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Downstate Hosts SUNY Board of Trustees Winter Meeting

photo of Trustee meeting

Last week, Our campus was the venue for SUNY Board of Trustees regularly scheduled winter meeting on January 28th. This was the first Board of Trustees meeting in nearly a decade that SUNY Downstate has hosted.

The meeting, led by the newly-appointed Chairman of the Board, The Honorable Merryl H. Tisch, Ed.D. and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, Ph.D., was followed by an early breakfast for members of the Board, a chance to meet and greet SUNY Downstate staff, and then they were off for a tour of University Hospital of Brooklyn.

photo of 3 Trustees with Dr. Riley

Later in the day, with the assistance of Interim SVP of Hospital Affairs, Patricia Winston, M.S., R.N. I took members of the Board and SUNY Administration on a tour of the hospital. Also joining us on the tour was the new Dean in the College of Medicine, Charles Brunicardi, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Michael Lucchesi, M.D., Associate Chief Medical Officer/Chief Quality Officer, Rami Nakeshbandi, M.D., as well as Chief Nursing Officer, Joanne Ritter-Teitel, Ph.D.

photo of Trustees on tour

As we passed through the hospital, I discussed our plans for renovation and the expansion of the cafeteria, followed by a walkthrough of the Emergency Department where Ninfa Mehta, M.D. described some of the emergency treatment routines. The group also visited Suite B, where they were greeted by Department of Family Medicine faculty member, Anita Beecham-Robinson, M.D., for a behind-the-scenes look at what takes place. The final leg of the tour ended with visits to the newly renovated Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where Gloria Valencia, M.D., Vice Chair of Pediatrics and Director of Neonatology, gave a heartfelt testament on the importance of neonatal care.

photo of Trustees in hospital

During the board meeting, I shared a presentation on the State of Downstate Health Sciences University, as well as one on the Taskforce for Student Mental Health, a taskforce I’m honored to co-chair.

I’d like to thank the members of the SUNY Board of Trustees for choosing to convene this important meeting at Downstate, and to our faculty and staff who worked so hard to prepare our campus for a seamless event. 


Memory Lane: Remembering the Legacy of Dr. Samuel L. Kountz

pair of photos of Dr. Kountz

In honor of Black History Month, I’d like us all to remember the life and work of a man who not only added to the legacy of Downstate, but who will go down in history as a medical pioneer—world renowned surgeon, Samuel L. Kountz, M.D.

Born in 1930, Dr. Kountz was raised in the small town of Lexa, Arkansas. At the age of eight, he accompanied an ill friend to the local emergency room, where he observed physicians working to heal his friend. It was at this moment that his life’s purpose and passion was born, and thereafter his ambitions were squarely pointed at the world of medicine.

With the support of his family, Dr. Kountz began the relentless pursuit of becoming a physician. He first graduated from the Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College of Arkansas (AM&N) in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Not long after, Dr. Kountz was afforded the rare opportunity to meet J. William Fulbright, US Senator and former president of the University of Arkansas. Senator Fulbright recognized something special in the recent graduate and become an early mentor to Kountz, also encouraging him to apply to medical school at the University of Arkansas.

Taking heed of the Senator's counsel, Kountz applied to the University of Arkansas Medical School at Little Rock, where he gained admission on an academic scholarship.

2 photos of Dr. Kountz with others

Upon graduating in 1958, during the deep-rooted racial divides and tension of the time, Dr. Kountz continued to overcome cultural and ethnic discrimination though his demonstrated academic and professional success. He interned at San Francisco General Hospital and went on to postdoctoral training as a resident at Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Surgery in 1959. During his training, Dr. Kountz was awarded the Bank of America Giannini Fellowship and served as the Senior Resident and Chief Resident in the Department of Surgery at Stanford from 1963-1965.

Throughout his residency, Dr. Kountz chose to focus on surgery, specializing in kidney transplants. Until 1960, kidney transplants were impossible unless the donor and recipient were twins, while transplants between those more distantly related or unrelated ended in the transplant’s rejection. However, in 1961, while working with Dr. Roy Cohn at Stanford, he performed the first successful transplant between humans who were not identical twins.

