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NYAM Gala photo 1

Last week, I had the distinct honor of not only attending, but also giving opening remarks at The New York Academy of Medicine’s (NYAM) annual Access: Health Gala.

Closely aligned with Downstate’s mission, NYAM has a history of driving change to advance health equity through the reduction of disparities. Its annual gala supports work that ranges from on-the-ground programs in under-resourced areas of New York City, to policy initiatives that address social determinants of health at local and national levels.

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Later in the evening, I also had the privilege of presenting honorees with awards to recognize their investments toward creating a more equitable world—alongside NYAM President Judith Salerno, M.D. Honorees at the Gala included Robert F. Smith, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners; Cynthia Germanotta, President and Co-Founder of the Born This Way Foundation (and Lady Gaga’s mother); and Harlem Capital.

The event brought together more than 300 notables in healthcare, business, philanthropy, and elected office for an energetic and moving night filled with musical performances, dance performances, and a collective passion for one very noble and just cause—health equity for all communities. By the evening’s end, a total of more than $1 million was raised.

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Many thanks to Dr. Salerno and everyone at the New York Academy of Medicine for hosting an event and a night that speaks directly to the work we do every day at Downstate.

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Parking Agreement

I am pleased to announce that—after much debate and a great deal of deliberation—Downstate and the five unions representing our workforce have reached a parking agreement that sets forth new monthly parking rates. These rates will go into effect beginning January 1, 2020, through to December 31, 2024.

The agreement outlines fee structures for two separate parking options— Uncovered Parking Lots and Covered Parking Lots.

The new monthly parking rates are as follows:

parking locations graphic

In the coming days, we will share the full implementation strategy with the Downstate Community. A Parking Information Meeting will be held on Thursday, November 7th, from 11 am to 1:00 pm in Alumni Auditorium to address parking-related questions and concerns.

Within a few months, the Faculty Student Association will begin to assign eligible parkers to one of seven available sites, based on a questionnaire that must be filled out by those who currently have privileges or previously had parking privileges on the date of the closure of the State garage. Parkers should monitor their email for release of this questionnaire, which will need to be submitted by December 2nd.

On behalf of the entire campus, I’d like to thank all those engaged in the process that got us to this agreement, specifically Heidi Aronin MPA, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer; Rowena Blackman-Stroud, Chapter President, United University Professions (“UUP”); Joan Rosegreen, Division 198 Council Leader, Public Employees Federation (“PEF”); Althea Green, Local 646 President, Civil Service Employees Association (“CSEA”); John Harmon, Vice President, NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, Inc. (“NYSCOPBA”); and Michael Tekin, Representative, Communication Workers of America, Local 1104 Graduate Student Employees Union (“GSEU”), and last but certainly not least our incredible team in the Office of the General Counsel for the countless hours of planning, organizing, and negotiating required to bring this agreement to fruition.

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College of Medicine


On Saturday, October 12, 36 high school students from Brooklyn descended on SUNY Downstate for their first session of the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP). HPREP is a national initiative that aims to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in science and health fields. With a legacy of over 10 years, Downstate’s seven-week program—hosted by the Daniel Hale Williams Society in partnership with the College of Medicine and our chapter of the Student National Medical Association, strives to prepare each HPREP Scholar with the knowledge, confidence, and experience to support their decision towards a future career.

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Downstate’s 2019 HPREP Scholars represent nine local schools including: Clara Barton High School for Health Professions, High School for Youth and Community Development at Erasmus Hall, and the International High School at Prospect Heights. Participants will engage in a host of learning experiences, including an organ systems overview via lectures and animal dissections; clinical skills training; personal development through journaling, mentorship, and medical literature reviews; and more. All of these sessions are led by first and second-year medical students from Downstate.

This year’s HPREP Coordinators, Lynn Benson and Shivani Hewitt (both second-year medical students), also believe it is vital for Scholars to learn about Downstate and aspire to attend our University. Hence, in collaboration with the School of Health Professions (SOHP) and Phillip Bones, Assistant Dean in SOHP, “HPREP Career Day with the School of Health Professions” was born. This past Saturday, scholars had the opportunity to learn about and explore health professional programs offered at Downstate (including physical therapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic medical imaging, midwifery, medical informatics, physician assistant, nursing, and public health) via lectures, student-panel discussions, and table exploration.

