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JUNE 2, 2020 | DOWNSTATE HEALTH SCIENCES UNIVERSITY

 

The President's Bulletin is back!!

The last few months have been difficult and life-changing—marking an unprecedented moment in history for everyone across the country and around the world. As we began to reemerge from social-distancing protocols, in the wake of an ongoing global health pandemic and national civil unrest, the “normal” that we left at the start of the coronavirus outbreak is likely not the “normal” we will return to.

Having said that, I felt it important for us as a collective to find the resolve, courage, and strength to regain some semblance of normal in the midst of significant, revolutionary societal changes. To ensure that we all remain hopeful and optimistic about our path forward as an institution and as a community, I’ve decided to bring back the President’s Bulletin that I initially placed on hiatus to focus our communications efforts on essential COVID-19 Task Force News. I made this decision to ensure we always have an outlet for honoring the great work of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as to remain focused on the mission forward for our beloved institution.

Thank you all for staying resilient through these tough times. You are all a beacon of light for the communities we serve and I couldn’t be prouder to serve as your President while shining a light on the people whose great work continues to elevate Downstate.

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2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremonies

2020 Virtual Commencement  Ceremonies

Commencement planning is a highly anticipated, momentous time for our students, their families, and for all of us at Downstate. It represents personal evolution, growth and new beginnings for our graduates as they move on to next steps in their careers, education, and in their lives. As the coronavirus pandemic changed so much about how we live and interact, commencement planning took on a different kind of anticipation, and Downstate geared-up for safe and socially-distanced commencement exercises—while making certain we properly honored and celebrated our exemplary scholars.

On May 20, we hosted our Virtual 2020 Commencement Exercises. During the ceremony, we recognized the achievements of our 700 graduates from the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the School of Public Health, the School of Health Professions, and the School of Graduate Studies.

The Class of 2020 had their degrees conferred by University leadership in a virtual, live-streamed ceremony that premiered on YouTube. Despite the unconventional nature of our 2020 celebration, the event was not void of sincere joy, pride, and inspiration, as the emotions of our Class of 2020 graduates could, quite-literally, be felt in the virtual air. More than 2000 people joined online and shared congratulatory notes and words of encouragement in the real-time chat.

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D., delivered a meaningful and timely message in his commencement address just before our graduates were announced by Les Trent, Senior Correspondent for CBS’s Inside Edition.

The College of Medicine conferred 195 M.D. degrees; the School of Graduate Studies conferred 10 Doctor of Philosophy degrees; the School of Public Health conferred 27 Advanced certificates in Public Health, 67 Master of Public Health degrees, and 13 Doctor of Public Health degrees; the College of Nursing conferred 118 Bachelor of Science degrees, 112 Master of Science degrees, and six Advanced Certificates; and finally, the School of Health Professions conferred 18 Bachelor of Science degrees; two Advanced Certificates, 112 Master of Science degrees, and 20 Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees.

In addition to our 2020 graduates, Downstate recognized the work of four very prominent and influential figures who have helped to expand the reach and recognition of health care nationally and internationally.

Our 2020 cohort of Honorary Degree recipients include:

honorary_degree_recipients

The Honorable H. Carl McCall, M.Div, D.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters)— Chairman Emeritus of The State University of New York Board of Trustees, former New York State Comptroller, Ambassador to the United Nations, Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Civil Rights, and a three-term New York State Senator.

Daisy Cruz-Richman, Ph.D., R.N (Doctor of Science)— Dean Emeritus of Downstate’s College of Nursing and a founding member of the “New Careers in Nursing” scholarship program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Eli A. Friedman, M.D., MACP (Doctor of Science)— A 1957 Downstate College of Medicine Alum and a renowned physician in the field of nephrology and kidney dialysis.

and John Ruffin, Ph.D. (Doctor of Science)— National Institutes of Health Director of the Office of Minority Programs, and the Founding Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) who is credited with recognizing health disparities as a scientific discipline.

The virtual event captured the passion, work ethic, and great sacrifices made by of our graduates to become physicians, nurses, public health experts, and advanced healthcare professionals of tomorrow. Though we had to safely celebrate our scholars in a unique way this year, our 2020 graduates will be welcomed back in 2021 to collectively participate in Downstate's traditional, in-person Commencement Ceremony.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Class of 2020! You have certainly made us #DownstatePROUD.

