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August Orientations

The end of August brought even more excitement as the College of Nursing, the School of Public Health, the School of Graduate Studies, and the School of Health Professions gathered to kick-off the 2019 Academic Year with the annual August orientations for new students.

I’m delighted to welcome so many eager, passionate, and sharp students to SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University for the first time. As orientation week began, I had the chance to meet new faculty and many incoming students. The enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, and the growing diversity of culture within our Downstate community was palpable and remains an inspiration to me as our students, faculty, and history always do.


School of Public Health Orientation

The School of Public Health (SPH) launched the new school year with a splash, welcoming one of its largest classes yet—84 new students in pursuit of the Master of Public Health (MPH), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), and Advanced Certificate in Public Health (ACPH). Dean Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., greeted the students and shared the history of public health and the School’s contributions to urban and immigrant health—both here in Brooklyn and globally. He also spoke to the immense impact the innovations of public health have on improving life expectancy and overall quality of life. Dr. Demissie closed his remarks by, emphasizing the extraordinary potential and tremendous responsibility each new student has on eliminating health disparities broadly, while promoting health equity, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities.

School of Public Health Orientation

SPH Vice Dean Michael Joseph, Ph.D., MPH, later talked about the School’s rich legacy of excellence in education, research, and community service—lauding SPH’s nationally-recognized, highly-trained diverse faculty. He also showcased their innovative and impactful efforts in advancing public health knowledge through cutting-edge health disparities research. 

Students heard about current research projects and ongoing activities from faculty, including Environmental and Occupational Health Chair Laura Geer, Ph.D., Health Policy and Management Chair Karen Benker, M.D., MPH, Community Health Sciences Assistant Professor Azure Thompson, DrPH, MPH, as well as Janet Rosenbaum Ph.D., and Carl Rosenberg Ph.D., both Assistant Professors in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. And, finally, SPH Enrollment and Student Affairs Assistant Dean Daniel Illyayev MSEd, discussed how the School’s culture of inclusion, collaboration, and community would help the students integrate into an environment of support and encouragement.


College of Nursing Orientation

Still in the record-breaking mode of this academic year—The College of Nursing (CON) pinned and welcomed an impressive 191 new nurses-in-training across five programs to its new student orientation program—the largest incoming class in the CON to-date!

Under Dean Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, the College of Nursing has seen consistent growth and increasing enrollment in the Master’s Programs, including the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) tracks. The FNP program admitted its largest class in Downstate history with 100 students. 

College of Nursing Orientation

In addition, the CON launched its newly developed and innovative, online RN to BS program, the University’s first fully- online program. With the passing of the New York state legislation, in 2018, requiring all nurses to have a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure, the CON developed this program to meet the needs of working nursing statewide. 

This academic year is shaping up to be an exceptional one in the College of Nursing with the new cohorts of students on campus, and the highly-anticipated launch of the recently approved Doctor of Nursing Practice program, beginning spring 2020!


School of Health Professions Orientation

The newly-renamed School of Health Professions’ (SOHP)  Dean Allen Lewis  Ph.D., CRC, welcomed new students across three of its six  SOHP programs—Physical Therapy (PT), Physician Assistant (PA), and Occupational Therapy (OT) which began in the Summer 2019; and Diagnostic Medical Imaging (DMI), Medical Informatics (MI), and Midwifery (MW) which will begin this Fall 2019.

SOHP Orientation

SOHP’s August orientation included 65 new student cohorts for the three summer start programs—DMI, MI, and MW. Here are some highlights on the students across the three programs:

  • The incoming MI cohort is the most qualified to date, with an average GPA of 3.3.  About 25% of the cohort consists of Brooklynites, 78% are female, and about 15% of the admitted students are physicians trained outside of the U.S.
  • Many of the incoming students in the DMI cohort were born in countries outside the continental U.S., including China, Peru, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Russia, Egypt, Yemen, Canada, Albania, and Africa.  All are eager to begin their education in Sonography at Downstate.
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of the new MW cohort are RNs and 71% are from underrepresented populations.


School of Graduate Studies Orientation

The School of Graduate Studies welcomed a diverse group of 11 new Ph.D. students hailing from Brazil, Chile, China, India, and the New York City area. They are already experienced in research and have completed Masters programs in Biomedical Engineering, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neuroscience, and Restorative Dentistry. Three of our new graduate students have already completed their first two years of medical school here at Downstate in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program.

