Aubry’s 50-year career: 8000 babies, 8000 medical students and the transformation of maternal health care

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

In 1963 — a year before Upstate University Hospital opened — Richard Aubry MD, MPH began his 50+ year career at Upstate. He had been a medical resident and fellow at Upstate prior to joining the Obstetrics and Gynecology faculty in 1963. Over his career, Dr. Aubry oversaw more than 8,000 births and taught obstetrical care to 8,000+ medical students and 200+ residents.

Last summer, Dr. Aubry sent a note to the hospital anniversary committee, sharing his pleasure over the new maternity services available at Upstate, a result of the 2011 merger of  Community-General and Upstate University hospitals.

“Finally, SUNY acquired Community-General’s OB/newborn unit,” he wrote. “Amen, I could finally retire!”

Dr. Aubry did retire in 2013 but, sadly, died a year later. His longtime colleague and friend,  Robert Silverman MD, wrote this tribute, which was first published by the Syracuse Media Group on October 19.

The Upstate New York community has lost one of its most innovative and caring physicians.

Dr. Richard Aubry had an impact on women’s health and the care of newborns in ways that most of the public had no idea about unless they crossed his path, and his path was wide. He was one of a handful of physician leaders who developed the modern field of maternal-fetal medicine, a subspecialty that treats complications of mothers and their unborn babies.

He educated countless medical students and resident physicians in the nuances of obstetrical care and how to properly evaluate pregnant women. He took the Syracuse community and brought it to the forefront of medical care in United States, when he developed one of the first regional perinatal centers. The concept is based on the delivery of high-quality medical care for high-risk mothers and babies in centers staffed with subspecialty-trained physicians who could treat complications that in the past often led to death or major disability. His motivation always was to decrease and prevent problems in high-risk mothers and babies. To this day, Upstate New York through its Regional Perinatal Program continues to serve as the model of how centers of excellence can decrease maternal and newborn mortality, even 40 years after its inception.

Dr. Aubry was that rare combination of astute clinician and outstanding educator. He was the author of countless papers that helped to shape public policy in New York and across the country. He developed a model program that brought first-year medical students into the lives of mothers during their children’s birth and during their babies’ first year of life. He taught several generations of medical students and obstetric/gynecology resident physicians. He loved to see patients and learn about their lives. It was not unusual for him to spend an hour with a patient delving into their medical and social histories, counseling them on their conditions and explaining their treatment options. He served as the district chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists helping to direct obstetric care throughout the state.

When Dr. Aubry retired a year ago, I knew that a change in employment would not keep him still. Even in retirement, he worked to further the health of women and children with an expanded role in public health. In many ways, he was busier in retirement than when he was working full time at Upstate Medical University. Retirement allowed him to concentrate on the issues he was most passionate about, to expand his public health presence and help to guide the state in directions he knew were critical to the continued well-being of women and children. He brought enthusiasm and critical thinking into every meeting he attended. Days before his untimely death, he and I were working on grant applications to further the mission of the Maternal and Child Heath Care Center that he founded at Upstate more than 20 years ago. He had energy and drive that many of us hope to have when we reach our eighth decade of life.

Dr. Aubry’s footprint was large. He was always working for us, the people of Central New York. On the morning of his death, he was one of several volunteers picking up trash on the side of the road on Interstate 481. He loved doing his little bit for the community. He left to go home and enjoy the Syracuse University football game on the TV. He was happy. The events that followed were tragic. I lost a mentor and a friend. He always helped guide me in my career and served as a sounding board when I became chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His was the voice of experience and reason. I — like many of my colleagues, his friends and his former patients — will miss him greatly. It was an honor to work with him. He was a true pioneer whose professional dedication and love for patients will be missed.

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Upstate’s  RMB Aubrey Motherhood Fund  has been established in honor of Dr. Aubry. 

Posted in community, health care, history, maternity, medical student, public health, women's health | Leave a comment

Lecture focuses on recognizing medical innovation

Photo from iStock.

Photo illustration from iStock.

Thomas Krummel, MD, leads Stanford University’s Department of Surgery and loves the fresh perspective of medical students. He spoke about this connection, linking it to discovery, invention, innovation and entrepreneurship when he delivered the annual Pickett Lecture in Pediatric Surgery at Upstate this week.

