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Downstate Goes Red for Women!

As part of the American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative, Go Red for Women, nearly 100 Downstate women and men eagerly joined in the celebration and awareness campaign hosted at Downstate, which included a keynote lecture on heart health.

Red 4 Women

Led by Lori Donnell, Executive Director of University Physicians of Brooklyn’s and Senior Associate Vice President for Health Affairs at Downstate, participants listened to a presentation by Judith Mitchell, MD, FACC, FAHA, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cardiology, about the importance of heart health, warning signs, treatment, and prevention, which was followed by an in-depth Q&A.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, and cardiovascular diseases continue to be a woman’s greatest health threat. The Go Red for Women comprehensive awareness platform is designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and to serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally.

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Wearing the signature color red is intended to highlight the importance of understanding heart health and taking precautionary measures if you are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. But the greater message is about the commitment of women (and men) standing together to focus on their own health and that of their loved ones.

Participants also received a gift of appreciation that included literature on heart health the signature GO RED dress pin, and as a special treat, a red velvet cupcake.

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Many thanks to Ms. Donnell and the team that helped her pull our first GO RED FOR WOMEN event together, including Kim Brown, as well as Arlean Saa and Lila Jones from the Office of Communications & Marketing.


A Warm Homecoming for New College of Medicine Dean, Dr. Brunicardi

College of Medicine HomecomingGroup Photo with Dr. RileyWayne J. Riley, MD, President, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University; Sheldon McLeod, Chief Executive Officer, Kings County Hospital; Dominick Stanzione , President and CEO of Brookdale Hospital and Medical Center; Charles Brunicardi, MD, Senior Vice President And Dean Of The College Of Medicine At SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University; Kenneth Gibbs, President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center.

With 2020 in full swing here at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, it is with great enthusiasm that I welcome new leadership at the helm of the College of Medicine. At the close of the Fall 2019 semester, I announced to the Downstate Community that we concluded our national search with the appointment of Charles F. Brunicardi, MD, FACS as SUNY Downstate’s new Senior Vice President and Dean of the College of Medicine (COM).

To officially commemorate Dr. Brunicardi’s momentous return to our beloved campus, the institution where he completed his surgical training, a welcome reception was held in his honor on February 12th in PHAB Hall.

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Dr. Brunicardi’s friends, family, community partners, colleagues, and many others joined in the celebration, including leaders, faculty, as well as staff from numerous schools and colleges.

During the celebration, Dr. Brunicardi shared these words:

“I am humbled and deeply inspired. As I think about all the talents and visions for the future that are represented across our campus and community, what’s extraordinary to me is that they overlap and intersect with one another to become part of something much larger.”

“Being a part of Downstate’s greater purpose and vision with all of you, that’s what gets me excited. What makes me humbly grateful for this job is all of the tireless work being done at the hands of our students, faculty, and staff. It’s a community, and it’s an extraordinary gift.”

Dr. Brunicardi mapped out his vision for the future of Downstate’s COM, noting that his focus will be pointed squarely on student success via quality medical education, innovative research, enhanced clinical exposure, and unmatched diversity.

“We have so much to be proud of, but we also have a lot more we can do to add to Downstate’s legacy. I want to create a model for an even higher standard of education, something innovative that will help drive continued institutional excellence, while helping to address community needs immediately and in the long run.

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Following his remarks, guests enjoyed a light reception and an afternoon of fellowship as they continued to meet and greet with Dean Brunicardi.


Fourth Annual Dr. Samuel L. Kountz Jr. Lecture

Samuel Kountz Lecture

On February 11, the Office of Diversity Education and Research, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, and the Gamma Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. sponsored the Fourth Annual Dr. Samuel L. Kountz Jr. Lecture. Seth Langley, Ph.D., Assistant Vice-President of Academic Support Services & Advisement offered the keynote entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Factors that Influence Academic Achievement.”

Dr. Kountz was the first African American transplant surgeon in the United States. He was most distinguished for his pioneering work in the field of kidney transplantations, research discoveries, and inventions in renal science. Dr. Kountz established the SUNY Downstate Transplant Program in 1965 and served as the Chairman of the Department of Surgery.

CLICK HERE to watch the full lecture!

Following the lecture, the Office of Diversity Education and Research held an awards ceremony to recognize 10 individuals across three categories, including Excellence in Mentoring, Diversity Champions, and Outstanding Service. Each individual was selected based on their contributions, impact, and support for the mission and vision of the Office and the students its serves.


