Josephine Connolly Schoonen, PhD, RD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine
Executive Director, Nutrition Division SBUMC
Director, Dietetic Internship Program

Ms. Connolly received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition from Cornell University and her Master's Degree in Nutrition with a minor in Exercise Science from the Pennsylvania State University. After working in industry for two years, she pursued a degree in academic medicine, joining the Department of Family Medicine in 1992. Ms. Connolly is the director of the Dietetic Internship Program, as well as the director of two New York State Department of Health funded community nutrition grants. She has also secured internal funding from the NIH funded General Clinical Research Center to support an obesity research project. Ms. Connolly has served as an American Dietetic Association media spokesperson, editor of the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists newsletter the Pulse, and board member for the Long Island Dietetic Association. In addition, Ms. Connolly has copyrighted a unique food guide, the Bull's-Eye Food Guide.  Based on this guide she has published a weight management book for the general public, called Losing Weight Permanently with the Bull's-Eye Food Guide (Bull Publishing, 2004) and a manual for health care professionals. She is published in professional research journals as well as in books and literature for the general public. Her areas of interest include obesity, diabetes, eating disorders and hyperlipidemias.

Lorraine Danowski, MS, RD
Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine
Coordinator, Dietetic Internship

Ms. Danowski received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition from the State University of New York at Oneonta and her Master's Degree in Nutritional Science from Long Island University at CW Post. Ms. Danowski has over 15 years of experience in the field of nutrition, including 13 years in clinical nutrition, 7 years in nutrition support, 2 years in sales of nutrition-related products and 5 years in food service management. She has taught in college and university settings for 4 years. Ms. Danowski was instrumental in the development of the SUNY Stony Brook Dietetic Internship, serving on the Advisory Board and writing curriculum. She served as president of the Long Island Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. Her areas of interest include nutrition support, pediatrics, diabetes and food service management.

Lauren Gargiula Brand, MS, RD
Coordinator, Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)

Ms. Gargiula received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Resources with a major in Dietetics and a minor in Biology from the University of Delaware. She has recently completed a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition. She coordinates the Women, Infants, and Children Program a pediatric weight management program. She joined the Department of Family Medicine in May 2000. Ms. Gargiula has an interest in community nutrition, pediatric obesity and eating disorders.

Leah Nemerson Holbrook, RD

Coordinator, Heart Links Program of Suffolk and Nassau Counties

Leah Nemerson - Holbrook received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Long Island University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Health Care Policy and Management from Stony Brook University. Prior to joining the Department of Family Medicine in 2003, Ms. Holbrook worked in the area of weight loss, diabetes management and pediatric nutrition. She currently coordinates The Heart Links Project of Suffolk and Nassau Counties, a grant-funded program offering resources to school districts to address nutrition and physical activity environments. Ms. Holbrook also offers individual and group counseling at Student Health Services on the Stony Brook main campus. Her areas of interest include community health, child nutrition and weight management.

Wendy Hildebrant, MS, RD

Coordinator, Heart Links Program of Suffolk and Nassau Counties

Ms. Hildebrant received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Health Education with a minor in Nutrition from Ithaca College, and her Master's Degree in Health Care Policy and Management with a concentration in Nutrition from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  She has recently completed the SUNY Stony Brook Dietetic Internship Program, and joined the Department of Family Medicine in February 2006.  Along with Leah Nemerson Holbrook, she coordinates the Heart Links Program of Suffolk and Nassau Counties.  Ms. Hildebrant has an interest in community nutrition, diabetes, and obesity.

The dietitians at the Department of Family Medicine specialize in nutrition therapy for the treatment of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and gastrointestinal disorders. In addition, they have expertise in sports nutrition, health promotion, nutrition in pregnancy and nutrition for toddlers and kids. Individual and group sessions are available.

Medical nutrition therapy and nutrition counseling services are available at:

The Primary Care Center
181 Belle Mead Road
Setauket, NY 11733

Target Fitness Weight Management Program for Adults
The Target Fitness Weight Management Program is a 12-week program based on the most current research on the treatment of obesity. The program includes the following:

  1. assessment and advancement of readiness to change eating and exercise behaviors,
  2. assessment of current eating and exercise habits,
  3. instruction on individualizing eating styles and physical activity programs,
  4. hunger and fullness scaling, and
  5. complimentary techniques of meditative breathing and guided imagery. Pharmacological agents can be considered when appropriate. Weight and body composition (body fat) are monitored, and both short and long-term goals are established.

Target Fitness Weight Management Program for Kids and Teens
This program is jointly administered by the Department of Family Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics. The first half-hour of the program is attended by parents and kids and the following topics are addressed: creating your own healthy eating plan, healthy snacking, using hunger-scaling, eating out, handling tough situations, balancing food intake with exercise, and realistic weight goals. After the nutrition component of the program, the kids complete an hour of aerobic exercise and strength training supervised by a pediatrician or exercise specialist. During the exercise time, the parents continue to meet with the registered dietitian to discuss the nutrition topics in more detail, as well family meal planning, family lifestyles and schedules, and relevant parenting issues. Weight and body composition are monitored.

