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NYC Council and Borough President Adams Award Downstate $547k in Capital Grants

I’m happy to announce that the New York City Council and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams awarded Downstate $547,000 in NYC Capital Grant funding to support the upgrade and replacement of the telemetry monitoring equipment for our adult patient population at the University Hospital of Brooklyn.


Medical monitoring devices are some of the most important pieces of equipment in a health care facility. Without reliable monitoring equipment, vital health information can easily be missed that could mean the difference between life and death. Patient monitoring equipment identifies patients in need or in stress at an early stage, delivers timely information to clinicians to make informed patient decisions, and aids in patient safety.

Telemetry equipment also monitors electrical activity of patients’ hearts for extended periods of time to determine potential problems with heart beats. As a stroke center, current and state-of-the-art equipment is critical to providing the highest level of care—these funds will prove invaluable to the quality of care provided to Downstate’s patient community and, more importantly, will enable us to provide consistently excellent care and an unmatched patient experience.

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On behalf of Downstate and University Hospital of Brooklyn, I’d like to extend my deep gratitude to Borough President Adams and Councilmember Mathieu Eugene for their steadfast support and commitment to Downstate, its growth, and its continued success. I’d also like to add a very special thank you to Lori Bruno, MPH, Director of Strategy and Policy Development, for working diligently to secure these essential capital funds.


Downstate Faculty Collaborate with UAlbany on Epigenetics and Health Disparities

UAlbany Collab 1

New York has an exceptionally diverse population spanning race and ethnicity, rural to urban areas, and individuals living in wealthy to poor socioeconomic conditions. Regrettably, equally good health is not afforded to all New Yorkers.

In a continuing and very productive collaboration between Downstate and UAlbany, several of our faculty presented at UAlbany’s President’s Forum, “The Role of Epigenetics in Health Disparities,” on November 15, 2019. Epigenetics refers to changes in the way DNA is expressed, how it is activated and, essentially, which genes are operating; the forum examined how factors such as physical environment, emotional state, trauma, and other stressors can alter the activity of genes and potentially contribute to different health outcomes. The forum also recognized health disparities—including those caused by epigenetic changes—as a critical public health priority for New York State, as well as the nation.


Raavi Gupta, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology at Downstate, presented her work with UAlbany investigators on identifying epigenetic factors that lead to twice the incidence and mortality of prostate cancer in African American patients. Her presentation was entitled, “Prostate Carcinomas in African-Americans have Distinct miRNA Expression, and Biological Markers for Poor Prognosis.” Ultimately, her work may help identify genetic factors that could be used to develop new screening tests and targeted cancer therapies for our patients. 

ualbany collab 2

Sabina Hirshfield, Ph.D., Visiting Associate Professor in Downstate’s STAR Program, is an expert in conducting eHealth HIV prevention studies. She presented on HIV Testing and PrEP uptake among New York Black and Latino Men who have Sex with Men (MSM).

I would like to thank Drs. Gupta and Hirshfield for well-representing Downstate, as well as Moro Salifu, M.D., MPH, MBA, Chair of Medicine and Director of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC), who gave introductory remarks.


Downstate at SUNY Global Health Summit

On November 18th, Downstate’s very own Jack DeHovitz, M.D., MPH, Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Special Treatment and Research (STAR) Program, co-facilitated the SUNY Global Health Institute (GHI) Workshop with Gene D. Morse, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, from the University of Buffalo—welcoming a broad spectrum of stakeholders and leaders in healthcare and Public Health for the day-long event held at the SUNY Global Center in New York City. 

The SUNY GHI mission is to provide a mechanism for global health programs at SUNY Academic Health Centers, system-wide universities and college campuses that will foster collaboration and innovation in education, training, and research initiatives with international partners and regional corporate and economic leaders.


Designed to deliver on the Institute’s mission, the day-long workshop brought together dozens of leaders from across SUNY’s academic health centers to present their ongoing initiatives and contributions to global health, and to discuss what is needed to bring SUNY GHI to life. 

