HMS Gala Raises Scholarship Funds

NEW YORK – “Celebrating ‘Service to Community’ was the theme of the Annual Scholarship Gala of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York that marked the Society’s 77th anniversary at Manhattan’s Palace Hotel on December 7.

The guests were welcomed by the Gala committee Chairs, Dr. Eleni Andreopoulou and her sister  Panagiota Andreopoulou, and Dr. Dimitrios Kostopoulos.

The live music and a musical surprise added to the joy of seeing old friends and colleagues. Eleni Andreopoulos drew attention to the deeper spirit of the occasion, however, by noting their “responsibility to work together to support the next generation, so they can take advantage of all that this great country offers.”

Panagiota Andreopoulos expressed her pride not only in the association’s scholarship fundraising but everything they do to “assist in the professional development and education” of the community’s gifted youth.

Fr. Anastasios Gounaris, Dean of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, offered the invocation and conveyed the greetings and blessings of Archbishop Demetrios.

HMS President Nicholas welcomed the guests and the honorees and thanked the Society’s officers and the event’s chairmen.

It is impossible for even the most festive Greek occasions not to include some serious notes in these times. Dr. Mezitis invoked the suffering of “mother Greece” and touched upon what the HMS is doing, on its own and through other groups, to help with both food and medical assistance.

The evening was also infused with reminiscences. Dr. William Tenet, who introduced this year’s Distinguished Physician, Dr. Konstandinos Plestis, noted that he first attended the gala during his residency and said, “This is a special evening for all of us.”

Dr. Tenet, a cardiologist, declared that Dr. Plestis, the director of the Aortic Surgery Program at Lenox Hill Hospital Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, stands for the best in their profession. He emphasized that Dr. Plestis is a man not only integrity and skill but also compassion.”

Dr. Plestis thanked the HMS for the honor he also cited his mentors and especially his professor of General Surgery “the man who helped me become a surgeon.” He offered deepest thanks to his colleagues and nurses “for helping me do the hard surgeries, without whom it would be impossible to stand before you,” to the young residents and fellows who generate “new ideas and fresh looks at problems,” and finally, his patients, who inspire him just by saying to him “do your best.”

He thanked his children, and his wife “a successful woman in her own profession and the epitome of the 21st century Greek woman.”

Kathryn Yatrakis, Ph. D., political scientist and Dean of Academic Affairs of Columbia College was honored as the Distinguished Hellene.

Aphrodite Tsairis preceded her introduction of Yatrakis by noting that despite the great achievement of Greek-American women in all fields, “few have been recognized.” The HMS gala helped to redress the balance.

Yatrakis devoted her time at the podium to offering thanks. She expressed her appreciation for her children, her husband of 44 years, and especially her parents and grandparents who preserved their Greek heritage and passed it to her. “I thank the HMS and accept this wonderful honor in their memory.”

Dr. Theodore Diktaban, plastic surgeon and researcher and pioneer in his field, was introduced by Dr. Peter Tsairis. A former HMS president, he turned serious by acknowledging both the work Dr. Diktaban did as his vice president, but most importantly, his 20 years of service as chairman of the scholarship committee, which he said was “typical of Theo’s ‘give back’ philosophy.”

Dr. Diktaban provided the guests with a “a look back at 30 years of the society. What it has done is astounding.” He noted its accomplishments both as a professional organization focused on current and future generations and promoters of Hellenic culture and supporters of Greece.

“You all know how hard it is to get through medical school,” he said, and then noted “how much harder it is for the children of single parents” and other needy students. He is proud of being able to help them.

Before the applause of his friends and colleagues died down, Dr. Diktaban was invited to take a turn on the drums. He then thrilled the crowd “I heard it on the grapevine” and “Billy Jean.”

The HMS has 800 members in the New York Metropolitan Area, but Kostopoulos urged each member present to begin his workday Monday by making recruiting calls to other Greek physicians.

After entering the beautifully renovated lobby of the Palace Hotel the guests were greeted at top of the stairs by a string trio playing mostly Mozart  led by violinist Elektra Kourtis and were then directed to the cocktail reception. As they entered the ballroom, the Apollo Orchestra led by clarinetist Lefteris Bournias played “The Way You Look Tonight,” a perhaps not accidental tribute to the elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen.

Mezitis acknowledged  the dignitaries, including Greece’s Ambassador to the UN  Michel Spinellis, Greece’s Consul General George Iliopoulos and Koula Sophianou, the Consul General of Cyprus.

The night before the gala, the 2013 HMS scholarship recipients were honored at the Scientific Symposium that was held at Lenox Hill hospital.

The Leonidas Lanztounis Research Grant was awarded to Andromahi Trivellas, Stelios C. Wilson and Perry Fisher. Christos Theophanous received the Stavros Hartofiles research grant and Theodota Kontropoulos.

The scholarships were presented to Nicholas Voutsinas (Demetrios Kotsillimbas Memorial Scholarship); Paraskevas Xenophontos (Anthony  Vasilas Scholarship); Myra Trivellas (Dr. Spyros and Vivian Mezitis Hellenic Fund), Nikolas Zaphiros (James Spyropoulos Memorial Scholarship) and Diana Klopsis (E-Trade Financial Scholarship).

Haeda Mihaltses, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, came to honor her friend, Dr. Plestis,  and to support the Society’s work. She noted that while more and more Greek organizations are offering scholarships “HMS has always focused on scholarships. They are pioneers.”

She also appreciates what it is doing for Greece and noted there was a philanthropic element from the beginning. “That’s how they started. They were a group of physicians who helped the Greek immigrants and seamen.”