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Mather Hospital

File photo

Suffolk County Police said a man died in a head on crash in Port Jefferson Monday afternoon.

Police said Kenneth Regan, 63 of Mount Sinai, was driving a 2005 Buick westbound Sept. 14 on North Country Road when he attempted to make a left turn into a parking lot located at 70 North Country Road next to the Wells Fargo Advisors building and across from Mather Hospital. His car then collided with a 2013 Toyota being driven eastbound by Leanne Schreiber, 37 of Miller Place, at around 2:45 p.m.

Regan was transported to Mather Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Schreiber was taken to the same hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. A passenger in Regan’s vehicle was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo from Mather Hospital

As the number of COVID-19 patients continue to decrease on Long Island, local hospitals say they are working to ensure that the public and patients feel safe walking through its front doors while keeping a safe and clean environment. 

Kenneth Roberts, president and CEO of Mather Hospital, stressed the importance of seeking out medical care.  

“It is safe to come back — whether it’s coming to the hospital or going to the doctor’s offices,” he said. “People shouldn’t neglect reaching out to their healthcare providers.” 

The hospital has been implementing the use of tele-medicine during the pandemic, but Roberts said there is only so much you can do remotely and that some things need to be done in person. 

“Being a part of the Northwell Healthcare system, we’ve put into place new processes and procedures at the hospital,” the president of Mather Hospital said. 

For hospital employees, they must attest that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms when coming into work, temperature checks are done before each person clocks in. 

Roberts said all employees and doctors are required to wear face masks. Those on the frontlines who may be in contact with potential COVID patients are required to wear face shield in addition to the n-95 masks. 

Another change at the hospital is the return of visitors. 

“We’re allowing two visitors per patient,” Roberts said. “Before they’re able to come in there will be required to answer a series of questions and their temperatures will be checked.”

As of now, those who need to go to the emergency room are being asked to remain in their cars until a hospital employee comes to them. 

Roberts said patients that come in on an emergency basis who may have COVID-19 symptoms will be tested immediately. The hospital will be administered a test and be able to get a result back in three days. 

In an effort to keep the facilities clean and safe, Mather Hospital will be utilizing PurpleSun devices, which use ultraviolet light to kill germs and provide rapid disinfection. 

Roberts said the patient feedback so far has been good and that a lot of them have confidence in the doctors and “have no fears.” 

With the restart of elective surgeries in May, the hospital has seen more people coming in to get important procedures done. 

“We’ve had over 1,000 operations that were scheduled, now we are playing catch up,” the president of the hospital said. 

Each patient scheduled for surgery will receive a phone call from a hospital employee and they will conduct a preprocedural interview gathering health history as well as a screening  for COVID symptoms or exposures. 

Once that evaluation has been completed, patients receive two separate in-person pre-surgical testing appointments. The first appointment may include lab tests, EKG and x-rays. The second appointment is for COVID testing and is scheduled 48 hours prior to the procedure. Patients are instructed to self-quarantine leading up to their surgery.  

“They’re going really well, a lot of the patients are grateful to get these procedures, but they also want to shorten their length of stay as much as possible,” Roberts said. “We want to continue to provide a safe place for our patients.”

Comsewogue 2020 Valedictorian Daniela Galvez-Cepeda and Salutatorian Gianna Alcala. Photos from CSD

Two young women lead the top of the class at Comsewogue High School. Valedictorian Daniela Galvez-Cepeda and salutatorian Gianna Alcala have near-identical grade point averages, but both have far different plans for their futures.

Galvez-Cepeda finished the year with a weighted GPA of 102.42. During school, she spent much of her time as student government co-president and French Honor Society president, a member of varsity track and field and Athlete Helping Athletes. In addition, she is a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering team member at Stony Brook University and a National Merit Scholar Commended Student. 

In her free time, she said she was a junior volunteer at Mather Hospital, where since 2017 she answered visitors’ questions at the front desk in both English and Spanish and provided them with comfort when needed. She also shadowed nurses on their rounds with patients.

She said her best memory of high school was her work setting up a donation drive the school organized in 2017 to help the people in Puerto Rico hurt by Hurricane Maria.