2 photos of Dr. Kountz

Not long after the completion of his residency program, Dr. Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University as Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Stanford University, at which time he was selected as a Visiting Fulbright Professor to the United Arab Emirates. In 1967, Dr. Kountz went on to serve as a tenured professor at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco (UCSF). For nearly a decade, he unremittingly studied kidney transplants in dogs, making the groundbreaking discovery that in monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone (a steroid) to the patient post-surgery, the body would successfully accept the newly transplanted organ—a breakthrough that forever changed the field of organ transplantation.

Following his time in California, Dr. Kountz travelled across the country to serve as  Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery here at SUNY Downstate from 1972-1981. In his first year, Dr. Kountz and his team performed over one hundred transplants. 

Downstate quickly earned its place as the busiest kidney transplant program on the eastern seaboard. Dr. Kountz performed a living-donor kidney transplant that was telecast live on a New York NBC newscast.

While at Downstate, Dr. Kountz founded a world-class kidney program — the first and only transplant program, to date, in Brooklyn — and performed some 500 kidney transplants, the most in the world at that time, before his untimely death.

A busy man with inexhaustible energy, leading a huge department of surgery and providing surgical leadership to the region, Dr. Kountz was a sought-after lecturer for Grand Rounds in hospitals, medical schools, (regional and national), and specialty societies. He was invited to share his ideas in many gatherings of allied fields – biomedical, pharmaceutical engineering – and even at the social gatherings of churches or local business clubs.  He served on a study section of the National Institutes of Health and on editorial boards of many prestigious journals. Despite all this, he continued to publish scientific papers and encouraged other colleagues to do the same.

In 1977, during the apartheid regime, he was invited to South Africa as a Visiting Professor. Many of his friends and colleagues advised him not to accept the invitation. He had a completely different perspective. At some early point in his life, he recognized there was little he could do to solve the global problem of racism but decided to live his own life to the fullest and not allow racial barriers to discourage him. He believed that there was much to be gained by engagement. He travelled within South Africa visiting and lecturing in medical schools, the hospitals for whites only, and the hospitals for blacks only. Shortly after his return, however, he felt unwell and complained of frequent incessant headaches. He was mentally and physically impaired by an ill-defined neurologic disorder. After about four years of total incapacitation, Samuel Kountz passed away at the age of 51, on December 23, 1981.

Dr. Kountz’s legacy will forever be defined by his enduring contributions to science and medical innovation, and, undoubtedly, by his pioneering advancements to kidney research and renal science.


Ryan Bender, 2020 “Full Year Research Scholarship” Recipient

photo of Ryan Bender getting check

Research is one of the cornerstones of medicine, and as such it remains a critical component to the academic programming and mission of Downstate’s College of Medicine.  Since 2002, the Alumni Fund from the COM Alumni Association has annually awarded exceptional medical students the “Full Year Research Scholarship”—a scholarship in support of full-time medical research, which provides up to $36,000 for students to conduct their studies over one full academic year.

To be considered, applicants—who have completed at least one year of matriculation—are asked to summarize their scientific/research experience, career goals, specific research interest, and a detailed description of their intended research project. As the Alumni Association receives a great number of qualified applicants every year, the selection process is managed very carefully, with each application being reviewed and ranked by three specialized researchers from various specialties. Richard Sadovsky, M.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, presents the results of the review to the Board of Trustees who collectively consider the number of recommended recipients, and then vote on award recipients.

I am pleased to announce Ryan Bender, third-year medical student, has been selected as the recipient of the COM Alumni Association’s 2020-2021 Full Year Research Scholarship!