Krummel, who directs Stanford’s Surgical Innovation Program, made the point that university laboratories, such as those at Upstate, are equipped to stimulate creative thinking.

Students who are new to the medical profession often share ideas that challenge the medical standards of the day. Such standards are relative, Krummel said, citing an example from the early 1800s, when doctors believed that the abdomen, chest and brain would never be accessible to surgeons.

grossKrummel pointed out that as a medical student, Robert E. Gross, MD – who became known as the father of pediatric surgery  – was not selected for residency training in surgery. His backup plan became a two-year pathology residency, during which time he dissected infants. He studied a birth defect in the heart that was killing babies and developed a surgical way to fix it.

Krummel also told of a scrub technician from the 1960s who routinely worked in operating rooms with top surgeons who would make incisions the length of a patient’s leg in order to remove blood clots – often followed by amputations. The scrub tech came up with a better way to remove clots, using a balloon catheter. Krummel said the idea was vilified at the time but wound up revolutionizing that type of therapy.

He spoke at the annual lecture named in honor of Lawrence Pickett, MD, the first pediatric surgeon in Syracuse. It honors the historical contributions of Pickett’s mentor, Dr. Gross, who wrote the textbook, “Surgery of Infancy and Childhood.”

Krummel concluded with this quote from the innovative surgeon who was a founding professor of John’s Hopkins Hospital: “The art of surgery is not yet perfect, and advancements now unimaginable are still to come. May we have the wisdom to live with this with grace and humility.”

“It’s as true today as when William Stewart Halstead said it 100 years ago,” he added.

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Upstate and the Bacons in the 1960s: two careers, one marriage and a baby girl who wants to be a doctor

Donell and Shirley Bacon are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, the same year that Upstate University Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary. At left is Donell working in the lab at Upstate; at right is Shirley working as a nurse.

Donell and Shirley Bacon (center) are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary the same year that Upstate University Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary. At left is Donell working in the lab at Upstate in the 1960s; at right is Shirley working as a registered nurse in the 1980s.

In the early 1960s, Shirley Graves was a hospital nurse in Greensboro, North Carolina. She responded to an ad in the American Journal of Nursing recruiting RNs to apply to Syracuse’s Good Shepherd Hospital to “fulfill your educational goals, broaden your skills and expand your horizons.”

“I was a diploma nurse,” explains Shirley, “and I wanted a baccalaureate degree.”

She and a friend decided to move to Syracuse — for one year — to work and earn their BS-RN degrees.

The two women got jobs in the general medicine unit of Good Shepherd Hospital (predecessor to Upstate University Hospital) and studied at Syracuse University.

Shirley and her friend were among the first African American registered nurses in Syracuse.

She describes the environment in the early 1960s: “We didn’t have any trouble integrating into the nursing community, but we had trouble finding a place to live in Syracuse. When we responded to vacancy listings, landlords told us the apartments were already rented, or they just wouldn’t open the door to us.”

Good Shepherd Hospital stepped in and provided Shirley and her friend with temporary housing.

At that time —1961— Donell Bacon was a high school chemistry and biology teacher in Homerville, Georgia. His move to SUNY Upstate was unplanned, but welcomed.

“It was summer and I was visiting my sister, Inez,” explains Donell. “She worked in a lab in the state office building on Water Street and introduced me to some people at Upstate.”

Cardiopulmonary surgeons John Neville and John Meyer learned of his background — Donell was a Korean War veteran and a graduate of Savanna State College — and asked him meet with them at Upstate.

“I had the job before I walked out the door,” remembers Donell. He was hired as a laboratory technician in the department of cardiopulmonary surgery, working in the lab and assisting in the operating room.

In Georgia, degrees in biology and chemistry put Donell at the head of the classroom, but a degree in medicine proved out of reach. “Medical schools in my home state wouldn’t accept me,” he explained. “It’s just the way things were.”

But, this offer from Upstate put him in the operating room, where he’d long dreamed of working.

Donell Bacon worked on this  electronic console in the operating room. Pictured is his colleague,  Larry George. Syracuse Newspapers, 9/5/65.

Donell Bacon worked on this electronic console in the operating room. Pictured is his colleague, Larry George. Syracuse Newspapers, 9/5/65.