Following opening remarks, Dr. DeHovitz presented on the origins of GHI, its outlined strategic goals, and the Institute’s subsequent global health initiatives and activities.  Later in the workshop, Denise Bruno, M.D., MPH, Associate Professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Community Health Sciences and Director of the Center for Global Health, spoke to Downstate’s Global Health academic programs and coursework which includes the Global Health in Developing Countries Elective for medical students, the Global Health Pathways Curriculum, and the Special Treatment and Research (STAR) Program.

global health conference

The workshop concluded with Drs. DeHovitz and Morse leading a group discussion to understand best mechanisms to encourage campus participation and what needs to be done to deliver on SUNY GHI’s outlined goals and objectives.

Many thanks to Drs. DeHovitz and Bruno for their presentations, and to all the contributing and participating faculty members for helping to shape and support the development of the GHI.


College of Medicine

New Clinical App from Internal Medicine Resident, Yair Saperstein, M.D., wins 3rd at Columbia Fast Pitch!

yair_sapersteinThe Department of Medicine’s Yair Saperstein, M.D., Chief Internal Medicine Resident, took 3rd place at the 2019 Columbia University Fast Pitch Competition—Columbia Engineering’s annual elevator pitch competition where teams have 60 seconds to sell their business ideas to a panel of judges and win up to $5,000.

Dr. Saperstein entered his newly developed clinical support mobile app, AVOmd, into the competition. AVOmd was designed to simplify complicated guidelines and protocols, delivering bite-size knowledge to physicians at the point of care.

As many of you are aware, medical knowledge has been inaccessible at the point of care and continues to grow. Compounding this "knowledge challenge" are unwieldy interfaces and poor clinical workflow integrations and, as a result, both the physician and the patient suffer.


Through Dr. Saperstein’s clinical support app, physicians receive the evidence-based medical information they need to know when they need to know it through the application’s user interface. The software also offers links and sources to supporting materials so physicians understand the reasoning behind recommendations. And finally, the app allows for valuable contributing commentary from AVOmd’s growing community of physicians—which Dr. Saperstein believes can help transform the delivery of healthcare by contributing to peer dialogue and learning, ultimately continuing the development of physician expertise.

Congratulations on the fantastic win at Fast Pitch, Dr. Saperstein, and thank you for not only identifying a challenge in the delivery of care, but for your vision and leadership in reaching a solution.


College of Nursing

2019 International Conference on Nursing and Midwifery


The 2019 International Conference on Nursing and Midwifery, one of the biggest international events in the field of Nursing, took place this past October in Rome, Italy—and Downstate was on-hand, adding to our institution’s international presence and footprint.

The annual event brings together students, researchers, scientists, and professors in the field of Nursing—presenting a rare occasion for practitioners to discover novel opportunities and broaden their professional knowledge, while serving as a great platform for researchers to exchange and share their experiences and findings related to Nursing and Midwifery.


This year’s conference theme was “Recent trends and innovations in Nursing Practice, Education, and Research” and Downstate’s Lauren Ellis, MS, FNP-BC, TNCC, College of Nursing Lecturer and Coordinator for the Learning Resource Center and Simulation Lab, was present to address those trends and give an oral presentation on "Process Improvement for Patients on Coumadin: A Proposed EBP Intervention" during the International Conference. The presentation focused on improving care coordination for patients in hospital-based coumadin clinics. Her goal is to emphasize the importance of designating a primary care contact for patients.

She also explained the importance of establishing referrals initially and annually, as well as coumadin clinic appointments—implementing a process improvement flow chart focused on ensuring all patients obtain referrals and receive proper initial and annual follow-up care with their primary care provider. Her focus is centered around improved care coordination among hospital nurses, specialists, nurse practitioners, physicians, and residents via enhanced communication between inpatient and outpatient providers. In encouraging these types of follow-ups, Dr. Ellis notes patients will have fewer adverse effects, improved patient adherence, and much more efficient use of the clinic's services. 

Many thanks to Dr. Ellis for her great contributions to this important event and for representing Downstate on the international stage!


School of Public Health

2019 APHA Conference

Downstate representation was strong at this year’s prestigious American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Expo held mid-November in Philadelphia as several students and esteemed faculty from the School of Public Health (SPH) were selected for presentations.

