk County’s only Level I Trauma Center, earns Safe States Alliance's Injury and Violence Prevention Program Achievement Award for 2020.

The Safe States Alliance awarded the Stony Brook Trauma Center, Suffolk County’s only Level I Trauma Center, an Injury and Violence Prevention Program Achievement Award for 2020. The award recognizes Stony Brook’s ability to pivot and make many of its injury prevention programs available to the community despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

James A,. Vosswinkel, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Chief, Trauma, Emergency Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care, Medical Director, Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU), Medical Director, Trauma Center

“This award is a thank you to the team here that works tirelessly to reach the community and provide the care they need no matter the circumstances,” says James A. Vosswinkel, MD, FACSTrauma Medical Director and Chief of the Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care in the Department of Surgery at Stony Brook Medicine. “This is a reminder that every idea can make an impact. These programs can and will save lives.”

The Stony Brook Trauma Center offers free in-person injury prevention programs to the public, educating local communities on best practices in safety to prevent a trip to the emergency room and help save lives. In March 2020, that came to a halt when in-person injury prevention programs were cancelled due to the pandemic. Kristi Ladowski, MPH, Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator at Stony Brook Medicine, together with volunteers, staff, and community partners, quickly pivoted and made sure their programs could still be accessible to the community by moving to virtual programming. 

“The strength of our partnerships, everyone’s willingness to quickly adapt, and our passion for injury prevention ensured that this transition was accomplished quickly and seamlessly,” says Ladowski. “We developed win-win partnerships that harmonize organizational goals, student experiential learning, and most importantly served our community needs.”  

Stony Brook’s highly effective “Tai Chi for Arthritis,” a Fall Prevention workshop, immediately began a virtual schedule that allowed the team to hold more than 40 eight-week workshops, reaching over 1,000 participants. The availability of easily accessible recorded segments helped participants practice longer, more often and helped reduce attrition. Other programs such as “A Matter of Balance and Stepping On” also moved to virtual programming with great success. 

School-based programs were also pivoted to virtual platforms. Programs such as Impact Teen Driver and the extremely popular Teddy Bear Clinic both promote road safety. In an effort to reach even more schools and students, the Stony Brook Injury Prevention team created a Teddy Bear Clinic video utilizing a “Blues Clues” approach to appeal to children and get more classroom participation than ever before possible. The video will reach thousands of students and potentially hundreds of classrooms every year helping keep the community safe, informed and become a great tool for parents and teachers in preventing major trauma injuries in children. 

To make sure clinical students at Stony Brook could still fulfill their learning requirements, the Trauma Center expanded their undergraduate and graduate experiential learning opportunities by offering student participation in virtual programs. Occupational therapy students created multiple one-hour fall prevention workshops that helped fill a need for more accessible, shorter, informational workshops. These workshops were so well received that they are being continued indefinitely along with multiple practicum opportunities for master’s in public health students.  

To learn more about the Injury Prevention Programs offered through the Stony Brook Trauma Center, visit

About Stony Brook University Hospital:

Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) is Long Island’s premier academic medical center. With 624 beds, SBUH serves as the region’s only tertiary care center and Regional Trauma Center, and is home to the Stony Brook University Heart Institute, Stony Brook University Cancer Center, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute. SBUH also encompasses Suffolk County’s only Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center, state-designated AIDS Center, state-designated Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, state-designated Burn Center, the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, and Kidney Transplant Center. It is home of the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. To learn more, visit

About Stony Brook University Trauma Center:

As Suffolk County’s only Level I Trauma Center, Stony Brook provides the highest possible level of adult and pediatric trauma care. We are state designated as the only Regional Trauma Center in Suffolk County, treating 1,800 trauma patients annually, including 200 children. For children, we provide a dedicated 24/7 Pediatric Emergency Department adjacent to the main Emergency Department, staffed by board-certified Pediatric Emergency Medicine physicians. The eight-bed Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center is Suffolk County’s only state-designated regional Burn Center. To learn more, visit

About Safe States Alliance:

A national non-profit organization formed in 1993, comprised of public health and injury and violence prevention professionals. Their mission, to strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention. To learn more visit,

Photos from Stony Brook Medicine

Photo from Deposit Photos

Amid a steady drumbeat of worry and anxiety, the last week produced several potential encouraging signs in the battle against COVID-19.

