Stony Brook University Hospital has come a long way in its four-decade history. On Feb.14, past and current employees of SBUH gathered at the Medical and Research Translation building to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening of the facility.
The idea of the region’s academic medical center was an ambitious undertaking, beginning in 1973 when construction began. Five years later, the two iconic hexagonal structures were completed. From there, a yearlong mass recruitment process began in which about 800 people were hired.
Many of the hospital’s first employees didn’t know what to expect or in some cases how to get there.
“They said you take the Long Island Expressway then go north on Nicolls Road and when you get to the Star Wars set you’ll know you’re there,” said Lawrence Hurst, professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the Renaissance School of Medicine.
Hurst came to SBU in 1979 with the intent of being the hospital’s firsthand surgeon.
“It was an exciting adventure, the opportunity to become the first in a specialty was something I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “I was lucky enough to take full advantage of it.”
Extensive logistical planning began before the hospital opened the following year.
“When we came here, there were no patients, no equipment, we had a very small group of physicians in the beginning, now we have over 500,” Hurst said.
As part of the celebration, hospital officials showcased a video presentation highlighting the facility’s accomplishments throughout the years and included interviews with employees who shared their favorite memories.
Some notable accomplishments included: doctors performing the first kidney transplant surgery on Long Island in 1981; the first Suffolk County police helicopter touching down on the hospital’s helipad in 1989; and in 1990, New York State designating the hospital a Level I Trauma Center. This past year, SBU opened the Children’s Hospital and MART Building.
In addition to the presentation, a time line and exhibit were on display throughout the building showcasing the hospital’s history.
Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president for health sciences and dean at the Renaissance School of Medicine, spoke about the reason he left San Diego to come to Stony Brook
“I saw incredible potential when I decided to come here 10 years ago,” he said. “It had a good medical school and good health care facilities.”
“We have become one of the best hospitals in the country, a premier health center.”
– Kenneth Kaushansky
Kaushansky said the further development of the medical school and the hospital over the years has been a “powerhouse.”
“We have become one of the best hospitals in the country, a premier health center,” he said.
Going forward, the senior vice president of health sciences said that SBU will continue to strengthen the hospital network throughout the Island and continue to advance the Renaissance School of Medicine.
“As technology improves, I believe the future of health care will be more geared toward tele-help, tele-EMS and wearable devices,” he said.
Carol Gomes, CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital, said she met many lifelong friends and colleagues when she began to work in the laboratory in 1985.
“I’ve been very fortunate to meet people along the way that have become great mentors to me,” she said. “I’ve been able to connect with them on a daily basis.”
Gomes said as she has progressed in her own career the hospital has done the same.
“We have continued to flourish as a health care organization,” Gomes said. “This celebration was a very special moment for me. I just think about the connections I’ve made over the years.”
The CEO of the hospital credited the facility’s staff.
“The employees are the lifeblood of the organization, they come to work every day,” Gomes said. “Our greatest strength is our staff.”
Gomes said if it weren’t for the staff, the hospital wouldn’t have had the clinical outcomes or the reputation for which it is known.
“Everyone has the same goal … The dedication of the staff to our patients will always remain the same, it has been our one constant,” she said. “Stony Brook has been my home away from home.”