Excellence in Mentoring:

Alexander Schwartzman, M.D., MBA, FACS

Edward Heilman, M.D., FAAD, FCAP

Ernest Garnier, M.D.


Diversity Champions:

Seth Langley, Ph.D.

Ross Clinchy, Ph.D.

Wayne Scott, M.D.

Mark Stewart, M.D., Ph.D.


Outstanding Service:

Tony Parker

Tim Morello

Ted Hamilton


Congratulations to all award recipients!


College of Medicine

Resident Wellness Ski Retreat:
Resiliency Training On and Off the Slopes

Wellness Ski Retreat

As notorious workaholics, healthcare professionals spend their days, and many nights, working to help others with their medical needs. Downtime can often get overlooked in favor of providing care to more patients. As many of you are aware, ignoring physical and mental wellness can lead to illness, depression, and professional dissatisfaction. 

Poor mental, emotional, and physical health have been known to negatively impact overall performance and work productivity of employees, making programs that address workplace wellness critical to efficient organizational operations.

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Employee wellness programs contribute to the overall health and wellness of employees and their families by offering a healthy outlet of activities, services, and health education resources that help to reduce stress-related injuries and illnesses, as well as increase overall health. Overall benefits can include reduced absenteeism, increased employee morale, improved work performance, and increased institutional loyalty.

Last week, in an effort to address the importance of workplace wellness, Downstate’s Residents’ Wellness Committee held the “Resiliency in Practice” Resident Wellness Ski Retreat at Camelback Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania. The main objective of the retreat was to equip residents with the tools and tactics for "bouncing back" from the stress of clinical environments and training. 

With over 40 residents in attendance, executive members of the committee took the helm of the group to impart wisdom that residents could incorporate into their professional lives. Yasemin Aytaman, M.D., PGY3, Internal Medicine, who serves as the current Chair of the Wellness Committee, spoke to the group about the importance of building a culture at Downstate that reinforces the well-being of residents, in and out of the hospital, as it ultimately leads to healthier doctors and better patient care. Later in the program, Richi Chowdhury, M.D., PGY3, Internal Medicine, noted the benefits that fellowship and collective activities like skiing provides colleagues—emphasizing the unifying benefits of group interaction outside of the office. 

Many thanks to all who participated and contributed to the event's success. A special thank you to Yair Saperstein, M.D., MPH, PGY4 Chief Resident, Internal Medicine, and founding resident of the Downstate Wellness Committee, Josheila Crandall, Program Administrator in the Department of Medicine, and Maureen Thompson, Program Administrator in the Department of Medicine, who seamlessly organized the event, and to all of the Department of Medicine administrators who continuously lend unwavering support of resident and fellow wellness here at Downstate.


College of Nursing

Dr. Linda Cimino Awarded PRONTO International’s Education Grant to Address Brooklyn’s Maternal Mortality!

Pronto International Collage

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, maternal mortality is higher in the United States than in any other developed nation. Approximately 700 women die annually of pregnancy-related causes while 50,000 women experience severe pregnancy complications.

Women living with chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. In particular, African American women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications when compared to their white counterparts. In New York City, that black maternal mortality statistic climb to an alarming rate 12 times that of white women.

Linda Cimino

To help address the growing epidemic, Linda Cimino, NP, EDD, Clinical Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, has been awarded an educational grant from PRONTO International to direct a “Maternal Child Simulation Program,” to directly address the high maternal morbidity and mortality rates in Central Brooklyn.

The development of this program came after several Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) students identified the issue as a crisis that they more directly wanted to address, and noted education as the primary solution to better outcomes.

To date, late or no access to prenatal care, knowledge gaps related to high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and hemorrhage were linked to maternal death, and the working title for Dr. Cimino's paper on the topic and process is, “No More Maternal Mortality in Brooklyn”

In addition to scenarios provided by PRONTO International, Dr. Cimino is developing a UHB-specific working title “Code BOLD: Birth Outside of Labor & Delivery.

I’d like to congratulate Dr. Cimino on this great honor and thank her for using her expertise to move this initiative forward—helping to reduce the health disparities plaguing Central Brooklyn and so many communities just like it.


School of Public Health

Downstate’s School of Public Health Partners with Brooklyn College and Medgar Evers College

Brooklyn CollegeMedgar Evars

In case you missed the news, graduates of Medgar Evers College School of Science, Health & Technology, and of the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College will receive priority admission consideration into the School of Public Health’s (SPH) Master of Public Health program here at Downstate!