 

Downstate — Leading on the Frontlines of COVID

II. Downstate—leading on the Frontlines of COVID

In the months since public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publicly confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States, a global health crisis erupted that continues to test our collective resolve beyond imagination. Since then, there have been more than 104,000 COVID-related deaths and nearly 2 million confirmed cases across the country.

As we begin emerging from stay-at-home orders across the country, our lives will now be defined by a “new normal”.  At Downstate, we continue to closely monitor what we know about the virus, and with safety and caution, plan for the days ahead. Here's a look back at how Downstate has responded to this global health pandemic.

As soon as the first case in New York City was confirmed, I assembled a Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force—appointing College of Medicine Dean F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., as its Chair—to monitor developments and updates, share information, news, and expert advice with the Downstate Community. The Task Force, consisting of clinical care management and academic programming workgroups, includes leadership from both our clinical and educational enterprises of the institution, as well as medical and public health personnel with expertise in infectious diseases and experts from our Emergency Preparedness team, led by Bonnie Arquilla, DO, FACEP. We greatly appreciate the work of the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force.

On March 28th, Downstate answered Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s call to prepare our University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) as a COVID-19 only facility. In short order, Downstate leadership across UHB worked closely with affiliate clinics and hospitals to transfer patients and continue the highest level of care that our patients, their families, and the community expect. Since the onset of the virus and after Governor Cuomo’s directive, Downstate’s dedicated people continue to aggressively confront this unfamiliar enemy. Our phenomenal medical, nursing, respiratory therapy, environmental services, and other professional staff in UHB are actively answering the call of duty, working tirelessly on the frontlines to care for our patients.

Downstate also announced that it was joining the Mayo Clinic’s Convalescent Plasma Trial to participate in a national project using convalescent plasma, a treatment based on the function of antibodies created by the immune system to fight the virus, as a potential therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Most recently, we established a dedicated outpatient clinic for the ongoing care of COVID-19 patients we discharged so they can receive the necessary transition of care as they recover—a critical component in Downstate’s coronavirus response as the vast majority of our patients had multiple comorbidities.

I am very proud of our frontlines workers who, in their individual capacities and work responsibilities, played significant roles and continue to serve and care for our patients. Our physicians bravely answered the call-of-duty in record-numbers, joining the millions of medical, healthcare, and other public health professionals globally fighting on the frontlines against COVID-19.

UHB has discharged more than 700 COVID-19 patients, returning them home to their loved ones. The collective sacrifice, discipline, humanity, and impassioned response from our Downstate heroes continues to transform our community.

Though the peak of the pandemic seems to have passed us as a community, we must remain vigilant to overcome great obstacles ahead, and we must continue to do so together in the name of the health and vitality of the communities we serve and protect.

THANK YOU to all of our frontline heroes for your enormous sacrifices, and for putting your duty and the needs of mankind above all else. Because of you, our beloved institution remains a source of light and beacon of equity for all. Because of you, we will continue being Downstate STRONG.

  

It Takes A Village: the Community Stood Behind Our Heroes

Since the onset of the pandemic, Downstate has received hundreds of donations, well wishes and messages from the community, and they continue to pour in. These messages include a beautiful collection of Thank You Letters, words of encouragement and appreciation, and heart-warming contributions from Downstate patients, children, adults, and businesses around our borough and beyond. Friends throughout our city, state, and nationwide have been providing generous tokens of appreciation, meals, PPE, and sweet treats as ways of thanking our frontline workers and acknowledgment of their efforts.

We included letters, notes, “get-well” drawings, and pictures in our “Hall of Hope”.  Each one, along with gifts and contributions, accompany heartfelt messages that convey respect, support, and appreciation. One particular note reflected the repeated sentiment of community appreciation, “We’re so grateful for all that you’re doing! We hope you’re keeping safe. You’re my heroes!”