The work proved varied, and interesting. Donell ran the heart-lung and monitoring machines during operations and ran experiments on blood acids in the cardiopulmonary laboratory. He designed a unit that controlled and regulated the temperature of exhaled gasses for analysis during surgery.

Shirley and Donell developed friendships in the same social circle and saw each frequently at events. Shirley smiles at her husband as she describes those days, “Sometimes it takes a while to find just the right dance partner.”

Donell and Shirley married in North Carolina on August 22, 1964, one month after the opening of the outpatient clinic at Upstate University Hospital. Their wedding photo hangs in their living room.

A year later, their daughter, Donna, was born. By the time she was 3 years old, she told her parents she planned to be a doctor and a teacher.

“She never wavered,” explained her father.

Donna Bacon Moore MD '93

Donna Bacon Moore MD ’93

Donna graduated from Corcoran High School in Syracuse, did her undergraduate work at Hobart and William Smith, and attended Upstate Medical University, where she earned her MD degree in 1993. Today, Donna Bacon Moore MD is an associate professor of pediatrics at Georgia Regents University in Augusta.

Donna has fond memories of Upstate, a place where she found like-minded people, and of two professors in particular: Barry Berg PhD, who taught the summer anatomy course, and Gregory Threatte MD ’73, whom she describes as “an awesome support person.”

What about the career goals that Donna set at the tender age of 3? “I am a doctor,” chuckles Donna, “and I teach every day…medical students, residents, families, patients.”

And, she is proud to note that Georgia Regents University opened its Children’s Hospital of Georgia in 1998, much like Upstate opened the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital  in 2009.

The Bacon family has come full circle. Donell Bacon left Georgia for Upstate in 1961. His daughter left Upstate for Georgia in 1993.

What does it mean to Donell to see his daughter, the doctor, working in Georgia?

“My parents have always been very supportive,” Donna replies. “Dad would have been behind me 100 percent no matter what choices I made.

“But,” she pauses. “I guess it means more than I’ve really thought about.”

 (Ada Prettyman was the first African American registered nurse in Syracuse. She was hired at Good Shepherd Hospital in 1944 and became a head nurse and clinical instructor at Upstate. Ruby Brangman, mother of Sharon Brangman MD, began working at Upstate in 1967, and became one of the first nurse practitioners in 1973.  Shirley Bacon’s friend, Shirley Alton Edge, was a nurse manager at Upstate University Hospital for 25 years.

Left to right: Ada Prettyman was the first African American registered nurse in Syracuse. She was hired at Good Shepherd Hospital in 1944 and became a head nurse and clinical instructor at Upstate. Ruby Brangman, mother of Sharon Brangman MD ’81, began working at Upstate in 1967, and became one of the first nurse practitioners in 1973. Shirley Bacon’s friend, Shirley Alton Edge, was a nurse manager at Upstate University Hospital for 25 years.

Donell and Shirley Bacon are the proud parents of two children. Their son, Byron, is an information technology development manager in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Healing with books: Suggestions from Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital librarian

Sometimes you need a story that makes you laugh


“Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach,” by James Dean, (2013) a my-first-reader book. Beginning reader (2013). Visiting the beach with his family, groovy Pete the Cat enjoys collecting shells and building a sand castle but resists going into the water or accepting a surfing lesson from Bob, despite the hot weather.


“Flora & Ulysses,” (2013) by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell. Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal. It begins, as most superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but cynic Flora Belle does, and she is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry.

Young adult

“Better Nate Than Ever,” (2014) by Tim Federle. Nate has a plan that – with a little luck – will take him from his bland Pennsylvania town to New York City and land him a role in “E.T.: The Musical.”

All ages

“Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book,” (2013) by Diane Muldrow. The author’s humorous yet practice tips for getting the most out of life are drawn from more than 60 stories from the sturdy little books with the shiny cardboard covers and gold foil spines.

Sometimes you need a story that lets you cry.


Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier. 3 to 6 (2013). Every morning a boy and his father play a game. “Knock knock,” says Papa, and the boy pretends to be asleep before jumping into his father’s arms. Then one morning Papa doesn’t come anymore, and the boy realizes his father is gone for good. In a rare topic for younger children, Beaty explores the theme of permanent separation from a parent.


“Fly Away Home,” (1993) by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler. 4 – 8 (1993). This is a story about a homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal – to – terminal trying not to be noticed.

