Dr. Reuven Pasternak knows he has a tough job.
"There's considerable financial stress in health care," the new chief executive of Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president of health systems there said. "It used to be that an academic medical center operated in a different space. . . . Those days are gone."
But Pasternak, 62, said he was lured back to Long Island -- where he grew up -- and back to academic medicine. On Sept. 1, he replaced Dr. Steven Strongwater, who resigned from the 597-bed hospital in November.
A 1968 Hempstead High School graduate, Pasternak spent most of his career in academic medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. For the past four years, he's been chief executive of Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia, with 900 beds and 5,500 employees -- the same workforce as Stony Brook.
Before that, he served three years as chief medical officer of Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, comprising eight community hospitals.
In an interview Thursday, Pasternak said he was attracted to Stony Brook because "it is part of a strong university." That, he said, meant the possibility for fruitful relationships between researchers and other departments "across the street."
Its location not far from New York City also was "intriguing," he said. "It's a region where there are a lot of like-minded people and high visibility."
But trying to balance meeting the bottom line -- especially as the federal Affordable Care Act unfolds -- and increasing the hospital's visibility on the national and international stage won't be easy, he conceded.
"You need resources to become a major player in research," he said.
Yet, as he talked with his friends in other academic medical centers around the country, he was impressed with how many mentioned researchers from Stony Brook. "We need to get our story out even more," he said.
Pasternak's role as vice president means he will work closely with deans of the schools of dental medicine, health technology and management, and nursing and social welfare.
"I'm on a steep learning curve," he said. "It's more about listening than talking."