The MPH program attracts the best and brightest students who are passionate about improving the health of underserved communities. This arrangement will give local students an excellent pathway to pursue the Master of Public Health degree and boost their career paths.

This collaboration follows a similar agreement announced last November with SUNY Old Westbury giving the same priority admission consideration to students in its Bachelor of Science program in Health and Society.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said she looks forward to seeing more partnerships between Downstate and other campuses of SUNY: “At a time when our nation’s healthcare needs are becoming increasingly complex, these campuses are working together to build up our healthcare workforce and provide more opportunities to our students.”

Many thanks to Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., Dean in the School of Public Health, for working to strategically advance and strengthen our partnerships, while greatly adding to the pool of scholarship here at Downstate.



School of Health Professions

SOHP’s Interdisciplinary Health Care Program

Reinforcing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, The School of Health Professions (SOHP) held its Interdisciplinary Health Care Program on January 27th with a panel of students from the six SOHP disciplines, including the Diagnostic Medical Imaging, Medical Informatics, Midwifery, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant programs.

The event was attended by over 100 members of SOHP’s student body, as well as several faculty representatives across the six disciplines. The program focused on the comprehensive team approach to healthcare through multidisciplinary educational experiences and respect for the valuable contribution of all and future healthcare providers.

Panel representatives shared information relative to their professional expertise and how they collaborate within the healthcare provider teams. The discussion articulated why an interdisciplinary healthcare team approach provides an efficient, holistic, and individualized means of delivering evidence-based, competent, and sensitive care. 

SOHP remains committed to providing academic, clinical, and professional interdisciplinary educational opportunities that develop scientific competence and a humane spirit. Students enrolled in SOHP are educated in an environment that believes in and practices interdisciplinary healthcare.

The “Interdisciplinary Approach to Health Care” event was a segue into the SOHP’s “Interprofessional Case Study” event, to be held on March 16, 2020, where all six SOHP programs, working with students from the College of Nursing and the School of Public Health, will be presented with a real case study to further showcase the positive outcomes of cross-collaborative efforts by professionals in these health disciplines.

Many thanks to all the students, faculty, and staff for their participation and for working to organize this important event.


Research Roundup

New Study from SPH’s Drs. Blackwell and Geer Suggests Text Messaging as Best Medium for Engaging Black Women in Prenatal Health Information.

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To investigate the most effective ways to reach and engage vulnerable populations, Downstate’s School of Public Heath conducted a study entitled, Using Text Messaging to Improve Access to Prenatal Health Information in Urban African American and Afro-Caribbean Immigrant Pregnant Women: Mixed Methods Analysis of Text4baby Usage,”  finding that pregnant African American and immigrant Afro-Caribbean women are more likely to receive the prenatal health information they need if they are given access to mhealth apps like Text4baby.

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This study’s authors—Tenya Blackwell, DrPH, Director of Community Engagement and Research at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health; Laura Geer, Ph.D., MHS, Chair and Associate Professor in SPH’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences; and Lori A. Hoepner, MPH, DrPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences— aimed to understand real-life experiences of pregnant urban African American and Afro-Caribbean immigrant women with accessing quality prenatal healthcare and health information. The authors also sought to assess the usage of mHealth for seeking prenatal health information, as well as to measure changes in participants’ knowledge, perceptions, and behavioral intent to use the Text4baby mHealth educational intervention.

Beginning with a focus group of nine women, the investigators discovered that inadequate engagement with their provider left these women feeling indifferent about the prenatal care and information they received in the clinical setting—finding that an app like Text4baby would provide them with the extra support they wanted during pregnancy.

In a follow-up survey to measure changes in knowledge, perceptions, and intent, these women showed a 14 percent increase from earlier testing in reporting their intent to use the app, and a 28% increase in their intent to speak more with their provider about the prenatal health information they learned about on Text4baby.

Many thanks to Drs. Blackwell, Geer, and Hoepner for demonstrating how mhealth apps can reduce health disparities by successfully reaching and engaging women in the populations most affected by and vulnerable to maternal morbidity and mortality.



In the Community

Downstate Teams Up with Urban Strategies!

In The Community 1

In late January Downstate teamed up with Urban Strategies to conduct a Community Health Education Program for residents in the local Brownsville neighborhood.

Urban Strategies, Inc. is a Brooklyn-based, non-profit, social service agency that has supported New York City’s underserved populations for more than 40 years.  It remains committed to addressing critical issues impacting these populations, including unemployment, homelessness, childcare, hunger, teen pregnancy, and literacy that plague Central Brooklyn and urban communities across the city and state.

