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[June 7, 2011]                                                  

Two Nationally Known Leaders in Medicine and Allied Health Deliver Keynotes at SUNY Downstate Commencement

Harvey Jay Cohen, MD, an expert on geriatric medicine and oncology, and Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association addressed the graduates of SUNY Downstate Medical Center at ceremonies held May 26 at Carnegie Hall.

Dr. Cohen received an honorary doctor of science degree and delivered the keynote at the ceremony for graduates of the College of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. An alumnus of the College of Medicine, Class of 1965, he recounted his formative experiences as a student at Downstate and at Duke University, where he helped advance the practice and teaching of geriatric medicine. Dr. Cohen advised the graduates to be flexible and open to new possibilities throughout their careers: “There are wonderful opportunities out there; embrace them, and you will do fine.” Dr. Cohen is currently the Walter Kempner Professor of Medicine at Duke and director of its Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.

Honorary doctorates were also awarded to Ann C. Anderson, PhD, professor emerita at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and to Sidney Cohen, MD, a 1964 graduate of the College of Medicine and a leader in gastroenterology. Another alumnus, Benjamin A. Rosenberg, MD, clinical professor of medicine at SUNY Downstate, received the Ailanthus Award in recognition of his many years of service to the medical center. Dr. Rosenberg graduated in 1950.

The College of Medicine graduated 193 physicians and the School of Graduates Studies granted 17 scientists doctoral degrees, including four graduates of the joint MD-PhD program. The School of Public Health graduated 30 new public health professionals with master’s degrees. 

At separate ceremonies for graduates of the Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, Dr. Florence Clark was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree in recognition of her contributions to allied health. As head of a national organization of nearly 40,000 occupational therapists, she is working to advance the profession and to improve consumer access to health care. In her keynote address, Dr. Clark noted the continued need for cooperation among the health professions. “It is going to be the era of the interprofessional team,” she said.

The College of Nursing granted 201 Bachelor of Science or Master of Science degrees, while the College of Health Related Professions graduated 134 new allied health professionals.  


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.