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SUNY Downstate Welcomes Donation of Masks from Martin Greenfield Clothiers

Fabric Factory

The famed Martin Greenfield Clothiers brand is renowned for providing custom-made men’s suits to some of the most notable men in modern history—yet it’s not just their quality designs that set them apart, but also the compelling story of its founder that continues to drive their values as a company.

Mr. Martin Greenfield, The Williamsburg Brooklyn-based exclusive men’s clothier, is no stranger to life-changing challenges. Emigrating in 1947 to the United States as an orphaned Holocaust survivor from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Greenfield got his first job as a floor boy at the GGG Clothing factory. He has never forgotten his humble beginnings and remains grateful for the wonderful life he has lived here in the United States.

His first major client, in the early 1950s, was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was then preparing to run for the presidency—an opportunity which elevated Mr. Greenfield's work to the national stage. Building on that early success, Greenfield then bought GGG Clothing in 1977, and renamed it Martin Greenfield Clothiers.  

Among Martin Greenfield's list of clients include six U.S. presidents: Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Barack Obama and Donald Trump; General Colin Powell, actor Paul Newman, Cardinal Edward Egan, athletes Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Gretzky and New York City political figures Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly.

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Like many businesses seeking ways to support and recognize healthcare workers, Martin Greenfield Clothiers began producing masks, selling and donating them in hopes of helping to flatten the curve and to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Greenfield and his two sons Jay and Tod not only understand the critical need for masks, but they also found a way to keep their employees working. Many of whom are long-time employees that were in high-risk categories for coronavirus themselves.

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To keep them employed and safe, instead of coming into the factory, employees received packages of material and supplies that allowed them to work remotely since many of them also had sewing machines at home. Instead of producing suits and shirts, they began producing masks that Greenfield Clothiers donated, and have now extended their work to include medical gowns.

The reusable masks are made of densely-woven, 100 percent cotton shell and lining, plus a non-woven polyester inside layer for extra filtration. They come in assorted colors and patterns, and include a single soft cotton tie. There is also a solid wire at the nose to ensure a great fit and good seal, as well as a pocket that can accommodate a procedure mask or a piece of shop towel for extra filtration. Greenfield Clothiers donates six sets of masks for each set any customer purchases via their website.

Fabric Factory

Jay, Arlene, Martin, and Tod Greenfield

I was so honored and pleased that Martin Greenfield Clothiers made a generous donation of masks to Downstate, in part because of Mr. Greenfield's personal connection to the institution. His wife Arlene’s late brother Kalman Bergen was a long-time Downstate staff member and led what is now known as our IT Department. In yet another connection to Downstate, Mr. Greenfield’s first presidential custom-suit was made for President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, when ground was broken for Downstate in 1953, laid the cornerstone for our institution. And in another historical connection, Martin Greenfield credits then General Eisenhower from liberating him from Buchenwald.

We are most grateful to Martin Greenfield Clothiers and the Greenfield family for their generous donation, for their efforts to help our workers stay safe, and for being exemplary stewards of hope, healing, and humanity within our Brooklyn business community.

CON Launches Newly Approved MS in Nursing Education!

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It is with great pride that I announce the launch of a dynamic, new program in the College of Nursing—the Master of Science in Nursing Education!

Beginning January 2021, Downstate’s College of Nursing will welcome the first cohort of students to its 43-credit MS Degree Program in Nursing Education. Offered via a hybrid format to enhance safety and to provide flexible scheduling accommodations for prospective students, the program has been strategically developed to prepare registered nurses for educational roles in community, organizational, clinical, and academic settings.

College of Nursing

With its curriculum designed to be both competitive and rigorous, the new Master of Science in Nursing Education will allow students to explore theories and scientific knowledge foundational to curriculum, teaching, and learning; examine the expectations of educational programs for nursing practice and education; and, understand inter-professional education and the role of technology in curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation.


The program is aligned with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's Essentials of Master's Education in Nursing (AACN, 2011) that encompasses theoretical and scientific foundations, leadership, quality and improvement, translation of scholarship, use of informatics and technology, policy and advocacy, inter-professional collaboration and educational implications for population health. It also reflects the National League for Nursing’s core competencies for nurse educators to: facilitate learning; facilitate learner development and socialization; use assessment and evaluation strategies; participate in curriculum design and evaluation; function as an educational change agent and leader; pursue continuous quality improvement in the nurse educator role; and engage in scholarship.

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The Masters in Nursing Education and its interprofessional and relevant curriculum present an incredible opportunity for nursing scholars to emerge as the next generation of nursing leaders—and in the midst of a global public health crisis during the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the timing couldn’t be more opportune. 