Mr. Bender’s application and his project, “Towards Personalized Breast Cancer Care: A Vascularized, Three-Dimensional Biomimetic Platform for Patient Specific, Ex Vivo Studies of Breast Cancer,” stood out to the review committee for its ability to greatly advance existing scientific literature. He will soon begin his research-dedicated year, where he will focus on the in vivo construction of biomimetic breast tissue for breast cancer research—conducting his study at the Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery Laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College.

photo of Ryan BenderOriginally from Rochester, New York, Mr. Bender studied biological and biomedical engineering at Cornell University with emphases on tissue engineering, microfluidics, and computer-assisted engineering. Before starting medical school, Ryan took time to experience the world outside of medicine through extensive travel and roles in the wine industry and hospitality. He moved to New York City where he took a role as a medical assistant role in 2017 and then began his first year of medical school here at Downstate the following year.

In his first semester, Mr. Bender began conducting research in the Laboratory of Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine. There, he explored new techniques in microvascular tissue engineering, with the eventual goal of developing fully-vascularized tissue for use in reconstructive surgery. He notes that his specific focus in vascular tissue engineering stems from an understanding that microvascular networks are essential for the creation of any tissue of more than nominal thickness. He believes that once microvasculature can be generated on-demand, researchers’ ability to construct all tissue types will advance rapidly.

Given his specific interest in rebuilding the human body, Mr. Bender hopes to someday work as a reconstructive plastic surgeon, splitting his time between operative cases, mentoring roles, and oversight of a translational research laboratory. He envisions himself developing new regenerative medicine technologies, namely biomimetic human tissue for in vitro disease modeling and human body repair, and affordable biomedical technologies for use in developing nations.  


CONGRATULATIONS on this well-deserved honor, Mr. Bender—I look forward to following the progress of your work over the coming year.


*Awardees from last year’s scholarship cycle and their topics include:

  • Natasha Masub: Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy as a Modulator of Gene Expression in Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Eric Schoenfeld: Early Life Stress and Serotonin Transporter Gene Polymorphism Interaction: Impact on Hippocampal Volume Asymmetry
  • Jin Jyun Oh: Outcome Measurements of RHO Retinopathy to Monitor the Efficacy of ‘ablate and replace’ gene therapy
  • Nadlie Toussaint: Overcoming Chemo Resistance in Pancreatic Cancers by Blockade of EXTL


College of Nursing

New DNP Program Launches without a Hitch!

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It is with great pride that I announce our College of Nursing (CON) has officially opened its doors to DOCTORAL students! Following remarkably brisk reviews from SUNY and the State Education Department, the CON received approval in late 2019 to confer the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Our DNP Program is now approved to accept qualified RNs at two entry points: at the post-baccalaureate level, and with advanced standing at the post-Master’s level.

The CON DNP Program, like other Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) endorsed programs, prepares nurses for the highest level of nursing practice in which they can actively participate in attaining the triple aim of health care: improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of health care. Our DNP Program draws upon an academic environment that embraces cultural and educational diversity and prepares students to improve the lives of underserved and difficult-to-access populations.

photo of Barbara MessinaCoinciding with the approvals needed to offer the DNP Program, there were several new recruits to the newly launched program. Among these was the recruitment of Barbara Messina, Ph.D., a “Student Choice Award” nursing educator with unique expertise in Interprofessional Simulation and in developing and instituting innovative clinical practice programs. Dr. Messina also serves as an on-site evaluator for the CCNE and is a charter member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) of New York.

Also recruited was Annie Rohanphoto of Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, who joins Downstate as the inaugural Director of the DNP Program and Chair of the College of Nursing Graduate Department.

Dr. Rohan is an experienced DNP Program Director with strong experience as a CCNE on-site evaluator. She served as the Associate Editor for AWHONN’s Perinatal Nursing textbook, 5th edition, which is the main professional resource for delineating standards of care for maternity and newborn nurses in the United States, and currently serves as Associate Editor of MCN: The American Journal of Maternal-Child Nursing—acting as the arbiter of professional literature for its readers, responsible for the science that will be published, and serving as its Evidence-Based Practice column coordinator.

