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Eugene and Carol Cheng, Both Class of ’75, Create Cardiovascular Imaging Endowment

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Eugene and Carol Cheng with their sons

Stony Brook Medicine has received a major gift from Stony Brook University alumni Eugene ’97, and Carol Cheng ’97, to support cardiovascular imaging research that advances non-invasive techniques to diagnose and treat heart disease. The gift will be matched by the Simons Foundation Challenge Grant to establish the Carol and Eugene Cheng Cardiovascular Imaging Research Endowment.

The gift will also be used to purchase additional technology for the clinical research team of renowned cardiologist and cardiovascular imaging specialist Michael Poon, MD, a professor of medicine, emergency medicine and radiology, and director of Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging, a program within the Department of Radiology. Dr. Poon will purchase an enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) machine. This device incorporates the use of pneumatic bands and pulsations to stimulate the opening of cardiac blood vessels and prompts revascularization in patients with angina and other cardiovascular conditions.

“This generous gift from the Chengs allows us to use advanced cardiac imaging to evaluate non-invasive interventions designed to minimize the use of pharmacological interventions and invasive procedures to diagnose, prevent or treat disease, and closely follow any progression of cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the United States,” said Dr. Poon. “The gift also provides seed money for us to collect data through the use of advanced cardiac imaging to gain new insights into the role of EECP in the early prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Poon is a pioneer on the use of coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA) to evaluate cardiovascular disease. CCTA is a non-invasive heart imaging test that produces a “photograph” of the heart in motion to help determine if fatty deposits or plaque has narrowed a patient’s coronary arteries. Since joining Stony Brook Medicine in 2009, Dr. Poon’s innovative CCTA research and clinical practice has reduced hospital admissions of patients presenting with chest pain in the Emergency Department (ED) by incorporating CCTA. The process enables physicians to more accurately and quickly diagnose the causes of chest pain; determine if heart disease is the cause of chest pain, or rule it out, thereby halting additional testing or unnecessary invasive procedures in patients; and saves time, medical costs and lives.

Stony Brook University Hospital patients and other patients in the community have benefited from Dr. Poon’s CCTA protocol. Under Dr. Poon’s directorship, Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson is implementing his CCTA protocol as a strategy to triage patients with acute chest pain in the ED. The collaboration enables Dr. Poon and his team to use a remote diagnostic system to supervise the scanning process and view results in real time to assist Mather physicians in diagnosing cardiovascular disease.

“We are delighted that the Chengs have chosen to invest in cardiac imaging, in Dr. Michael Poon, and in Stony Brook Medicine,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, senior vice president for the Health Sciences and dean of the Stony Brook School of Medicine. “There are few areas of medical research that are progressing as rapidly as imaging, and with that progress is sure to follow important advances in human health. We very much look forward to great things to come from the partnership of the Chengs’ generosity, Michael Poon’s talent and insight, and the many Stony Brook Medicine biomedical scientists and healthcare professionals investigating basic research in biomedical imaging and its clinical applications.”

Dr. Michael Poon, Director of Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging at Stony Brook Medicine

“Dr. Poon is on the leading edge of new technologies in imaging and is also an extraordinary mentor, working with residents, research fellows, and even undergraduate and high school students in hopes of inspiring the next generation of innovators in the field,” added Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. MD. “When alumni like Eugene and Carol Cheng step up to support efforts like those of Dr. Poon’s, we all stand to benefit in the long run — Stony Brook University, Long Island residents who rely on us for exceptional patient care, and people around the world who will be armed with new knowledge about how to prevent heart disease.”

With the help of the gift from the Chengs, Dr. Poon will be able to further investigate advanced cardiovascular imaging technologies and its applications in evaluating treatments such as EECP.

The Cheng’s generosity was motivated by a $150 million transformational gift made to Stony Brook by Drs. Jim and Marilyn Simons. Jim Simons founded Renaissance Technologies, where Eugene Cheng is a systems administrator.

“Jim Simons made an offer within our organization, promising to match gifts made to Stony Brook and specifically to Stony Brook Medicine,” said Eugene Cheng. “We realized this was the right time to take advantage of the opportunity and help our alma mater.”

“We have some family history related to heart disease, which is why we became interested in Dr. Poon’s research,” added Carol Cheng. “Dr. Poon believes in preventative measures when it comes to heart health. He believes in being proactive rather than reactive and in being as non-invasive as possible. It gives us a good feeling to know we could not only give back to the university that has given so much to us but also maximize our gift through the Simons challenge.”

After meeting with Dr. Poon and learning more about what he hopes to accomplish through advanced cardiac imaging, the Chengs, parents of three young boys, decided to establish their endowment to support both equipment and research.

“Because of the generous matching gift challenge made by Jim and Marilyn Simons, we have seen a wonderful influx of new gifts such as the endowment established by Eugene and Carol Cheng,” said Dexter A. Bailey, Jr., Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director of the Stony Brook Foundation. “Dr. Poon’s work is an extraordinary example of the kind of groundbreaking research going on at Stony Brook University, and we are deeply grateful to the Chengs for investing in this work that saves lives.”

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