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Stony Brook Medicine

Today is Wear Red Day, supporting the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” movement, which raises awareness about cardiovascular disease in women. And in honor of the nationwide movement, Stony Brook Medicine rocked their red gear to make a heart of their own during American Heart Month. Each year millions of people unite for a common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Early detection is key to long-term survival rates of prostate cancer, which is why Stony Brook Medicine’s Department of Urology and Stony Brook Cancer Center offers free Prostate Cancer Screenings throughout the year. 

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men. Approximately 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1 in 41 men will die of the disease. As you get older, your risk increases.

Men aged 45-75 years, African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer may benefit from early screenings. In most cases, prostate cancer has no symptoms and is usually detected through a screening.

This month, free screenings will be held at Stony Brook Medicine’s Advanced Specialty Care, 500 Commack Road, Suite 201B, Commack on Sept. 19 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and at Stony Brook Urology, 24 Research Way, Suite 500, East Setauket on Sept. 20 from 2 to 5 p.m. 

Appointments are strongly recommended. Insurance is not required. To make an appointment, call 631-216-9181.

Doctors warn against swimming in brackish water and advise wearing protective gear when handling raw shellfish, among other safety measures to guard against vibrio vulnificus. Photo from CDC

In mid-August, Suffolk County recorded its first death in seven years from vibrio vulnificus, often referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.”

A man over the age of 55 who had underlying health conditions was admitted to a local hospital with a leg wound and chest pain in July. He died the following month due to a bacterial infection.

Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville

“People that are at risk should be more aware” of an infection they can get from raw shellfish or brackish water, said Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine. That includes people who have liver disease, poorly controlled diabetes, are considered immune suppressed because of a condition or are taking medication that can cause immune suppression.

At the same time, Connecticut reported that three people died from contracting the potentially deadly bacteria. Two of them died from wound infections, the third contracting the bacteria from handling raw oysters.

To be sure, most people are not vulnerable to contracting the disease or from its effects.

“The general public is not at an increased risk,” said Donelan. “In most cases, [infections] are mild or moderate.”

Those who might be vulnerable to vibrio can avoid it by not handling or eating raw or undercooked shellfish, staying away from shellfish juices, covering up wounds or not swimming in brackish waters.

People can shuck shellfish with gloves to minimize any injuries to their hands and can wash their hands before and after coming in contact with raw shellfish.

“Some people like putting raw oyster juice into different drinks,” Donelan said. “You want to avoid doing that.”

Area doctors and health officials urged people with wounds — which could include cuts, new body piercings or tattoos — to avoid swimming in brackish or salt water.

“The bacteria thrives in brackish water, where fresh water meets ocean water,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County health commissioner, said in an email. “It would be best to avoid those waters if you have an open wound or a chronic health condition.”

Donelan also suggested that people who go in the water with such wounds cover them up with a waterproof bandage.


People who contract vibrio typically develop a host of symptoms.

These can include “diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting,” Pigott explained.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. File photo

Symptoms from consuming raw shellfish can start within 24 hours of a meal. A person exposed  through their skin can develop a blistering skin or soft tissue infection.

Pigott urged residents to seek help for gastrointestinal symptoms or a worsening skin infection.

Those who are unable to drink enough fluids to counterbalance the losses through the gastrointestinal tract could become dehydrated, doctors warned.

Lightheadedness and hypotensive appearances can be a warning sign that residents should seek medical help.

Wounds may become red, hot and tender with streaky marks leading away from them. These are “all concerning things” that might signal an infection, Donelan said.

People generally know how quickly cuts heal. A cut that gets visibly worse quickly, which could include blistering of the skin with a bolus that looks like murky fluid or blood beneath it should be “very concerning signs,” Donelan added.

Knowing that the bacteria is present in Long Island Sound and being aware of it could help people prevent exposure or react early to an infection.

This summer, area hospitals have not reported an unusual number of infections, according to Donelan.

Doctors said the bacteria typically lives in waters between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that the longer the waters remain warm amid a hot summer and warming climate, the more likely the bacteria will be prevalent in waters around the Island.

