David Mark Silberhartz, MD, a 1980 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine, has been a psychiatrist for 33 years and is passionate about helping other physicians join his profession. He recently established the Silberhartz Family Award to provide funds to medical school graduates who are entering their residency training to become psychiatrists. The grant will be awarded for the first time next spring.
“I hope to help attract the best and brightest students into psychiatry,” Dr. Silberhartz said.
The Silberhartz Family Award is funded through a family trust that was set up years ago.
“My parents taught my brother and me that giving is a privilege, a responsibility and a necessity,” Dr. Silberhartz said. “The charitable remainder unitrust was established by my family to support worthy endeavors. In choosing which charities would benefit, I wanted to choose places/causes that meant a lot to my family. This gift is in honor of my family name — they made me who I am.”
In setting up the award, Dr. Silberhartz worked closely with Aldustus Jordan, EdD, associate dean for student and minority affairs, who Dr. Silberhartz called a “dear friend.” The award will be granted in a unique way: Students graduating from the medical school will vote to select the recipient.
“I want students to think critically about what good doctoring looks like,” Dr. Silberhartz said. “By involving the entire class in the process, my hope is to show students that you can and will be rewarded for doing what is right.”
Dr. Silberhartz grew up in Brooklyn and attended the University of Pennsylvania for his bachelor’s degree, graduating in 1972. He was accepted to multiple medical schools.
“I chose Stony Brook because the school offered a new philosophy in medical education: small class size of about 50 students; an above average age of students; great diversity, including about equal numbers of men and women in the class and students from various backgrounds; and less focus on GPA and more focus on life experience,” Dr. Silberhartz said. “I recall there being a tremendous camaraderie between my classmates and me. There was the sense of being pioneers in a fledgling institution — in a beautiful location.”
After medical school Dr. Silberhartz also performed his residency at Stony Brook, completing his training in 1984. But many young physicians have to move to other cities and work at hospitals where they know no one in order to complete their training, and the transition can be difficult. The Silberhartz Family Award will be given directly to the selected resident to be used for relocation, housing, transportation or whatever costs are deemed necessary.
“I want to provide deserving students funding to make their transition into residency less stressful,” Dr. Silberhartz said. “I am encouraging students to follow my pathway into psychiatry.”
That pathway includes opposing the trend in psychiatry to have short sessions with patients that focus on medication.
“Most psychiatrists tend to only prescribe medicine and send patients to social workers and psychologists for therapy. This concept has been counter to my philosophy of doctoring from the beginning,” Dr. Silberhartz said. “I have always done both the therapy and medication with my patients. My shortest patient visit is about 45 minutes, and my initial consultation is an hour and a half. Because of the complicated nature of the human experience, I want to always ensure that I take my time with my patients and learn as much about them as possible.”
This “desire for excellence as a physician” was instilled in him while at Stony Brook, he says. He still lives and works in the area and remains affiliated with Stony Brook University Hospital. He and his wife Sheila have been married for 37 years; they have one child and one grandchild, with a second on the way. A member of the School of Medicine Alumni Board since 2011, Dr. Silberhartz encourages other alumni to consider gifts to Stony Brook.
“Do what you can to encourage great doctoring,” he said.
Learn more about Stony Brook Planned Giving.