Lori Escallier Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Mary Hickey, Ed.D., WHNP-BC, FNP-BS

Many thanks to Lori Escallier Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Dean and Professor in the College of Nursing, as well as Mary Hickey, Ed.D., WHNP-BC, FNP-BS, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, for their leadership and commitment to expanding the offerings in graduate nursing curriculum in the College of Nursing.



College of Medicine

COM Students Awarded USC Medical Education’s “Best of Cool Ideas 2020”!

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CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Adriana (Dree) Kavoussi and John Heard, fourth-year students in the College of Medicine, who recently were awarded “Best of Cool Ideas 2020” honors from the University of Southern California’s annual Innovations in Medical Education Conference.

The event, sponsored by the Department of Medical Education at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, brings together a collective of thought leaders, leaders in higher education, healthcare providers, and students in the health professions with the goal of encouraging, developing, and promoting education and training that inspires a higher standard of excellence and wellbeing across clinical professions.

This year, with the unexpected arrival of the novel coronavirus, physician burnout reached new heights, and added pressures of pandemic mitigation continue to severely compromise the mental health and well-being of our frontline clinicians. In response, Ms. Kavoussi and Mr. Heard presented the frameworks of a Downstate program designed to support and protect our healthcare workforce throughout the unique challenges they experience on the job.

peer driven model

Founded by Class of 2019’s Robert Kim, M.D. and Michael Levine, M.D., The Peer Mentorship and Wellness Program, now in its fifth successful year, offers a seven-session curriculum where first-year COM students meet in small groups led by second-year COM students. Each session centers around evidence-based tools proven to decrease burnout and increase resilience. At the conclusion of the program, students are surveyed using measurements that explore depression, anxiety, and burnout before and after completing the program. Historical data from the program was presented at the conference, illustrating that interventions executed during the program led to decreased depression and anxiety amongst first-year medical students compared to national averages—and ultimately landing them a win!

CONGRATULATIONS, once more, to Ms. Kavoussi and Mr. Heard on their much-deserved honor and thank you for representing Downstate and the College of Medicine. I’d also like to thank to Sophie Christoforou, MS.ED., Associate Dean for Student & Curricular Affairs, as well as COM students and Downstate Wellness Club executive board members, Adam Goldman, Shelly Thai, and Tasnima Elahi, for their contributions to the success of this initiative.


Adriana (Dree) Kavoussi earned her BA in Psychology from The University of California Berkeley and later made her way to Downstate in 2017 as a part of the College of Medicine’s Class of 2021. Now in her 4th year of medical school, Ms. Kavoussi’s research interests and expertise are in chronic pain and psychological distress, as well as woman’s mental health and palliative care, and plans to apply to Psychiatry and Psych-Med residency programs later this year.


John Heard earned his BS from Tufts University ’13 Grad and his MS in Biomedical Science from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ’17 before joining the College of Medicine’s Class of 2021.  After more than three years at Downstate, Mr. Heard has developed an interest in mental health, urology, and virus engineering research and will be applying to urology residency programs at the close of this year.



College of Medicine PACERS: Outpacing the Oppressive System of Medical Racism

Pacers Program

In the six months since our world has transformed—the looming and persistent danger of COVID-19 has taken the United States by storm, inflicting unimaginable burdens on our national healthcare system and resulting in the devastating loss of more than 170,000 American lives, to date. Though globally, the world has adopted the “in this together” mantra, the unequal consequence and impact COVID-19 has had on marginalized communitiesparticularly the Black communityhas been impossible to ignore.

Here in the United States, black people account for a staggering 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths—nearly a quarter of all coronavirus deaths—yet the Black community only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s population. What coronavirus has put squarely into focus for so many, especially members of the healthcare community, are the glaring health disparities found in communities of color and the medical racism that drives them.

In response to the alarming and continuous COVID-19 fallout, students in the College of Medicine and the White Coats for Black Lives student organization rallied together and compiled a list of opportunities for Downstate to positively impact our institutional mission of health equity and social justice. Taking heed to our students call for change, leadership in the College of Medicine sprung into action and launched the Program to Accelerate Academic Careers in health Equity Research and Social Justice (PACERS)—a research program strategically developed to help further the understanding of health disparities and to contribute to medical literature regarding health disparities as a means for driving health equity.

Pacers Program Racism

Pacers Health Equity

Funded by our $10 million National Institutes of Health TRANSPORT Grant, and designed for doctoral students committed to developing an academic career that focuses on addressing health equity and social justice researchthe four-week PACERS Program introduces relevant frameworks for interpreting the nexus between race, ethnicity, identity, orientation, disability, socioeconomic, and immigration status.

