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Tackling Maternal Health in Brooklyn: Roundtable with NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and NYS Senator Zellnor Myrie


While most births in the US result in healthy moms and babies, there are reasons for concern. Over the past decade, maternal health experts and advocates have tried to sound the alarm about the dramatic increase in maternal mortality and morbidity.

Racial inequities within the maternal health conversation are particularly unnerving. Black women in the US are nearly three times more likely to suffer pregnancy-related deaths than white women. In New York City, black women can be up to 12 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions. And these disparities persist even after controlling for determinants like education, poverty, and income.

Takling Maternal Health Roundtable

In response, this past Tuesday, Downstate welcomed NY State and local lawmakers for a critical roundtable discussion regarding the crisis of maternal mortality (both nationwide and in our local Brooklyn community) and the plan of action that must be put into place in order to effectively confront the epidemic. 

New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie convened the roundtable— bringing together medical, research, and public health experts from SUNY Downstate, as well public officials like New York State (NYS) Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins (Temporary President and Majority Leader), NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera, NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery and business leaders from around the city, like Laray Brown, President & CEO of One Brooklyn Health, to discuss actionable solutions to the growing epidemic, particularly in urban communities.

Together, through collective discourse, we brainstormed short and long-term strategies, placing emphases on local community-based solutions that could serve to dramatically improve maternal health outcomes right here in Brooklyn, and we were able to arrive at some promising early recommendations.

Tackling Maternal Health Roundtable 2

Downstate remains deeply committed to significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in Brooklyn and across the city. As such, this was simply the first of many discussions that we will have—with the goal of arriving at meaningful, lasting resolutions to Brooklyn’s maternal health epidemic.

I’d like to thank all those who joined the conversation, as well extend my sincere gratitude to Senator Myrie and his staff for bringing everyone together around this critical issue.

College of Medicine

2nd Year COM student speaks at “Erasing Hate” Event

Erasing Hate HeaderThis fall marks the 10-year anniversary of the passing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. After publicly lobbying for the expansion of what defined federal hate crimes, the Shepards successfully pushed the landmark legislation into law, effectively adding crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the federal definition of a “hate crime”.

In commemoration of the anniversary, SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson led a conversation on the evening of November 7thalong with activists Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard, who discussed their son’s legacy, ongoing advocacy efforts, and what remains to be done to protect the rights and safety of the LGBTQ community.

The evening was an effort to continue highlighting the importance of “Erasing Hate” and to underscore SUNY’s commitment to challenging our campuses, as well as the communities we touch, to identify and address hate living within their peer groups, neighborhoods, and households with the aims of encouraging a more tolerant, loving and open-minded world. 

On-hand to reinforce that message was Downstate’s very own Martin John—a second-year medical student—who had the esteemed privilege of introducing Chancellor Johnson. 

Erasing Hate Event Photo

A proud member of the LGBTQ community, John is no stranger to advocating for and representing his community—serving as a PRIDE board member and even organizing Downstate’s inaugural Lavender Graduation during our 2019 Annual Commencement Ceremonies. 

John welcomed everyone in attendance, shared the story of the Shepards and their commitment to advocacy, and before welcoming Chancellor Johnson to the stage, he shared his story as a member of the LGBTQ community.

I’d like to take this moment to recognize, Mr. John for his bravery, his honesty, and for his commitment to being a voice and advocate for his community. What you continue to do on this campus and beyond takes great courage, and I couldn’t be prouder of the way you are representing yourself, your community, and Downstate.


College of Nursing

New Faculty, Dr. Annie Rohan

Dr. Annie RohanWe are thrilled to welcome Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, MS to SUNY Downstate’s College of Nursing (CON).

Dr. Rohan comes to Downstate’s CON as the Chair of Graduate Studies and Program Director for its new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program. She joins Dr. Lori Escallier, Dean of the CON, and the faculty and staff to participate in moving its programs and scholarship forward. 

A SUNY alumna, earning her BS in Nursing from SUNY Binghamton—Dr. Rohan later earned a certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Cornell University Medical College Continuing Education Program for Nurses, an MS degree from Columbia University, and a Post-Graduate certificate in Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner from SUNY Stony Brook University. Midway through advanced practice, Dr. Rohan returned to Columbia University where she earned a Ph.D. and was selected to become a member of the first national cohort of Jonas Nursing Scholars.