Dr. Rohan’s national work as advisor to the ANA (Nurse Practice Advisory Council), and as member in perpetuity of the March of Dimes Nurse Advisory Council, significantly impacts the advancement of high-quality standards and policy priorities for maternal-child healthcare providers. Her federal and foundation grants, totaling nearly $3 million, advance healthcare technology capacity, and nurse presence in the biomedical technology space, and contributes to developing a culturally proficient primary care nursing workforce in medically underserved regions of New York.

Since approval, applications have poured in for the Spring 2020 start of the DNP program. On January 13th, with only a 48-hour notice of acceptance in many cases, 24 highly qualified, experientially diverse, and enthusiastic students attended the first DNP Program orientation.

I’d like to congratulate and thank our great leadership, faculty, and staff in the CON for their great work in the development and launch of Downstate’s new DNP program. I want to also congratulate our 2020 Cohort and wish these new doctoral students much success.


School of Public Health

SPH’s Sergios Kolokotronis, Ph.D: At the Heart of Coronavirus!

photo of 3 people on subway with face masks

School of Public Health’s Sergios Kolokotronis, PhD, is Hunting Genomic Clues to Novel Coronavirus

Over the past couple of weeks, the New York City Health Department reported more than five New York City residents were identified for the testing of the coronavirus—sending residents from borough to borough and across the State into a frenzy.

The novel coronavirus is a strain of coronavirus that has not been previously detected in humans. This novel coronavirus can lead to symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath. While some infections have resulted in severe illness, and even death, others have presented with milder symptoms and been discharged from care. 

With China's climbing coronavirus death toll, tens of thousands of cases worldwide, and the growing number of potential cases being monitored across the United States and here in New York City—concern in the City is palpable.

As the New York State Health Department continues to carefully watch the evolving local and worldwide situation daily—including the latest data on transmissions, incubation, and new cases—Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, Ph.D, Evolutionary Epidemiologist and Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health’s (SPH) Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, has joined a team of international researchers to conduct a genomic investigation into the virus.


Since news of his ongoing research broke, the importance of his work has drawn attention from local and international media, including a report on WABC-7 New York.

Dr. Kolokotronis is one of six researchers at five different institutions that have formed an international ad-hoc collaboration initiative to uncover clues as to the evolutionary trajectory of this form of coronavirus by untangling the virus’ genetic evolution over time and space.

Dr. Kolokotronis likens he and his colleagues to scientific detectives. They look at the genetic profile of the virus as it presents in each patient within the larger context of coronavirus diversity. Other variables that may be considered as the transmission continues are when certain patients started showing symptoms, where they have been, who they have been with, whether it had been transmitted to them by someone else, or someone else has contracted it from them, and a host of other clues in an unending effort to uncover important insights.

“For instance, we can look at one of the confirmed cases in California and tell you for certain that the virus in that person has mutated very few times since right before it presented in the first patient,” said Dr. Kolokotronis. “Additionally, we can also use this data, and genomic data from other patients and animals, to determine whether the virus jumped from animals to humans, what we call a spillover, or emerged in humans altogether sometime in November or early December, even though the first cases were not reported until later in December. Genomic surveillance, empowered with computational modeling, allows us to do a deep dive into a pathogen’s history, evolutionary potential and interactions with its environment. The natural history of pathogen emergence and spread is usually a puzzle, where pieces get put together every day as more data points are generated and analyzed.”

Dr. Kolokotronis emphasizes that the group is not looking to develop a treatment, a vaccine, or a cure for Wuhan coronavirus, but rather to put the pieces together for those that will.

“Our job is to examine the genotype of the virus in its various mutations and connect the dots as to how the virus is behaving genomically, the speed and manner in which it mutates and spreads, and by doing so over time, provide insights that will be foundational to any public health effort to combat and mitigate this deadly strain of coronavirus.

 “The work of Dr. Kolokotronis and his collaborators to better understand this emerging epidemic exemplifies the importance of the work done by our researchers at the School of Public Health, and the role they play in both improving public health and addressing emerging threats,” said Kitaw Demissie, M.D., MPH, Dean of the SUNY Downstate School of Public Health.

