From the Dental School to the Emergency Room, Stony Brook Medicine Leaders Contribute Over $2.7 Million to Support Students

These four physicians have not only given their time and service to Stony Brook Medicine but are now leaving their legacy at the place they call home.

For more than 50 years, Stony Brook Medicine has been a pillar in the community, helping patients, saving lives and conducting cutting-edge research to change the future. But Stony Brook Medicine would not be where it is today without its talented and devoted faculty and staff. Many of them have seen the impact that philanthropy has had on the hospital and its residents over the years, and they feel compelled to give back to Stony Brook Medicine through endowments, scholarships and planned gifts to support students and the future.

These four physicians have contributed a combined $2.7 million to various areas of Stony Brook Medicine — from the dental school to the emergency room. Collectively, they have dedicated a combined 150 years of their lives to Stony Brook Medicine, and they are now linking their legacy and leaving their treasure to make an even greater impact.

Expanding Dental Practices

School of Dental Medicine residents. (Photo by John Griffin)
School of Dental Medicine residents. (Photo by John Griffin)

Mary Truhlar, MS, DDS ’84 has been a part of the Stony Brook community for over 40 years, first as a student, then as a professor in the School of Dental Medicine, as well as the dental school’s dean from 2015 to 2020. She established the Drs. Richard and Mary Truhlar Endowed Scholarship, which will support students in the Doctor of Dental Surgery program, as a way to honor her late husband, Richard Truhlar, DDS ’83. Mary and Richard shared a commitment to excellence in dentistry and dedicated their careers to educating future dentists. 

“I would like to see the DDS program continue to provide the excellence in training that we received as students and provide an opportunity for the next generation of dental professionals to get the very best education,” said Truhlar. “Richard and I wanted students to be able to choose their careers like we did, without being hindered by the cost of tuition.”

Before her husband passed, Truhlar said they discussed creating an endowed scholarship for students. They both agreed it was important that their scholarship be available for students from underserved communities in New York State. “I grew up in the Syracuse area, and in many areas of upstate New York, dental care is not readily available, particularly [in] the Adirondack region,” explained Truhlar.

“Richard and I wanted to assist in recruiting students from those areas to Stony Brook in the hope that they’ll return and provide services to those communities.” – Mary Truhlar, MS, DDS ’84

Building Emergency Medicine

Lester Kallus, MD, isn’t afraid to tell you that he owes his career to Stony Brook Medicine. “I got a job at Stony Brook shortly after the hospital opened,” Kallus explained. “I had been practicing family medicine but wanted to work in emergency medicine. [The emergency department director,] Jeffrey Margulies, MD, helped guide me to become a board-certified emergency physician at Stony Brook.”

Emergency Medicine residents. (Photo by Jeanne Neville)
Emergency Medicine residents. (Photo by Jeanne Neville)

Kallus began working in the emergency department of Stony Brook University Hospital. When the emergency department joined the Renaissance School of Medicine faculty, he became a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine. “I watched emergency medicine grow from a brand new field that was not highly recognized at the time to one of the hottest residencies in the nation,” Kallus said of his almost 40-year career in the ER.

Over his time in the ER, Kallus loved to see timid medical students transform into confident graduates. “Medical students come in a little bit scared and have some self-doubt,” Kallus explained. “But by their third year of residency, something clicks, and they suddenly require little to no coaching from faculty members. And that is a great feeling.”

Inspired by everything Stony Brook Medicine has done for him, Kallus wants to help not only emergency medicine residents but also the community. He has included Stony Brook’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program in his estate plan through the Lester Kallus Endowed Fund for Emergency Medicine Residents. “I hope that my gift can help make residency easier by unburdening some of their debts,” Kallus said.

“If my gift can help recruit some of the top students in the nation, who will then stay at Stony Brook while they’re doing their residency, the quality of medical care may improve even further.” – Lester Kallus, MD

Supporting Education

Renaissance School of Medicine convocation. (Photo by Jeanne Neville)
Renaissance School of Medicine convocation. (Photo by Jeanne Neville)

William Wertheim, MBA, MD, has had various roles in his 28-year tenure at Stony Brook Medicine. Currently, he serves as the interim executive vice president of Stony Brook Medicine and Health Sciences and as a professor of medicine. He and his wife, Rosalind Carter, PhD, were inspired to give back to the place he’s called home because they are keenly aware of the debt burden that medical students face. The Wertheim Family Endowed Scholarship in Medicine supports students from underrepresented backgrounds, as well as first-generation college students.

“For us, it is important to be able to support students who might want to attend medical school but might not consider it due to a reluctance to assume a heavy debt obligation,” Wertheim explained.

He and his wife hope that students from medically underserved communities will return to those communities to practice. “People respond better to physicians who understand their experiences,” said Wertheim. “We want to reduce some of the disparities in access to physicians and some of the inequalities in health care provision in our country.”

Ultimately, Wertheim and his wife want Renaissance School of Medicine students to continue receiving an outstanding education, which will inspire them to become amazing clinicians and care providers for their communities.

Looking to the Future

(Photo by Jeanne Neville)

Bill Lawson, MD, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University Hospital for more than 40 years, knows the importance of patient care and is looking to enhance the future of Stony Brook Medicine. He and his wife, Dona Hills, MD, have established the Diana Briann Lawson Memorial Endowed Fund in memory of their daughter. It will provide critical support for Stony Brook Medicine’s ongoing work to advance medical knowledge and enhance patient care. The impact of the endowed fund will include support for programming, student activities, resident and fellow education, and training-related expenses. 

“This fund stands as a poignant tribute to Diana and the compassionate care she received during her time in the ICU,” said Lawson.

“Dona and I are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to give back to the department that has been an integral part of our lives for so many years.” – Bill Lawson, MD

Inspiring Others

Wertheim believes it’s critical for medical students to recognize that the community is invested in their education — not just in teaching them but also in contributing meaningfully to that education. “It’s incredibly satisfying to know that a contribution I’ve made will help enable a student to go to the Renaissance School of Medicine,” said Wertheim.

The four faculty members agree that, while they are linking their legacy to Stony Brook, their gifts are about the students and the future of Stony Brook Medicine, not themselves. “For us, it was about creating opportunities for dental students and hopefully inspiring others to do the same,” Truhlar said. 

Kallus echoes that sentiment: “This is not for me; it is to pay back Stony Brook for everything it has done for me.”

“When you help a medical student, you’re also helping the thousands of patients they treat over the course of their careers. And that’s an incredibly powerful feeling.” – William Wertheim, MBA, MD

For any Stony Brook Medicine faculty or staff members interested in giving back, please contact Associate Vice President of Medicine Advancement Danielle Holton.

-Christine McGrath

Related posts

The latest On Social Media

Article Categories

Subscribe to SB Matters