“I walked back and forth from the parking lot, unloading cars and trucks and bringing donations into our school’s auditorium,” she said. “My district neighbors were so generous that we filled up our whole auditorium with donations in only one day.”

In the fall, Galvez-Cepeda will be attending Williams College in Massachusetts where she will double major in math and physics on the pre-med track. She said her goal is to be a trauma surgeon, but she added she is excited to explore other options down the road.

Alcala is moving on to college with a 102.26 weighted GPA. She is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, Art Honor Society president, Science Honor Society treasurer, as well as a member of the cross-country, Country Farms equestrian team and band.

She said her experiences with WISE and Art Honor Society were especially important to her high school career, though her favorite memory was traveling abroad with classmates to Spain, France and Italy.

Though she thanked her friends, family and teachers for inspiring her, she added that Galvez-Cepeda, her friend and competitor for the top academic spot, was also a huge inspiration.

“For the past seven years, Dani has been my most brilliant competitor and one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever known,” Alcala said. “Without her impact on my life, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”

The salutatorian will be attending the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering to study environmental engineering. She said she wants to work toward a more sustainable world, especially in the textile industry. 

Though the coronavirus cut off in-person learning prematurely for the 2020 senior class, the high school’s academic leaders said though they lacked physical contact with teachers and peers, the important thing is to persevere.

“High school is the foundation that is setting you up for the success that is to come in your life,” Galvez-Cepeda said. “So, enjoy your time with your friends while learning new things in a safe space together.”

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Rohan Singh and his brother Rishabh holding the masks they have been making on a 3D printer. Photo from Singh

Young Belle Terre resident Rohan Singh, at home during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, told himself he needed to do something to help the surrounding community using GoFundMe and a 3D Printer.

Singh’s father, Ravi, is a doctor working in Patchogue, and so from both him and the news in general, he said he heard about the general lack of personal protective equipment from hospitals all around Long Island. He said, speaking with his dad, he learned of his father’s old colleague from college, who now works at Japan-based company Aizome Bedding. The business originally created pillows and beds, but has since transferred to making N95 masks. 

These masks, in today’s world costs $2.50 each. To get 1,000 of these would require $2,500. Taking to GoFundMe, Rohan made up the amount by donations in five days. He said he plans to distribute the masks to Mather Hospital and Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, the medical center his father works closely with.

“After talking to my dad, I asked what I can do to help,” he said.

Looking to do more, Singh looked into 3D printing. The first time using the device, he said it was difficult at first, but now with six masks under his belt he is joining the legions of people looking to help hospital workers by producing his own PPE. Each takes about five hours to print, and so far he has produced six masks. 

“This isn’t the first time Rohan has tried to make  a difference. When he was in fifth grade, he won the Suffolk County Social service award for collecting and distributing left over pencils for an orphanage in India,” Singh’s mother Priyanka said. “He manned a Farmers Market stall in Port Jefferson selling Samosas to raise money for a prosthetic foot camp as a sophomore in high school. So during this pandemic it didn’t surprise us that he wanted to use his time in quarantine to try and help people in the front line.”

The Port Jeff high school student said he is also looking long term.

“I want to think of the bigger picture, think of something more like industrial alternative masks that don’t take up as much time to print,” he said.

Singh’s GoFundMe can be found here. More and more people are reaching out and doing their part to support hospitals in their time of need. Visit here to see how locals have been making handmade PPE for hospitals and keep up with TBR News Media to see how locals are giving back to healthcare workers.

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From left to right across the top, Rich Klefsky, the senior vp of retail and banking for SFCU, Micah Schlendore, the assistant vp for retail member experience at SFCU, John Urbinati, the owner of Fifth Season; bottom row, left to right, Mayor Margot Garant, Community Outreach Manager for St. Charles Hospital John Perkins, SFCU President Ralph Spencer, Port Jeff chamber president Mary Joy Pipe, BID President Roger Rutherford, Manager of the Steam Room Vincent Seiter. Photo by Kyle Barr

With close to $9,000 raised online, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and chamber’s program to donate food to hospitals just got another big boost in funds.

