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A Special Juneteenth Candlelight Vigil in Honor of Victims of Police Brutality

The Juneteenth holiday commemorates June 19th, 1865 when a group of the last enslaved people in Texas were finally made aware that they were free from the horrific institution of slavery. Unfortunately, this freedom came 2.5 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. As much as Juneteenth represents liberty for Black communities, it is also a poignant reminder of how liberation was unjustly delayed for enslaved people in the trenches of the Confederate South.

Juneteenth Photo

Over the last few decades, Juneteenth has become a celebration marked by parades, festivals, and other celebrations. This year, however, it became a day of demonstrations and dedications in the wake of civil unrest sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd.

This past June 19th, 2020, students, faculty, and staff from Downstate gathered on the steps of 450 Clarkson Avenue for a very special Juneteenth Candlelight Vigil in honor and remembrance of George Floyd and the countless other victims of police brutality.

photo of candles with names

The vigil was organized by Jasmine Walker, MS4, with the help of students from White Coats for Black Lives and the Daniel Hale Williams Society (DHWS), and was live-streamed through the DHWS Instagram handle to allow members of the Downstate Community to participate virtually.

The program began with opening remarks from Ms. Walker who spoke on the meaning and purpose of the event and the importance of mobilization in this rare, historical moment that is awakening our consciousness as a country.

Juneteenth Photo

Ms. Walker then welcomed New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie who discussed his recent encounter with law enforcement on the front lines of a peaceful protest and underscored the brutality he experienced while simply trying to exercise his First Amendment rights. Senator Myrie recalled he was “pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, shoved, hit with a bike” and almost processed noting that his elected position spared him from the grim reality of many protesters who were not so fortunate on that day.Juneteenth Photo 5

The program ensued with words from Downstate faculty, starting with Christina Pardo, M.D., MPH, F.A.C.O.G., Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of Global Women’s Health. Dr. Pardo shared a lesson on the history of Juneteenth, connecting the delayed emancipation of the last group of enslaved Black people in the US to the delayed justice still endured today in communities of color.

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Anika Daniels-Osaze, Ed.D., Director of Diversity Education and Research, delivered a riveting call-to-action, charging every member of the Downstate Community to own their roles in working to eliminate systemic oppression and racism and focusing on manifesting that change within the communities we serve and across our institution's academic and clinical offerings.

Juneteenth Photo

Kayana Ward, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women's Health Clerkship Director, also addressed the crowdencouraging vigilance and commitment to the fight against racism after the movement’s momentum has slowed and the noise from public outcry quiets.

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The program continued with compelling art shared by Mohamed Sylla, MS2, a beautiful poem written and read by Takisha Morancy, MS3, and a song performed by Catherina Lubin, MS4, and Carolyn Daley, a  community member—just before the conclusion of the event where members of the audience were invited to light candles in honor of the 50 victims of police brutality, as each name was simultaneously read aloud.

Honoring Victims of Police Brutality with Candlelight Vigil

The event’s organizer, Ms. Walker, along with Jessica Chumsky, MS4, and Paige Marze, MS4, developed a Ways to Help Guide that provided attendees relevant information on how they could engage with the movement.

Many thanks to the students, faculty, and staff who participated in the event. I would like to especially extend my gratitude to 4th-year College of Medicine student Jasmine Walker for pulling together such a timely Juneteenth celebration. I'd also like to acknowledge Jeffrey Putman, Ed.D., Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Adam Burgman, M.Ed., Assistant Director of Student Activities, and Jelanie DeShong, Director of Government Relations, as well as the following students for playing such an integral role in the successful planning of the vigil: Nicolle Siegart, Jack Hessburg, Paige Marze, Jessica Chumsky, Aaron Conway, Chanée Massiah, Lily Stokes, Dominique Noriega, Vivienne Au, Dunni Ogundipe, Iqra Nadeem, Ayesha Saud, and Alexandra Greenberg.


College of Medicine

Downstate Infectious Disease Specialist Jack DeHovitz, M.D. to Advise State Board of Regents on Risks in Reopening Schools


photo of Jack Dehovitz

I am pleased to share that Jack DeHovitz, M.D., MPH, FACP, Distinguished Service Professor in the College of Medicine and Director of the Special Treatment and Research (STAR) Program, was recently appointed by The New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department to advise the Regional School Reopening Task Force on the health and safety risks associated with the planned reopening of New York’s schools.

