[December 20, 2016]
SUNY Downstate Medical Center Honors Dr. Garry S. Sklar and Sarah Sklar
Gifts to SUNY Downstate by the Sklars Support Key Initiatives in Anesthesiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Simulation Education
Brooklyn, NY – Philanthropists Garry S. Sklar, MD, and his wife, Sarah Sklar, were recently honored at a gathering of SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s senior leadership, in recognition of several significant gifts that support clinical care and research efforts in Anesthesiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery, as well as new technologies in healthcare education through state-of-the-art simulation technology.
Gifts facilitated by Dr. Sklar include the Garry S. and Sarah Sklar Professorship in Anesthesiology, named in honor of Dr. Sklar and his wife; the Herman and Olive Pascarella Professorship in Cardiothoracic Surgery; and the William and Rose Sklar Simulation Center, named in honor of Dr. Sklar’s parents.
“Dr. Sklar’s generous gifts are helping us raise the profile of SUNY Downstate Medical Center as a center for research,” said Michael Lucchesi, MD, chief medical officer and officer-in-charge at Downstate. “In addition to building our reputation, they support our efforts to attract outstanding scholars and build interdisciplinary healthcare teams.”
The first recipient of the Sklar Professorship in Anesthesiology was Distinguished Service Professor James E. Cottrell, MD, who has served as chair of Downstate’s Anesthesiology Department since 1979.
Dr. Cottrell has been hugely impactful on the profession. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology; past president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and of the Society of Academic Anesthesiology Chairs; and was a Senior Board Examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology. At Downstate, he grew the Anesthesiology Residency Program from an average of 13 residents to 70, and he initiated a mandatory anesthesiology rotation for medical students. He has also served as chair of the AIDS Action Foundation and vice chair of the board of Doctors of the World, and previously sat on the board of God’s Love We Deliver. He is an elected at-large member of New York State’s Board of Regents and focuses on school-based health initiatives and education for professionals.
Dr. Cottrell’s research has focused on the effects of drugs on intracranial pressure, and the neurotoxic effects of nitrous oxide in neurosurgical procedures. The endowment is currently supporting work by Daisy Lin, PhD, research assistant professor in the departments of Anesthesiology and of Physiology and Pharmacology. Dr. Lin, along with Dr. Cottrell and Ira Kass, PhD, professor of anesthesiology, are studying the effects of neonatal anesthesia on the development of neuropsychiatric and cognitive disorders. Their goal is to discover therapeutic interventions to alleviate the risks associated with anesthesia in young children undergoing surgery. Dr. Cottrell has also worked with Todd Sacktor, MD, distinguished professor of physiology and pharmacology, anesthesiology, and neurology, on the role of PKMzeta (a molecule involved in memory retention) after anesthesia in the elderly and in those with cognitive dysfunction.
“I am personally touched by Dr. Sklar’s gift,” said Dr. Cottrell, who noted that “it will make a major difference to our department and to our patients. All philanthropy reflects significant recognition of your work – but that recognition means even more when it comes from another anesthesiologist who has been a faculty member in the Anesthesiology Department.”
The gift named for the Pascarellas, who were lifelong friends of the Sklar family and who named Dr. Sklar as the executor of their estate, supports the research of Daniel Beckles, MD, PhD, division chief of cardiothoracic surgery and associate professor of surgery and cell biology.
Dr. Beckles is a 1997 graduate of Downstate who, since assuming leadership of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, has broadened its capabilities with new and advanced technologies.
“We are extremely pleased that Dr. Beckles chose to return to Downstate,” said Dr. Lucchesi. “As a dynamic academic cardiac surgeon, researcher, educator, and innovator, he greatly strengthens the care we offer to patients and positions Downstate as the leader in cardiothoracic surgery in Brooklyn. As importantly, as an alumnus with an impressive list of firsts while at the University of Texas Medical Branch – including first robotically-assisted minimally invasive cardiac bypass surgery, and first minimally invasive aortic valve and mitral valve surgeries, to name a few – Dr. Beckles is an inspiration to our students and residents.”
“Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of mortality in the United States and in most Western countries,” said Dr. Beckles. Because of this, his research focuses on understanding the molecular pathways that lead to poor survival in groups with well-known risk factors, and identifying and understanding the molecular signatures that contribute to the observed disparities (e.g., male versus female, African-American versus Caucasian-American) in cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Beckles’ team, including Eduardo Mascareno, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology, has established a translational medicine approach in which basic research findings are used as a platform to develop experimental models that mimic cardiovascular diseases such as left ventricular hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. “The significance of our approach,” said Dr. Beckles, “is demonstrated by our success in identifying novel strategies to treat hypertension, a significant risk factor for mortality in cardiovascular heart disease.”
The William and Rose Sklar Simulation Center, which will be located in Downstate’s new Public Health/Academic Building when it opens in 2017, will provide a unique interprofessional and interdisciplinary training environment for students across multiple disciplines. It will create a safe, immersive environment for students learning resuscitative, invasive, and surgical procedures. Dr. Sklar’s gift will foster professional excellence and teamwork.
Dr. Sklar served on Downstate’s faculty from 1974 to 1978 and as director of anesthesiology and residency training programs at several other healthcare institutions. He has been appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to sit on Downstate’s SUNY Council, and is a respected advisor to Downstate. In announcing his gifts, Dr. Sklar said, “I hope they will encourage young doctors to advance the body of knowledge in their fields, as well as honor the Pascarellas’ commitment to helping others.”
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, College of Nursing, College of Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.
SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth 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. For more information, visit www.downstate.edu.