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[November 18, 2010]  

50 Years and Counting: SUNY Downstate Employee Celebrates a Milestone

Showing no signs of slowing down, Janet Halpern celebrated her 5Oth anniversary at SUNY Downstate Medical Center by dancing the Twist. At this year’s Employee Recognition Luncheon for staff who have contributed ten or more years of service, Ms. Halpern alone could attest to having witnessed five decades in Downstate’s history. 

Ms. Halpern has enjoyed a remarkably varied and challenging career at Downstate. In 1960, she was hired by the public relations department to help raise funds for a new teaching hospital. Thanks in part to her efforts, University Hospital of Brooklyn opened in 1967. A photograph taken at the time shows Ms. Halpern among the eager onlookers as Governor Nelson Rockefeller delivered his congratulatory remarks.

Ms. Halpern’s skills were next put to use by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to record patient outcomes. She installed the first enterprise asset management (EAM) equipment that sorted codes and used punch cards to run statistical analyses. Her facility with data management came to the attention of then Downstate President Joseph K. Hill, PhD, who asked her to evaluate the use of newly introduced IBM machines.

After some months of training at IBM learning Fortran, an early programming language especially suited for numeric and scientific computing, Ms. Halpern began training researchers at Downstate to use computers in their work. She also co-wrote a program known as THOMIS (Total Hospital Manager Information Systems) that introduced computational methods into hospital administration. Later she helped develop other applications to compile student records and academic profiles.

Following her success at Computer Services—now Information Services—Ms. Halpern was charged with modernizing Downstate’s telecommunications system. This mammoth undertaking involved upgrading all phones from analog to digital, replacing the old switchboard with an electronic switching system, and installing modern consoles staffed by a team of operators under her direction.

Ms. Halpern attempted to retire 15 years ago but was persuaded to return to Downstate as manager of the Faculty Student Association Theater Ticket Service. She approached this new role with the same “can do” attitude she brought to her previous assignments, and students, staff, and alumni continue to enjoy the benefits.

The Employee Recognition Luncheon is hosted each year by Downstate President John C. LaRosa, MD, as a thank you to staff for their valuable service. At this year’s event, held November 3, 2010, Ms. Halpern received a standing ovation from her fellow celebrants. More than 370 employees observed an anniversary milestone this year.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.
SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.