On April 14, Suffolk Federal Credit Union donated a $7,500 check to the BIDand Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s program that takes food made by local restaurants to the two hospitals in Port Jeff, St. Charles and Mather.

The funds come on top of another $5,000 check donated last week by Teachers Federal Credit Union. The program’s Gofundme, which can be found at gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers, has so far raised just over $8,500 as well.

The program is twofold —one helps restaurants stay active and keep staff on payroll, and other is aiding the hospital workers who are burdened under the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“We were trying to coordinate this ourselves, but we were ecstatic when we found out the chamber was doing something, so it worked out very well.” said SCFU President Ralph Spencer.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the chamber, said she was “thankful for your participation and community involvement,” of SCFU, calling the credit, which has an office at St. Charles, a good partner to the business community.

Participating restaurants include Slurp Ramen, Nantuckets, Prohibition Kitchen, Wave Seafood & Steak, Pasta Pasta, The Steam Room, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, SaGhar, The Pie, PJ Lobster House and Salsa Salsa.

Artwork from local artists add beauty and warmth

By Heidi Sutton

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson recently completed an extensive renovation of its 2 South patient unit, designed to further reduce the risk of infection and increase patient comfort. The unit, which was named for New York Cancer & Blood Specialists thanks to its generous donation, officially reopened with a ribbon-cutting celebration on Jan. 6. The project was largely supported through community donations totaling close to $1.7 million.

Opened in 1973, 2 South, which primarily treats cancer patients, now features single-bed rooms for improved patient outcomes and privacy. Enhancements include new showers and enlarged bathrooms, a new nurses station, a patient family lounge and a serenity room for staff. 

One of the highlights of the newly renovated floor is the installation of 43 pieces of art that adorn the hallway walls. Titled “Wonders of Nature,” the pieces were chosen by curator Irene Ruddock. “My goal was to create a peaceful and serene environment that might provide a sense of spiritual healing. I looked for paintings that touched the soul and will provide comfort and solace for patients, staff, and visitors,” she explained. 

Twenty-nine local artists from LIMarts, the Setauket Artists and the North Shore Art Guild donated original works to add beauty and warmth to the unit including Ross Barbera, Shain Bard, Ron Becker, Joan Bloom, Kyle Blumenthal, Renee Caine, Anthony Davis, Bart DeCeglie, Julie Doczi, Lily Farah, Marge Governale, William Graf, Peter Hahn, Celeste Mauro, Judith Mausner, Lorraine McCormick, Ed McEvoy, Eleanor Meier, Rick Mundy, Karen Miller O’Keefe, Paula Pelletier, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Joseph F. Rotella, Irene Ruddock, Ty Stroudsburg, Maria Lourdes Velez, Victoria Westholm and Patricia Yantz. 

“I will always to grateful to all the artists who, with their dedication to art, wished to share their gifts with Mather hospital,” said Ms. Ruddock.  

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Members of Gentle Strength Yoga studio relax during a class. Photo from Christne Cirolli

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In 2014, Andrea Petterson was in a dark place. The Sound Beach resident had recently left her job as a landscape manager at Stony Brook University, just months after she accused her supervisor of sexual harassment and discrimination. At the time, she was in the beginning stages of filing a lawsuit against the school.

“I was at my lowest,” Petterson said, looking back. “That job was my life, my identity and everything I was. Suddenly, I felt very unsafe.”

Andrea Petterson with one of the ornaments she made and sold. Photo from Christne Cirolli

That was, she said, until she found herself inside Gentle Strength Yoga studio, after a friend suggested she try and heal herself there. Owned and operated by John T. Mather Memorial Hospital nurse Christine Cirolli, the yoga studio opened in Mount Sinai in 2013, and moved permanently to Route 25A in Rocky Point in 2016.

Aside from offering regular classes, acupunctures and massages, the studio was designed to be a community-oriented refuge where “people can band together to help each other,” according to Cirolli.

“The second I stepped in, it just felt like home,” said Petterson, who was a student for two years before graduating from Long Island Yoga School in Great Neck and eventually becoming an instructor at the studio. “Christine really gave me an opportunity here to learn more about myself. She was the one that told me that ‘helping heals’ and that has stuck with me.”