Dr. Rohan's 25+ year clinical career notably supports her academic priorities, which includes work as a national advisor to the American Nurses Association (Nurse Practice Advisory Council) and to the March of Dimes (Nurse Advisory Committee). 

An avid writer, Dr. Rohan has received several awards recognizing her clinical and scientific contributions for her publications. Her educational research focuses on developing writing skills in graduate nursing students and using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Her interdisciplinary clinical research focuses on using technology to address persistent issues impacting pediatric health. To achieve the educational goal of a more diverse healthcare workforce, Dr. Rohan has received support of nearly $3 million in federal and foundation grant funding to support the education of financially, educationally, or environmentally disadvantaged students who seek to become healthcare providers in underserved regions in New York.  

Dr. Rohan serves as an onsite evaluator for the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and is Associate Editor of MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, where she oversees its “Toward Evidence-Based Practice” column. Her most recent publication focus has been as Associate Editor for pediatric content of AWOHNN's popular textbook, Perinatal Nursing (5th Ed, Simpson & Creehan editors, LWW).

Please join me in sending Dr. Rohan a very warm Downstate Welcome!


School of Public Health

Health Expo and Diabetes ConferenceSPH Health Expo Group Photo

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and a new person is diagnosed every 17 seconds. Nine percent of the US population is affected, but the prevalence of diabetes is much higher in New York City. Between 22-25% of our city’s Black, Latino and Asian populations have diabetes, and more than half of NYC residents are currently suffering from diabetes or are pre-diabetic and at high risk of disease development – that translates to over 4 million people in NYC.  Despite these alarming statistics, there is still so much that is misunderstood about the disease. 

Earlier this year, I shared some of the great work the School of Public Health and its faculty—Elizabeth Helzner, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, are doing to help combat the diabetes epidemic in our local Brooklyn community. This past Saturday, in collaboration with the Central Brooklyn Diabetes Task Force and New Creation Community Health Empowerment Corporation, they teamed up once more to host a “Health Expo and Diabetes Conference” for the Brooklyn Community in recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day—celebrated on November 14.

Designed to address the growing epidemic of diabetes in the Brooklyn borough, the event targeted the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods—featuring presentations on diabetes, nutritional recommendations, best approaches to care, and how the community can come together to address the issue. The health expo featured cooking demonstrations, free glucose and HIV testing, as well as free screenings for: asthma, blood pressure, cancer, hearing, vision, and more.

Health Expo Eric Adams

The event brought out some of the area’s most notable leaders and health experts, including: Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams (who delivered the keynote remarks and shared his personal experiences with diabetes reversal and his advocacy for plant-based nutrition in Brooklyn); Diego Ponieman, M.D., MPH, Chief Medical Officer at SOMOS Community Care; William Jordan, M.D., MPH, Director of Health Equity in All Policies, Center for Health Equity at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health Systems; Fred Ferguson, DDS, Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine; Laura Lee Hall, PhD, CEO of Sustainable Healthy Communities, LLC; Tenya Blackwell, DrPH, Director of Community Engagement and Research at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health; Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH,  Associate Professor in the School of Public Health; Elizabeth Helzner, Ph.D., MS, Associate Professor in the School of Public Health; Mary Ann Banjeri, M.D., FACP, Downstate’s Chief of Endocrinology; David Stevens, MD, MMM, Downstate’s Interim Chair of Family Medicine and Chief of Ambulatory Care Services at Kings County Hospital; and Minister John Williams, President and CEO of New Creation Ministries, Inc. 

Health Conference 3

The event included readings of proclamations of support of the work by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams as well as New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

The day was a big success with the hundreds of local residents in attendance one step closer to managing or reversing their diabetes and leading healthy, nutritionally-balanced lives.

Many thanks to all the speakers, special guests and participants for making the day memorable, and a very special thank you to Drs. Afable and Helzner for their great work in coordinating this very important occasion.