PACERS will provide an academic space where students can accurately attribute the root causes of disparities through an exploration of historic policies, race, racism, and discrimination in health and healthcare, as well an opportunity to conceptualize their own research ideas focused on topics related to health equity and social justice. PACERS intends to develop leaders in healthcare who can conduct research, establish and implement policies that adequately address structural racism and ultimately drive measurable, sustainable progress.

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I’m pleased to report that the inaugural PACERS cohort—which included Colleen Beckford, MS2, Alexandra Belzie, MS2, Bertilia Tavarez, MS2, Alejandro Vega, MS2, Jose Erazo, MS2, Lindsey Ayanruoh, MS2, and Chanee Massiah, Doctoral candidate School of Public Health—recently completed the four-week program during the Summer 2020 Term.

CONGRATULATIONS to our first group of scholars for successfully finishing the program, as well as for becoming vessels of change that will continue addressing these critical issues in healthcare. And THANK YOU to all of our students in the College of Medicine who continue to be exmplary activist and use their voices and minds to inspire meaningful change.

I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Charles Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, Senior Vice President and Dean for the College of Medicine, for his vision to prioritize the launch of this program during this most critical and impactful moment during the ongoing movement; to Pascal James Imperato, M.D., MPH&TM, MACP, Founding Dean, Dean Emeritus, and Distinguished Service Professor for the School of Public Health, Moro Salifu, M.D., MPH, MBA, Chair of Medicine, Chief of Nephrology Division and Director of the Kidney Transplant Program and the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, and David Christini, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research, for their leadership in designing the program; to Carla Boutin-Foster, M.D., MS, Associate Dean of Diversity Education and Research, and Christopher Roman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair of Cell Biology, for actively serving as Program Co-Directors and for working with our students to inspire the change we all wish to see;  to Lori Hoepner, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and Uche Nwokoma, M.D., MPH, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, for serving as the program instructors; and Shemeika Bowman, Program Administrator in the Office of Diversity Education and Research, Lakia Maxwell, MSCH, Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, and John Cleary for their seamless logistical coordination.


School of Health Professions

Occupational Therapy’s COTAD Partners with ReelAbilities Film Festival New York

Reel Abilities

Every year since 2007, the ReelAbilities Film Festival takes New York City by storm. Standing as the largest event of its kind in the nation, the ReelAbilities mission is committed to building awareness, understanding and appreciation for people with physical and mental disabilities and the remarkable lives they live via creative content and compelling storytelling. The Festival grew to be so wildly successful here in the City, that the event expanded to other cities across the country and eventually became international in 2012.

Understanding the momentum and power behind the growing festival, the School of Health Professions Occupational Therapy (OT) Program’s Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) student association officially joined forces with the ReelAbilities Film Festival New York. The partnership will enable OT students to supplement and enhance their education with real or “reel” life examples and inspiration of how people with disabilities adapt and flourish across a number of experiences and settings—from personal to professional.

SOHP Reelabilities

As most change is inspired by open minds and dialogue, this joint venture is sure to be beneficial for all occupational therapy students as it will provide them the rare opportunity to explore disability through a different lens, to appreciate the challenges of disabled individuals through examples of surmounted adversity, and to rethink how they approach solutions and accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace.

Many thanks to Rocio Alonso, OTS, Occupational Therapy student and active COTAD member, for her passion and dedication in spearheading this venture on behalf of SOHP, as well as her amazing COTAD leadership board, Edgar Neris, OTS, Elizabeth Adenegan, OTS, Shelbie Ramalanjaona, OTS, Evelin Hernandez, OTS, and Katelin Faria, OTS.  I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Vikram Pagpatan, M.S, OTRL, ATP, Assistant Professor in the OT Program and Faculty Adviser for COTAD, as well as Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean and Professor for the School of Health Professions, for continuing to seek and support progressive educational opportunities for our students across the Health Professions.

Queens Public Library Presents, To Be Black in America: A Conversation on Racism

Queens Public Library

It has been a few months since demonstrations erupted following the tragic killing of George Floyd, and in the time since, the conscience of our society has awakened and a movement that crosses all ethnicities, cultures, faiths, and gender expressions, was born. Every corner of every city was blanketed with fighting for an end to systemic racism and police brutality, social media feeds were filled with hashtags calling for justice in the name of countless black lives lost too soon, and millions of Americans began revisiting the slanted history they once learned and sought to supplement their understanding of culture, communities, and this country’s past with the truth.

