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[Feburary 8, 2012]                                                  

SUNY Downstate Launches Annual Black History Month Celebration:
Brigadier General Stayce D. Harris Delivers Keynote

The month-long celebration of Black History at SUNY Downstate Medical Center began on February 1 with a festive Opening Ceremony featuring music, song, and a keynote address by Brigadier General Stayce D. Harris, one of the highest-ranking African-American women in the U.S. Air Force.

This year’s celebration attracted a record number of attendees, including many local students from the High School for Health Professions, Parkside Preparatory Academy, and the High School for Human Rights.

Brigadier General Harris echoed the theme of this year’s Black History celebration—“Charting New Paths”—as she recalled the many times she was forced to veer from her chosen path, only to return by a different route on better and surer footing than before. Today, Brigadier General Harris is assistant to the commander of U.S. operations in Africa, contributing to the development of national security policies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She is also a commercial airline pilot. “You have to fly your own plane,” she said, “and you have to make constant corrections to make sure your path is true.”

Following her remarks, audience members were treated to a documentary film, curated by Kevin Antoine, JD, chief diversity officer at SUNY Downstate, tracing the history of African-Americans in aviation, beginning with the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII to today’s astronauts in space. Many of the men and women the Brigadier General had named as personal heroes were depicted in the film.

New York City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, chair of the Council’s Veterans Committee, presented Brigadier General Harris with a proclamation honoring her contributions to national safety and defense. “What I see today,” he said, “is a reflection of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. This is wonderful…this is great.”

The Black History celebration at Downstate will continue with events scheduled throughout the month. Topping off the list is a Caribbean Cultural Health Panel on February 22 in Lecture Hall 1A at 5: 30 pm. Co-sponsored by the Daniel Hale Williams Society, the local chapter of the Student National Medical Association, it will include health screenings and information on diet and fitness.

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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.

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