Pfizer recently applied for emergency use authorization for a vaccine for children who are five to 11 years old, a group that has returned to school but that hasn’t yet had access to any vaccines.

Pfizer will get early approval as “long as the [Food and Drug Administration] has enough data,” said Dr. Sunil Dhuper, chief medical officer at Port Jefferson’s St. Charles Hospital. “They’re going to get early approval.”

A vaccine would be a welcome defense for children who now constitute anywhere between 25% and 35% of infections, Dhuper said.

Vaccinations for those over the age of 12 have helped drive down an infection rate that had climbed toward the end of the summer.

In recent weeks, the percentage of positive cases in Suffolk County has continued to decline, with the seven-day average falling to 3.2% as of Oct. 10, according to data from the Suffolk County Department of Health.

While health officials and pharmacies continue to administer booster doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, Johnson & Johnson has applied for Emergency Use Authorization for a booster dose that enhances the immune response to the virus.

As of now, people who received J&J’s original vaccine are not eligible for the Pfizer BioNTech booster, according to Dr. Sritha Rajupet, director of Population Based Health Initiatives and director of the Post-COVID Health Clinic at Stony Brook Medicine,

Meanwhile, Merck recently produced a drug in pill form called Molnupiravir that reduced hospitalizations and death by 50% when taken within the first five to eight days of developing COVID symptoms.

The drug didn’t completely prevent hospitalizations or death but greatly reduced it, generating excitement in the health care community. Merck applied earlier this week for emergency use authorization for Molnupiravir.

“It’s a great study,” Dhuper said. “We are very delighted that there is going to be another alternative” treatment for patients.

Up to this point, hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors have not had access to an outpatient drug.

When given at the onset of symptoms, Molnupiravir acts like the flu drug Tamiflu, helping to reduce the symptoms and health challenges associated with COVID-19.

This medicine could help reduce hospitalizations, providing relief to patients and enabling hospitals to manage their resources better, Dhuper said.

Doctors remained cautiously optimistic about the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Dhuper added that the real challenge for the community would come within the next three to four weeks, during which time hospitals and count officials will watch carefully for any increase in infections in between when children return to schools and the FDA approves any vaccine for this age group.

Long haul issues

While health officials were pleased with the potential availability of additional medical tools to prevent or treat COVID-19, they said numerous residents continue to battle long haul COVID.

Described as persistent symptoms that can develop four to eight weeks after the initial symptoms, long haul COVID can include fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, palpitations and a wide range of other neurological discomforts.

Doctors said 10 to 35% of people who contract COVID can develop these longer-term symptoms.

Long haul COVID-19 remains a “big concern,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, wrote in an email. “We remind people who remain unvaccinated that people of all ages have suffered from long-range symptoms” from the virus. “We don’t know yet if these symptoms will be limited or if they may develop into chronic life-long conditions. We will be looking at the literature to learn more.”

Dhuper said some of those with long-haul symptoms feel as if they are “continuously living with an illness, almost like a flu.”

Such extended discomfort has an extended impact on the quality of life.

Treatment of these long-haul symptoms “is tailored to the patient’s specific symptoms,” Stony Brook’s Rajupet described in an email. “Identifying the organ systems involved and the symptoms or autoimmune conditions that have manifested are essential to developing a treatment plan.”

Rajupet suggested that leading a healthy lifestyle, with balanced sleep, nutrition and exercise can help in recovery. Stony Brook encourages this approach not only in the management of long-haul symptoms, but also for a patient’s overall health.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Sunil Dhuper’s actions speak as loudly as his words.

The chief medical officer at Port Jefferson’s St. Charles Hospital is planning to get a booster for the COVID-19 vaccine this Thursday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized Friday, Sept. 24, the additional shot for a range of adults, including those in jobs that put them at an increased risk of exposure and transmission, such as frontline health care workers.

Earlier, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced Sept. 22 that “a single booster dose” was allowed “for certain populations” under the emergency use authorization, although the EUA “applies only to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.” 

Dhuper received his first vaccination in January and would like to raise his immunity.

“I am very eager to get the booster dose,” he said in an interview. “I reviewed scientific data from all over the world — from the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom — and I had reflected that, after six months after the second dose, it’s time to get a third dose.”

While St. Charles and other hospitals haven’t required a booster, Dhuper believes that state and national guidance will likely recommend it before too long.