In the midst of New York City’s peak COVID-19 outbreak, The School Reopening Task Force was developed to help guide schools as they continue to educate our students—whether in person, remotely, or some combination of the two. The Task Force will convene four official meetings comprised of parents, teachers, school and district leaders, non-instructional staff, school board members, health experts, and other interested parties from every region of the State. In conjunction with these partners, the Task Force will help to ensure that the issues of health, safety, and educational equity always come first.

board of regents logo

Tapped for his expertise as an Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. DeHovitz will provide formal guidance via presentation on the health and safety risks associated with the reopening of schools at each of the four Regional Task Force meetings where the Board of Regents will gather input from more than 200 stakeholders in each region in order to develop a framework for reopening.

This is truly a remarkable appointment for Dr. Dehovitz. We thank you for stepping up, offering your expertise, and representing Downstate in an extraordinary way.


College of Nursing

College of Nursing Awarded $3.25M HRSA Scholarship Grant


HRSA logo

I’m delighted to announce that a 5-year, $3.25M Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) scholarship grant has been awarded to Downstate’s College of Nursing (CON), in support of the educational costs of masters and doctoral level nursing students from traditionally underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The award comes at a pivotal moment in the nursing profession as the United Nations and the World Health Organization have designated this year as “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, a year in which members of the nursing profession have been vital in the battle against the coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has poignantly highlighted the essential roles that nurses play in protecting public health and saving lives, leaving many calling for greater investments in nursing education, working conditions, and leadership to strengthen their contributions to health systems.

The HRSA scholarship grant award will benefit 40-60 students in the CON this year and more than 200 students over the life of the award. Scholarship recipients will be chosen based on underrepresentation in the field and financial need.

photo of Annie Rohan

Many thanks to College of Nursing Dean and Professor, Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, for her leadership, as well as Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, Associate Professor, Chair of Graduate Studies and Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, for securing the grant.



School of Public Health

SPH Sees Record Enrollment for 2020 Summer Term

brooklyn bridge and PHAB building

It is with great enthusiasm that I report that Downstate’s School of Public Health (SPH) recently recorded record-breaking enrollment for the Summer 2020 Term.

Despite the unexpected arrival of the coronavirus that has drastically altered academic operations nationally, SPH reported that new student enrollment for the Summer Term saw a 100 percent increase. Downstate welcomed an impressive 102 newly enrolled students bringing the School’s total enrollment to 337 (33 are MD/MPH). 

In a time when many universities and colleges are dealing with declines in enrollment, Downstate SPH is continuing to forge ahead across its academic programming, with the Masters in Public Health (MPH) enrollment showing the greatest growth.

A great contributor to this success is tied to SPH’s progressive, leading-edge curriculum and programming—particularly within the MPH and Advanced Certificate Programs.  This is also the result of an intentional growth strategy led by Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor in the School of Public Health, that includes the development of a strong Recruitment and Enrollment Strategy Team comprised of Michael A. Joseph, Ph.D., MPH, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Daniel Illyayev, MSEd, Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Student Affairs, and Arlene Mbonu, MA, Departmental/Field Experience Coordinator.

photos of the three men

CONGRATULATIONS to the School of Public Health on this great accomplishment!


School of Health Professions

Occupational Therapy Students Lead Discussions on Racism and Historic Injustice

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While peaceful protest has been a driver for increased consciousness and has reshaped our national discourse, many students at Downstate are seeking opportunities to become more engaged and ways they can become catalysts for change from within our institution. In response, students in Occupational Therapy (OT) from the School of Health Professions, have stepped up to address the challenging topics of racial injustice and systemic oppression via dialogue to advance positive change within their programs at Downstate and within their professions.

On June 12th, the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) and the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) student organizations sponsored a panel discussion on The Impact of Racism and Inequality on Occupation. This important discussion between practitioners, students, and faculty started a conversation on the growing concern of disparities within the healthcare system. Panelists shared professional and personal experiences in relation to equity and inclusion, imparting helpful strategies to address the growing concerns of systematic racism within the field and throughout our healthcare system.  

