After nearly 11 years as Dean of Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky will be retiring from the university at the end of the academic year.
According to a statement to faculty and staff on Jan. 4 from President Maurie McInnis, Kaushansky will exit his role as dean on Jan. 31 and remain senior vice president until the end of the spring semester. Kaushansky joined Stony Brook in June 2010, and has been in charge of overseeing both medical schools and the university hospital system that is spread throughout Suffolk County.
“While at Stony Brook, he oversaw a realignment of the School of Medicine, the Clinical Practice Plan, and University Hospital, fostering cooperation, coordination and growth,” McInnis wrote. “This included the development of an expanded University Hospital with additional beds, the Children’s Hospital, the new site of the Stony Brook Cancer Center and the Medicine and Research Translation building.”
McInnis wrote that the university will soon look for nominations for an interim dean for the School of Medicine and outline plans for a national search for a replacement to Kaushanksy’s senior vice president role.
According to his university bio, Kaushansky got his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, before completing his residency and fellowship in hematology at the University of Washington Medical Center. He then served as a professor at Washington and the chief of hematology at the University of Washington Medical Center before becoming a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at University of California, San Diego.
As a hematologist, he has contributed to research on blood, most notably the discovery and study of thrombopoietin — a hormone produced by the human body which stimulates the production of blood platelets, which are critical for blood to clot. He has also edited and reviewed several medical research journals.
In an interview with The Statesman, Kaushansky, 67, said that his decision to leave the university left him with mixed emotions.
“I’ve made a lot of great friends here, a lot of great colleagues, I’ve done a lot of mentoring of people, but a very sage academic friend of mine … said in these kind of major academic administrative roles, you ought to not take them on for less than five years or more than ten years,” he said. He violated that rule to lead the hospital throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In his position as senior vice president of health sciences, Kaushansky said that he is most proud of increasing the communication, coordination and relationships between the different divisions of the hospital. He is also proud of growing Stony Brook Medicine’s name by adding new hospitals, expanding bed space and remodeling the eastern campus.
“What we’ve done over the past 10 years is we’ve created a health system,” Kaushansky said. “Rather than just having the one hospital and a little boutique medical practice, we have four hospitals and about 200 locations where we see patients all over Suffolk County. And so that is also so important for the health of people in Suffolk County.”
More recently, he is proud of what delayed his retirement: the hospital’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, including the treatment of patients, testing and research that has been conducted by Stony Brook.
He said that one of the things that he focused on during his time as dean at Stony Brook was introducing and expanding on engineering-driven medicine, something he was introduced to at UC San Diego by Dr. Shu Chein. Kaushansky said the university gradually started offering courses based on the subject, before creating its Institute of Engineering-Driven Medicine in March 2019. The university recently received $75 million from New York state to build a facility to house the institute and expand its research, according to the institute’s webpage.
Kaushansky said that he could not have developed the School of Medicine and hospital as much as he did without his staff.
“For these kinds of roles, it’s all about the people,” he said.
Although he will be retiring from Stony Brook, Kaushansky said that he isn’t yet done with academics.
“I still have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas and a lot of plans,” he said.
He will continue to edit the future editions of his hematology textbook, William’s Hematology. He also plans to create a new semester-long course based on new discoveries in medicine that both medical and non-medical students can enjoy.
“I want it to be an undergraduate/graduate course where people who are not really ensconced in medicine get to see before their very eyes, illustrated, the amazing stuff that’s going on in medicine,” Kaushansky said, as he proceeded to gush about a potential new cure to sickle-cell disease.
“It’s just a remarkable time in medicine and I feel a compulsion to share that cool stuff … with the broader population,” he said.
Kaushansky also talked about spending his retirement continuing his lesser known love for creative photography and enjoying time with his family, especially his wife Lauren, whom he has been married to for 44 years and who is a professor of education on the West Campus.