“Over time, I do anticipate people may begin to get severe infections or get hospitalized” if they haven’t enhanced their immunity with a booster, he said. “It would be prudent to get the booster dose in the arms of those who are fully vaccinated.”

Stony Brook University Hospital is providing boosters to employees and to eligible members of the public.

Meanwhile, Northwell Health and Huntington Hospital are deliberating how to proceed and will announce a decision soon, according to Dr. Adrian Popp, chair of infection control at Huntington Hospital.

While boosters are available for education staff, agriculture and food workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service employees, grocery store workers, public transit employees and a host of others, the overall infection rate in Suffolk County has stabilized over the past few weeks.

Decline in infections

As of Sept. 25, the seven-day average rate of positive tests in the county fell below 4% for the first time since Aug. 15, dropping to 3.9%, according to data from the New York State Department of Health.

“We think the numbers might have plateaued,” Dhuper said. That decline coincides with the increasing number of people who are vaccinated. In Suffolk as at Sept. 29, 1,043,478 people (70.7%) have received at least one dose and 950,058 (64.3%) are fully vaccinated, according to Covid Act Now. Anybody who is at least 12 years old is eligible to be vaccinated.

The number of COVID Patients from Huntington Hospital has fallen in the last month, dropping to 20 from about 30, according to Popp. Five patients are in the intensive care unit at the hospital with COVID.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, described the downward trend in the seven-day average as “great news,” but added that such an infection rate is “not close to where we need to be to say we have turned a corner.”

The current infected population includes children, as “more kids are getting infected,” she said, with children currently representing 25.7 percent of all new COVID cases nationwide.

With the FDA and CDC considering approving the emergency use authorization that provides one-third of the dosage of the adult shot for children ages 5 to 11, Nachman urged residents to vaccinate their children whenever the shot is available to them.

“There is no advantage to picking the right age or dose for a child,” she explained in an email. “If they are 12 now, get that dose. If they are 11 and 8 months [and the CDC approves the vaccine for younger children], don’t wait until they are 12 to get a different dose. Get the dose now that is available for that age.”

When younger children are eligible for the lower amount of the vaccine, Dhuper also urged them to get that lower dose, which he feels “offers a good level of protection for the foreseeable future.”

Nachman said she sees the issue of weight or age bands regularly in pediatrics.

“The take-home message is to not play any games and treat the child at the age or weight that they are now and not wait for them to be older or heavier,” she suggested.

As for the next month, Dhuper cautioned that the county may show another peak, particularly with the increase of indoor activities where the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant is more likely. At this point, concerns about the Mu variant, which originated in South America and was much more prevalent in the United States and in Suffolk County in June, has decreased.

“We were seeing 5% of the cases in New York state were Mu variants and the remaining were Delta,” Dhuper said.

Popp estimated that the Mu variant constitutes between 0.1% and 0.3% of cases.

The World Health Organization has urged wealthier nations like the United States not to administer boosters to their populations widely before the rest of the world has an opportunity to vaccinate their residents.

Dhuper said the United States has contributed 500 million doses to the rest of the world this year and plans to donate about 1.1 billion doses to the rest of the world in 2022.

“I hope that other upper and middle income nations can do the same, so we can get [the shots] in the arms of those who need them,” he said.

Popp urged people to recognize that COVID is a global disease.

“We in the U.S. will not be safe until the epidemic is cleared in other parts of the world as well,” he explained in an email. “I believe it is in our national interest to help other countries fight the COVID epidemic.”


Popp said the United States has plenty of vaccine, with enough for boosters and to vaccinate those who haven’t gotten a shot.

As the new school year begins, students will have to wear masks once again. File photo from Smithtown Central School District

What a difference a month, or two, makes.

The percent of positive tests in Suffolk County on Aug. 29 stood at 5.1% with a 4.7% positive seven-day average, according to data from the Suffolk County Department of Health.

That is considerably higher than just a month earlier, with a 3.2% positive testing rate on July 29 and a 2.7% rate on a seven-day average. The increase in infections for the county looks even more dramatic when compared with June 29, when positive tests were 0.2% and the seven day average was 0.4%.

“With the highly transmissible delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes Covid-19] circulating, we are urging everyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible,” Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, wrote in an email. “We also advise residents to wear masks when indoors in public.”

With students returning to school during the increase in positive tests, including those who are under 12 and ineligible to receive the vaccination, Pigott explained that he was concerned about the positive tests in the county.

