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Stony Brook University School of Medicine Leadership Snapshots

Stony Brook University School of Medicine not only has the strategies in place to achieve a new level of excellence in the coming years, but also the leadership necessary to make this ambitious agenda a reality. Here is a glimpse at some of the key individuals at the helm.

As Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences for Stony Brook University, Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, oversees the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, School of Health Technology and Management, School of Nursing and the School of Social Welfare, in addition to some oversight for Stony Brook University Hospital and the Long Island State Veterans Home.

Previously the Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and before that, Hematology Section Chief at the University of Washington Medical Center, Dr. Kaushansky joined Stony Brook two years ago with a record of extraordinary achievement as an academic leader, hematologist and researcher. He remains a longstanding champion for the training of physician-scientists who can translate research discoveries into clinical advances. His recent recruits to the School of Medicine leadership team, profiled below, reflect that commitment.

• L. Reuven Pasternak, MD, has been named Vice President for Health Systems and Chief Executive Officer of Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH). Dr. Pasternak comes to Stony Brook from Inova Health System in Falls Church, VA, where he has served for the past four years as Chief Executive Officer of the Inova Fairfax Hospital campus and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs. His responsibilities at Stony Brook will include: working with the Department Chairs in the School of Medicine to coordinate and enhance the operations of the medical center and individual practices; meshing educational goals and programs into the fabric of Stony Brook Medicine; providing strategic and operational leadership for clinical growth opportunities; and leading operational and cultural changes in preparation for healthcare reform.

• The recruitment of Dennis Choi, MD, PhD, marks the culmination of a nationwide search for a thought leader in neurology. Serving as Director of Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute, Professor of Neurology and Chair of the Department of Neurology, Dr. Choi brings vast experience including a distinguished academic career, proven leadership skills, groundbreaking research and prolific contributions to the literature of neurological disorders. Dr. Choi’s work as a graduate student led to the co-discovery of how benzodiazepine drugs work to enhance gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) actions. Later his laboratory studied pathological neuronal cell death, discovering a key role for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation and calcium overload in excitotoxicity, and for zinc in ischemic brain injury. More recently, Dr. Choi has worked to advance translational clinical research, including biomarker development for brain disorders. He holds seven patents for his innovative work. Among his goals for Stony Brook, Dr. Choi plans to forge strategic alliances between the four major departments in the Neuroscience Institute — Neurology, Neurobiology and Behavior, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry; enhance interdisciplinary grants; recruit successful researchers; and mentor research-intense faculty members.

• Harold A. Fernandez, MD, former Director of the Division of Heart Failure Surgery at St. Francis Hospital, has been appointed Professor of Surgery in the Stony Brook University School of Medicine and named as one of the Co-Directors of Stony Brook University Heart Institute with James R. Taylor Jr., MD, FACS. Dr. Fernandez will also serve as Deputy Chief of the Cardiothoracic Division. Dr. Fernandez has worked alongside Dr. Taylor at Saint Francis Hospital for the past 10 years, building a reputation for superlative care. Dr. Fernandez came to the United States at age 13 as an undocumented immigrant from Colombia. He has published a memoir titled “Undocumented: My Journey to Princeton and Harvard and Life as a Heart Surgeon” and has been featured in The New York Times for his remarkable story.

• A new chair has been appointed to lead the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine. Todd Griffin, MD, FACOG, has made his mark as a clinician and educator at Stony Brook for more than a decade. He also holds the positions of Chief Medical Officer, Stony Brook University Hospital, and Fellowship Director of the Minimally Invasive and Robotic Gynecological Surgery Program. Over the years, Dr. Griffin has expanded the department’s clinical capabilities in robotic gynecological surgery and has garnered national recognition for teaching excellence. As Chair, he plans to continue growing the department’s clinical excellence, particularly Women’s and Infants Services, and spearheading new teaching initiatives.

• As the new Director of Stony Brook University Cancer Center, Yusuf A. Hannun, MD, has one overarching goal: To develop a cancer center that makes a difference in the study and practice of cancer medicine not only at Stony Brook but also around the world. Dr. Hannun brings an exceptional history of success to this task through his experience as Deputy Director of the Hollings Cancer Center at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). There, he also served as the Ralph F. Hirschmann Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Division of Basic Science, and Associate Dean for Research.

• Lina Obeid, MD, has joined Stony Brook as Dean of Research, overseeing the Office of Scientific Affairs, in addition to serving as Professor of Medicine. Formerly Boyle Chair Professor of Medicine in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at MUSC, as well as Joint Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Obeid helped grow the university’s thematic research enterprise in addition to conducting her own groundbreaking research in lipid signaling. Dr. Obeid will play a key role in the development of Stony Brook’s Medical and Research Translation (MART) center.

• The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science has found a new leader in Ramin Parsey, MD, PhD, who has been appointed Professor and Chair. Dr. Parsey, who comes to Stony Brook from Columbia University, is nationally renowned for his expertise in using brain-imaging technology to uncover the neurobiological mechanisms involved in psychiatric disorders. He has also developed novel radiotracers for PET imaging. In addition to overseeing the department’s academic, clinical and research efforts, he will use his knowledge of brain-imaging technology to serve as Director of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Research in addition to building collaborative research efforts with the Instrumentation and Biological Imaging Program at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

• Basil Rigas, MD, DSc, Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology (GI) and Hepatology, and Chief of the Division of Cancer Prevention, has been appointed Vice President for Business Development and Dean for Clinical Affairs. Dr. Rigas joined Stony Brook University School of Medicine in 2006. His achievements include recrafting the GI clinical facility to double its volume to approximately 11,500 patient visits a year; growing the endoscopy service to 10,000 procedures performed annually; and reducing waiting times for colonoscopy to just one day, down from 117 days in 2007. As interim Dean for Clinical Affairs, a position Dr. Rigas held since September 2011, he has helped add approximately 35 new clinical faculty members, revitalized the pursuit of a network of affiliated physicians, and is re-tooling programs to become a 24/7 healthcare organization across all clinical services.

• James R. Taylor Jr., MD, FACS, has been appointed Professor of Surgery at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and named Co-Director of Stony Brook University Heart Institute. Dr. Taylor will also serve as Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. He is the former Vice Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at St. Francis Hospital and Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital. One of the highest-volume cardiac surgeons in New York State, he also is one of the safest, as indicated by risk-adjusted mortality statistics published by the New York State Department of Health Cardiac Surgical database.  At Stony Brook University Hospital, Dr. Taylor’s goals include working to transform an already robust cardiothoracic surgical program into a regional medical center of excellence, incorporating the most innovative cardiac surgical techniques as well as the best practices in quality care.

• As the new Chair of the Department of Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Vincent W. Yang, MD, PhD, brings a remarkable blend of clinical expertise, research acumen, teaching skill and leadership experience. He oversees the largest department within the School of Medicine, covering a broad residency training program and nine clinical divisions. An internationally renowned physician-scientist with a focus on the understanding and treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies, Dr. Yang comes to Stony Brook from Emory University, where he served as the R. Bruce Logue Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Digestive Diseases. Previously, he held clinical and teaching positions at Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University. His goals at Stony Brook include growing the translational research program and broadening the scope of the department to better serve residents of Suffolk County and surrounding community hospitals with the most advanced medicine available.

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