Dr. Harry Soroff, founding chairman of Stony Brook University's department of surgery and a pioneer in heart surgery and burn care, died Aug. 22 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan of complications after heart surgery. He was 86.
Soroff, an Asharoken resident for 36 years, was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and raised in Philadelphia, where he graduated from high school in 1943. He attended Temple University, studying physics and receiving his medical degree by age 21.
During the Korean War, he served as an Army captain, stationed in San Antonio, where he researched burns and nutritional needs for healing burn victims and surgical patients.
He served as chief resident under the pioneering cardiac surgeon Dwight Harken at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, now known as Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, said his son, Jonathan Soroff, of Newton, Mass. In 1974, he was hired as chief for the newly built hospital at Stony Brook University, where he served as chief of surgery.
During the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 in Israel, Soroff volunteered with the Israeli army's mobile medical units, furthering his subspecialty in burns that led him to develop a burn unit at Stony Brook, his son said.
Soroff established the Stony Brook Burn Center and the Living Skin Bank in the mid-1980s, and during this period, forged the burn center's partnership with Suffolk County firefighters that led to the creation of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center Fund Inc. Soroff's career at Stony Brook spanned 33 years, until he retired in 2006.
"He was someone extremely committed to medicine and care, and equally committed to his family," Jonathan Soroff said.
"He has affected more peoples' lives than is even known," said Dr. Steven Sandoval, medical director of Stony Brook's burn unit. "While on his deathbed, he was still working on research."
Besides Jonathan, Soroff is survived by sons David of Coram and Daniel of Cumberland Foreside, Maine; his companion, Marjorie MacArthur of Manhattan; and four stepchildren, Marc Leahy and Susan Spivey of Lloyd Neck, Matthew Leahy of Charleston, S.C., and Peter Leahy of Parkland, Fla. He was predeceased by his third wife, Adrienne, and her son, Christopher Leahy.
Soroff was buried in Israel and a private memorial service was held in Asharoken.