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[May 22, 2012]                                                  

Dr. Malika Issoufou Mahamadou, First Lady of Niger, Visits SUNY Downstate

A delegation led by the First Lady of the Republic of Niger, Dr. Malika Issoufou Mahamadou, visited President John C. LaRosa, MD, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center on May 17th. The First Lady, who holds degrees in medicine and tropical medicine, toured Downstate’s Transplant Unit, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Child Life Center, and a nursing station, as well as the School of Public Health.

“We were very pleased to welcome the First Lady,” said President LaRosa. "Her visit amplified Downstate's engagement with global health issues and highlighted the international programs hosted by our School of Public Health." Delegation members included Madame Barry Bibata Niandou, Minister for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children, and Mr. Maman S. Sidikou, Nigerien Ambassador to the United States. Madame Niandou, a distinguished jurist, is a major figure in the fight for women's rights in Niger. Ambassador Sidikou, who presented his credentials to President Barack Obama in January 2012, previously served as an official in the Niger government and has worked for a number of international development organizations, including UNICEF and USAID.

Dr. Mahamadou’s visit was part of her efforts to upgrade health care in Niger. Located in the sub-Sahara, the country faces numerous public health challenges, including malaria, diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, and infectious diseases, complicated by high levels of poverty and limited access to potable water and essential health services. Because Niger suffers from high levels of infant and maternal mortality, Dr. Mahamadou has a particular interest in improving healthcare services for women and children.

She is also interested in transplantation and dialysis. There are a number of individuals on dialysis in Niamey, Niger's capital, and Dr. Mahamadou told Dr. Devon John, Downstate's chief of transplantation, that she would welcome a visit by him to Niger to discuss the feasibility of doing transplants there.

“We hope that this will be part of a strong and productive relationship,” President LaRosa told the First Lady, explaining that Downstate, which has international programs in Eastern Europe, Haiti, and South Africa, has a strong commitment to global health. Dr. Pascal J. Imperato, dean of the School of Public Health (SPH), spent several years working in Africa, including in Niger, and is familiar with the country and its health issues. Dr. Imperato, who did much of the French/English translating for the visitors, introduced faculty and students from the School of Public Health to the First Lady, and told her that he enjoyed hearing first hand about all the progress that has been made in Niger in the health sector since the time of his public health work there.

Under Dr. Imperato's leadership, Downstate's School of Public Health sponsors a highly successful Global Health Program for fourth-year medical students in India, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, sub-Sahara Africa, and Latin America. In recent years, SPH alumni have worked in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. Dr. Mahamadou expressed interest in expanding Downstate's international programs to Niger.

In addition to President LaRosa, Dr. Imperato, and Dr. John, the First Lady also met with Debra Carey, chief executive officer of University Hospital; Margaret Jackson, assistant vice president and chief nursing officer; and Michael Harrell, assistant vice president for community and governmental relations.



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.