The event's distinguished panelists included Mrs. Darnell Young, OTRL, Director of Occupational Therapy Services for the New York City Department of Education and Clover Hutchinson, OTD, President of the New York State Black Occupational Therapy Caucus. Student leaders for the event included Clarisse Quirit, Ryan Doherty, Edgar Neris, and Elizabeth Adenegan;

Later on June 18th, The Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) student association of the Occupational Therapy program, held its first-annual Juneteenth Celebratory Discussion in the midst of Governor Cuomo's executive mandate to recognize this significant event as an official State-recognized holiday. The COTAD association held an informative student-led discussion on the various historical facets of Juneteenth and the monumental contributions of African American practitioners to the healthcare system. Facilitated by OT students, Elizabeth Adenegan and Fatima Muftau, the discussion included interactive dialogues and a sharing of experiences amongst students, faculty, and professional staff. Vikram Pagpatan, MS, OTRL, ATP, Assistant Professor and Admissions Coordinator in the Occupational Therapy Program, and Faculty Advisor for both SOTA and COTAD, noted this event and others like it were critical components to heightening the awareness of the importance and significance of Juneteenth, both within our Downstate community and throughout the broader healthcare community.

Many thanks to our students in SOTA and COTAD, to Mr. Vikram Pagpatan for helping to drive both of these very important conversations, and to Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean and Professor in the School of Health Professions, for supporting student initiatives and encouraging broad student participation in conversations around social justice, diversity, and health equity.   


Congratulations to the Physical Therapy Class of 2020!

PT group photo

More exciting news from the School of Health Professions—our Physical Therapy (PT) Class of 2020 graduated on time this past May, despite their inability to complete final clinical rotations during the Spring 2020 Semester amid a stay-at-home mandate due to COVID-19.

In collaboration with Dr. Loraine Antoine, PT, DPT, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, and with the full support of PT faculty, the Class of 2020 completed their clinical course via distance learning and complex clinical cases.

On May 4th, the PT program held a Virtual Physical Therapy Program Convocation. Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean for the School of Health Professions, attended and provided opening remarks to the Class of 2020. PT program faculty and staff were also in attendance and shared words of encouragement and advice to the graduates that were followed by announcements of awards that were presented by Joanne Katz PT, DPT, Ph.D., Physical Therapy Program Chair and Associate Professor.

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


Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Brahim Chaqour Selected as 2020 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award

CONGRATULATIONS to Brahim Chaqour, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Department of Ophthalmology, on his recent selection as the 2020 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award.

photo of Dr. Brahim Chaqour

The Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award is awarded to honor Downstate faculty members who demonstrate an active involvement in research to lessen the burden of severe illness and an ongoing commitment to mentoring junior faculty in their research and helping them achieve independent status. 

Dr. Chaqour has been engaged in critical biomedical research on the adaptive and maladaptive responses of cells and tissues to mechanical stresses (e.g., shear stress, stiffness of the extracellular matrix, pressure overload—and to chemical injury imparted by hypoxia, hyperoxia, hyperglycemia and/or hyperlipidemia). He identified a new set of molecular markers of cellular responses to mechanical and chemical injuries known as CYR61/CTGF/NOV proteins and showed that their expression affects blood vessel homeostasis and barrier function over short vascular distances, causing localized neovascular growth, edema, and hemorrhage. His investigations have unearthed a protective “in-tact” effect of these molecules against blood vessel stiffening, the latter a hallmark of a plethora of microvascular and inflammatory diseases including diabetic microangiopathies, aneurysm, wet age-related macular degeneration, and neovascular glaucoma.

He has maintained a continuous extramurally funded research program that steadily increased over the years and has been the recipient of several National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, as well as private Research Foundation awards. Dr. Chaquor’s completed all funded projects and published much of his findings in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals, many of which were featured cover stories, in journal highlights, and/or as top best paper of the year. Dr. Chaqour is also a frequent participant in NIH-sponsored activities, serving as an ad hoc, and more recently, as a permanent reviewer in multiple NIH study sections, and in numerous national and international review committees and editorial boards.

If you ask Dr. Chaqour, his most important contribution to science and to Downstate has been his role in teaching and fostering the development of aspiring biomedical researchers. He has mentored undergraduate, M.D./Ph.D., Ph.D., and postdoctoral trainees, many of whom have gone on to successful professional careers of one type or another in the USA, Europe, and Asia.

Congratulations Dr. Chaqour on this recent honor and thank you for all that you do to continue advancing the sciences as well as Downstate.





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