 

It Takes a Village: the Community Stood Behind Our Heroes

 

Our Downstate Heroes have remained a constant source of inspiration for everyone, and because of that, our diverse community—Downstate’s extended network of patients, students, faculty, staff, neighbors, friends, family, corporate and community partners—stood in solidarity with the frontline our beloved institution.

Words can never fully express or capture the gratitude I have for both our frontline heroes that continue to sacrifice themselves to protect us, as well as our community that stood behind them and inspired them to keep going. The past few months have been a profound, beautiful and timely reminder of how “alone we can do so little, together so much.”

 

A "New Normal" on the Downstate Horizon

A “New Normal” on the Downstate Horizon

In accordance with Governor Cuomo’s official plans to reopen New York’s economy, Downstate has begun planning for a return to regular business operations, as the Downstate region has been cleared for Phase I reopening. Therefore, under the umbrella of the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force, a special workgroup has been established to make recommendations for SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and University Hospital of Brooklyn to safely reopen for academic and clinical operations.

The Back to Work workgroup, chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Heidi Aronin, MPA, is charged with exploring and making recommendations to the factors necessary to safely ease our institution’s workforce and student population back to business and academic operations. This workgroup is tasked with recommending policies and communications that will be implemented along the way for a safe and comfortable return. Members of the Workgroup include representatives from Downstate’s research, clinical, academic, and operational enterprises.

A link to a survey that will assess essential elements for a safe return will be distributed shortly. Responses will help determine various aspects requiring attention and the necessary parameters for implementation. All input is vital for this very crucial fact-finding step. Everyone’s participation by completing the survey when received is strongly encouraged. Survey responses will be kept confidential.

We all look forward to a sense of normalcy that includes a safe return to Downstate’s campus. Meanwhile, please continue to stay safe and be well.

 

Drs. Smith and Jiang, Distinguished Professors for 2020

photos of Smith and Jiang

It brings me great pride to announce that two members of the Downstate Faculty have been honored with the rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor—Sheryl S. Smith, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology; and Xian-Cheng Jiang, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Cell Biology. 

Established by the SUNY Board of Trustees in 1963, the SUNY Distinguished Professor designation was created with to acknowledge the role models within our SUNY System who “devote appropriate service to University-wide activities, both ceremonial and professional,” such as enhancing educational experience via dynamic lectures and research, transformative curriculum development,  mentorship (both of students and junior faculty, alike), and leading thought around local and national public affairs discourse relevant to our internal and external communities.

Since the inaugural cohort of Distinguished Professors in 1964, nearly 1200 faculty members across the 64 campus of the SUNY System have been honored—in one of four distinctions including Distinguished Professorship, Distinguished Teaching Professorship, Distinguished Service Professorship, and Distinguished Librarian—and we are honored to have Drs. Smith and Jiang join these exemplary members within SUNY academia and rightfully recognized for their incredible contributions to research and science.

Dr. Smith joined Downstate Health Sciences University in 2001. In the field of neuroscience, the period of adolescence is a pivotal time for the generation of mood disorders, altered learning potential, reorganization of brain circuits (“synaptic pruning”) and reduced potential for seizures, yet the mechanisms underlying these diverse outcomes remained unknown. Dr. Smith identified a novel sub-type of GABAA receptor, α4βδ, which emerges in the brain at puberty and after hormonal fluctuations in a rodent model of premenstrual syndrome, generating inhibition but also generating anxiety in response to a stress steroid.  This inhibitory receptor also reduces learning ability and can limit seizure activity but its effect on brain circuits, triggering “synaptic pruning”, is a necessary process to ensure optimal learning in adulthood.  Her research, which has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), identifies this mechanism for these pubertal milestones.  Dr. Smith’s work has been published in many elite journals, and she has achieved international prominence and a distinguished reputation in Neuroscience research.  Dr. Smith, recognized as an accomplished researcher and an exemplary teacher, has rendered great service to Downstate, Brooklyn, nationally and internationally. 