Nationally, the spread of the Delta variant is so prevalent that the Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky at a White House briefing urged people who are unvaccinated not to travel during the Labor Day weekend.

While area hospitals aren’t seeing the same alarming surge towards capacity that they did last year, local health care facilities have had an uptick in patients who need medical attention.

“The increased community transmission is concerning as it is correlating with hospital rates also slowly rising,” Bettina Fries, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Medicine, wrote in an email. 

Meanwhile, most of the patients hospitalized at Huntington Hospital are younger, from children who are transferred to people in their 20s to 50s, explained Adrian Popp, chair of Infection Control at Huntington Hospital/ Northwell Health, in an email.

As schools in the area prepare to return to in-person learning, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University has been coordinating with officials to prepare for a safe return to in-person learning.

“Stony Brook faculty are working with a diverse group of school districts in planning for the upcoming school year,”  Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, explained in an email.

In recent weeks, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital has had few pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19, with more pediatric positive cases in the outpatient setting.

Area hospitals including Stony Brook and Huntington Hospital continue to have strict guidelines in place for health care workers including social distancing, hand washing and the proper use of personal protective equipment.

Amid increasing discussion of the potential use of boosters, Stony Brook awaits “formal guidance and will continue to follow all DOH directives on vaccine administration,” Fries wrote.

Ida and Covid

Outside of Long Island, Hurricane Ida has the potential to increase the spread of the virus, as larger groups of people crowd into smaller spaces.

The hurricane “may become a super spreader event since vaccination rates in the South are low and people may crowd into shelters or at home indoors,” Popp explained. “I am concerned not only about the hospital capacity in Louisiana, but also of the impact the hurricane can have on hospital functioning.”

Popp cited a loss of power, lack of supplies, and the difficulty for ambulances trying to reach patients in flooded areas.

Brandpoint photo

After seeing enough cases of vaccinated people testing positive amid a surge in the Delta variant that has become the dominant strain of the virus in Suffolk County, local health officials support the federal government’s plan to provide booster doses eight months after the first course of vaccination.

Several studies have pointed to the benefit of boosters, highlighting how people who are vaccinated have lower antibody levels over time and are more susceptible to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a joint statement on Wednesday, Aug. 18, that the government is prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of Sept. 20 and starting eight months after people received their second shots.

A recent study by Mayo Clinic researchers looked at records for 25,0000 vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in Minnesota. The study showed 76% effectiveness in the Pfizer vaccine protecting them from infection, but 42% effectiveness in July during COVID, Sunil Dhuper, chief medical officer at St. Charles Hospital, explained in an email.

At the same time, Health Ministry of Israel data showed a similar progressive decline in the effectiveness of the vaccination in protecting patients from infection over a six-month period, particularly amid Delta variant surges.

Still, the vaccinations continued to provide protection against more serious forms of the disease, with a much smaller 10% decline in the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting people against hospitalizations, Dhuper said.

In physician practices, urgent care centers and emergency departments, doctors are seeing a “sizable number” of breakthrough cases, Dhuper continued.

Adrian Popp, chair of Infection Control at Huntington Hospital/ Northwell Health, said Huntington Hospital has seen breakthrough cases, although most of them are “mild” and are “diagnosed incidentally when patients get admitted for other issues.”

Dhuper urged residents to take precautions similar to the ones they took last year before vaccines were available, including social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands carefully, especially in indoor settings.

At this point, boosters will likely be available for the Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations. The Food and Drug Administration is still looking at data for people who received the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Once the FDA provides Emergency Use Authorization for a booster for the general population, medical health experts anticipate a much smoother roll out than the initial struggle with finding vaccinations.

“As all who have been vaccinated in New York State have a [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] vaccine card,” Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said in an email, “It should be straightforward to each person to get a booster at the eight-month mark.”

At the same time, parents are focused on the timing and availability of vaccines for children under the age of 12. Results from the trial are “expected in December 2020,” wrote Popp.

Medical experts continue to urge residents to receive their shots.

“It is hoped that the booster will cut down on these infections and thus transmissions,” Nachman said.

Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

As we continue to battle against the coronavirus and approach flu season, it’s imperative that we know the facts about the vax. This Tuesday, August 17, join experts from Stony Brook Medicine as they discuss the importance of and science behind vaccines during a LIVE virtual event. Our experts will dispel misconceptions and address concerns surrounding key vaccinations, including those for COVID-19, the flu, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

The ongoing pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for healthcare providers and patients. A recent study showed a 71% drop in healthcare visits for 7 to 17-year-olds, when critical vaccines like Tdap, HPV, and meningitis are given. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12 because it works best when given before exposure to HPV. It can be given as early as age nine, and through age 26 for both men and women, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. The vaccine is safe with more than 270 million doses having been given worldwide since 2006. Even though the HPV vaccine can prevent many cancers caused by HPV infection, nearly half of adolescents in New York State are not getting the vaccine as recommended.

Every year in New York, nearly 2,600 people are diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV. To help educate those across Long Island about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention in adolescents, the Stony Brook University Cancer Center received a grant funded by the New York State Department of Health and Health Research Inc. This allows Stony Brook, the first and only institution on Long Island to be part of the Cancer Prevention in Action (CPIA) program, an opportunity to further promote the importance of the HPV vaccine as cancer prevention.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at Noon EST

The livestream event can be seen on:

Facebook at


Youtube at

Moderator Sharon Nachman


  • Sharon Nachman, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research at the Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University & Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital


  • Jill Cioffi, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University and Medical Director of Ambulatory Primary Care Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

  • Lauren Ng, DO, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University and Primary Care Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

For more information on Stony Brook Medicine’s vaccine program visit,

This program is supported with funding from the State of New York. The views expressed in this educational event and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the State.

Pet Therapy Dog Molly
There’s a new top dog of Stony Brook University Hospital’s volunteer program. Stony Brook Medicine has awarded Pet Therapy Team Doreen Monteleone and her seven-year-old Labrador partner Molly the 2020 Volunteers of the Year. Doreen and Molly, from West Sayville, joined the hospital volunteer program in March of 2019 and together have donated nearly 200 hours of service since.
Doreen Monteleone and Pet Therapy Dog Molly

Molly came to Stony Brook with an already impressive resume. She is certified by Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a Therapy Dog (THD) for her work over the past several years. Besides her visits at Stony Brook University Hospital, Molly is a reading companion for children at a library. Molly is also highly skilled in scent detection. She competes in events that showcase skills similar to bomb or narcotics detection and is currently trialing at the elite level with the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). Through AKC, Molly earned obedience titles Beginner Novice (BN) and Companion Dog (CD); and has one leg on her Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title. AKC has also awarded her the Trick Dog Advanced (TDA), Canine Good Citizen (CGC), AKC Temperament Test (ATT) and Farm Dog Certified (FDC) titles.

Before the pandemic, Doreen and Molly engaged in hospital visits primarily involving Stony Brook’s geriatric patients. Regular visits were arranged by Carolyn O’Neill, NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders), Elder Life Coordinator and Geriatric Educator at Stony Brook Medicine.

“I have heard countless stories on how visits from Molly and Doreen have greatly benefited our patients,” says O’Neill. “Molly has brought so much cheer to those who need it and she has touched the hearts of many at Stony Brook.” Doreen recalls one patient who had a profound reaction to one of Molly’s visits. After having a stroke, a woman would not talk to anyone. That was until Molly came to see her. After the four-legged volunteer left, the patient’s nurse asked, “What did you think of Molly?” The patient responded, “I love that dog!”

Pet Therapy Dog Molly

When COVID-19 suspended Volunteer services and in-person visits, Pia York, Therapeutic Intervention Coordinator at Stony Brook Medicine, took the lead to bring virtual Pet Therapy visits to staff. Rounding with an iPad, Pia with help from recreation therapists Chris Brigante, Diane Dignon and Casey Carrick, visited various units bringing tale wags, virtual kisses and tricks to help relieve the stress. They virtually visited every area of the hospital from the pharmacy on the first floor to the 19th floor.

During these visits, Molly became a celebrity. Her name was mentioned hospital-wide and requests for visits increased ten-fold. In addition to visits, Doreen and Molly creatively used photos to help emphasize the importance of social distancing, proper mask wearing, and hand washing to name a few. Some were even written in Spanish. The photos also contained various inspirational messages for Stony Brook staff as they worked tirelessly to care for patients during the height of the pandemic.