Illness and travel

At this time of year, residents return from their seasonal travels. They sometimes bring unwanted microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria with them.

Health care professionals urged residents to notify their doctors about their travels prior to getting sick, so doctors can get an idea of where and how they might have contracted an illness.

When people return from cruises, plane trips or other travel, they should “help the emergency departments become aware of where they’ve been,” Donelan said.

Studies have shown that having confidence in the kitchen leads to fewer fast food meals and more meals as a family to strengthen a healthy lifestyle. A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior also highlights that young adults with strong cooking skills are more inclined to eat healthy as an adult. This summer, kids are getting to experience food moving from farm-to-table and work on building healthy habits through unique cooking and nutrition classes at Stony Brook Medicine.

Stony Brook Medicine is committed to helping kids gain kitchen experience and learn healthier cooking habits at an early age. On August 15, fourteen kids between the ages of 7 through 10 established healthier cooking habits through learning healthy recipes. On day one of the Healthy Cooking and Baking Classes, kids made hummus and veggie wraps, tabbouleh and fruit smoothies. The 3-day series teaches kids how to prepare their own meals and pick produce from the 2,242-square-foot rooftop garden known as Stony Brook Heights Rooftop Farm. The hospital’s rooftop farm supplies approximately 1,500 pounds of produce per year for patient meal trays and local charities. The program is organized by the Department of Family, Population & Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division.

Kids also learned about how food and ingredients are grown; harvested and chose ingredients to prepare healthier food options; tried a variety of fruit and vegetables with the health benefits behind them; and learned proper use of kitchen equipment to prepare meals using ingredients they picked by hand. In addition, each gained a hands-on approach to sustainable methods in farming, such as composting, choosing local foods and water conservation.

The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Group at Stony Brook Medicine’s new regional tick-borne disease center, located in the Hampton Bays Atrium. From left, Dr. Andrew Handel, Dr. Dalia Eid, Dr. Christy Beneri and Dr. Sharon Nachman. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook University is planning to open the first and only dedicated tick clinic in the northeast on Monday.

Supported by doctors from Stony Brook Medicine’s Meeting House Lane Medical Practice and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, the new regional tick-borne disease center, which is located in the Hampton Bays Atrium, will provide by-appointment treatment for children and adults for tick bites and diagnose tick-borne illnesses.

The timing could be especially important for people with tick bites, as the previous warm winter allowed more ticks and their eggs to survive.

“They are out there, happily laying eggs and the eggs will hatch,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Brian Kelly of East End Tick and Mosquito Control donated the center’s suite which includes a reception area, two exam rooms, two private offices for consults and a nurse’s station, for 10 years.

“Between the beautiful weather in the winter and the nice weather in the summer, ticks are outside,” Nachman said. “I’m thrilled we’re doing it now. There’s no time like the present to move forward and work with the community to get this done.”

Tick checks

Health care providers urged parents, caregivers and anyone who spends quality time in nature to do regular tick checks.

Ticks can be so small that they look like a little freckle. These ticks can harbor diseases beyond the dreaded and oft-discussed Lyme Disease. Other diseases include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis.

In general, Nachman urged patients not to send ticks they pulled off themselves into the center.

“It’s the tick that they didn’t see that’s also putting them at risk,” she said. The clinic will determine the type of tests to run based on the symptoms.

For tick bites, as with many other health challenges, time is of the essence.

A tick that’s attached itself to a human for fewer than 48 hours likely won’t lead to an infection. Someone with a tick bite for about 48 hours might get a single dose of an antibiotic. People who had a tick bite for over that period might develop a rash or even facial palsy, in which one side of the face droops for an extended period of time.

Doctors work with patients to try to hone in on the date of a possible tick bite.

“We do pretty good guessing,” said Nachman. “We don’t need to be perfect: we need to be pretty close.”

Ticks are present throughout Suffolk County.

Health care workers urge people to spray their clothing with DEET. While ticks aren’t always easy to see, people can find them by feeling a new lump or bump on their skin.

Removing ticks

Nachman advised people to wipe an area with a tick down with alcohol before trying to remove an embedded insect.