Dr. Jiang joined Downstate Health Sciences University in 2001. Dr. Jiang is a leader in the field of lipid biology, specifically the role of lipoproteins and phospholipids in the membranes of cells, and how this biology influences the development of cardiovascular disease. His work has revolutionized our understanding of the complex and intricate regulatory pathways of phospholipid metabolism and has had a profound impact into our understanding of heart and vascular disease.  He has been continuously funded as a Principal Investigator (PI) on grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Heart Association (AHA), and Veterans Affair (VA) over the past 20 years.  This has led to more than 170 peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Nature Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Science Translational Medicine, Circulation Research, Circulation, Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis Vascular Biology, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, the Journal of Lipid Research, Thrombosis and Haemostasis, and others.  Additionally, he has been an exceptional teacher at Downstate Health Sciences University in both the Medical and Graduate schools and has successfully trained over 30 lipid biologists in his laboratory.

CONGRATULATIONS Drs. Smith and Jiang. Your work and commitment are sources of inspiration and reinforce the standard of excellence for all of us at Downstate.

College of Nursing

Dr. Shirley Girouard Published in 3rd Edition of Policy & Politics for Nurses and Other Health Professionals

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Shirley Girouard, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Community Partnerships in the College of Nursing, who contributed to the 3rd edition of Policy & Politics for Nurses and Other Health Professionals.

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Featuring an analysis of cutting-edge healthcare issues, Policy & Politics for Nursing and Other Health Professions is considered one of the leading nursing textbooks, as it works to develop students’ skills in influencing policy in today's ever-changing healthcare environment. With more than 150 expert contributors presenting on a wide range of topics in nursing and healthcare broadly, it provides a more complete background than nearly any other policy textbook on the market.

Discussions include the latest updates on conflict management, health economics, lobbying, the use of media, and working with communities for change. These insights and strategies prepare students to play leadership roles in the four spaces in which nurses are politically active: the workplace, government, professional organizations, and the community.

The text received a 2019 American Journal of Nursing Award in the history and public policy category.

Many thanks to Dr. Girouard for her influential contributions to the curriculum and practice of nursing, both at Downstate and beyond.

 

School of Public Health

MPH Alum, Isabel Rodriguez, Awarded 2020 APHA Public Health Fellowship in Government

photo of Isabel Rodriguez

In exciting School of Public Health news, MPH alumna, Isabel Rodriguez, was recently awarded the 2020 American Public Health Association (APHA) Public Health Fellowship in Government—a highly-competitive honor that is only awarded to one distinguished Public Health professional per year!

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Part of the Brookings LEGIS Congressional Fellowship, the APHA Public Health Fellowship in Government provides a unique public policy learning experience, demonstrates the value of science-government interaction, and enhances public health science and practical knowledge in government.

With support from the fellowship, Ms. Rodriguez will be afforded the rare opportunity to work in either the House or Senate on legislative and policy issues such as creating healthy communities, improving health equity, addressing environmental health concerns, population health or the social determinants of health. Understanding that much of public policy development happens at the staff-level where the science behind these major issues is not fully understood, Ms. Rodriguez will be an asset in adding much-needed depth and dimension to discussions around health policies as they are being created. Moreover, as a fellow, she will have the opportunity to positively impact and improve the health of underserved communities, as well as the public-at-large.

This fellowship recognition for Isabel is a testament to her unrelenting commitment to helping our nation’s most vulnerable populations. As a distinguished MPH alumna, Isabel has not only shined a light on the School of Public Health, but on Downstate as a whole. We all look forward to the great work she will do and her many accomplishments during her fellowship.

The honor of being selected as the 2020 APHA Public Health Government Fellow will supplement Isabel’s education with public policy experience where she will advise US Senator Mazie Hirono on health policy, bringing awareness to health issues that are overlooked while providing a public health perspective to things that may not be commonly seen or understood as public health issues.

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Isabel. Thank you for continuing to raise the bar for Downstate and for making us all very proud. 

 

School of Health Professions

SOHP’s Ericka Boucard Announced as 2020 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence

sohp_ericka_boucard

It brings me great pride to announce that SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, Ph.D. recognized the extraordinary accomplishments of 213 students from across our 64-campuses of the SUNY System with the 2020 Chancellor's Award for Excellence, one of which is an exceptional member from our very own student body. Ericka Boucard, a talented, relentlessly-focused star scholar from the School of Health Professions (SOHP) received the honor and was the only student from Downstate this year to receive this great honor from the Chancellor.