Target Fitness for Work Sites
The Target Fitness Program can be tailored to the meet the needs of various work sites and employee groups. If your work site is interested in sponsoring a Target Fitness Weight Management Program, contact Josephine Connolly by telephone (631-444-8430) or e-mail.

Target Fitness at the Supermarket
This Target Fitness Program is designed to help participants make healthy choices where it really matters - at the supermarket. This 90-minute guided tour through the grocery store is chock full of information on how to read food labels, how to compare similar products, how to make the best food choices for various health conditions, and tips on quick and easy menu planning.

Community Nutrition Projects

New York State Department of Health Funded: Heart Links Project of Suffolk and Nassau Counties

The mission of the Heart Links Project of Suffolk and Nassau Counties is to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by identifying, evaluating, promoting, and increasing opportunities for community members to engage in healthy behaviors.  Primary to this is improving habits related to nutrition and physical activity.  The Heart Links staff works with faculty, staff, administrators, students, and parents to create school environments that empower children to maximize learning potential and health.  We propose a coordinated four-pronged approach in school districts: awareness campaigns, educational programs, advocacy, and policy implementation. 

Heart Links, founded in 1993, is a project funded by the New York State Department of Health, Healthy Heart Program located at Stony Brook University in the Department of Family Medicine. Comprised of a team of dedicated Registered Dietitians and other public health professionals, the Heart Links staff focuses on recruiting school districts interested in improving the school food environment and working with key district personnel in achieving that goal. Many factors affect a child's food preferences and eating habits including the home environment, media and marketing strategies. The latter has become much more of an issue as children are often the target of aggressive promotional activities by the food and beverage industry that influence both home, school and community environments. As a result, establishing healthier school environments and educating children about issues related to health and nutrition has become essential in the face of the increasing availabilty of high fat, high sugar and low nutrient foods.

Schools partnering with the Heart Links Project are on the forefront in dealing with the pediatric obesity epidemic and are choosing to become part of the solution. Overweight and its related conditions are becoming evermore present in todays youth and impact a child's learning potential, self-esteem and short- and long-term health. Establishing educational programming and coordinated policy implementation that allow for the development of healthier eating habits among children is key to affecting change.

For more information, please go to the Heart Links webpage.


WIC is a nutrition education and supplemental food program for low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age.  WIC services are available at two locations:

Department of Family Medicine
Family Service League
181 Belle Meade Road, Suite 2
1444 Fifth Avenue
East Setauket, NY
Bay Shore, NY

WIC participants receive:

  • Free supplemental food packages that may include; infant formula, infant cereal, milk, cheese, eggs, beans, peanut  butter, juice, tuna fish, cereal and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Nutrition education for prenatal and post partum women.
  • Help and support with breastfeeding.
  • Nutrition education on how to feed infants and children for healthy growth and development.
  • Immunization screening and referrals to health care providers.

For an appointment, or for more information, please call (631) 444-5239.

Recent/Current Research Projects

Weight Management Study

Effectiveness of medical nutrition therapy for adult obesity is being studied through a prospective, randomized clinical trial examining the efficacy of three different weight management programs on resting metabolic rate and long-term weight loss.  Each weight management intervention was 20-weeks long and subjects’ one-year follow-up visits were completed in December 2004.  Fifty-nine subjects were enrolled in the study and 25 subjects completed the study.  Data have been scanned and databases are currently being created.  Data analysis will be conducted in the spring with publications submitted in the summer and fall of 2006.  This project is being conducted with support from the General Clinical Research Center. 

Heart Links Project: Community Nutrition Intervention

In the fall of 2004, Connolly-Schoonen put together a research team to address the pediatric obesity epidemic from a community perspective.  This work is supported by the NYSDOH-funded Heart Links project.  The broad goals are as follows:

  • to model the production of pediatric obesity – specifically the strength of influence of the school environment on obesity prevalence among student populations;
  • to explore factors contributing to the effective development, adoption and implementation of policies to improve the quality of food available to children throughout the school environment;
  • to study the effectiveness (as well as cost-effectiveness) of policy interventions in decreasing the rate of increase in prevalence of obesity among school-aged children using schools and grades as the unit of analysis; and
  • to study the effectiveness of implementing a high school and/or parent advocacy program on creating and implementing nutrition policies to improve the quality of foods available in schools. 

Full implementation of the program will take place in receptive school districts over the 2006-2007 school years, once pilot testing is complete.  This project will result in a number of papers to be prepared in 2006-2008 as post-intervention data are collected.  Initial papers will be on a review of the literature regarding youth-led health advocacy programs and fields of influence on the production of pediatric obesity.


Last updated by bcole on March 23, 2015

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