In The Community

In partnership with Urban Strategies’ Early Learn Program and Delegate Agency Parent Committee, Natalie Ferguson, MSA, RN, Assistant Director of Nursing, Hematology/Oncology Cancer Care Services, shared a “Dear Parents: A Health Issues Presentation and Discussion” on young and adolescent children’s health concerns and risks for parents to be aware of as they raise their children.

In The Community Photo

The program welcomed more than 20 parents who attended the Early Learn Center as Ms. Ferguson provided parents with insight into various health issues ranging from childbirth, sexually-transmitted diseases, and domestic violence. Opportunities for professional advancement and health-related career support were also provided.

Many thanks to Ms. Ferguson, Michael Harrell, AVP for Constituent Relations in the Office of Government and Constituent Relations, Pauline Jones, Family Service Coordinator, and to all participating staff for ensuring Downstate remains a resource to the communities we proudly serve.


Nursing Simulation: Invaluable to Healthcare!

Nursing Simulation

For years, nurses have practiced taking blood pressure readings on each other, learned to provide physical care on manikins and rehearsed giving injections with oranges. Thankfully, with advances in technology, learning labs, like the College of Nursing’s state-of-the-art Simulation Center, include standardized patient-actors, lifelike anatomical models, and full-scale simulators/robotic manikins that exhibit signs and respond to treatment decisions in “real-time”.

The importance and value of using simulation in nursing education to prepare future clinicians for practice cannot be overstated. As simulation exercises have proven to be an effective tool in managing and reducing health disparities and enhancing the patient experience.

To reinforce this understanding, the College of Nursing has embedded simulation into its core curriculum— increasingly using simulation training to practice high-risk techniques and establish safe, best-practice protocols that improve patient safety and improve health outcomes in vulnerable populations similar to our local Central Brooklyn community. Just last week, our Accelerated BS in Nursing students participated in their OB-GYN Simulation Lab dealing with intrapartum infection and pre-eclampsia. The College of Nursing uses hi-fidelity manikins to simulate a real OB nursing experience, enabling them to learn the importance of patient safety and satisfaction, medication administration, team work, and thinking critically.

Nursing Simulation, and simulation in healthcare broadly, is the replication of real-world scenarios that allow students to perform skills and learn actively. In CON’s Nursing Simulation Center, an array of devices are available for use in student simulation exercises. From low-fidelity anatomical models used by students to practice injections and other skills, to high-fidelity manikins that reproduce physiologic functions, these models are programmed to respond to interventions and scenarios. Audio-video recording devices enable our students to review their performance, and medical supplies and equipment enhance the realism and authenticity of simulation.

Simulation presents opportunities to reproduce both rare and frequent clinical events in a realistic manner as often as needed. Our nurses-in-training can hone their abilities and skills—and commit every possible error—without harming real patients. While simulation has long been utilized to train nurses and other healthcare providers in CPR, it's now used, both in the College of Nursing and throughout the healthcare industry, in most nursing specialties.

As evidence of nursing simulation's far-reaching impact, there has been an increase in educational simulation grants—similar to the “Maternal Childbirth Simulation Program” grant awarded to Linda Cimino, NP, EDD, Clinical Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, from PRONTO International—in varied healthcare settings and for a wide range of patient and clinician needs.  These include radiation oncology, critical care decision-making skills, and the safe use of electronic health records.

Many thanks to our devoted CON leadership and faculty for remaining ahead of educational trends in healthcare and for working to advance, train, and elevate the clinical expertise of our nursing scholars.
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Annual Midwifery White Coat & Blessing of Hands Ceremony

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Midwifery is a particular skill that embodies a wholistic approach to healing, healthcare, and to facilitating life. In honor of the World Health Organization’s designation of 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse & the Midwife,” I’d like to note the symbolism behind Downstate’s Midwifery White Coat Ceremony.

On February 12th, the School of Health Professions (SOHP) Midwifery Program hosted its Annual White Coat and Blessing of the Hands Ceremony, a rite of passage that emphasizes the importance of compassionate patient care as students advance through their academic journeys. Ronnie Lichtman, CNM, LM, PhD, FACNM, SOHP Midwifery Program Chair, welcomed students, noting that as they enter the clinical phase of Downstate’s Midwifery Program, they are stepping into their roles as providers—promising to heal via evidence-informed, compassionate care for all women, families, communities, and populations, under the guidance of our exceptional midwifery faculty and alumni.