DrPH students blanketed the annual meeting with eight presentations that included:

  • Marco Stillo, MPH, presented three posters, including “Carrying Weapons, Bullying, and Fear of Attending School Among Adolescents: Youth Risk Behavior Survey 1993-2017.”
  • Kay Thwe Kyaw, M.D., MPH, presented research on long-term care utilization among the elderly, with recommendations for improving policy, in a poster presentation entitled, “Prediction of Long-term Care Utilization by Functional Status in the United States Aging Population between 2008-2016.”
  • Chanée Massiah, MPH, presented her research on the relationship between mental health and substance abuse among young Black women at risk for HIV entitled, “Association Association Between Emotional Dysregulation and Problematic Alcohol Use among Young Women HIV Prevention Program Participants.”
  • Eric Persaud, M.E.A, presented a poster on the “Risk Perceptions and Knowledge of Fentanyl Exposure among First Responders.”
  • Rebecca Hill, MPhil, MA, presented her research on the relationship between maternal education and pre-term birth in a poster entitled, “Sub-baccalaureate Maternal Educational Attainment and Adverse Infant Health Outcomes.”
  • Thomas Peer, MPH, presented a research poster on the “Association between Screen Time and Depression in U.S. Adolescents.”
  • Katherine Goscilo presented a workshop on linguistic discrimination against Latinx communities entitled, “Linguistic Discrimination and U.S. Assimilation Buffering Effects in Health Care Access of Agricultural Workers.”

SUNY Downstate SPH alumni were also well-represented at the premiere Public Health professionals conference, including Shahidul Islam, MPH, who presented his research entitled, “A Joint Model for the Analysis of Recurrent Events and a Dependent Terminal Event: Application to a Large Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial.” 


  1. DrPH student, Eric Persaud, M.E.A, presents his poster presentation
  2. SPH Dean Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD (center) and Student Council President Alyson Clarke (far left), visit SPH students giving oral presentations: Rebecca Hill, MPhil, MA, Shahidul Islam, MPH, and Marco Stillo, MPH 
  3. Paul Landsbergis, PhD, MPH, EdD, faculty in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presents his poster presentation
  4. DrPH student, Chanée Massiah, MPH, presents her poster presentation

A number of faculty members in the SPH Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (EOHS) presented posters, oral presentations, and Learning Institute workshops at APHA. EOHS Department Chair, Laura Geer, Ph.D., MHS, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presented a poster entitled, “Risk Factors for Prenatal Zika Virus Screening in an Urban Immigrant Cohort in Brooklyn, NY.” Her colleague Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., MPH, Ed.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presented a newly developed, evidence-based risk assessment for work organization hazards in a poster presentation entitled, “Creating a New Instrument for Work Organization Risk Assessment in the United States: The Healthy Work Survey (HWS) Project.” In addition, Lori Hoepner, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, led an APHA Learning Institute session entitled, “SPSS Part 1: Distilling a Dataset from a Large Database.” Dr. Hoepner also gave an oral presentation on the “Prenatal Bisphenol A Exposure in a Brooklyn Maternity Study.”


  1. DrPH student, Marco Stillo, MPH, presents his poster presentation
  2. Laura Geer, PhD, MHS, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presents her poster presentation
  3. Lori Hoepner, DrPH, MPH, faculty in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presents at APHA
  4. Vice Dean Michael Joseph, PhD, MPH (left), and faculty members, Lori Hoepner, DrPH, MPH (center), and Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Sc.D, M.S., MPH meet with visitors at the SPH table in the APHA Exhibitor's Hall  

Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, gave an oral presentation on evidence-based design of community interventions to address childhood obesity, entitled, “A “real-world” Evaluation of Tertiary Care Childhood Obesity Intervention Serving a Hard to Reach NYC Population.” Her colleague, Marlene Camacho Rivera, Sc.D, M.S., MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, presented her research on the perceptions and information-seeking behaviors of Latinx adults in an oral presentation entitled, “Heterogeneity in Trust of Cancer Information among Latino Adults in the United States: A HINTS Analysis.” Later, Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, presented her research entitled, “Evaluating Whether Reproductive Coercion Reduces HIV-presentation Behaviors Using Full and Mahalanobis Matching.” And finally, Vice Dean and Associate Professor, Michael Joseph, Ph.D., MPH taught his long-standing APHA staple course, “Biostatistics for Non-statisticians,” with the help of DrPH student, Chanée Massiah, MPH student and Student Council President, Alyson Clarke, and MPH alumna and former Student Council President, Rachel Radigan.

Many thanks to all of our participating students and faculty for representing our institution and making certain Downstate was a standout!



