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[June 5, 2006]


Surgeon General Notes Diversity of SUNY Downstate Student Body 
U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, and Jordan J. Cohen, MD, retiring President of the Association of American Medical Colleges, were the speakers at commencement ceremonies of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Thursday, May 25, 2006, at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.
Dr. Cohen spoke at the ceremony for the College of Medicine and School of Graduate Studies in the afternoon and Dr. Carmona addressed the graduates of the College of Nursing and College of Health Related Professions that evening.
In his remarks, the Surgeon General noted the diversity of the students graduating from SUNY Downstate and told them: "Make sure that the future of healthcare looks as diverse as the group I see sitting before me, because that's what this country needs. I challenge you to every day take into account the diversity of cultures and take the best science and deliver it in a culturally competent manner to help people."
Dr. Carmona was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, as was Linda H. Aiken, PhD, RN, Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.
At the afternoon ceremony, Dr. Cohen told the graduating physicians and scientists that due to the recent completion of the mapping of the human genome, they will witness a “fundamental shift in the very paradigm of medicine – a shift from reactive to prospective; from waiting around for symptoms to appear, to actually forestalling their occurrence; from being forced to deal with established disease, to being fully empowered to prevent many ailments before they strike.”
Honorary doctor of science degrees were awarded to Willem J. Kolff, MD, inventor of modern kidney dialysis and a voluntary Professor of Medicine at SUNY Downstate; and to Robert F. Furchgott, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at SUNY Downstate. Dr. Furchgott won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research he performed in his Downstate laboratory.
Dr. Cohen, who already holds an honorary degree from the State University of New York, received SUNY Downstate Medical Center's highest campus honor, the Ailanthus Award.