Young adult

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. YA (2014). For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father Andy have been on the road, never staying long in one place. He struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where Andy grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, a boy who likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his memories drag him to the edge of hell where drugs push him over.

All ages

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. All Ages (1964). Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.

Mary Laverty is a librarian in the Family Resource Center of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Reach the center at 315-464-4410.

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Glass mural of pond inspires serenity at Upstate Cancer Center

Photo by Susan Kahn.

Photo by Susan Kahn.

Marie Luther is an artist who often visits a rambling creek and waterfall near her Syracuse home. “Sometimes I sit near the stream and listen to its melodic whispers and let the soft light that filters between the sugar maples stir my imagination,” she explains on her blog, Light Affects.

Visitors to the Upstate Cancer Center catch a glimpse of her tranquility when they see her 5-foot wide glass fused mural, “Window on the Pond.” It is located in the meditation room.

The mural is one of the many pieces of art, including photographs, paintings and other works, created by 31 artists from Upstate New York that highlight the theme of nature being a refuge during cancer treatment.

While her artistry includes sculpture, bronze casting, pottery building, Luther’s favorite medium is glass, which she describes as “the rigid liquid that melts and flows, yet through all of its manifestations allows colors to blend and light to bend, refract and reflect.”

Many poets and artists are attracted to water because it can inspire the soul to find serenity, something Luther says she believed would be fitting in a cancer center.

She says her mural “is a microscope and a telescope at the same time, allowing our eyes to inspect the finest detail of the view, yet letting our minds wander into far reaches we have yet to explore.”

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How to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer

A type of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma is on the rise in the United States largely because of the obesity epidemic. People who are overweight may develop reflux, which can damage the esophagus and lead to cancer.

Trouble swallowing is the most common symptom of esophageal cancer, and about half of all patients lose weight without trying. Some people may develop pain or discomfort in the middle of their chest.

Other symptoms can include hoarseness, chronic cough, vomiting, hiccups, pneumonia and bone pain.

Not all esophageal cancers can be prevented, but the American Cancer Society says you can reduce your risk by:

  • avoiding tobacco and alcohol,
  • eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits,
  • maintaining a healthy weight, and
  • seeking treatment for reflux.

 Hear an interview about esophageal cancer with Vanessa Gibson, MD

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Survivor develops career in cancer research

Chris Lucchesi

Chris Lucchesi in the laboratory of Ying Huang, MD, PhD, at Upstate Medical University.

Chris Lucchesi’s relationship with cancer began in a high school AP Biology class.

“We started learning about cancer and realizing that it’s nothing really crazy,” says Lucchesi, a graduate student in pharmacology in his fifth year at Upstate. “You have a cell in your body that gets a mutation, and then your own cells start to propagate at an uncontrolled rate and, more or less, learn how to survive better. They are more advanced cells, I guess you could say.”

“Cancer wasn’t like a virus or some pathogen that you could just target and kill. It was your own body that was going haywire. That intrigued me, that your own body is learning to survive better but ultimately leads to your demise. It was fascinating.”

Then it got personal.

Lucchesi was 17 when he was diagnosed with an esthesioneuroblastoma, a cancer that begins in certain very early forms of nerve cells and usually affects children age 5 and younger. His was located in his maxillary sinus, below his right eye. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“I’m 10 years out now, and everything seems to be clear,” he says.

Today, Lucchesi is working toward his doctorate in pharmacology. He works in the laboratory of Ying Huang, MD, PhD. Their research focuses on a tumor suppressor protein that was discovered to be down regulated in esophageal cancers. Such proteins can stop a cell’s growth or cause its death.

In the petri dishes where Lucchesi grows cancer cells, he makes the cells express this particular protein – and they all die. When he takes non-tumorigenic breast tissue cells and makes them express the protein, they survive.

If that is not fascinating enough, take it a step further.

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. By switching one of the amino acids in the chain with a different amino acid in this particular protein, Lucchesi says, the protein completely changes its actions and becomes a protein that helps cancer cells grow, also known as an oncogene.

Such a complete about-face is meaningful, as oncologists strive to customize cancer therapies to individual patients, Lucchesi says with all the hope and fascination of that high school biology student.