This past Christmas, Petterson raised close to $3,400 by making and selling holiday ornaments in the studio, and then donated the funds to several families in need. She routinely teaches classes at Joseph A. Edgar Immediate School in Rocky Point and within Shoreham-Wading River school district.

She also said the studio has motivated her to start an organization that helps to empower young women.

Melissa McMullan, a longtime regular at the studio and a teacher in the Comsewogue School District, said the holiday fundraiser at the studio helped provide a happy holiday for one of her students, whose family lives in poverty. She referred to the studio as “a special place.”

“Christine really gave me an opportunity here to learn more about myself.”

— Andrea Petterson

“It’s the kind of place where people can come in and talk about what’s going on physically or mentally and everybody sort of works together to help each other,” she said. “At the studio, we learn that yoga is really the beginning of a lifelong practice of being connected with, and kind to members of our community.”

Cirolli, a Queens native and Suffolk Community College graduate, said she has been practicing yoga on and off since she was in high school, and always aimed for her studio to be inclusive for everybody.

“I feel blessed that people would trust me, that they are here in a place of caring and love,” Cirolli said.

She added that Gentle Strength hosts a free 12-step recovery yoga program for those affected by alcohol addiction.

“It’s just providing people with another tool to help in their recovery,” she said of the program. “It doesn’t require anyone to sign up or register, either, so if they wanted to come here and be completely anonymous, they can. I thought that was a really nice way to try and welcome people in here who might otherwise be steered away.”

Kicking off last year's Paint Port Pink with a ceremony at Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

 

 

Village to raise awareness about breast cancer and breast health

Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

Paint Port Pink, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s month-long breast cancer awareness community outreach, returns in October with new events, initiatives and community partners.

A tree lighting ceremony in front of Village Hall Sept. 28 kicked off the event. Presented by Astoria Bank, the event’s mission is to stress the importance of screening, early detection and education about breast cancer and to help raise funds for the Fortunato Breast Health Center Fund for the Uninsured at Mather.

The Village of Port Jefferson will be all aglow as more than 80 storefronts will be decorated in mini pink lights and pink banners. Local schools will hold fundraisers and restaurants will offer pink drinks.

Pink lights shine bright on Theatre Three’s marquis at last year’s event. Photo by Heidi Sutton

This year’s outreach will also include an art show at the Port Jefferson Free Library from Oct. 1 to 31, the 10th annual Pink Rock Golf Classic at the Baiting Hollow Golf Club on Oct. 3. Mather Hospital’s 51st annual Gala, One Enchanted Evening: A Night of Entertainment featuring the Edwards Twins, will be held on Oct. 14 at East Wind Caterers in Wading River at 7 p.m. The gala will include the presentation of the Community Service Award and Theodore Roosevelt Awards for service to the hospital and the community. The month-long event will conclude with Mather Hospital’s free educational health and wellness HealthyU seminar series and health fair on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 9 a.m.

Paint Port Pink is sponsored by Long Island Physician Associates, LI Anesthesia Physicians, Long Island Bone and Joint, People’s United Bank, Empire Bank, North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates, C.Tech Collections, Peconic Auto Wreckers and The Pie with the cooperation of the Village of Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson School District, Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and other local groups.

Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

A story of survival

The photograph is one of light and serenity, of calm waters and clouds and a bridge between darkness and light. It is a perfect metaphor for what Diane Towers was feeling when she captured the scene in Ocean City, Maryland following her final treatment for breast cancer.

“To me, getting through it meant seeing something good every day, that there’s beauty all around you and every sunset is something you appreciate more and more,” said Towers, a Mount Sinai resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. “It was my first vacation after I had done chemo and I had my bald head and reconstructed body and we went away to Maryland. That picture was taken right outside our hotel room and the lights had just come on and it was just breathtaking to me. I was coming out of a dark time and seeing the light.”

Towers, a 28-year employee of John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, had discovered a lump in one of her breasts through self-examination. “It was a total shock,” she said, adding that there was no family history of breast cancer. She went to the Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather and had a mammography and an ultrasound, but the results of both tests were negative, she said. Working with her doctor there, she had a biopsy taken and the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, she said.

