A Stony Brook SOM Alumni Board Initiative
Highlighting Prominent Alumni to Enrich and Inspire Students Today.
Presented by: Sowmya Sanapala, MD Candidate Class of 2018
It is with great pleasure and pride that the Stony Brook School of Medicine Alumni board student representatives introduce Dr. David Bernstein for this month’s “Alumni Spotlight” feature. Dr. Bernstein has had a remarkable career thus far with so much more in store. We hope that his words of wisdom will inspire you!
- Graduated from SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine in 1988
- Residency at Montefiore Medical Center
- Fellowship in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Miami Affiliated Hospital
He stayed on at the University of Miami, starting his career as a clinician, teacher and researcher. He then left the University of Miami and moved to Long Island to establish the Winthrop University Hospital Center for Liver Disease. Eventually he became the Chief of Clinical Gastroenterology at Winthrop and continued his academic career. He was appointed assistant professor at SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine and received the award as academic teacher of the year. In 1999, Dr. Bernstein moved to North Shore University Hospital and served for 7 years as the Chief of Gastroenterology for both North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Hospital. In 2012, he was appointed as Chief of Hepatology for both North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Hospital. He was also named Director of the Center for Liver Diseases for the North Shore LIJ Health System and the Vice Chairman of Medicine for Clinical Trials.
Dr. Bernstein’s impact as a physician expands outside the confines of a hospital. In an effort to improve provider education and educate local and state governments on the overall health care burden of liver diseases, Dr. Bernstein helped organize his colleagues across New York State and founded the Empire Liver Foundation in 2013. The Empire Liver Foundation, now the premier liver organization in the state is looked to regularly by the New York City and State Department of Health to provide consultation on liver related issues.
We asked Dr. Bernstein a few questions, read below to learn about new projects, advice for students and a few liver mythbusters!
Q: Are there any new developments or projects you have underway that you would like to share?
A: We are working on two major projects we hope will benefit our community. We are in the process of bringing the first Liver Transplantation center to Long Island, with tentative state approval given earlier this year and the first liver transplant projected for January 2019. We also have an active research program investigating novel treatments for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the US and the leading indication for liver transplantation in people less than 50 years of age.
Q: We have a class of medical students about to match – do you have any words for them?
A: My advice to the graduating class is: In an ever changing world of medicine, embrace the change, find what excites you and follow your passion and never forget that at the end of the day, your patient must always come first. Remember that medicine is a team sport and everyone on the team, representing many aspects of care, are equally important to the success of the group. You are now starting your real education. Be open to the fact that you have a lot to learn and that you will continue to learn throughout your entire career. that’s what makes it exciting and challenging.
Q: What do you find helps guide you and maintain perspective through the challenges that being a physician presents?
A: Constantly reminding myself that the patient comes first and that I am their advocate. Also, I have come to recognize that I cannot solve all of their problems and many times, despite my best efforts, patients do not get better and many die. This is difficult so I think it is very important to disconnect to clear one’s head and “escape”. I like to read, travel, play tennis and turn off my cell phone whenever possible!
Q: What food did you eat the most during your residency (If you recall)?
A: I ate mostly bagels for breakfast and pizza or mac and cheese for dinner. I never ate lunch. Looking back, I ate very poorly!
Q: What is a common misunderstanding or myth regarding the liver that you frequently encounter?
A: All liver disease is related to alcohol (false). Tylenol is not safe to use in liver disease. (also false).
Dr. Bernstein notes that his ‘best memories of medical school are the time spent with my classmates and the lifelong friends that I have made’. So while you read about what our Alumni have been up to, take a minute to appreciate where you are and who you have standing with you. We hope by sharing the stories of recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award you will be inspired to continue the Stony Brook Medicine tradition of excellence.