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Our Scholars’ HPREP experience will culminate with a final oral presentation before friends, family, and Downstate members, focusing on the pathophysiology and epidemiology of diseases prevalent in medically underserved communities.

Many thanks to Michael Harrell, MPA, and Althea Dinham in the Office of Government and Constituent Relations; Philip Bones in the School of Health Professions; Shushawna DeOliveira, DHA, Sherry Prabhudial, MA, and Victor Ruiz, MS, of the Office of Student Admissions; Carla Boutin-Foster, M.D., MS, Anika Daniels-Osaze, Ed.D., and Runako Gulstone of the Office of Diversity Education and Research, and the University Bookstore.   


Downstate Residents at 94th Percentile for Dermatology Board Exams

Derm Board logo

In exciting news, the 2019 American Board of Dermatology Certifying Examination results are in, and it brings me great pride to announce that the performance of our seven graduating Resident Physicians in the Department of Dermatology far exceeded the national median—scoring in the 94th percentile.

That’s no surprise. Historically, Downstate’s Department of Dermatology has competitively scored at the highest levels of the board-certifying exam, creating a culture of excellency that continues to raise our institution’s standard of excellence.  For the past five years, Dermatology residents have far outperformed national averages, consistently scoring in the top 5-10%—not just in New York State, but nationally—an achievement that is, to-date, unmatched in Downstate’s history.

Collective Resident Scores, American Board of Dermatology
Certifying Exam:

2015— 98th Percentile

2016— 97th Percentile

2017— 93rd Percentile

2018— 97th Percentile

2019— 94th Percentile

I’d like to take this moment to congratulate our incredible Derm Resident Physicians. Having seven residents with top 10% performances is unprecedented and a testament to the hard work of our dedicated scholars. I, too, was once a resident toiling the night away in hopes of passing my board exams, and I understand firsthand the amount of sacrifice and discipline it takes to achieve such a feat. I am, without question, delighted to boast about your remarkable results… but I am even prouder to boast of your distinguished work ethic, for which I have great respect.

I’m equally humbled by the work of our extraordinary faculty and staff in the College of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology. They are responsible for developing our robust educational programming and preparing our residents for success. These impressive results demonstrate that the unique clinical experience from which our Downstate residents benefit is equally matched by the formal academic programming in which they participate.  I can say, unequivocally—it is our faculty’s passion, tenured expertise, and deep commitment to our students’ (and their own) educational growth and advancement that sets Downstate apart.

I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Edward Heilman, M.D., FAAD, FCAP, Chair of Dermatology and Clinical Professor of Dermatology and Pathology, Steven Pulitzer, M.D., CMO; Edward Fishkin, M.D., CMO; Sheldon McCloud, CEO; Patricia A. Winston, Interim SVP and Managing Director of University Hospital of Brooklyn; Michael Lucchesi, M.D., Interim Dean of the College of Medicine; Patrick C. Molloy, Chief of Staff for the Department of Dermatology; David Stevens, M.D.; Stephan Kamholz, M.D., Usha Alapti, M.D.; Jeffrey Ellis, M.D.; and all the dedicated faculty and staff that continue to make the Department of Dermatology a shining example of Downstate’s unmatched distinction.


College of Nursing

2019 White Coat Ceremony

College of Nursing White Coat photo 1

The College of Nursing (CON) hosted its Annual White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage that emphasizes the importance of compassionate patient care as students begin their academic journey. Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Dean of the College of Nursing, welcomed students, noting that as they enter Downstate’s Nursing Program, they accept the obligation to provide the highest quality, evidence-informed, and compassionate nursing care to ensure the safety and welfare of individuals, families, communities, and populations, under the guidance of our exceptional nursing faculty.

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The keynote address was given by Mary T. Hickey, Ed.D., RN-C, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Faculty Development, who commented on the profound symbolism of the ceremony and noted that, despite changes in healthcare delivery systems and advances in technology, the need for patient-centered care that values connections with the patient, their family, and the care team continues to be nursing’s primary focus.

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The ceremony was punctuated with smiles and tears as the nearly 200 nurses-in-training recited their oath promising to practice the art of medicine with honor, integrity, and loyalty before their families and closest loved ones.

