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[June 7, 2011]                                                  

Four SUNY Downstate Medical Center Faculty and Staff Members Honored for Professional Excellence

Four Downstate Medical Center faculty and staff members have been selected to receive the State University of New York Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. The awards are conferred to acknowledge individuals who make significant contributions to their campuses and SUNY, and whose work demonstrates high achievement and a commitment to excellence. The honorees are:


  • Karen Benker, MD, MPH, assistant professor of public health and associate dean for community public health affairs, School of Public Health, for excellence in faculty service;
  • Jason Lazar, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of noninvasive cardiology, for excellence in scholarship and creative activities;


  • George Vas, MD, professor of clinical neurology, for excellence in teaching; and


  • Violet Price, MLS, senior assistant librarian, Medical Research Library of Brooklyn, for excellence in librarianship.


Karen Benker, MD, MPH, was instrumental in guiding the development of Downstate’s public health program, from its origins as a master’s degree program to its full accreditation in 2010 as a school of public health. As associate dean, Dr. Benker develops community outreach activities, arranges fieldwork placements for students, and helps lead the Minority-Based Community Clinical Oncology Program, while also teaching at the master’s and doctoral levels. Before assuming her current position, she was medical director of Family Health Services, SUNY Downstate’s first community-based health center, in central Brooklyn. 

Jason Lazar, MD, MPH, is director of noninvasive cardiology, director of the cardiovascular fellowship training program, and clinical assistant dean in the College of Medicine. A productive and creative researcher, he has published more than 100 papers on various aspects of cardiology and has received significant grant support. Dr. Lazar has fostered successful collaborations with clinicians of different specialties and with basic scientists and is credited with developing several new methods to assess cardiovascular function, including in HIV patients. He is also a natural mentor, who has previously received multiple teaching awards.  He is well known for his ability to convey the most complex ideas to his research fellows, several of whom have won top research honors.

George Vas, MD, is a nationally recognized educator in the field of clinical neurophysiology. A member of the faculty since 1975, he served as co-director of the clinical neurophysiology fellowship for more than two decades. An expert on the interpretation of electroencephalograms and evoked potentials, he was a contributor to the textbook, Current Practice of Clinical Electroencephalography, which is considered a classic in the field. Perennially voted one of New York’s top doctors, he has received best teacher awards from residents and fellows as well as from the American Academy of Neurology. Most recently he was elected to honorary membership in AOA, the medical student honor society.

Violet Price, MLS, has served as the intellectual resource cataloger maintaining bibliographic organization for the Medical Research Library since 1999. Her work in this area as database and electronic resource manager helped transition the library from a campus-based system to one that is SUNY-wide, giving Downstate users access to more than eight million holdings. She has provided valuable service to the library Archives and Special Collections in organizing its materials.  She is also active in the community outreach programs of the library.
Downstate President John C. LaRosa, MD, describes the Chancellor’s Award winners as role models: “These awards are richly deserved and bring honor to our institution. We thank the honorees for their continued commitment to our students and patients, and to the communities we serve.”

Each of the honorees will receive a certificate and a medallion from the Chancellor, to be presented by President LaRosa at a special awards ceremony on campus in the fall.


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.