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Opening remarks were given by Allen LewisPh.D., CRC, Dean of the School of Health Professions, who noted that, despite the ever-evolving changes in modern healthcare delivery systems, the need for individualized, patient-centered care that respects connections with the patient, their family, and the care team continues to drive the midwife’s invaluable distinction.

Dean Lewis’ remarks were followed by words of empowerment and encouragement from several faculty members, followed by Suzanne Schecter, CNM, LM, MS, FACNM, Clinical Assistant Professor, Education Director and Chair of the Midwifery Admissions Committee, who led the Cloaking of White Coats portion of the program—reading the names of each midwife-in-training.

The students invited Helena Grant, CNM, LM, MS, CICP, an alumni of the program who is now Director of Midwifery, Ob/Gyn Services at NYU School of Medicine, NYC Health and Hospitals, Woodhull Hospital Affiliate Division to be their guest speaker.  Ms. Grant has been a practicing midwife for decades and has worked at SUNY Downstate and Woodhull Hospital in addition to teaching at Concordia College. Helena gave a heartfelt talk that had everyone in tears about her own experiences as a clinically practicing midwife and life coach.

The next part of the program is perhaps the most symbolic portion of the ceremony and truly embodies the role and importance of the midwife in our modern healthcare system—the Blessing of the Hands.

The Blessing of the Hands is a healthcare tradition practiced around the world, and is a custom embraced by clergymen since the era of Florence Nightingale—the 19th Century nurse lauded as founder of modern nursing. It serves as the send-off to students as they accept the privileged responsibilities of their profession and embark on their journey into the clinical setting.


Downstate incorporated this practice into the Midwifery White Coat Ceremony because the hands play a significant role in the art that is midwifery. As human touch remains an important component of health care, the blessing is especially meaningful to midwives as it provides a spiritual experience—symbolically linking the heart, the art and the science of midwifery. Students who participate reflect upon the interconnectedness of their own humanity and the privilege to provide holistic care to their patients.

The students asked each faculty member to give words of wisdom as they embark on their clinical experiences. Dr. Lichtman told them to, “Always serve people in their care with knowledge in their mind, skill in their hands, humility in their soul, and love in their hearts.”

During the Blessing of Hands, the students gathered in a circle, hand-in-hand, while Aleida Llanes-Oberstein, CNM, LM, MS, FACNM, CHSE, Clinical Associate Professor, International Project Director, Web Site Coordinator, and Continuing Education Coordinator, led the reading of Jan Weingrad’s “The Hands of a Midwife” poem.

“These are my hands. Through these hands I have come to see the world.

These hands have measured the growth of life and documented the stalling of time. They guide my ears to places where I hear the watch-like beat of tiny hearts. 

My hands have felt the hard bony framework of passages and the softness of muscles, which will bulge like petals of a rose.

My hands have opened windows to the energy of the souls of those I have touched. They have held the frigid rigidity of steel instruments and the softness of a friend.

There are stories in these hands, read from the pages of the work of women. With my hands I felt the power of the strength it takes to grow and release new spirit. My hands were born with the knowing of touch.

The journey has added how and when and the time to ask for help. Teaching hands engulfed mine until they were ready to fly.

My hands are joined in a circle which is unbroken through time.

Sometimes my hands do nothing; Their most important work will be still with fingers laced and witness the ‘art of doing nothing’ has been passed from one generation to the next.

Mine have been taught by some of the most powerful hands, to watch and wait. This is perhaps the hardest for hands born to touch.

If I have nothing else to give you, let me teach you how to see with your hands. How to open the windows of life, and close the door softly when it is time. In the darkness, it is your hands that will light the way.

These are my hands. These are the hands of a midwife.”

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The ceremony was punctuated with embraces, as midwifery students Nicole Barclay, Esther Favueur, Victoria Grarer, Dawntress Hassell, Ellie Miller, Georgette Paulycarpe, Julia Steinrueck, Ashley Trinidad, Rosa Vuojolainen, Edine Warren, and Eva Martineau-Ocasio vowed to practice the art of midwifery with honor, integrity, and a lot of heart before their families and closest loved ones.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Midwifery Class of 2021 and many thanks to Dean Lewis, Dr. Lichtman, and to all participating students and faculty in SOHP’s Midwifery Program for putting together such a beautiful program.


Bulletin Bonus

YOU’RE INVITED: A Conversation w/ Cheryl Wills

Cheryl Wills


Save the Date!
2nd Annual Conference on Plant-Based Health & Nutrition Plant Based





President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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