Other institutions in the collaboration include Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Technical University of Munich, Germany, The University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Congratulations, Dr. Kolokotronis, and thank you for working to keep Downstate at the forefront of healthcare and medical research!


Dr. Janet Rosenbaum Honored with Social Policy Publication Award

photo of Janet RosenbaumIn exciting news, Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in Downstate’s School of Public Health, was awarded the Social Policy Publication Award in the “2019 Best Article in a Peer-Reviewed Journal” category by the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA). 

SRA is a community of researchers whose collective goals work to advance the understanding of adolescence and enhance the well-being of youth in a globalized world. SRA promotes high-quality research that considers the biological, psychological, and sociocultural aspects of development in context. The aim of SRA’s research is to lead and shape scientific and public discourse on youth and adolescence, and to guide policies that impact education, social programs, and parenting.

Dr. Rosenbaum’s work was selected for review and recognized by SRA after she designed the statistical approach for her study entitled, Long-Term Effects of Truancy Diversion on School Attendance: a Quasi-Experimental Study with Linked Administrative Data, published in Prevention Science—the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research—in October 2019.

Her publication was the foundational paper in a series of papers that, together, demonstrate that widely-implemented truancy interventions fail to improve absenteeism and contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice involvement.

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One in seven U.S. public school students miss 15 or more days of school per year, a rate that has remained unchanged for 20 years. Chronic absenteeism is linked to a long list of negative outcomes: low academic achievement, dropout, unemployment, criminal justice involvement, and poor health. Fortunately, a recent flurry of research papers show that it is possible to make modest, cost-effective improvements in school attendance using approaches grounded in behavioral economics and developmental science.

Communities across the country are switching to court diversion programs to address truancy. These programs are highly popular as they help families to problem-solve around school attendance while still holding them accountable. This paper suggests that this popular strategy does not work, even as it continues to channel students into the juvenile justice system for non-criminal offenses.

Congratulations to Dr. Rosenbaum and her team for this well-deserved honor.


School of Health Professions

DMI, Lambda Nu Honor Society Induction

On January 28th, the Diagnostic Medical Imaging (DMI) Sonography Program in the School of Health Professions (SOHP) hosted the 3rd Annual New York Pi Chapter, Lambda Nu Honor Society induction ceremony at Downstate.logo of Lambda Nu

"Lambda Nu is the national honor society for the Radiologic and Imaging Sciences. The name is symbolic of the inverse relationship between wavelength and frequency, which is fundamental in imaging techniques that comprise the profession."

The purpose of the Downstate Lambda NU Honor Society Chapter is to:

  • foster academic scholarship at the highest academic levels
  • promote research and investigation in the radiologic and imaging sciences
  • recognize exemplary scholarship
  • foster highly skilled, knowledgeable, and caring individuals that can provide quality patient care in the medical community

Membership in the honor society at Downstate is based on a grade point average of 3.5 or better, enrollment as a full-time medical imaging student, and students must demonstrate evidence of: professional commitment beyond the minimum program requirements; the pursuit or completion of an independent research project; and active participation in campus-wide student committees and medical-imaging activities.

With our DMI Program at Downstate being the first of its kind to offer a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in sonography, there’s no wonder why it has remained a leader in the profession—producing some of the brightest clinicians and educators across the nation.

group photo of inductees

CONGRATULATIONS to our talented 2020 DMI student inductees: Julianne Paretti, Rachel Jorgensen, RDCS, Desiree DeJesus, Emily Pan, Aliza Basso, RDMS, Iolet Francis, and Peony Lam. Thank you all for working so hard to advance yourselves while adding to the pool of excellence here at Downstate!


Research Roundup

New Oral Treatment Option for Uterine Fibroids

photo of Ozgul Muneyyirci-Delale

In research news, congratulations to Ozgul Muneyyirci-Delale, M.D., Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Downstate and director of Ob-Gyn’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. She also directs our specialty center for the Treatment and Study of Endometriosis. 