“One of the things that came out of the experience for me is don’t put all your trust in technology. You have to be diligent. You are your best advocate for your health. You know your body,” she said.

After consulting with Drs. Joseph Carrucciu and Michelle Price at Fortunato, Towers elected to have a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. “They were wonderful advocates and just guided me,” she said. “I have to say the people at this hospital got me through this. They were amazing from the secretary when you first walked in to people in the lab. The compassion that comes out of people when you go through something like this really is amazing.”

“Here I am seven years later, finished with everything and in total remission,” Towers said. “I’ve had two children married and three grandbabies on the way and a lot of beautiful things have happened. So there is life after cancer.”

Towers entered her photo, “Light My Way,” in the Paint Port Pink’s art show. “It’s A Good Day,” at Port Jefferson Free Library. An art exhibit reception will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., with viewing of the exhibit open to the public during normal library hours through Oct. 31. Artwork may be purchased for $50 per piece at the reception. After Oct. 5, please call Mather Hospital’s Public Affairs Office at 631-476-2723 if you would like to purchase a piece. Art work will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a complete list of Paint Port Pink events, partners and sponsors and to see all the entries in the art show, visit www.paintportpink.org.

A woman Nicole sits on the grass in Port Jefferson remembering those who were lost to and those who survived heroin addiction during the third annual Lights of Hope event on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

Rebecca Anzel

When Daniel Scofield died in 2011 from a heroin overdose, his mother Dori decided to do something.

“I wasn’t going to keep [his death] under the carpet,” she said. “I just said, ‘I’ve got to bring this out into the world. My son was my life and I’m not going to bury his addiction with him. I have to help others. I have to bring awareness.’”

In April 2014, the founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center started Dan’s Foundation for Recovery, a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to those suffering from alcohol or substance abuse. The group uses its donations to help an addict get help — it assists addicts in covering insurance copayments, treatment and travel costs to recovery centers in other states.

Scofield co-hosted Lights of Hope on Aug. 31 at Memorial Park in Port Jefferson. The event, which is in its third year, brought together families and friends to remember those who died from a drug overdose and to support those who are recovering from drug addiction.

Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

The event’s other co-host was Public Relations Director Debbie Gross Longo of the New York Chapter of Magnolia New Beginnings, an advocacy, education, support and addiction resource group.

“Each year, unfortunately the crowd gets bigger,” Longo said. “We lose about 129 kids a day throughout the United States. This is something that is an epidemic. It has gotten out of control and there’s no reason for it.”

Longo’s son was a soccer player at Ward Melville High School. He was so talented, she said, he was being scouted by colleges. That was before he tore his quadricep.

The doctors at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson prescribed him oxycodone, and he became addicted. The price per pill of oxycodone is expensive — about $45 each, Longo said. So he switched to heroin, a much less expensive but more potent drug. Before long, his personality began to change.

“The changes happened pretty quickly until I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and that’s when he went to rehab,” she said. “It didn’t work the first time, it didn’t work the second time and it didn’t work the third time.”

Longo said her son is now living in a sober community in Florida helping other addicts get into recovery.

According to a 2015 New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention report, there were 337 heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2013 — more than any other county in the state during that period.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling. We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

—Tracey Budd

In a brief speech at the Lights for Hope event, Scofield stressed the importance of helping those addicted to the drug get into recovery. Earlier that day, she said, she helped a young girl who lost her mother get into the Long Island Center for Recovery in Hampton Bays as well as three other young people get into a rehabilitation facility in Arizona.

In starting Dan’s Foundation, Scofield “wanted mostly to help kids that sought treatment now — not 10 days from now,” she said. “In 20 minutes, they’re gone. You have a small window of opportunity to help them and you’ve got to do it when you can do it.”

Scofield’s son David, 28, went through heroin recovery. His mom said her sons were best friends and they did everything together, including using heroin.

“I struggled with this disease for a long time,” he said to those who attended the Lights for Hope event. “I found a way to live sober. I found a different way to live my life.”

