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[October 24, 2013]

Five Downstate Faculty Members Given Empire Clinical Research Investigator (ECRIP) Awards:

Funds Totaling $1.8 Million Will Train Physicians as Clinical Researchers and Enhance Clinical Care

Brooklyn, NY – Five SUNY Downstate Medical Center faculty members have been awarded Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) fellowship awards. The awards are part of a New York State Department of Health program that is designed to help train young physicians as clinical researchers, advance clinical and translational research in diseases that are common among New Yorkers, and increase the extent of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to researchers in New York State. The awards to Downstate and its hospital affiliate partners total $1,800,000.

“The success of our faculty members in competing for these ECRIP awards reflects the importance of our role as the only academic medical center in Brooklyn,” said John F. Williams, Jr., MD, EdD, MPH, FCCM, president of SUNY Downstate. “We are not only doing innovative cutting-edge research at our main Downstate campus but, equally important, collaborating in innovative clinical research with other teaching hospitals in Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Moreover, this award highlights one of the key parts of our mission – to train the next generation of clinical researchers.”

ECRIP provides funding for community-related research specific to an institution's service area. It is an open and flexible program allowing institutions to hire fellows in any subject that represents a strategically important area of growth for the institution. The program was redesigned this year to create large team-based Center Awards at medical schools and equivalent biomedical institutions for advanced, well-funded clinical and translational research, and to continue small Individual Awards to clinical researchers at teaching hospitals throughout New York State.

Individual Awards will provide 19 institutions with $150,000 each to train one or two ECRIP fellows over two years. Center Awards will provide 12 institutions with $1,197,766 each to train a team of six ECRIP fellows over two years on important clinical themes. Both Center and Individual Awards are intended to enhance the ability of recipient institutions to compete for research funds from NIH and other sources.
SUNY Downstate faculty members have received a total of five ECRIP awards for clinical projects at SUNY Downstate's onsite teaching hospital, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and four of the campus's teaching hospital affiliates – Brooklyn Hospital Center, Lutheran Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center.
The ECRIP Center Award at Downstate’s University Hospital of Brooklyn involves microvascular disease in successfully treated HIV disease in women. SUNY Downstate is a participant in the NIH multicenter Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), which has carefully followed a large cohort of women with HIV who were successfully treated with Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
During recent years it has become widely recognized that many successfully treated HIV patients develop a premature or "accelerated" aging phenomenon. Especially common is an unusual variant of arteriosclerotic disease characterized by the early onset of heart attacks, cognitive impairment, and neurovascular diseases among women in their early 40's. The ECRIP Center Award will enable Downstate to initiate a major study of the neurological and cardiovascular aspects of this new condition, with intent to improve its early diagnosis and treatment.  
The project leader is Deborah R. Gustafson, PhD, professor of neurology. The team of collaborating  investigators includes Alison Baird, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and physiology and pharmacology; Howard Crystal, MD, professor of neurology; Jack DeHovitz, MD, MPH, distinguished service professor of medicine; Jason Lazar, MD, MPH, professor of medicine; and Steven Levine, MD, professor of neurology and emergency medicine.
The four ECRIP Individual Awards are as follows:
At the Brooklyn Hospital Center, Randall L. Barbour, PhD, professor of pathology and surgery, is principal investigator of a clinical research project utilizing near infra-red scanning as an innovative method of non-invasive imaging for precise detection of breast cancer in women.

At Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, William J. Brunken, PhD, professor and vice chair for research, Department of Ophthalmology, and professor, Department of Cell Biology, is principal investigator of a clinical research project for ocular tissue repair using innovative nanoscale engineering and biomimetic scaffolds, in collaboration with investigators at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

At Richmond University Medical Center, John Danias, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and cell biology, is principal investigator of an innovative clinical research project to develop an artificial trabecular network for the treatment of glaucoma, also in collaboration with investigators at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
At the Lutheran Medical Center, Ming Zhang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and cell biology, is principal investigator of a clinical research project to investigate the use of complement B activation as an early test for preeclampsia in Black and Hispanic pregnant women.

To learn more about ECRIP at SUNY Downstate, please visit: .

For additional information on ECRIP, visit: .

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.