It wasn’t officially a family reunion, but the November 2009 Harvest Ball could have easily been mistaken for a gathering of the Somers clan. Honorees Dr. Robert and Ronnie Somers celebrated with their three children and their spouses, their grandchildren and more than 700 enthusiastic attendees who wanted to show their appreciation to the Somers for their decades of dedication to Einstein.
To say that the Somers’ have had a lifelong connection to Einstein is not an exaggeration. Robert Somers, MD, was born here in 1933 when it was still called the Jewish Hospital. Growing up around the corner, Ronnie passed the hospital every day. With that history, the couple’s dedication to Einstein was only natural.
As a pioneer in organ transplants in the 1960s, Dr. Robert Somers helped shape Einstein’s national reputation for state-of-the-art treatments.
“It was a big deal in those days,” he says. “But to me it was just one of the many things I did as a surgeon."
However, it was when a family friend was diagnosed with breast cancer that Dr. Somers and Ronnie began their unofficial careers as Einstein ambassadors. After successfully performing a lumpectomy, a rare treatment option at the time, Dr. Somers’ reputation spread among women seeking effective yet minimally invasive procedures, further adding to Einstein’s reputation.
Meanwhile, Ronnie Somers set about the task of raising awareness about women’s health issues and poured her efforts in helping establish the Breast Cancer Action Group that would empower and educate women about breast health and other issues.
“We wanted to prepare women for their treatment, let them know about their options and give them a voice in their care,” says Ronnie.
Despite the many hours the couple devoted to the cause, they felt there was even more they could do. When the Breast Cancer Action Group was incorporated into the Einstein Auxiliary, Ronnie volunteered more hours fundraising, participating in various committees and serving two terms as Auxiliary president.Yet her focus continues to be on breast health.
“We raise funds to help women in need get access to proper care and offer educational programs and symposiums for healthcare professionals,” says Ronnie. Dr. Somers also became increasingly involved in the effort to establish a comprehensive breast health center for women. His fundraising efforts generated more than $1 million towards the creation of Einstein’s Marion-Louise Saltzman Women’s Center, which has since become a national model. Many of the Women’s Center’s educational programs are conducted by Dr. Somers or their daughter, Dr. Debra Copit, who heads the Breast Imaging Center for the Einstein network. “We both volunteer our time to educate women about their health care,” says Dr. Somers. Together they address groups locally and around the nation, further contributing to Einstein’s reputation as a model for women’s health care.
Despite their long records of service and volunteerism on behalf of Einstein, when they were approached about being the 2009 honorees, both the Somers were taken aback.
“We were really surprised and shocked—never thought about anything like that,” says Ronnie. “We were honored to be honored."
With their whole family present—daughter Dr. Debra Copit and her husband Dr. Steven Copit, daughter Dr. Marjorie Somers and her husband Dr. Frank Silvestry, daughter Amy Litman, Esq. and her husband Dr. Edward Litman—Dr. and Ronnie Somers were recognized for their lifetimes of service.
Dressed in their finest tuxedos, their three grandsons, Noah, Scott and Robbie led the crowd in a blessing before dinner. Barry Freedman, Einstein President and CEO announced that $1.2 million was raised and that the Robert G. Somers, MD, Chair of the Department of Surgery would be established to support the education of surgical residents.
“I wanted to make sure the next generation of surgeons would be properly trained to take care of me when I get older,” joked Dr. Somers.
After investing a lifetime of long hours planning fundraising events, volunteering time to educate the community and working to assure that Einstein remains in the forefront of healthcare, people might expect the Somers to kick back and relax a little, but that isn’t their style. As it has been for decades, his calendar is full with dates for speaking engagements and educational activities. As for Ronnie, “I’m always looking forward to planning the next Harvest Ball.”
(L to R) The Somers’ daughters and their spouses
–Debra Copit, MD, Steven Copit, MD, Frank Silvestry, MD,
Majorie Somers, MD, Edward Litman, DDS, Amy Litman, Esq.
(L to R) The Somers’ grandchildren –
Noah Silvestry, Robert Copit and Scott Copit
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