“If you can cut out the tumor from somebody and do pathology on it and realize that it has this mutation,” he says, “well, then you will know what chemotherapies not to use, because they’re not going to be effective for those cancer cells.”

Hear an interview with Lucchesi

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‘Cancer Care’ publication for anyone touched by cancer

fall2014ccThe fall 2014 issue of Cancer Care magazine features the remarkable story of how a surgeon removed a bladder wracked by cancer and replaced it with one he built from a portion of the patient’s own intestine.

Readers will also meet a cancer survivor who has developed a career in cancer research, and a woman who was blown away by the support of her coworkers when she was in treatment for breast cancer.

This issue contains stories about promising research involving 10 scientists from Upstate Medical University, and a close look at cancers that may be acquired on the job. A variety of Upstate experts offer advice about the dangers of hepatitis C, the latest breast reconstruction options for women after mastectomy, and new technology that helps pinpoint prostate cancer.

In addition, learn how to avoid constipation, what to do about hair loss and six reasons to say no to e-cigarettes — plus a lot more.

For a free subscription to Cancer Care, send your name and address to with “cancer care” in the subject line. Did you miss the inaugural issue of Cancer Care, which showcases the new Upstate Cancer Center? Look through a digital copy here.


Posted in cancer, community, research, surgery, urology, women's health | Leave a comment

‘Mercy Killers’ playwrite/actor to perform at Upstate

Michael Milligan performs a one-man play called "Mercy Killers."

Michael Milligan performs a one-man play called “Mercy Killers.

Michael Milligan plays the role of Joe in the one-man play he wrote called “Mercy Killers” that illustrates problems in the American health care system.

He visits Syracuse to perform the play from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19. Admission is free. The performance takes place in room 9295 of Weiskotten Hall, 766 Irving Ave. on the campus of Upstate Medical University. It is sponsored by Upstate’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

Reviews of the play call it “heart-breaking,” “deeply affecting” and “raw, emotional and devastatingly honest.” It is set in a police interrogation room.

Milligan, a native of Columbus, Ohio, has been writing and acting for the theater for almost two decades. He has performed on the Broadway stage and a variety of other theaters in New York.

Watch a clip from the play from the The Real News Network

Hear Milligan describe his performance from Arts Happening

Watch “Portrait of a Playwrite” from Art Voice West Virginia

Learn more about the show

Posted in bioethics, cancer, community, entertainment | Leave a comment

Remembering Jake: the president who built the hospital

Drs. Cookie and Jake Jacobsen meet with NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller  and his wife, Happy, at the newly opened Upstate University Hospital, 1965.

Drs. Cookie and Jake Jacobsen meet with NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller
and his wife, Happy, at the newly opened Upstate University Hospital, 1965.

Yesterday’s post told a bit about the late “Cookie” Jacobsen, the first lady of Upstate who is being honored tomorrow, along with her husband, Jake.

Carlyle “Jake” F. Jacobsen PhD, was president of Upstate Medical University from 1957 to 1965 and dean of its College of Medicine. He came to Upstate from an administrative post in health education at SUNY, through which he built a network of influential people in American medicine. He oversaw a period of tremendous growth at Upstate that included construction of University Hospital and the creation of several clinical departments in the College of Medicine.

Both Jacobsens published extensively. Jake Jacobsen was the author of numerous publications, including several books on cerebral function. Due to their joint expertise in  neurophysiology, psychiatry and medicine, the Jacobsens represented the United States Agency for International Development on assignments in Lebanon, Iran, and India.

Among their many accomplishments, the Jacobsens were instrumental in Upstate’s recognition of Elizabeth Blackwell MD, a graduate of Geneva Medical College (now Upstate Medical University) and the first woman physician educated in America.

The Jacobsen dedication is being held at 3 p.m. on Wed., Nov 12 in Weiskotten Hall, 766 Irving Avenue, Syracuse. It is open to the Upstate community and friends.

The medical alumni association offers opportunities to honor the Jacobsens through the Carlyle and Ellen Cook Jacobsen Memorial Fund and the Ellen Cook Jacobsen MD ’50 Fellowship in Psychiatry.

The Jacobsen Foyer in Weiskotten hall will be dedicated at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12.

The Jacobsen Foyer in Weiskotten hall will be dedicated at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12.

Posted in community, education, entertainment, health care, history, hospital, medical student, mental health, neurology | Leave a comment