The Aufses family has a long history of service and support at Mount Sinai. Arthur H. Aufses, Jr, MD, served as chair of the Department of Surgery for 22 years and is considered to be a true Mount Sinai Giant. He was a mentor to many residents and fellows and helped break down barriers for women and minority surgeons. He delighted in his trainees’ achievements and set an example of honesty, integrity, and loyalty for all who followed him.
Dr. Aufses ushered in Mount Sinai’s adoption of laparoscopic surgery, oversaw the expansion of ambulatory surgery and the hospital’s transplant program, and in 1988 organized the surgical team that performed the first liver transplant in New York State. He was also a chronicler of Mount Sinai’s long and storied history and published two books on the subject with institutional archivist Barbara Niss. And Harriet, his beloved wife of more than 71 years, served as one of the original volunteers in the Ambassador Program, guiding and accompanying patients throughout the medical center.
Before his passing in April 2019, Dr. Aufses and Harriet made many philanthropic gifts to the Mount Sinai Health System—including establishing the Aufses Family Scholarship. Now, as part of her estate planning, Harriet has established the Harriet W. and Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Military Veterans Scholarship Fund, an endowed scholarship for military veterans attending the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai with demonstrated financial need.
“The scholarship will help pay tuition for an incoming medical student who served in the military,” Harriet says. “I want them to be able to focus on their studies and not be restricted by finances.”
Dr. Aufses was always interested in supporting incoming medical students with a military background, Harriet explains. He served twice: first as a Corpsman in the Navy during World War II and later as an Army medical officer during the Korean War. “He felt that young people should have military experience, especially early in life,” she says. “He felt it gave them a sense of discipline and mission.”
The Aufses’ daughter, Carolyn Blashek, agrees. “My dad stressed the importance of military service,” she says. “He said doctors with a history of service turned out to be the best physicians because the experience and discipline translate so well to medical and surgical practice.”
Shortly after 9/11, Carolyn founded Operation Gratitude—a military support organization that has sent more than three million care packages to military members, their families, veterans, and first responders. More recently support was extended to health care personnel, and Harriet has also made Mount Sinai the beneficiary of a gift to ensure a Day of Gratitude for health care workers there—complete with Operation Gratitude “thank you” gifts.
“Saying ‘thank you’ to veterans and to all health care personnel is a very worthy cause, and I am delighted to do so through these gifts,” Harriet says of lending support to future generations of medical students and furthering her family’s legacy at Mount Sinai.
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