In the Community

Thanksgiving Food Drive


Downstate got into the giving spirit early as the Office of Government and Constituent Relations, in partnership with the Daniel Hale Williams Society, hosted the annual Thanksgiving food drive—accepting hundreds of food donations during the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Every year, Downstate seeks to support families in need from around the local Brooklyn community and personally delivers collected items to a local family shelter.

This year's food drive was a great success with students, faculty, and members of the Downstate community working together to collect nearly 500 pounds of food, making this one of our most successful food drives to date! The food donations collected were taken to a local family shelter where the it was prepared as hot meals for residents.


Many Thanks to Michael Harrell, Associate Vice President for Constituent Relations, for coordinating this important service to the community, and to all the participating students and staff who helped to make this Holiday a little warmer and brighter for those who need it most.


Diabetes Awareness Month


Approximately one million New Yorkers have diabetes with about 19 percent of those undiagnosed. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause cardiovascular diseases, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and lower extremity amputations in adults. To highlight these staggering statistics, associated risks, and to promote diabetes awareness in our local Brooklyn communities, Betty Jung, RN, and Linda Cohen, RN, MSN, MPH, BC-ADM, CDE, launched a series of events and community programs in honor of American Diabetes Month.

The month was kicked off with Heba Abdelnabi, MS, RD, CDN, who gave an oral presentation on “Celebrating the Holidays with Delicious Diabetic Friendly Meals” at their monthly Brooklyn Diabetes Club meeting. In addition, The Ophthalmology Club teamed up with Ms. Jung to provide free vision screenings at various health fair events in the Brooklyn community throughout the month—providing College of Medicine students Sohaib Fasih-Ahmad, José Sinon, and Blake Gershon, important hands-on community learning experience that will inform the future level of quality care they will provide as practitioners while seeking to educate the community on the importance of getting regular visual checkups to prevent vision loss in adults with diabetes. 


On November 20, Lisa Smith, Director of Child Life Services, and Sheryl Zang, Ed.D., FNP, CNS-BC, from the College of Nursing, held their monthly 5 O’clock Diabetes Club meeting for children and adolescents. To close out the month of awareness events, Ms. Jung coordinated a community health seminar with guest speakers from Internal Medicine. Joseph Casillas Gonzalez, M.D., Parinaz Koohi, M.D., Haytham Aboushi, M.D., Tian Li, M.D., and Junjing Guo, M.D. gave talks on “The Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease”—specifically discussing risk factors, prevention, glucose, blood pressure readings, benefits of prescribed medications, and alternative medicine.

By continuing to bring diabetes awareness to our surrounding community with free educational sessions and peer support, we can begin to address disparities by targeting vulnerable communities and equipping its members with the knowledge and education that will, over time, encourage healthy lifestyle changes.

Many thanks to Ms. Jung and Ms. Cohen for continuing to be stewards of healing in our local Brooklyn community, and for serving as resources of meaningful and life-changing information to the most at-risk populations.


Thank You For Your Thanksgiving Service!

Please click here to view pictures from the event!

I would like to thank all of our staff who worked on Thanksgiving to give care and comfort to our patients and their families.  Your compassionate dedication is part of why Downstate is such a special institution.

On the academic side of our house, I would like to spotlight a Downstate annual Thanksgiving tradition:  the turkey and all the fixings dinner for students from all of our colleges, with faculty and staff acting as servers.  This year, over 300 students attended!

A big thank you to the staff in the student center, and all who volunteered, as well as staff who participated in community service activities on their holiday.  


Bulletin Bonus

And They Call It Puppy Love…


What’s one of the best de-stressors for anxious students facing exams? Puppies! And just in time to help students facing midterm, shelf, or rotation exams, the Student Center partnered with Puppy Palace to bring in some adorable pups for petting, playing, and hugging. And while all the puppies were a hit, the dachshund’s winsome ways got top ratings.


A big thank you to Med Council, the Student Center Governing Board, and Meg O’Sullivan, Associate Vice President for Student Life and her team, including Amy Urquhart, Director of The Student Center, Schuyler Hooke, and Adam Burgman, Assistant Director of Student Activities, for putting this together.


Working towards a better Downstate,


Wayne J. Riley, M.D., MPH, MBA, MACP






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