Using a flat edged tweezer, the tick removers should grasp the insect and slowly back it out.

“Don’t grab the tick and yank,” Nachman cautioned. The mouth parts of the tick have an adhesive, which can leave some of the parts inside the infected person.

Nachman, who will be at the center on Mondays, also urged people not to use petroleum jelly or match sticks.

The hours at the center will adjust to the demand. In the winter, when ticks are less prevalent, the center may have more limited appointment times.

One of the advantages of the center is that the health care providers can track patients over time who have been infected.

Doctors can also sign patients up to become a part of a registry. By tracking people who have tick-borne infections, doctors might also address questions that are part of the science of diseases like Lyme.

“There may be better treatments or better tests” down the road, Nachman added.

Left, Dr. Daniel Jamorabo, gastroenterologist at Stony Brook Medicine and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine. Right, Dr. David Purow, chairman of Medicine-Gastroenterology at Huntington Hospital. Left by Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville; right from Northwell Health

No one rushes to make a reservation at a pre-colonoscopy restaurant with a cleansing and well-reviewed special of the day. 

In fact, for most people, the preparation for a potentially lifesaving diagnostic procedure is somewhere between unpleasant and unpalatable.

That, however, may have changed as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved another incremental improvement in the colonoscopy preparation that could make the preparation and the procedure — which can detect early signs of cancer — less bothersome.

Manufactured by Sebela Pharmaceuticals, Suflave is a low-volume preparation that tastes like a lemon-lime sports drink. It should be available in August.

“Patients really like” Suflave, with about 80 percent finding it palatable, said Dr. Daniel Jamorabo, a gastroenterologist at Stony Brook Medicine and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine. 

Jamorabo called it a “wonderful addition to the bowel preparations that are out there.”

Jamorabo said the ingredients in most preparations are the same: the difference in the Suflave preparation seems connected to the flavor.

The thinking in the gastrointestinal community is that “we need to find a preparation” that is more pleasant, said Dr. David Purow, chairman of Medicine-Gastroenterology at Huntington Hospital. “That will capture more people who are somewhat reluctant to have a colonoscopy.”

Colonoscopies are a “necessary screening procedure,” Purow added, and health care professionals in the field don’t want the discomfort during preparation to discourage people from getting the procedure.

Indeed, doctors have a much higher success rate with patients when they detect evidence of colon cancer early.

Getting it right

Doctors suggested that the success of preparing for a colonoscopy varies.

Jamorabo estimated that around 10% of patients may not take all the steps necessary to have the screening.

In those circumstances, these patients have to reschedule the procedure and go through drinking fluids that clear out their systems more effectively.

Gastroenterologists urged people to ask questions if they don’t understand any of the steps they need to take to prepare.

For some patients, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their routine colonoscopy visits, as people stayed away from hospitals and medical care facilities during periods of highest viral infection.

Jamorabo added that colon cancers have started to show up in younger people.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society recommended lowering the age for screenings from 50 to 45.

“It’s showing up more” in people under 50, said Jamorabo. “It may even go lower.”

Doctors discovered stage three colon cancer in late actor Chadwick Boseman before he was 40.

“We don’t know yet” why it’s causing cancer in younger people, Jamorabo added, but “it’s not rare. It’s been going on for a couple of years. We can’t write it off as some statistical anomaly.”

Early symptoms

People can and should be on the lookout for symptoms that might indicate colon cancer.

Unintentional weight loss, such as losing 10 pounds or more in three to four months without changing diet or exercise regimen, could indicate a problem.

Blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits and ongoing constipation could also require medical attention.

More subtle signs, such as fatigue, shortness of breath or decreased appetite, could indicate that people are losing blood in their stool.

As for the overlap between COVID and colon cancer, Jamorabo believes that the ongoing inflammation from the SARS-CoV2 virus could predispose people to cancer.

“I don’t think enough time has elapsed” to know if there’s a link between the virus and colon cancer, he added.

With anxiety building over big-picture issues like global warming and an intensely divided population, people are likely increasingly worried about the state of the world.