School of Graduate Studies

We appreciate the hard work of our graduate admissions committee members who devoted many hours to reviewing applications, interviewing superior applicants, and ranking the top candidates. Members included:  Juan Marcos Alarcon, Ph.D., Randall Barbour, Ph.D., John Carter, Ph.D., Program Director in the Biomedical Engineering Program, Greg Gick, Ph.D., Jeffrey Goodman, Ph.D., Alejandro Ivan Hernandez, Ph.D., Sabina Hrabetova, M.D., Ph.D., Xian-Cheng Jiang, Ph.D., and Ming Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. 

Many thanks to our outgoing program directors—Richard Kollmar, Ph.D. (Molecular and Cellular Biology) and Dr. Alarcon (Neural & Behavioral Science), and congratulations to our new program directors—William Chirico, Ph.D. (Molecular & Cellular Biology) and John Kubie, Ph.D. (Neural & Behavioral Science)—and Dr. Carter (continuing as program director for Biomedical Engineering).


MDs for Refugees | CME Credit

MDs for Refugees

Every year thousands of refugees arrive here in New York City, seeking asylum from persecution, violence, torture, and war. They are among nearly 70 million displaced people worldwide and have unique social, psychological, and medical needs and risk factors. Although their care is complex and challenging for providers, it is also incredibly rewarding. The growing refugee crisis has grave public health implications, requiring immediate attention and actionable response from healthcare practitioners across the country.

MDs for Refugees

Physicians and residents here at Downstate have the power to double the chances of asylum approval by conducting physical exams that document evidence of these past psychological or physical traumas for use in asylum court. OB/GYN and Psychiatry specialties are especially needed for cases involving female genital mutilation and PTSD.

mds for refugees

Asylum Clinics have been made available (both virtual and in-person) by Downstate’s student-run Brooklyn Free Clinic. The goal is to grow the number of volunteer physicians and mental health professionals that provide clinical evaluations for refugees seeking immigration relief in the United States.

If you are interested in supporting these clinics, email asylumclinic@brooklynfreeclinic.org and attend just one of the live or virtual CME-accredited, catered trainings (listed below):

  1. Sat, 9/14/19 @ Cornell U (Virtual Attendance)
  2. Sat, 10/5/19 @ Adelphi U (5 CME credits)
  3. Sat, 10/26/19 @ Columbia U (4 CME credits)

Many thanks to Aram Durgerian, College of Medicine’s Class of 2022, who was so moved by this initiative, he developed his own flyers to disseminate for the clinic and brought the opportunity directly to my office.



UHB | 4th Annual Men’s Health and Wellness Fair

Men's Health Room

Did you know, on average, men have a life-expectancy five years shorter than that of their female counterparts?  Part of the reason is that men are more reluctant to go to the doctor for routine physical exams. Several studies have shown women schedule appointments to see their doctors twice as much as men. Even more concerning is that in Brooklyn, particularly in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, the number of men who opt out of regular check-ups is staggering and that statistic appears to be growing.

Mens Health Women

Downstate joined forces with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams for the 4th Annual Men’s Health and Wellness Fair.  The Fair was designed to give health care providers an opportunity to encourage men to seek regular medical advice, as well as the early treatment for diagnosed disease and injury.

In a collective effort with a number of local hospitals, health care systems, and community-based organizations, Downstate provided free healthcare resources to hundreds of Brooklynites. Betty Jung, RN and Hyezo Kwun, COM ‘20, provided free health screenings and health consultations; Natalie Ferguson-Fowler, RN (Hematology/Oncology), Mary Fontenelle, MS (Transplant), and Sarah Marshall, RN (Center for Community Health Promotion and Wellness), offered information on cancer prevention, transplant, and breastfeeding; Michael Harrell, AVP for Constituent Relations, spoke with attendees to offer support and guide them to resources available at Downstate. A panel of experts from participating hospitals discussed prostate health, colorectal cancer, mental health, plant-based nutrition, and the importance of men seeing physicians routinely and early.

Men's Health

Many thanks to our incredible team of nurses, COM’s Class of 2020, and all of our participating staff for building inroads with the community and bringing Brooklyn men closer to the health care they need.


COLLEGE OF NURSING| Conversations in the Disciplines

Conversations in the disciplines

After being awarded a SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines Grant earlier this summer, Downstate’s College of Nursing hosted a SUNY-wide workshop as part of the SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines series—exploring a multidisciplinary approach to addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) through the integration of interprofessional education, research, and clinical practice when addressing patient needs. 