Known affectionately by colleagues and patients as, “Dr. Muney,” Dr. Muneyyirci-Delale was the final author on a study published in the January 23, 2020 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) called “Elagolix for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding in Women with Uterine Fibroids.This was an honor accorded because of her strength in conducting clinical trials (she has worked as a P.I. with AbbVie, Abbott, Ferring, Beyer, and ObsEVA) and deep expertise in treating uterine fibroids and other disorders that can manifest with heavy bleeding, such as endometriosis and polycystic syndrome (PCOS).

Patients with serious complications have been referred to Dr. Muney for almost 30 years, including those with advanced and non-operable stages of endometriosis, those who have undergone multiple surgeries but are still experiencing pain, and individuals who are in premature menopause. Preventing multiple surgeries, complications, and early menopause are the driving forces behind her research.

Uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths in the uterus, can cause heavy menstrual bleeding in as many as half the women who have them. They can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life, and on her psychological and social well-being.

They are especially common among African American women, who are at higher risk for uterine fibroids than Caucasian women, and who are more likely to report severe or very severe symptoms. By the age of 50, eighty percent of African-American women will develop uterine fibroids and 30-50 percent will have symptoms.

“Fibroids are very common in African American women,” explains Dr. Muney. “They tend to develop fibroids at an earlier age and have a larger sized uterus and more symptoms than Caucasian women. Sixty-four percent of our patients at Downstate have uterine fibroids.”

Current treatment can involve hormone injections or extensive surgery, with the most common surgical option being hysterectomy. Compared to Caucasian women, African-American women are disproportionately offered hysterectomy as a treatment option for fibroids and abnormal heavy bleeding.

Because of this, Dr. Muney is careful to ensure that faculty, residents, and students at Downstate are educated on the full range of treatment options, and that they know the first treatment choice is lifestyle change, followed by medications and procedures. “Hysterectomy should be the last resort,” she says.

pair of photos of pills and woman with hot water bottle

“At Downstate, we are fortunate to have faculty, residents, and students with diverse backgrounds,” she adds. “A lot of our patients are African-American. We are very sensitive when we are treating African-American women.”

The NEJM study was led by Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia with support from close to 20 academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, and clinics. Dr. Muney, the principal investigator for the Downstate trial site, was involved in all stages of the study, from analyzing research data to the study’s publication, and presentation at professional meetings. The study followed 790 pre-menopausal women, ages 18 to 51, in two parallel randomized Phase III trials.

Dr. Muney sees patients in the UHB clinic; if you or someone you know is affected by heavy menstrual bleeding or have a condition that may be causing it, you can call to make an appointment at 718-270-7207.

Want to know more? On Monday, March 2, 2020 (9:00 am, BSB Lecture Hall 1), Dr. Muneyyirci-Delale will be giving a Grand Rounds presentation on the causes of abnormal uterine bleeding.


Faculty Spotlight

SOHP welcomes Drs. Kelly Lavin and David Kaufman

We are thrilled to welcome Kelly Lavin, Ph.D. and David Kaufman, Ph.D., to Downstate’s School of Health Professions (SOHP).

photo of Kelly LavinDr. Lavin joins SOHP as the new Chair of Occupational Therapy. Following the completion of her doctoral studies in Occupational Therapy at Boston University, Dr. Lavin went on to become an expert in the field—bringing more than 18 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist, specializing in the area of pediatrics. Dr. Lavin comes to SUNY Downstate from New York Institute of Technology’s (NYIT) Occupational Therapy program, where she served as Program Director. Prior to this role, Dr. Lavin was the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for NYIT. A respected OT professional and researcher, Dr. Lavin has presented locally, nationally, and globally on the topic of fieldwork education. In addition to fieldwork education, Dr. Lavin’s research interests include sensory processing disorder and executive dysfunction.

photo of David KaufmanDr. Kaufman joins SOHP as a new Medical Informatics faculty member. He is a trained cognitive psychologist with a Ph.D. in educational psychology and brings to Downstate more than 20 years of experience in human-computer interaction and human factors in health care. He also has extensive experience conducting cognitive research in relation to informatics initiatives and evaluating a wide range of health information technologies developed for clinicians, patients and health consumers. Dr. Kaufman has also worked extensively with patient and consumer populations of varying levels of literacy.