School of Health Professions

White Coat Ceremony

 Physical Therapy White Coat Ceremony

With the support of friends and family behind them, Downstate’s School of Health Professions’ Physical Therapy Class of 2022 slipped their arms into the sleeves of their brand-new white coats— symbolically making the transition from the classroom to the clinical phase of their education at the 2019 Annual Physical Therapy White Coat Ceremony.

Starting in January 2020, these students will begin their first full-time clinical rotation.

Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean of Downstate’s School of Health Professions, addressed the students, their families, and friends during the event in Alumni Auditorium. He shared the history of both the white coat, touching on the tradition and meaning behind the ceremonies—noting that white coats have been worn by physicians and laboratory personnel since the late 19th century, and that the donning of the white coat etched into the profession an emphasis on ethics, professional practice, and responsibility.

The students were also welcomed by Joanne Katz, PT, DPT, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor for the Physical Therapy Program, who noted the white coat is the celebration that marks the end of their full-time classroom instruction, but it also symbolizes the gift and responsibility to take care of patients

A rite of passage, the white coat serves as a symbol of the honorable duty, excellence, accountability, compassion and inclusiveness required of their chosen profession. After receiving their white coats, students recited the Oath of Professionalism during the ceremony—officially one step closer to becoming practitioners.

CONGRATULATIONS to the PT Class of 2022! 


University Hospital of Brooklyn

Reopening of Bay Ridge

Downstate Bay Ridge

In exciting hospital news, SUNY Downstate’s Bay Ridge Ambulatory Surgery Center has reopened! As many of you are aware, Downstate stopped offering services at the Bay Ridge location following a 2018 fire that resulted in substantial damage leading to the facility’s temporary closing of its doors in September. Since the incident, Downstate has been working to bring Bay Ridge back to operational status, and I’m happy to announce ambulatory surgery services have been comprehensively restored!

Located on the 1st floor in the former Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn, SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge is a full-service, multispecialty outpatient surgical facility where we perform procedures that do not require overnight hospital stays. The facility has been completely renovated and now features a comfortable, attractive, and professional environment for both patients and physicians, along with a comfortable waiting room for patients and their families. 

The new Ambulatory Surgery Center features seven state-of-the-art operating suites with the capability to perform the vast majority of outpatient surgeries for both adult and pediatric patients. And, just like all hospitals and clinics within Downstate’s system, the new Bay Ridge will be staffed by a full range of healthcare professionals needed to provide the best possible care, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical and hospital nurses.

If you can, take a moment to stop by the center on your way into work— I want you to feel the same sense of pride I felt after seeing the new Downstate we are slowly, but surely, unearthing!


Dr. Jeffrey S. Borer

Dr. Jeffrey Borer

Downstate’s very own Jeffrey S. Borer, M.D., FACC, FAHA, has been recognized with the Albert Einstein Award of Medicine by the International Association of Who’s Who for outstanding achievements in the field of Cardiology. Dr. Borer is the former Chief of Cardiology and Chair of Medicine at SUNY Downstate, and continues to serve on our faculty as Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology, Radiology, Public Health and Surgery.

A respected voice in the field, Dr. Borer served as an advisor to the USFDA for 42 years, as chair of the CardioRenal Drugs Advisory Committee for 3 terms and of the Circulatory Devices Advisory Panel for one term. He was also a life sciences Advisor to NASA for 24 years and previously served as a board member to several national professional societies, including the Heart Valve Society of America (2004-2014) of which he was the founding and immediate past president.

Dr. Borer received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, followed by service as a Clinical Associate at in the Cardiology Branch at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
He later served as Chief Resident for the Intramural Branch of the NHLBI. He was also awarded the Glorney Raisbeck Fellowship in Medical Sciences from the New York Academy of Medicine and was named a Senior Fulbright-Hays Scholar. Dr. Borer undertook the two fellowships at Guy's Hospital (University of London). During this time, he completed the first clinical demonstration of nitroglycerin's utility in acute myocardial infarction.

Dr. Borer Timesquare

After completing his Fellowships, Dr. Borer returned to the NIH as a Senior Investigator where he developed Stress Radionuclide Cineangiography, an achievement that transformed the practice of cardiology by enabling the first noninvasive assessment of cardiac function with exercise. This groundbreaking development in research unmasked previously inapparent cardiac disabilities and enabled quantification of their severities.