Event attendees decorated white paper bags with the name of a loved one who died from heroin or who recovered from it, and a message. Toward the end of the evening, a candle was placed inside each bag, and they were arranged in a large circle around the cannon in the park.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling,” Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, said. “We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

Budd’s son Kevin died in September 2012 from a heroin overdose. Her daughter Breanna has been drug-free since May 2014.

She said the stigma of addiction has changed dramatically since 2008 at the height of her son’s struggle with heroin. There is now a community of families that support each other through a child’s struggle with addiction or an addict’s death.

Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

“It’s sad to say, but when you feel the hug of another mother who’s lost a child, even if you’ve never met, no words need to be spoken,” Budd said. “It’s a connection that we wish we didn’t have, but we do, and it’s actually pretty amazing.”

Middle Island resident Hugh Rhodus said the worst part of the heroin problem on Long Island is going to a funeral for a young person. He recently attended the funeral of a friend’s 24-year-old nephew.

“Going to a kid’s funeral is the hardest thing, but unfortunately we do it all the time,” he said. “It’s so hard to do. Kids that age laying in a casket is awful.”

Rhodus and his wife helped their daughter Amanda through her 13-year struggle with heroin. He said when they first tried to get her help, they took her to Mather Hospital, where they waited for a couple of hours after speaking with a nurse in a “room in the back.” Eventually, they were told to go to a hospital in Nassau County because Mather Hospital was unable to help Amanda.

“It’s your daughter, she’s sick, she’s a drug addict and that’s how we found out how powerful the stigma was,” Rhodus said. “We fought for years to get her in and out of treatment — it was tough. It was really tough.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) praised families and recovering addicts for not giving up.

“We can’t give up,” she said. “Everybody has to be engaged and participate because it is our lives and our children’s lives and our loved ones lives that’s on the line.”

Several board members at this Port Jefferson hospital have been serving for decades. Photo by Alex Petroski

In the National Football League, it is widely believed that team success can be traced back to a long, stable relationship between head coach and quarterback. The longer those two have been working together and in perfect harmony, the likelihood for success usually goes up.

The board of directors at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital have followed a similar blueprint, and they couldn’t be happier with the results. Mather’s board chairman is Kenneth Jacoppi,  and he has held that position for about 10 years, though he began serving on the board in May 1977. Konrad Kuhn joined the board a year later. One year after that, Harold Tranchon joined. All three remain on the board of directors to this day.

“Honestly, when you have board members who have been there for a long length of time they have institutional memory and a long understanding of [the] changing field of medical care,” hospital President Kenneth Roberts said in a phone interview.

He has a long tenure as well: This June marks the 30th anniversary of when Roberts took over that post. Prior to becoming president he served four years as the vice president.

Jacoppi, 78, who was the president of his senior class at Port Jefferson High School and later went on to become a lawyer, reflected on his near 40 years at Mather and his lifetime in the community in a phone interview.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would serve this long,” he said.

Jacoppi referred to others on the board as his “Mather family,” and said that his fondness and pride for his community have contributed to keeping him in the position for so long.

During the decades under the current leadership team, Mather has earned a Magnet designation for nursing excellence, achieved the highest patient experience scores in Suffolk County, been recognized as the only hospital in New York State to earn nine consecutive A ratings for patient safety and quality from the Leapfrog Group and established a new graduate medical education program, among many other accomplishments.

“You have a stability you don’t have in most organizations,” Jacoppi said. “We obviously want to provide the best possible care to people in the area.”

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would serve this long.’
—Kenneth Jacoppi

Jacoppi added one of the things he’s picked up in his experience over the years is to be “a bit more laid back and patient.” He referred to himself when he started as a “hard-charging young lawyer” who had to learn to listen to other viewpoints and think about the effect decisions would have on doctors and the community.

Clearly Jacoppi and the rest of the board have figured out a way to stay on top of their game in what he and Roberts both referred to as an extremely challenging time for health care.

“In the old days, the volunteers held grand card parties under the huge old tree on the Mather lawn that helped raise money to provide exceptional health care for the community,” Jacoppi said in a statement from the hospital.

Times may have changed, but the Mather board of directors has not.