The story of George Floyd was the moment that gave way to a movement. It is a movement that has gripped this nation and paved the way to an ongoing, critical dialogue around racial prejudice, bias, and inequity—on the national stage and at the most grassroots levels—that is serving to edify the masses and heal historical wounds around race, oppression, and injustice. 

Queens Public Library

Recently, I had the privilege of weighing-in on the national discourse alongside New York State Attorney General Leticia James, via a virtual discussion hosted by Queens Public Library entitled, To Be Black in America: A Conversation on Racism.

Moderated by Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of the Queens Public Library, the conversation delved into the varied manifestations of racial violence and injustice beyond police brutality. The dialogue began with AG James speaking to systemic inequities throughout our criminal justice system and ways to challenge and deconstruct those very systems by remaining steadfast in our civic duties—noting our collective “opportunity and obligation to vote” in the upcoming 2020 elections and every election cycle thereafter.

Later in the conversation, I addressed what COVID-19 has made clearer about our national healthcare systems, the disparities in health outcomes for black men and women that have been highlighted throughout the pandemic, and the medical racism and bias that continues to drive and deepen so many health disparities in communities of color.

Events like these fuel the movement beyond the initial moment, reach and teach people about the differences in our lived experiences, and continue to shape society and our understanding of each other in the long run. It was an honor to be a guest of Queens Public Library, and an honor to join AG James in adding to this critical conversation. 

Many thanks to everyone that participated in the Facebook Live discussion. For those of you who missed it, you can LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION HERE!


Research Roundup

A Desperate Fight Against a Common Enemy: Supporting the Mental Health and Wellness of our Frontline Heroes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mental Health

I want to offer my sincere thanks to those who addressed the mental health and wellness challenges faced by our staff in the battle to save the lives of those desperately ill from COVID-19. 

Ayman H. Fanous, M.D., Professor and Chair, Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.D., D.M.Sc., Professor and Director of the Psychiatric Consultation-Liaison Service, and Michael F. Myers, M.D., Professor, all from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, recently described the encompassing network of video-conferenced peer support groups and individual telehealth counseling sessions they and their faculty set up for physicians, resident physicians, and nursing staff in a recently published paper in the journal Psychosomatics entitled, Support Groups and Individual Mental Health Care via Video Conferencing for Frontline Clinicians during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

At its height in New York, the COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented stress on our frontline healthcare workers. It was also an unprecedented situation for those dedicated to caring for the mental health and wellness of our staff in terms of the scale of need, the challenge of having to deliver help from a distance, and the speed with which services needed to be ramped-up.   

Some 130 attendings, residents, and nurses participated in video-conferenced group sessions—organized by clinical specialty—and led by Psychiatry attendings and residents, which began in late March. Sixty-two staff members participated in individual sessions with some of those sessions and one nurses' group still ongoing.

Those who participated talked about fears of being infected, of guilt over putting their families at risk, the strain of taking extraordinary precautions to prevent disease spread, and feelings of isolation. Others talked about a sense of lacking control, the fact that there are limited data practitioners can rely on for their own guidance or to reassure patients and families, and the trauma of having so many patients deteriorate unpredictably and quickly. Those diagnosed with COVID and stayed at home felt guilty that they were not at the frontline helping when their colleagues were overworked. And there were intense bereavement-focused sessions; the death of colleagues and family members of colleagues being especially hard to bear.  

Those who provided counseling employed a variety of therapeutic modalities, from reflective listening to using Socratic dialogue to help those affected reassess perceptions and relabel emotions. Drs. Viswanathan, Myers, and Fanous said, “We encouraged existential discussions on coping and finding meaning and purpose, of focusing on the positive aspects of one's personal and professional life. We taught affect regulation and mindfulness, encouraged taking mini-breaks and taught mental relaxation strategies to use during the course of work. We emphasized the importance of actively looking after one's physical and mental health, including physical exercise, sleep, healthy nutrition, recreation, and social connectedness. We advocated limited or titrated exposure to COVID-19 media. And we urged all to never underestimate how much they help their patients and their families by their presence, commitment, and acts of kindness.” 

Research Collage

In addition to Drs. Viswanathan, Myers, and Fanous, I also want to thank all our Psychiatric Attendings and Residents who so ably staffed these sessions, and Jacqueline Witter, Ed.D., FNP, MS, RN, Director of Nursing, Education, Practice, and Research, and JoAnn Reiter-Teitel, Ph.D., RN, Chief Nursing Officer, who encouraged and supported the participation of our Nursing staff, and Lauren Gabelman, Program Administrator, for setting up the individual support system. 



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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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