“Most gastroenterologists are probably busier than they’ve ever been,” Purow said. “Some of that is probably due to the times in which we are living.”

Stress and anxiety can cause gastrointestinal symptoms that manifest in different ways.

Even with less concern about the pandemic, doctors are still seeing more people with alcoholic liver disease, as some turned to alcohol to relieve their ongoing anxiety.

“We’re trying to expand our network of dietitians and mental health professionals that we’re working with,” said Purow.

Information is power

An important tool in preventing colon cancer involves tracking the colon’s health through colonoscopies.

Having Suflave on the market could “lower the dread” of having a colonoscopy, Jamorabo noted. “We need to make the logistics of the preparation easier.”

By Aidan Johnson

[email protected]

Stony Brook Medicine’s new facility at Smith Haven Mall held its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 19, welcoming the completion of the facility’s Phase One of its advanced specialties, which will likely be finished by 2027.

The new facility, which will be the new home to the different advanced specialties that were found on Technology Drive, offers a much more accessible “one-stop shop” for patients.

Maurie McInnis, president of Stony Brook University and overseer of Stony Brook Medicine, spoke at the ceremony, saying Stony Brook Medicine’s new location will be reminding their patients that they are there for them.

“We believe in quality health care that is accessible to all,” McInnis said in her speech. “As a world-renowned medical system and an entrusted flagship university for New York State, it is our duty and our privilege to make it so,” she continued.

Dr. Todd Griffin, vice president for clinical services and vice dean for clinical affairs at Stony Brook Medicine, shared his outlook for the facility’s future, saying, “We eagerly anticipate hosting a health care open house in the near future where our community and patients can explore our beautiful facility and learn more about the services that are available to them.”

Since Smith Haven Mall falls in both the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) each spoke during the ceremony.

“You think about life and you wonder, and you ask people in their everyday lives what concerns them,” Romaine said after praising SBU, the hospital and its staff.

“They’re concerned about health, because without health, you don’t have anything else. This facility will do so much good for so many years and for so many people,” he added.

Wehrheim spoke about the renaissance he believes is underway in Smithtown. 

“This is an excellent partnership and a huge benefit both to the new residents that will be coming to live in our Town of Smithtown, and also for Stony Brook Medicine,” he said, expressing his gratitude to McInnis.

“We make laws in government, but you folk, you doctors and staff and nurses, actually save lives and that’s what’s important to a community.”

Stony Brook Medicine’s new facility at Smith Haven Mall. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

When a person plans a trip to the mall, they may imagine buying new clothes, browsing storefronts and eating at the food court. Now they can add a trip to the doctor’s office to their list.

Stony Brook Medicine has opened a new advanced specialty care facility at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. The approximately 170,000-square-foot space, previously occupied by Sears, is now host to a plethora of specialties, offering a “one-stop shop” to patients.

Sharon Meinster, the assistant vice president of facilities planning and design, and Dr. Todd Griffin, vice president for clinical services and vice dean for clinical affairs at Stony Brook Medicine, explained how the new facility would be more accessible for patients than the offices at Technology Drive in Setauket.

The facility will open in multiple phases, likely to be completed by 2027. As their leases end at Technology Drive, the other practices will gradually make their way to Lake Grove. 

“What’s great here is that there’s much better public transportation to the mall,” Griffin said. “That was one of the things that we used to hate about tech parks because many of our patients were taking two or three buses to get there.”

The closest bus stop to Technology Drive is at Belle Meade Road, and if the practice was located farther down the park, it could be difficult for a patient to get there, especially in inclement weather such as heat waves or snowstorms.

There will also be an urgent care complex built in the automotive center at the Smith Haven Mall, which will have direct ambulance support to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Since the new location connects to the rest of the mall, the idea of a buzzer system, similar to those found in restaurants, was considered, allowing patients to walk around the mall while they wait, though Griffin does hope to cut down the wait times.

The phase one services, which are currently open and occupy 60,000 out of the 170,000 square feet, include family and preventive medicine, primary and specialty care, pediatrics, diabetes education, genetic counseling, neurology, neuropsychology and pain management.

The facility will help to foster collaboration between the different doctors since they will all be under one roof.