Doreen says she simply wants to share the special joy Molly brings. “She always puts a smile on my face and makes me laugh. Patients and staff would often say that Molly made their day,” says Doreen. “When the COVID crisis hit, I thought about the enormous stress and uncertainty at the hospital. Continuing our visits remotely to raise spirits was the least I could do.”

Molly is also a bit of a celebrity outside of Stony Brook. She can be seen running with a little girl at the end of the current Primatene Mist commercial.

To learn more about Pet Therapy at Stony Brook Medicine, visit

Reese Tiller, right, with his physician Dr. Laura Hogan, division chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and director of the Pediatric Oncology Survivorship Program at SBCH, during the July 27 10th anniversary event. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital gathered doctors, nurses, physicians and staff to celebrate their 10th anniversary of pediatric care this Tuesday, both in person and virtually. 

Throughout the years, SBCH has provided innovative research, clinical trials and breakthrough techniques to benefit pediatric patients. The hospital has more than 180 skilled pediatric specialists who cover more than 30 specialties.

“We have a long history of caring for children, and it was with the generational knowledge and passion that we made the commitment to create an institution that would better meet the needs of nearly half-a-million children in Suffolk County,” said Maurie McInnis, president of Stony Brook University. 

Even during the pandemic, SBCH had pediatric investigators on duty, researching the effectiveness the COVID-19 vaccine has on children. 

During the event, photos were displayed showing the history of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Holbrook high schooler Reese Tiller attended the event and shared his experience with the children’s hospital that helped treat him when he had a cancer diagnosis. 

After a soccer accident left Tiller with a concussion, it was SBCH who found out through testing that he had a large mass on his chest which was discovered to be leukemia. 

“I was extremely confident that Reese was in the best place and was only going to get the best care possible,” said his mother Jaimi Tiller.

The Tiller family expressed their gratitude for SBCH and the effort it put into curing Reese’s illness. The hospital kept the family, including Reese, informed on every update possible. 

“The second I got there, I felt loved and cared for,” Reese said. 

The transition to the children’s hospital was easy for the Tiller family and despite being there for treatment, the overall feeling of the hospital was welcoming for all. 

SBCH has become a vital part of the academic and clinical mission of SBU and Stony Brook Medicine, which aim to provide the highest quality of education and training. 

With the dedication and passion of Stony Brook’s health care workers, SBCH has become a regional and national leader in children’s health care, and the first children’s hospital in the nation that created a center for the treatment of pediatric multiple sclerosis.

“You should all be proud of the outstanding clinical quality and breadth of services Stony Brook Children’s provides,” said Dr. Margaret McGovern, vice president for Clinical Programs and Strategy for SBM. “For me personally, it has been an honor to work with all of you and see your dedication and passion for improving children’s lives has been a daily inspiration.”

County Executive Steve Bellone with Dr. Gregson Pigott in front of the vaccine pods in Hauppauge. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Thanks to vaccines for COVID-19, the percentage of positive tests recently dropped below 1% for the first time since the third week of October.

“That’s a big deal,” said Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner for the Department of Health Services in Suffolk County.

Indeed, Adrian Popp, chair of Infection Control at Huntington Hospital/Northwell Health and associate professor of medicine at Hofstra School of Medicine, said the infection rate was closer to 10 percent in the middle of the winter.

The current positive tests represent a “really low number,” Popp said.

Infections are coming down even more than they did last year amid the economic shutdown because of the vaccine, Pigott said.

Pigott added that the vaccines have proven effective against the most predominant mutated form of the virus, B117 or the UK variant, which is also the most common mutation throughout the country.

“We haven’t seen evidence of resistance to the vaccine,” he said. “The vaccine is working against it.”

The number of people hospitalized with the virus also has been declining in recent weeks. Throughout the county, under 150 people were in the hospital battling symptoms of the disease that caused the pandemic. That’s down from a high of 863 on Jan. 19.

The age of those hospitalized is generally younger than the people who needed urgent medical care in 2020. They are in their 40s and 50s, and they generally don’t stay in the hospital for long.

Because they are younger and healthier, even if they are hospitalized, they generally are discharged sooner, Pigott said.

“I expect we’ll be under 100 soon,” Pigott said.

Indeed, area hospitals reported lower numbers of Covid patients. As of May 10, Stony Brook Hospital had 42 COVID-19 patients, with 13 in the Intensive Care Unit.

As of the same date, Huntington Hospital had 17 COVID-19 positive patients.