CONGRATULATIONS to the CON Class of 2023 and many thanks to Dean Escallier, her amazing team, and to all participating students and staff in the College of Nursing for putting together a meaningful and memorable program.


School of Public Health

Childhood Obesity Intervention

Photo of Afable

Childhood obesity rates continue to swell at alarming rates in New York City and nationally. Studies show that Central Brooklyn has a childhood obesity rate of 24-28%, which can  lead to an array of future health problems, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, depression, and diabetes.

As many of you are aware, childhood obesity disproportionately affects low-income black and brown communities, further aggravating health disparities among these groups. If current trends persist, our children may have shorter life spans than we do, reversing more than 100 years of public health progress.

Building on the School of Public Health’s pilot work funded in 2015 by the SUNY Downstate President’s Health Disparity Fund, Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences, continues to support the evaluation of programming for the only tertiary care childhood obesity intervention program in Brooklyn, Live Light Live Right (LLLR).  Currently serving on the Board of Directors of LLLR, Dr. Afable presented the results of LLLR programming at the 2019 Annual Meeting & Expo of the American Public Health Association (APHA) taking place today, November 4th

Her paper, “A ‘Real-World’ Evaluation of a Tertiary Care Childhood Obesity Intervention Serving a Hard-to-Reach NYC Population,”  is informed by transcreationa new implementation science perspective that calls for evaluating “real-world” interventions that leverage community assets, as opposed to testing evidence-based approaches in controlled settings.  Using EMR survival analysis will estimate the likelihood of improvement in the metabolic profile and BMI scores/percentiles of children 2-19 years of age who participated in LLLR’s intervention program between 2002 and 2017.

Many thanks to Dr. Afable and the School of Public Health for continuing to address one of the most serious public health concerns affecting Brooklyn’s youngest and most vulnerable populations.


School of Health Professions

NYPSSA Medical Jeopardy

Last week, students and faculty from the Physician Assistant Program in the School of Health Professions (SOHP) attended the New York State Society of Physician Assistants (NYSSPA) Conference in Albany—and they sure showed up in an impressive way!

NYPSSA Medical Jeopardy photo 1

NYSSPA, the official organization for New York State’s Physician Assistants (PA), provides physician assistants a collective voice through advocacy. The organization aims to enhance the environment of PA practice, with the ultimate goal of promoting and empowering PAs as leaders and integral members of health care.

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Here are the major highlights for the weekend:

For the first time, SUNY Downstate’s PA Program was the victor in the NYSSPA Medical Jeopardy Competition held on Saturday, October 26th,  defeating 10 other New York State programs!

The team consisted of Robens Rodney, PA-S; Jenny Lotier, PA-S, Dayse Tapia, PA-S; Augustine Gnalian, PA-S, and Paige Skinner, PA-S. Robens, Jenny, and Dayse served as the core competitors on stage. With their quick wit and strong teamwork, they were able to dominate the competition. No doubt, the robust and loud support of their peers in the audience helped clinch the win.

Student attendees from the Class of 2020 included: Akil Abraham, Gabriella DeMarinis. Cristian Erazo Villa, Tayyab Hussein, Joanne Joshua, Michael Monaghan, Eldona Sainovski, and Sobia Sheikh. Attendees from the Class of 2021 included James Canner, Norhan Eldib, Gina-Fernanda Perez, Stephanie Rene, and Lea Samouha. Representing the PA Program faculty and staff were Lorraine Sanassi, DHSc, PA-C (Team Captain) and Natasha N. Roberts, MBA, MA.

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University Hospital of Brooklyn

Pastoral Care Week

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Pastoral Care Week—celebrated from October 22nd through the 28th—is the time when we at SUNY Downstate get to recognize the work of our spiritual caregivers and the ministry they provide.

This faith-based week, also known as Spiritual Care Week, recognizes the importance of “whole person care.” Here at Downstate, we celebrate those who provide this care through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling.

These trained professionals minister to the needs of persons of all faiths or none. They practice in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice facilities, nursing homes, and military settings throughout the world, and all too often, their work goes unrecognized.

On behalf of everyone at Downstate, I would like to thank our spiritual leadership for the invaluable comfort, healing, and strength you extend to our patients, families, healthcare providers, and others.

Our incredible team of nurse practitioners at University Hospital of Brooklyn also have a few words to share:

“You help support our spirit as we take care of our patients during a most vulnerable time—when they are sick and in pain and sometimes dying.  Together, we help patients live and we help them pass to a different future.