Dr. Borer has published more than 500 full-length scientific papers/chapters and 8 books. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of CARDIOLOGY, one of the oldest peer-reviewed cardiology journals in the world, from 2005 to 2018, as well as a member of the editorial boards of numerous other major journals. His research has been supported by the National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association, and for many years, by several large private foundations.

No stranger to being honored, Dr. Borer has received many accolades for his outstanding contributions to cardiology, and most recently was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who in 2018. In 2018, he was also selected for a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP), who named him the Top Professor of the Year in Medicine.
CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Borer on this well-deserved honor and THANK YOU for all you have done and continue to do that adds greatly to Downstate’s legacy of excellence.


In the Community

Downstate is PrEP’d

PrEP Aware Week

Downstate, its faculty and staff had a strong presence during the first-ever national PrEP Aware Week, held Oct 20 – 26, 2019.

PrEP, short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a game-changing prescription medication that prevents HIV and is for anyone who is HIV negative. When taken as directed, PrEP is 99% effective against infection.

On October 23, Jeffrey Birnbaum, M.D., MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Downstate’s Health & Education Alternatives for Teens (HEAT) Program, joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the National Black Leadership Commission on Health at Brooklyn Borough Hall, along with health care providers, advocates, and members of the community to support and promote the inaugural PrEP Aware Week. PrEP is a critically essential tool for Brooklyn, as NYC has become the epicenter of the current HIV/AIDS crisis and new infection rates.

At Downstate, Dr. Birnbaum directs Brooklyn is PrEP’d, an AIDS Institute-funded joint PrEP services program co-located at Downstate and Brooklyn Hospital Center. PrEP is also offered to those older than 25 through the STAR Program, regardless of insurance status.

To further push awareness, on Monday, October 21, Hector Ojeda-Martinez, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of HIV Prevention and LGBTQ Health Director, Division of Infectious Diseases/STAR Program, connected with colleagues at SUNY University at Albany’s School of Public Health, and lectured on “PrEP Implementation from a Clinic Perspective.” And days later, on October 24, Damian Bird, Heat Program PrEP Specialist, discussed PrEP and PrEP use among adolescents with staff at the foster care agency, SCO Family of Services.

Many thanks to Dr. Birnbaum, Dr. Ojeda-Martinez, and Mr. Bird for the hard work you do on behalf of Downstate and our community.

For more information, see. http://www.starprogram.nyc/star-health-center/services/prep/, or call Downstate PrEP Specialist Damian Bird, MPH, at 347-762-2134.


Senator Myrie’s Senior Resource Fair

Senator Myrie Resource Fair

Across the United States, millions of people are food insecure, and have limited access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy lifestyles. As of 2018, more than 5.5 million (nearly 10%) of seniors age 60 and older, were food insecure. Coupled with the increasing rate of housing instability within elderly communities, it is clear that action must be taken to protect our aging populations, particularly right here in Brooklyn.

In support of Brooklyn’s aging communities, Downstate partnered with the office of New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie for the 2019 “Senior Resource Fair” at the NYCHA Seth Low Senior Center in Brownsville. 

Downstate was well represented among 20+ community-based organizations and city agencies providing an array of services for seniors. Seniors in Brownsville are the most vulnerable population in Brooklyn and in need of many services and resources relating to general health and affordable food and housing. 

Our incredible team of nurses were on hand to provide free health screenings, offer cancer prevention information, conduct food insecurity surveys, and provide information on balanced affordable food resources, and easy-to-access nutrition in their local areas. 

With more than 100 seniors from the local Brooklyn community in attendance, this event was nothing short of a success!

Many thanks to Betty Jung, RN, BSN, DQE and Sarah L. Marshall, MS, RN-C, ICCE, CCE, CBC, CLC, IAT, from Downstate’s Center for Health Promotion, the College of Nursing’s Shirley A. Girouard, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Professor and Associate Dean, and Karlene Lawrence, DNP, APRN, ANP-C; and Natalie Ferguson, RN, ADN, Hematology & Oncology Divisions, for their coordinated participation in this important event and for continuing to be stewards of healing in the communities we serve.





President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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Brooklyn, NY 11203