The population of people who are older than 65 have generally embraced the opportunity to receive vaccinations. Pigott said about 80% of this population in Suffolk County have been vaccinated.

The elderly, who were among those representing the larger groups hospitalized or killed by the virus, were the first group eligible to receive the vaccination. Children as young as 12 are now eligible to receive a vaccine.

The medical community has been wondering how to “cross this barrier” to encourage more people to receive a vaccine that could continue to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus, Popp said.

Popp urged medical professionals to have conversations with each person to figure out why he or she might be reluctant. He attributed some of the fears of the vaccine to misinformation spread on the Internet or over social media.

Popp recognized that some of those who are unwilling to consider the vaccine don’t have a personal or regular connection with a member of a medical community they trust.

He suggested that doctors and nurses should visit people at cultural centers and schools.

Among workers at Huntington Hospital, the rate of vaccinations has slowed and is about 73%.

“We did quite well” to get to that point, but the hospital “can not go much further” without overcoming some resistance, Popp said.

Pigott said that the halt in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13 tamped down on the vaccination rate.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration stopped the use of that vaccine pending an analysis of rare side effects, the county “never recovered momentum.”

Pigott said he has participated in webinars and has encouraged people to gather information to make informed decisions.

“The best you can do is show the numbers,” Pigott said, as the number of people who are over 65 who have been hospitalized has declined dramatically as a result of the use of the vaccine.

Reopening in stages

Employers throughout the county have been monitoring the health of their workers and keeping track of the vaccination rate.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has been working its way through various phases of reopening, from phase 1, which occurred on June 1 and involved bringing back most of the scientists, to phase 2 in late September, with the return of more administrators, to phase 2A, which started May 3 and involved bringing back even more people.

The lab, which has historically hosted well-attended scientific meetings that bring together some of the best researchers from around the world, has not yet entered phase 3, when it would be open without any restrictions.

On any given day, the lab probably has 60 to 65% of its staff working on site, according to John Tuke, the chief pperating officer.

“We aspire to be 100% vaccinated, but we’re realistic to know that that’s probably not going to happen,” Tuke said. “Before we move into phase 3, we’re going to want to see that percentage be very high.”

The lab is hoping to bring some conferences back in the fall on a limited basis.

In the last week, the lab tested 400 people, with one test coming back positive. The highest the positivity rate ever got was around 1%.

The percentage of people who have received the vaccine at CSHL is in the low 80s.

While the lab has restrictions on travel, it has made exceptions for staff members to travel through requests to the director of research, the president of the lab or to Tuke.

BNL, meanwhile, continues to have about a third of its staff on site, while most of the staff continues to work remotely. Like CSHL, BNL is not requiring staff to be vaccinated.

BNL is not planning any in-person events this summer or fall. The lab has slightly expanded user access to facilities on a case-by-case basis. BNL has had 10 positive tests in the past month.

At Stony Brook University, about 82% of health care workers have been vaccinated, while 77% of students are vaccinated, with 16% looking to get it sooner rather than later, according to a spokeswoman. As with other SUNY and CUNY schools, Stony Brook will require a vaccine for everyone who returns to school in the fall.

Stony Brook is no longer requiring fully vaccinated people to wear a mask outdoors, except in crowded settings or venues.

Carol Gomes. Photo from SBU

In the face of an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the Stony Brook Council has honored and bestowed University Medals for Exemplary Leadership and Service to three members of its Stony Brook University leadership. The Stony Brook Council serves as an oversight and advisory body to the campus and to Stony Brook’s president and senior officers.

These individuals were recognized for their extraordinary service in their areas of oversight, expertise and responsibility in protecting and caring for the Stony Brook community in the hospital system and on the Stony Brook University campuses. Their innovations, contributions and immediate responses to the pandemic were celebrated at a recent Stony Brook Council meeting. The individuals include:

“Our University community has benefited greatly from these individuals who inspire greatness in others, motivate teams to tackle the almost impossible and always place the greater good in front of mind,” said Kevin Law, President of the Stony Brook Council and President and CEO of the Long Island Association.  “We are grateful for their outstanding leadership and public service and recognize their exceptional achievements on behalf of Stony Brook University; Stony Brook Medicine; and our patients, students, faculty and staff.”

