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Kenneth Kaushansky

Employees who began at Stony Brook Medicine 40 years ago, wearing red flowers, were honored at the hospital’s celebration. Photos from Stony Brook Medicine

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.

An attendee looks at a time line display. Photos from Stony Brook Medicine

“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.”

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Kenneth Kaushansky speaks at the opening ceremony of the establishment. Photo by Kevin Redding

On April 18, Stony Brook Medicine officially extended its reach to residents in western Suffolk County, with a ribbon cutting for a new, state-of-the-art medical center that provides 30 specialty services under one roof.

Advanced Specialty Care in Commack, which opened to the public last month, serves as a “one-stop shopping” destination for the health care needs of patients no matter where they are located. The center itself sits near the Sunken Meadow Parkway, the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway.

The variety of specialties includes internal medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, urology, neurosurgery and radiology. A complete imaging center is on site to provide X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, bone densitometry, and CT and MRI scans. Stony Brook doctors, including primary and specialty care internists, gynecologists, orthopedists and surgeons of all kinds, make up the staff.

“But this facility is more than just a multi-specialty clinic,” Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences and dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine said, addressing a crowd of Stony Brook Medicine and university staff, elected officials and community members.

According to Kaushansky, one of the leaders behind the 120,000-square-foot center, patients who come to the center have easy access to “the power of Stony Brook medicine.”

“As part of Suffolk County’s only academic medical center,” he said “Advanced Specialty Care connects consumers to Stony Brook Medicine’s cutting-edge research, clinical trials and advanced technology. This is what truly distinguishes it from other physician practices in the area. You not only have access to Stony Brook primary care physicians and specialists, but also to the best ideas in medicine.”

He also said the Commack facility will soon be the new home of Stony Brook’s World Trade Center Health Program, a service that offers comprehensive, integrative health care for World Trade Center responders dealing with 9/11-related illnesses.

Samuel Stanley, M.D., Stony Brook University president, said the center signifies another Stony Brook step toward creating an aspiring, integrated health care network, focused on providing quality and value, for all of Long Island and beyond.

“Every day, we take ambitious ideas from the minds of our expert researchers who are working in medical laboratories, driven by their boundless curiosity, and bring those ideas to life at the patient’s bedside to continuously redefine health care in the 21st century,” Stanley said. “Through our leadership role in health care reform, we are driving forward with new initiatives to improve health, reduce costs and eliminate the unnecessary care for our patients.”

Among the elected officials in attendance were Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga); Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson); and New York State Assemblymen Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Saint James) and Andy Raia (R-East Northport.)

Stanley said they were vital to what Stony Brook Medicine does, by helping with the budget and supporting Medicare and Medicaid for the state, among other important contributions.

Fitzpatrick and Raia presented an official New York State assembly citation to the center and its faculty.

“I just wanted to say thank you to Stony Brook for taking medicine to the next level by opening this beautiful facility here in Commack,” Fitzpatrick said. “Stony Brook is growing and is offering new services and treatment and wellness to people beyond just the Three Village area. Stony Brook represents excellence.”

Margaret McGovern, M.D., professor and chair of the department of pediatrics at the university’s School of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said this is truly the “power of Stony Brook medicine, closer to you.”

“We’re extending the reach of Stony Brook Medicine,” she said, “offering medical expertise in a new and growing

She also commended Kaushansky for making the center possible.

“Ambitious ideas require exceptional leadership and imaginative solutions, and this project required both,” McGovern said. “I want to thank Ken Kaushansky, especially, for his vision and confidence in moving this project forward. By working together across traditional boundaries, we are achieving a new vision for the future of Stony Brook Medicine.”