Established in 1997, the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created to honor students who have demonstrated exceptionalism in their academic pursuits, while integrating and exhibiting excellence in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, or career achievement. Considering the criteria, it is no surprise that Ms. Boucard was deservingly elevated to this stage.

Ericka Boucard, a graduate of the Diagnostic Medical Imaging (DMI) program and a 2020 graduate from Downstate’s Master of Science in Medical Informatics program, wasted no time to make a name for herself on our campus.

Born to lead, Ms. Boucard held several important positions within the SOHP, all while maintaining a full course load! In years past, she served as Student Assembly Representative and former class Vice-President for the DMI program. During this past academic year, Ms. Boucard also held four leadership roles that included: President of her class in the Medical Informatics program, Coordinator of the America Reads program at Kings County Hospital, Student Manager at the Downstate Student Center, and is a member of the Downstate Christian Fellowship.

Beyond her work on campus, Ms. Boucard has selflessly devoted the little spare time she has to volunteerism at the Brooklyn Free Clinic, Kings County and Woodhull Hospitals, and at the local homeless shelters.

Congratulations, Ericka, for your passionate, driven, and dedicated quest for greatness—both inside the lecture hall and beyond—which resulted in your selection as the only student from Downstate to be recognized in this way by Chancellor Johnson.

 

It Takes A Village: the Community Stood Behind Our Heroes

Since the onset of the pandemic, Downstate has received hundreds of donations, well wishes and messages from the community, and they continue to pour in. These messages include a beautiful collection of Thank You Letters, words of encouragement and appreciation, and heart-warming contributions from Downstate patients, children, adults, and businesses around our borough and beyond. Friends throughout our city, state, and nationwide have been providing generous tokens of appreciation, meals, PPE, and sweet treats as ways of thanking our frontline workers and acknowledgment of their efforts.

We included letters, notes, “get-well” drawings, and pictures in our “Hall of Hope”.  Each one, along with gifts and contributions, accompany heartfelt messages that convey respect, support, and appreciation. One particular note reflected the repeated sentiment of community appreciation, “We’re so grateful for all that you’re doing! We hope you’re keeping safe. You’re my heroes!”

 

It Takes a Village: the Community Stood Behind Our Heroes

 

Our Downstate Heroes have remained a constant source of inspiration for everyone, and because of that, our diverse community—Downstate’s extended network of patients, students, faculty, staff, neighbors, friends, family, corporate and community partners—stood in solidarity with the frontline our beloved institution.

Words can never fully express or capture the gratitude I have for both our frontline heroes that continue to sacrifice themselves to protect us, as well as our community that stood behind them and inspired them to keep going. The past few months have been a profound, beautiful and timely reminder of how “alone we can do so little, together so much.”

 

 

Downstate_in_the_News

 

As a designated COVID-19 hospital located in an area among the highest incidence of COVID-19, the efforts of SUNY Downstate and its care for those affected by this pandemic has received significantly positive attention from local, national, and international media, with more than 200 print, radio, television, and online media stories over the last three months. The Office of Communications & Marketing is working on a webpage to archive these stories and will update you once it has been completed. Here is a sample of some of the more powerful, high-profile profile stories. Just click on the link to READ MORE…

 

The Sunday New York Times focused on how Downstate is meeting the challenge of caring for patients in an aging facility.

One rich N.Y. hospital got Warren Buffett's help. This one got duct tape 

The New York Times, April 26, 2020

 

From the Front Lines.

How these CNN heroes are fighting COVID- 19 on the front lines – CNN – March 26, 2020

After weeks of dire hospital conditions, doctors and nurses face their own mental health crisis Crain’s New York Business, May 7, 2020

 

Community Generosity

SUNY downstate medical center accepting medical supplies donations – Amsterdam News, April 2, 2020

SUNY Colleges make 55,000 masks for front lines health workers – WRGB Albany, April 29, 2020

 

UUP sends 100,000 medical gowns and gloves to SUNY hospitals – The Chief, May 11, 2010

 

FOR SUBMISSIONS / QUESTIONS - 718.270.3702

 

 

President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
450 Clarkson Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11203