More than 30 professionals from 8 SUNY campuses along with 5 other institutions outside the SUNY system gathered in June to focus on three key areas to advance nursing’s expertise and the standard of care in addressing ACEs. These included:

  • Identifying issues, challenges and opportunities for interprofessional ACES education, research and patient/community care;
  • Formulating immediate, long-term and aspirational solutions; and
  • creating an ongoing SUNY-wide Interprofessional (IP) ACES Forum and community for ongoing scholarly exchange and collaboration on ACES research, education, and practice.

Conversations in Disciplines Group

Participants were assigned to one of three workgroups: ResearchEducation or Patient/Community Care. Findings were reported as a baseline for developing immediate, long-term, and aspirational opportunities with solutions provided in each area.

One important accomplishment of the workshop was the development of a monthly, phone-in, Virtual Interprofessional ACEs Forum to engage interested individuals in advancing the agendas established during the workshop. The first of these is expected to launch later this fall.

Many thanks to Shirley Girouard, Ph.D., RN, FAAN (Professor and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation), as well as Michele Solloway and Chelsea Cole, all the incredible students, faculty, and staff in the College of Nursing for their continued efforts to enhance and supplement traditional in-class learning.


RESEARCH ROUNDUP |Brain Molecule Identified as Key in Anxiety Model

In research news, a study co-led by Downstate’s own Tade Souaiaia, Ph.D. (Professor in the Department of Cell Biology), as well as Andrew Fox, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor at UC Davis Department of Psychology), and Ned Kalin, M.D. (Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine), identified the brain molecule that is key in anxiety disorder.



During the study, “Dorsal Amygdala Neurotrophin-3 Decreases Anxious Temperament in Primates,” the researchers found that boosting a single molecule in the brain can change “dispositional anxiety,” which creates the tendency to perceive many situations as threatening. The molecule, neurotrophin-3, stimulates neurons to grow and make new connections.The discovery could potentially transform our understanding of psychopathology.

The finding is an important contribution to science as it provides hope for new strategies focused on intervening early in life to treat people at risk for anxiety disorders, depression and related substance abuse. Current treatments work for only a subset of people and often only partially relieve symptoms.

In addition to Dr. Souaiaia, the study’s full team of researchers includes, James A. Knowles, M.D., Chair of Cell Biology, Jae Mun (Hugo) Kim, and Joseph Nguyen. 

Congratulations and many thanks to our incredible team of Downstate researchers, for their continued efforts to advance human health.


NEW FACULTY | Dr. Marlene Camacho-Rivera 

Marlene Camacho-Rivera

It is with great pleasure that I announce the hiring of new faculty in the School of Public Health, Marlene Camacho-Rivera, ScD, MPH — joining The Department of Community Health Sciences.

Dr. Camacho-Rivera is a graduate of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and completed additional post-doctoral training in cancer epidemiology at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. As a social epidemiologist, Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s research focuses on three main themes: 

  1. Elucidating social determinants of racial/ethnic disparities in chronic diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer;
  1. Exploring within group heterogeneity the prevention and treatment of chronic disease outcomes among racial/ethnic groups;
  1. Developing culturally-tailored, patient-centered interventions to improve chronic disease self management among urban minorities.

Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s research has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, and she has been the recipient of several fellowships from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Hispanic Health Foundation and PCORI, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. She has published more than 20 articles and book chapters and is currently an editorial board member of PLOS ONE and Frontiers in Public Health. As an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Public Health Association, and a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine—Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s work continues to make an impact beyond the classroom.

Please join me in sending a very warm, Downstate Welcome to Dr. Camacho-Rivera!


CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS | Lecture Hall Renovations

Lecture Hall Collage

Downstate’s physical campus is still in the midst of ongoing renovations and repairs. Our facilities have been in need of attention and restoration for some time, and I’m happy that we are starting to see significant progress.

Improving classrooms, lecture halls, and auditoria are top priorities and part of my commitment to Downstate. I am happy to share that work in Lecture Halls 2 and was completed over the summer, and they can now better accommodate the needs of our learners. New seating improves comfort and is equipped with charging stations and power outlets for laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other devices. Additionally, we installed new light fixtures in Classrooms 1A and 1B that has drastically improved the previously dimly-lit spaces for our students and faculty.

Classroom 1A

These renovations are part of a phased plan of facilities improvements critical to the environment and experience of our students, faculty, and staff. I hope these recent updates have helped to make campus life for students, faculty, and staff more comfortable and enjoyable—while enhancing education, operations and the Downstate experience, broadly.




President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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