A respected researcher, Dr. Kaufman’s work appears in more than 150 publications and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to conduct research pertaining to health literacy and eHealth literacy. Since 1994, he has been involved in several human computer interaction projects pertaining to the evaluation of electronic health records, computer-provider order entry systems, language learning systems for medical professionals, and a large-scale telemedicine system for patients with diabetes.

Dr. Kaufman has taught at four universities on a wide range of subjects at the intersection of health care, technology, and cognition. While here at Downstate, Dr. Kaufman plans to collaborate with fellow informaticians, clinicians, and community health researchers with the primary objective of promoting excellence in health care and reducing disparities by leveraging medical informatics solutions.

Please join me in giving Drs. Lavin and Kaufman a very warm Downstate Welcome!


In the Community

Downstate and Full Gospel, Reaching and Teaching Central Brooklyn

SUNY Downstate has a long history of providing community service learning projects in the community—bringing multidisciplinary teams of Downstate professionals and clinicians to address and meet the needs of underserved populations across the borough. 

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On January 25, we kicked off our 2020 learning projects with a bang—taking the largest group of students and healthcare clinicians from Downstate to provide free services at the Full Gospel Assembly of God Annual Health Fair.  During the fair, nursing and public health students, as well as medical students from the Internal Medicine Interest Group and Ophthalmology Clubs, offered free health screenings, administered influenza vaccinations, and provided educational counseling services. 

Downstate was represented by a host of faculty and staff that included: Rena Sooknanan, Veronica Gallo, and Greta Tim from Downstate’s Department of Pediatrics; Karlene Lawrence, DNP, I-Ting Cheng, LCSW, and Clivia Torres, LCSW, from the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease; Ummulkhair Muhammed, MA, MS, from the Institute of Genomic Health; Shirley  Girouard, PhD, RN, FAAN, from the College of Nursing’s Food Insecurity Project, and Betty Jung, RN, and Sarah Marshall, DNP, Center for Community Health Promotion and Wellness Program. They provided attendees from the local community with valuable information about Downstate’s array of clinical services, as well as lessons on breastfeeding, geriatric psychiatry, and healthful nutrition.

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The program ended with Divyesh Parthiban, a 15 year old with his sights on becoming a physician, presented his research poster on “Disparities in the Incidence and Mortality in New York City Boroughs and The United States”.  His research project was developed with Malhaar Agrawal in collaboration with The Brooklyn Health Disparities Center’s Lakia Maxwell, MSCH and Pamela Straker, Ph.D., who are co-authors.

I’d like to extend my appreciation to the following volunteer students who continue to make this event possible:

College of Medicine’s Rohan Goyal, Elaine Fletcher, Priyanka Wadgaonkar, Karen Chen, Ethan Kidde, Sofya Gadina, Antonios Dimopoulos, Omoakhe Tisor, Diona Symester, and Andrew Voigt; the College of Nursing’s Cindy Lacroix, RN-BSN, Kayla Preston, RN-BSN, Yomaira Gordillo, RN-BSN, Christa Noel, RN-BSN, Carlene Best, RN-BSN, Bilyana Sanliturk, RN-BSN, Nicodia Hutchinson-Wintje; RN, and Laura Kabbabe, RNFNP, student; and School of Public Health’s Anna Kaczynska. They are our future agents of change in improving healthcare and reducing health disparities.


Bulletin Bonus

YOU’RE INVITED: Health Expo & Diabetes Conference

health expo poster


Save the Date!
Cheryl Wills: A Presentation & Discussion of Her Literary Works

Cheryl Wills a Presentation of Her Literary Works





President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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