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[April 27, 2011]                                                  

Leaders in Medicine and Allied Health to Deliver SUNY Downstate Commencement Addresses, May 26

Harvey Jay Cohen, MD, one of the nation’s leading authorities on geriatric medicine, and Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), will be commencement speakers at ceremonies for graduates of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Thursday, May 26, at Carnegie Hall.

Dr. Cohen will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary doctor of science degree at the afternoon ceremony for the College of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. A graduate of the College of Medicine, Class of 1965, Dr. Cohen is the Walter Kempner Professor of Medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke University, where he has been a member of the faculty for more than four decades.

Dr. Cohen created a national model for the assessment of geriatric patients with cancer, and a model educational program for medical students to teach them to understand and empathize with frail elderly patients. Last year, he was given the B.J. Kennedy Award for Scientific Excellence in Geriatric Oncology by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

At the evening ceremony for the College of Health Related Professions and the College of Nursing, Dr. Clark will address the graduates and also receive an honorary doctor of science degree. As president of AOTA, Dr. Clark heads an organization of 39,000 members that is devoted to ensuring the quality of occupational therapy services, improving consumer access to health care, and promoting professional development.

Dr. Clark is also professor and chair of the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC) and associate dean in the School of Dentistry at USC. She is best known for her publication of the Well Elderly Study, the largest randomized clinical trial of the effectiveness of occupational therapy, which showed that an OT program improved health and slowed the declines associated with aging.    

Three other educators will be honored at the afternoon ceremony. Ann C. Anderson, PhD, professor emerita at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree for her many contributions to public health and for her service to Downstate. An outstanding researcher and innovative administrator, Dr. Anderson was instrumental in developing Downstate’s School of Public Health, the first of its kind in Brooklyn, and the first publicly supported school of public health in New York City.  

Sidney Cohen, MD, a 1964 graduate of the College of Medicine, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree for his contributions to academic medicine and the field of gastroenterology. A past president of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), he is also professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, director of research at the Jefferson Digestive Disease Institute, and director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program at Jefferson University Hospital. He also created AGA’s Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition, which he currently chairs.  

Benjamin A. Rosenberg, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Downstate and a graduate of the Class of 1950, will receive Downstate’s Ailanthus Award, in recognition of his more than 60 years of service to the campus and to medical education. A gifted clinician, researcher, and teacher, Dr. Rosenberg is also a talented musician who has directed Downstate’s commencement music program since 1981.     

“We are honored to have such respected leaders in healthcare and education at this year’s commencement celebrations,” says Downstate President John C. LaRosa, MD. “They stand as role models and inspirations for our graduates as they begin their careers.”


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 School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks ninth 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.