“It’s nice to have sort of the neuro institute people together,” Griffin said, adding, “You have the surgeons and the docs all in the same space, which helps with collaboration.”

“Right now, they’re in two different locations. So when they move here, they’ll be all together,” he added, “and it’s the same thing with our comprehensive pain center.”

Stony Brook Medicine will also continue to build its Commack location, which has been open since 2017. That building sits at around 350,000 square feet and houses around 38 specialties. They aim to open a surgical center as well as an advanced urgent care center by early 2025.

Despite not having many windows, the Lake Grove facility’s lighting and paint job help to create a more welcoming atmosphere. With much more to come from the Stony Brook care facility, it is already offering a fast and easy way for locals to see their doctor and then grab a pretzel on the way out.

From left, Allison McLarty, MD, Marc Goldschmidt, MD, Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

In 2010, Stony Brook Heart Institute’s Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program was established on Long Island to implant this life saving device. A VAD, also often called a left ventricular assist device or LVAD, is a surgically implanted, battery powered pump that, by supporting the lower left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber), helps a failing heart to do its job more efficiently. The VAD can be used as an intermediary step before heart transplantation or, in patients who, due to advanced age or medical condition are not transplant candidates, as a long-term “destination” device. 

VAD patient Joseph Cerqueira and his wife.

Now 10+ years later, patients, their families and medical staff from the Heart Institute gathered on June 15, to celebrate the anniversary of this life saving heart device and program. (The 10-year event was postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19.) 

“Nobody knew when we began putting in heart pumps 13 years ago that they would be this durable and reliable,” says Allison McLarty, MD, Surgical Director of the VAD program. “This amazing device has revolutionized the management of advanced heart failure.”  

“For the VAD team, there is the immense reward of seeing these extraordinary individuals return to their homes and families with a much better quality of life,” added Marc Goldschmidt, MD, Director, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Center and Medical Director, Ventricular Device Program.

“A VAD program at Stony Brook Heart Institute has been a tremendous asset for both the community and the hospital. Patients with the most complex heart conditions have access right here, close to home, to all the state-of-the-art services they need,” said Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD, Co-Director, Stony Brook Heart Institute and Chief of Cardiology.  

Among the patients who attended today’s event was Joseph Cerqueira, 63, who received a VAD in 2017 and a heart transplant the following year. Following his surgery, Joseph returned to his work as a corporate chef. 

“Everybody went the extra mile to make me comfortable and knowledgeable on how to adapt to every aspect of life with a VAD,” said Cerqueira. “Now my quality of life is perfect. I still get tired and I know my limitations, but besides that I do whatever has to be done.”

To learn more about the Ventricular Assist Device Program, visit https://heart.stonybrookmedicine.edu/services/vad.

Dr. Justice Achonu. Photo by Jeanne Neville/ Stony Brook Medicine

Justice Achonu, MD, an orthopaedic surgery resident at Stony Brook Medicine, is one of four orthopaedic surgeons in the U.S. to be selected for the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery’s (ABOS) Resident Advisory Panel. Responsible for providing insight into the resident experience, the panel collaborates with multiple other committees within the ABOS to support the interests of residents throughout the country. His two-year term on the panel begins July 1, 2023.

According to the ABOS, each applicant to the panel is reviewed by at least two ABOS Board members who are all accomplished leaders in their field. Applicants practice in all regions of the country. Dr. Achonu’s panel cohort is the third ever selected by the ABOS. Every year, the panel is tasked with identifying and completing a project that will benefit orthopaedic residents across more than 200 accredited training programs nationwide.

Panelists are encouraged to provide the ABOS with recommendations, several of which have been adopted by the Board, including an official Residency to Retirement Roadmap.

Dr. Achonu received a B.S. in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 and graduated from the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in 2020. He resides in Holbrook.

Stony Brook’s Department of Orthopaedics provides full-service patient care and sub-specialty resident and faculty training in all areas of Orthopaedics. The department includes a comprehensive Orthopaedic Research Program featuring clinical and laboratory facilities and resources for investigation of molecular, biologic, and biomechanical research topics.