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[July 21, 2008]

Two Downstate Faculty Promoted to Highest SUNY Rank:

Drs. Joan Cracco and Ellen Ginzler Named SUNY Distinguished Professors for Service and Teaching

Two faculty physicians at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have been named distinguished professor, the highest academic rank within the State University of New York. Joan Bender Cracco, MD, professor of neurology, pediatrics, and physiology and pharmacology, has been promoted to distinguished service professor; Ellen Ginzler, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, has been named distinguished teaching professor 

“The rank of SUNY distinguished professor is reserved for faculty who have made major contributions to the State University and to their professions,” says Dr. John C. LaRosa, MD, president of SUNY Downstate. “We are extremely proud of Dr. Cracco and Dr. Ginzler for their achievements, which bring honor to themselves and to our institution.”

Dr. Cracco is nationally and internationally recognized for her research in pediatric neurology. Her groundbreaking work on somatosensory evoked potentials in children has made it possible to safely monitor spinal cord function during surgery. She also is known for her work on transcranial magnetic coil stimulation, a noninvasive method of mapping the brain to show which areas are functional. More recently, Dr. Cracco has been studying the role of long-term potentiation (LTP), which is key to memory storage and learning.

Dr. Cracco was instrumental in organizing a multidisciplinary Spina Bifida Clinic, at the time the only one of its kind outside of the Rusk Institute in Manhattan. Having served as co-director of the clinical neurophysiology fellowship program for 13 years, training new physicians, she now is director of pediatric neurology at SUNY Downstate and Kings County Hospital Center.

A prolific author and leader in her profession, she has held many positions in the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society, including president.

Dr. Ellen Ginzler has been named distinguished professor in recognition of her gifts as a teacher and scientist. Under her leadership as chief of rheumatology, the division has gained international attention for its superb training and research.

As director of the second-year musculoskeletal block, a course of study required of all medical students, Dr. Ginzler originated the Patient Demonstration Session, consistently rated the best teaching session of the year by students and equally popular among patients. She also originated the mentoring program of the American College of Rheumatology, which continues to be a major educational resource.

Dr. Ginzler has a stellar record of clinical research and scholarship. Internationally known as an expert on lupus nephritis—an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to many parts of the body—her contributions to lupus research have helped change the paradigm for treatment of a painful disease that affects some 2 million people in this country.



SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a Graduate Public Health Program, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks seventh nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools.  More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.