Carol Gomes

Carol A. Gomes was recognized for her administrative leadership for the following Stony Brook University Hospital achievements:

  • Development of surge plans to increase hospital capacity;

  • Helped establish a fully staffed field Emergency Room to manage surge in patient volume;

  • Creation of Oxygen Tank Farms prior to height of pandemic;

  • Creative solutions for the provision of Personal Protective Equipment to ensure staff safety;

  • Reprocessing of N95 respirators with Battelle Laboratories;

  • Successful collaboration with Stony Brook University for the manufacture of hand sanitizer, ventilators and 3-D face shields;

  •  Implementation of the “My Story” information boards about patients who were often unable to communicate because of their illness;

  •  Creation of a Respite Lounge to address the mental health needs of staff members and help deal with stress;

  •  Collaboration with SUNY Upstate Medical University to provide additional nursing staff during the height of the pandemic; and

  • Recognizing her steady, can-do spirit that helped the hospital serve as the backbone of the overall response to COVID-19 across Suffolk County.

Dr. Margaret McGovern

Dr. Margaret M. McGovern was recognized for her administrative leadership for the following Stony Brook Medicine achievements:

  • Oversight, focused dedication and expert leadership of Stony Brook Medicine’s staff and faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic that demonstrated incredible heroism, innovation, creativity and teamwork;

  • Stony Brook Medicine healthcare system collaborated successfully to manage patients at its four hospitals and across the entire continuum of ambulatory care settings, to make sure COVID-19 patients received the appropriate level of care;

  •  Expansion of telehealth services for outpatients, offered innovative technological solutions at patients’ bedsides to connect inpatients with loved ones during restricted visitation periods;

  • The establishment of a drive-through coronavirus testing site on Stony Brook University’s campus in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health to test thousands of Long Island residents for coronavirus;

  • The development of creative and innovative approaches to solve problems and support its staff, including new training programs and buddy programs, creation of the Respite Room, Team Lavender and the Hope Report;

  • Use of multi-disciplinary teams who were inspired to clear every obstacle to solve the problems that were presented each day allowed Stony Brook Medicine to form the backbone of the overall response to COVID-19 across Suffolk County; and

  • Leading the efforts to immunize staff and faculty and assist in vaccinating Long Island residents through public COVID-19 vaccinations sites.

Lawrence Zacarese

Lawrence M. Zacarese was recognized for his administrative leadership for the following Stony Brook University achievements:

  • Demonstrating compassion, dedication and extraordinary leadership that has been vital to Stony Brook University’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • Using his extensive experience and expert training in emergency management, he helped the campus community to face each challenge during this complex time with grace and keen determination;

  • Developing a comprehensive campus plan, creating a foundation of resiliency and commitment. As a result, Stony Brook was one of the few institutions in New York — and theonly SUNY University Center — to remain open as planned in the fall semester;

  •  Instituting the University’s Return to Research Plan that enabled Stony Brook to fast-track its researchers getting back in their labs, ensuring that the University’s mission to push the boundaries of science;

  •  Oversight of Stony Brook’s Return to Work and Return to Campus plans that provided a foundation for our work and our support for faculty, staff, students and the broader community, which was modeled by others in the SUNY System; and

  • Motivating teams to stay focused while tackling obstacles presented by the pandemic and being good regional partners through the management of COVID-19 public and university testing and vaccination sites.


About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. With more than 26,000 students, 2,700 faculty members, nearly 200,000 alumni, an academic medical center and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, it is one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The University embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate, and professional education of the highest quality, and has been ranked among the top 35 public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America. The University’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stony Brook is one of only eight universities that has a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the University totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter(@stonybrooku).

About Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook Medicine integrates and elevates all of Stony Brook University’s health-related initiatives: education, research and patient care. It includes five Health Sciences schools — Dental Medicine, Health Technology and Management, Medicine, Nursing and Social Welfare — as well as Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and more than 200 community-based healthcare settings throughout Suffolk County. To learn more, visit

About Stony Brook University Hospital

Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) is Long Island’s premier academic medical center. With 624 beds, SBUH serves as the region’s only tertiary care center and Regional Trauma Center, and is home to the Stony Brook University Heart Institute, Stony Brook University Cancer Center, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute. SBUH also encompasses Suffolk County’s only Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center, state-designated AIDS Center, state-designated Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, state-designated Burn Center, the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, and Kidney Transplant Center. It is home of the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. To learn more, visit