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[April 6, 2011]                                                  

Two Downstate Students Receive SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence

Two SUNY Downstate Medical Center students, Samar Bharat Mehta, PhD, and Ehsan Sarafraz-Yazdi, MSc, have been awarded the 2011 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence – the highest student honor given by the State University of New York. Conferred by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher at an awards ceremony held April 5 in the state capital, the award recognizes academic excellence combined with leadership, community service, and career achievement. Two winners were chosen from SUNY Downstate, based on the size of its student enrollment.

Chancellor Zimpher said, “These students represent the future of our state and are perfect examples of The Power of SUNY.  I congratulate all of the students receiving recognition and thank them for the positive impact each has had on SUNY and the communities we serve.”

Dr. Mehta earned his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California at San Diego and will receive his MD from Downstate in May. Mr. Sarafraz-Hazdi is a PhD candidate in the School of Graduate Studies and also plans to graduate this spring. Both have impressive scholarly achievements combined with extensive community involvement.

One of the top students in his class, Dr. Mehta has long been active on campus and in the community to promote health awareness. He is a member of the Brooklyn Free Clinic, a student-run health service for uninsured community residents, has helped organize health fairs for South Asian residents in Brooklyn, and has also gone abroad to participate in a rural health project in India. During his third year of medical school, he traveled to Uganda as an NIH/Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar to study patterns of antiviral resistance among HIV patients. In recognition of his compassion and dedication to service, his peers elected him a member of the Gold Humanism Society.

Before coming to Downstate, Mr. Sarafraz-Yazdi studied applied genetics in England at the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London. A personal experience of cancer and an educational background in molecular biology and bacterial genetics provided the motivation and framework for research at Downstate into anticancer drugs. His efforts have explained the unique mechanism of action of PNC-27, an anticancer peptide developed earlier by Downstate researchers.  In addition to his research activities, he has served his fellow students as a member of the Graduate School Student Council and treasurer. He has also given generously of his time to mentor and supervise local high school and college students who wish to participate in medical laboratory research.

The annual Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was established 14 years ago to recognize students who have best demonstrated academic excellence combined with accomplishments in leadership, community service, athletics, creative and performing arts, or career achievement. The average grade point average for all recipients this year is 3.8.


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 eighth 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.