Your support of nurses throughout the year and during nurse’s week is unprecedented in my experience. I have never worked with such a committed pastoral staff and with such a caring and committed leader.  Thank you for everything you do, Reverend Walker, and for allowing me to come in for a hug and a prayer when I need it. Rabbi Holzman—thank you for caring for my husband Gregg during services this year.  He was thrilled to open the Ark.

Bless you all! We hope you enjoyed your week and your special celebration lunch, and we look forward to working with you in the days, weeks, and years to come.”

Research Roundup

Drone Research
Downstate Resident Mark Hanna, M.D.

Drone Research photo

In research, a new and groundbreaking study from Mark Hanna, M.D., Pediatric Fellow, that suggests that medical drones carrying emergency supplies can reach 911 callers in New York City significantly faster than ambulances, is making international news!

In the study, Dr. Hanna used a population-based model to determine if, and how much, children could benefit from drone-provided assistance in emergency situations and how the timeliness of emergency response could be improved by drones supplementing ambulance response.

Dr. Hanna and his colleagues timed Emergency Medical Services (EMS) that serve parts of Brooklyn (including Downstate’s local community), against commercial drones—and the results spoke for themselves.

Monitoring one inner city location during rush hour traffic, the study showed that drones could respond more quickly than EMS first responders. On average, EMS arrived on the scene of emergencies in about 9.5 minutes, while the drones arrived in 6.5 minutes.

Dr. Hanna’s study suggests that drones can be especially critical in life-threatening emergencies where every second counts—more specifically in cases of anaphylaxis, opiate overdose, asthma, cardiac arrest, sarin poisoning and other conditions wherein mortality is affected by the speed.

diagram of droneConcept build of proposed drone with main features— designed by Dr. Hanna

In these instances, drones could be flown in ahead of first responders to deliver drugs and supplies. And they could be equipped with a small video conference screen, through which a dispatcher could tell the 911 caller what to do—a timely intervention that could mean the difference between life and death for those critically in need.

Congratulations to Dr. Hanna on this seminal work and thanks for continuing to make Downstate proud. Your work is an incredible contribution to science and is visionary in pioneering what may well become the healthcare of tomorrow!



Jeffrey Putman

Photo of Jeffrey Putman

Congratulations to Jeffrey S. Putman, Ed.D., on being selected as a member of the 2020 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Foundation Pillars of the Profession—one of the most prestigious national honors for Student Affairs professionals across the country. Dr. Putman is the first from Downstate awarded this honor.

The award recognizes those who:

  • Have provided significant service to NASPA through regional and/or national leadership roles within the Association;
  • Have created a lasting impact on the institutions at which they have worked; or
  • Have demonstrated sustained, lifetime professional distinction in the field of student affairs or higher education.

 Dr. Putman is Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs for all five of SUNY Downstate’s schools and colleges. In this role, he provides overall coordination of services for students and serves as the deputy Chief Academic Officer. Additionally, Dr. Putman also serves as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

To say that Dr. Putman meets the requirements listed above would be an understatement, as he exceeds them all. From helping to develop new programming aimed at driving increased student success, to sharing meaningful conversations with our students, to his commitment to connecting the broader Downstate student body to advanced opportunities and resources that will benefit their academic and campus experiences—he’s done it all, and he’s done so with passion, dedication, and reliable consistency.

Congratulations, Dr. Putman! You are truly deserving of this great honor.  On behalf of the Downstate community, I extend my sincere gratitude for all you do for our students and for shining a bright light on Downstate.


In the Community


Halloween photo 1

Halloween crept up on us last week—and just as Downstate does every year, we welcomed herds of future “Downstaters” on Friday for our annual community trick-or-treating festivities.  If you were on Campus, you may have stumbled upon the adorable parade of children in festive costumes, knocking on our department doors while on the mad hunt for treats. Every year, the Children’s Center at SUNY Brooklyn, the Infant and Child Learning Center-Stanley Lamm Institute Preschools at SUNY Downstate, and The Child Life Program partner with Downstate to provide a memorable Trick-or-Treat experience at Downstate.

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Many thanks to all the students, faculty, and staff that came to work in costume, making the experience that much more special for these kids. Special thanks to the leadership and staff of all our preschool programs who helped provide this safe and fun experience.


