The State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook was founded in 1957, and is currently known as Stony Brook University. In the 1970s, when the Health Sciences Center was still in the cocoon stages of its metamorphosis, the School of Medicine, under the brilliant stewardship of Marvin Kuschner, MD, was already on a mission of recruiting outstanding leaders who would lead and shape the various departments and their divisions into outstanding centers for research.
One of these early great leaders was Harry W. Fritts Jr., MD, a pulmonologist, who came from Columbia University in 1977 to assume the position of the Edmund D. Pellegrino Professor and Chair of Medicine. Dr. Fritts was a true visionary, and right from the start, he was determined to build one of the finest departments of medicine in the country.
Department of Rheumatology Created
An early beneficiary of this vision was the Division of Allergy, Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. Allen P. Kaplan, MD, was recruited to serve as inaugural chief of the nascent division in 1978. This appointment was significant for a number of reasons. First, as the head of allergic diseases at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Kaplan was already known as a prolific researcher who had made invaluable contributions to the area of urticaria and angioedema. Therefore, his appointment as the first head boded well for the creation of a world-class division focused on fulfilling the three major missions: patient care, education and research.
Additionally, although his clinical, as well as research, focus was dedicated more to his first love, allergy, he was also a highly regarded board-certified rheumatologist. Thus, it was fitting that he would lead the combined Division of Allergy, Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology.
Even before he left the NIH to take the reins at Stony Brook, Dr. Kaplan was already busy reaching out to potential candidates whose expertise could contribute to the aspirations of the new division. Ironically, however, the first members, who, together with Dr. Kaplan, became the core faculty of the division when it started in 1978, were already conveniently in place.
Peter D. Gorevic, MD, a rheumatologist and board-certified allergist from New York University (NYU), was already working on a part-time basis at the Northpoint VA Hospital; and Michael Silverberg, DPhil, an Oxford-educated and Yale-trained biochemist, was working in the Division of Hematology at Stony Brook. In July 1979, Berhane Ghebrehiwet, DVM, DSc, whose expertise in the field of complement study would enhance that of Dr. Kaplan’s, was recruited to join the group. At the time, Dr. Ghebrehiwet was a senior research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Hans J. Müller-Eberhard at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation (now Scripps Research Institute or SRI) in La Jolla, Calif.