This year the Aleh Foundation will honor distinguished leaders in medicine and mental health, education, civic life, and the arts at its dinner to be held on May 21 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The event is dedicated to the late Dr. Irving and Elaine Shapiro, longtime supporters of the Aleh Foundation. They built their lives around volunteering and giving back to the community and to mankind. They founded the Omaha Hebrew Academy and donated the land where the new Beth Israel Synagogue now stands. Elaine was recognized for her community efforts by being recognized as the Nebraska Volunteer of the Year. She also served as the coordinator for the University of Nebraska Medical Center Transplant Program, where she helped provide services and support to families of transplant patients.
Civic Leadership Award: Congressman Robert Turner. Congressman Bob Turner has shown dedication and immeasurable support to important global causes as well as major Jewish causes, including hunting down Nazi war criminals. Congressman Turner was among a few politicians who sent a letter to President Janos Adler of Hungary as well as the prime minister, Viktor Orban, strongly urging them to immediately bring to justice the notorious Nazi war criminal Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, who had been discovered living in Budapest. During World War II, Mr. Csizsik-Csatary was a commander in the Royal Hungarian Police. He was in charge of officers who guarded a Jewish ghetto in the town of Kassau (what is now Kocise, Slovakia). A true sadist, he showed extreme cruelty toward the Jews in Kassa. This cruelty included beating women with a whip, forcing people to dig ditches with their bare hands, and enforcing a policy of shooting those with the courage to try to escape.
Congressman Turner is currently owner and partner in a successful hotel business. He is on the board of directors of Liberty Imaging as well as Readspeak. He served as a specialist in the United States Army and held a series of executive positions in the television and cable industry. He is currently a trustee at Achilles Track Club as well as a trustee at Family Focus Adoption Services.
Mr. Turner won a special election to the U.S. Congress in September 2011. Congressman Turner and his wife, Peggy, have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.
Medical Leadership Award: Dr. Vincent Calamia. Dr. Vincent Calamia is the medical director of Eger Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, which is among the largest New York nursing homes. The Center is part of Eger Lutheran Homes and Services. Started in 1916 as a home for Norwegian Lutherans in Brooklyn, it now operates a 370-bed residential healthcare facility.
Dr. Calamia is a board-certified endocrinologist, internist, and geriatric medicine specialist who has been a consultant for ambulatory care development at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island. He is also medical director of the Hamilton Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn. He was CEO of Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn, where he developed and negotiated budgets, managed hospital safety and quality programs, and oversaw hospital regulatory compliance, among other duties. Dr. Calamia was chief of geriatrics from 1991 through 2002 at Staten Island University Hospital, where he created the geriatric division at the 650-bed teaching facility. Since 1989, he has been president and CEO of the University Physicians Group, one of the largest physician groups in New York City, employing more than 60 physicians in multiple locations with revenues exceeding $30 million.
Dr. Calamia received his bachelor of science degree in biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his MD from the University of Miami School of Medicine. He also received a master of science degree in healthcare management from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Physician of the Year Award: Dr. David Staffenberg. David A. Staffenberg, MD, DSci (Hon) is vice chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery; chief of the Division of Pediatric Plastic Surgery; program director for craniofacial surgery; and professor of plastic surgery and pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. Dr. Staffenberg’s expertise is in craniofacial surgery, aesthetic surgery, and the aesthetic reconstruction of facial differences that are either congenital in nature or due to previous trauma, surgery or cancer. He specializes in the correction of craniosynostosis, cleft lip and palate, jaw surgery, surgery for missing or deformed ears, nose surgery, facelift surgery, and alteration of the chin and cheeks.
Dr. Staffenberg’s research has been presented internationally. Dr. Staffenberg has authored textbook chapters in plastic and craniofacial surgery that were published in the United States as well as Europe. He coedited the textbook Plastic Techniques in Neurosurgery (2nd edition). He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery and the International Journal of Pediatric Otolaryngology. Among other notable achievements, Dr. Staffenberg is known for the successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the tops of their heads. Such rare surgery had never previously been attempted in New York.
Dr. Staffenberg has been invited as a visiting professor in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. He has been invited to perform complex surgery in Mexico, Italy, and Brunei. His surgery to correct an infant with craniosynostosis in Brunei has been called the first operation of its kind on the island of Borneo. He continues to serve as the consultant for the Ministry of Health in Brunei where he performs surgery and teaches.
In a feature article, the New York Daily News has referred to Dr. Staffenberg as “the Miracle Doc of New York” when he performed a series of complex facial operations on a boy with severe craniosynostosis.
Dr. Staffenberg is featured in Beauty of Love, a book written by the star New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and his wife Laura, and is also featured in Heroes with a Thousand Faces, which tells the compelling stories of patients with facial differences.
Dr. Staffenberg remarked that he was humbled and touched by the recognition of Drs. Herbert Lepor and Ellen Shapiro and is delighted to accept the invitation to receive the prestigious Annual Physician of the Year Award from the board of directors of the Aleh Foundation.
Rabbi Shlomo Braun is the founder and director of Aleh Foundation, located at 5317 13th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11219. Since its humble beginnings more than 20 years ago, the Aleh Foundation attracted thousands of friends who are eager to join in supporting leading institutions for the care and treatment of severely developmentally disabled infants and children. The event’s proceeds will go towards respite services providing year round programming after school for developmentally delayed children. The purpose of this program is twofold: to support and strengthen the families, and to enrich the lives of these children. For more information, please visit www.alehfoundationusa.org or call 800-317-ALEH. v