Tobacco event

Tobacco event photos

In 2009, new legislation was signed that banned flavored cigarettes—except for menthol, a chemical compound that masks the harshness of tobacco and, as the CDC warns, makes it harder to quit. Menthol cigarettes have disproportionately plagued black communities for decades, and although the law was designed to reduce the number of young people taking up smoking, Big Tobacco successfully lobbied to remove menthol from the ban.

Effectively, black communities were left out of an effort to rectify decades of predatory marketing by tobacco companies. Today, as leaders move to take swift action on e-cigarettes, it appears the health of communities of color could once again be traded for political expediency.

In response, Downstate partnered with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to host, “Teens, Tobacco, and Vaping”—a timely and critically needed community Town Hall on the threat of tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and the need for immediate, collective action.

Opening remarks were given by Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, who warned attendees of the incredible danger and serious health risks associated with the uses of these products and substances.

Following opening remarks, Robert Foronjy, M.D., Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Downstate; Michael Davoli, Director of Government Relations from the American Cancer Society Action Network; Andre Richardon, Campaign Manager for Flavors Hook Kids NYC; and Deidre M. Sully, MPH, Director of NYC Smoke-Free Public Health Solutions, joined the stage as panelists to address the ugly truth about the use of tobacco in every form.

Panelists discussed the ways in which specific communities are targeted and urged the community to take a stand and support the ban on all flavored tobacco products in New York City (including menthol and mint flavored e-cigarettes, cigarettes and cigars). They also encouraged residents to call on their local elected officials to support two critical bills (1345 and 1362) backed by the New York NAACP Conference.

Many thanks to Dr. Dukes and the NAACP for joining forces with Downstate to tackle this very important issue; to all our participating panelists; and to Darin Jones, Special Assistant in the Office of the President, for his timely and seamless coordination of this important event. 


Domestic Violence

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For many, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and a time that our nation and Downstate, acknowledge the importance of this month by wearing purple.

Why purple? Well, in the US Armed Forces, the Purple Heart is presented to those wounded while serving. For survivors of domestic violence, the color is meant to be a symbol of courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence.

On October 21st, in partnership with the New York State Office of Victim Services, Downstate’s Domestic Violence Committee and Human Resources Management collaborated with "SUNY’s Got Your Back" to assemble comfort bags for victims and survivors of domestic violence who seek help from shelters, centers, and hospitals across the Empire State. 

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The day was an opportunity for the Downstate Community to learn about and understand domestic violence on a deeper level and featured special guest speaker Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson, who provided valuable insight on her vision for combating domestic violence.

Following the event, a group photo was taken to memorialize that Downstate has and always will stand in solidarity with survivors of domestic violence. The photo will be presented to a local women's shelter.

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Many thanks to Downstate’s Domestic Violence Committee, the Employee Assistance Program, and the Office of Human Resources Management for underscoring our institutional values by highlighting this important issue.


Parents of COM Donation

Parents of COM Donation photos

(Photo on the right) Presentation of the check (from left to right) is Anthony Ciatto, President of the Parents’ of COM; Hannah Street, COO of the BFC, SUNY Downstate COM 2022; Linda Greenberg, member of the board of directors; and Robert Kurpiel, Treasurer. 

Everyone knows the apple never really falls far from the tree, so when you look at the unmatched excellence found within Downstate’s student body, you know that distinction was born from something remarkable...their life experiences, their ambition, and (without question)—their parents!

Medical school takes a financial, mental, and emotional toll on students—from the financial sacrifice, to endless hours in the library, the overwhelming stress of examination periods, and landing the residency they’ve always dreamed of. Understanding this, the College of Medicine (COM) created “Parents of COM” as an added layer of support to alleviate some of these hardships through scholarships, expense reimbursements, educational resources, social events, and other activities to improve the medical school experience.

Last week, Parents of COM presented a $2500 donation to Hannah Street, Downstate COM Class of 2022 and COO of the Anne Kastor Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC)— a student-run organization that provides free health care to the uninsured in Brooklyn. 

Thank you to Downstate’s Parents of COM for going above and beyond to take care of our students, the University, and our community partners. Your generous donation will be put to very good use as it will extend health care in communities that need it most. 




President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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