Header Logo


Featured Stories

Hispanic Heritage Month Feature: Meet Downstate’s Dr. Samuel Márquez

El Tiempo Cover

September 15th marked the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month—a national commemoration of the influence and contributions of Latino communities to American history, culture and values since this country’s founding. As one of the most diverse and inclusive institutions for higher learning—Downstate is home to some of the most prominent and noteworthy Hispanic scholars, faculty, and thought leaders across the health professions.

photo of Samuel Marquez

In celebration of this significant month, I’d like to provide one of many incredible examples of the work and contributions to the health sciences from Downstate’s Hispanic community—starting with, Samuel Márquez, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Cell Biology, Co-Discipline Director of Anatomy in the College of Medicine, and the Director of Anatomy of School of Health Professions.

Some of you may recall Dr. Márquez from one of his most recent splashes in the media after he published his study in The Anatomical Record“Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction” which suggested that the real perpetrator in the extinction of the Neanderthals was not some exotic virus, but rather the most common of childhood illnesses–ear infections. Still Dr. Márquez’s academic and professional contributions stretch much farther than his time here at Downstate.

A first-generation Colombian-American and a Bronx native, Dr. Márquez pursued his undergraduate studies at Lehman College and later went on to earn his doctorate in Physical Anthropology at the City University of New York, while under the tutelage of Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s, Dr. Jeffrey Laitman. 

Today, Dr. Márquez is a renowned functional craniofacial comparative anatomist whose work has been rooted in traditional gross anatomic dissection, morphometrics of dry skulls, and CT & MR imaging to understand the diversity across living human populations.

His groundbreaking studies—steeped primarily in paranasal sinus-related scientific research—has been published in countless journals, his discoveries have made headline news globally, and his investigations have him allowed him to traverse the world.  More specifically, his work has lent itself to museums domestically, as well as internationally in Central and South America, as well as Europe, to study the diversity in skull specimens housed within their osteological collections.  You can even find his work right here in Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History where he scanned a vast array of crania housed in the Division of Anthropology and Mammalogy, as well as Egyptian mummies from the predynastic era circa 3,600 B.C.E. 

National Geographic

Equally as prominent, his expertise has been sought and featured in National Geographic, and his work following the unearthing of a Homo erectus calvaria from Indonesia was highlighted on the Discovery Channel. Dr. Márquez and the team he assembled in 2001 later published three papers in The Anatomical Record journal on the discovered fossil. Dr. Márquez's findings were covered globally in the press, including The New York Times and NewsDay, El Tiempo and El Colombiano from the cities of Bogota, and Cali in Colombia, South America.

Discovery Channel

While his passion for his profession is undeniable, Dr. Márquez is equally committed to the advancement of the anatomical sciences—through education, research, and professional development—which has been the primary focus of his academic portfolio. His committment to working with and helping students from underserved populations reach and remain interested in STEM has been unwavering.  As the founder of Anatomy Education Day, he reaches hundreds of grade-school students and introduces them to the world of science, helping to open their eyes and minds to the possibilities of their futures.  Additionally, after having presented novel educational methodologies and research to the American Association of Anatomists (AAA) for years,  Dr. Márquez’s passion for teaching and research was recognized with the 2009 Basmajian Award.  This honor allowed him to extend the experience to his students, enabling in excess of 100 Downstate scholars to present their anatomical research directly to the AAA —further developing them via exposure to a professional society.  

As if that wasn't enough, in 2015 he was elected to and is now the sitting Chair of the Anatomical Committee for the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY).  Comprised of 19 medical schools in the State of New York, the AMSNY oversees the distribution of anatomical material serving as an interface with legislative and regulatory State agencies, providing a forum for discussion centering on curriculum and curricular changes, and facilitating a platform for faculty recruitment and development.  The association also provides a forum for the advancement and promotion of junior faculty.  As chair, Dr. Márquez has appointed subcommittee teams to create outreach programs for the anatomical sciences that aims at achieving exposure, motivation, and interest in the sciences at the high school level by bringing the excitement of the discovery process back into the classrooms while simultaneously addressing the pressing problems of science illiteracy. 

It is this caliber of work that continues to propel Dr. Márquez within his field while continuing to develop his influence as a thought leader nationally, and simultaneously adding to the legacy and scientific contributions that come from Downstate.

I’d like to thank Dr. Márquez for his professional passion, for his commitment to our student body, his pursuit of excellence, and for being an undeniable pillar to Downstate.  


Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Releases New Report on Addressing Harmful Bias in Healthcare

photo of report cover

Founded in 1930 to memorialize the life of Josiah W. Macy Jr., the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation was established as a philanthropic organization with the primary mission of supporting medical research. Some 20-years later in the early 1950’s, the foundation evolved and expanded its reach to greatly support and influence medical scholarship and education as a pathway to improved health outcomes and to comprehensively improve the care provided throughout our healthcare systems.

A couple of decades later, in the 1970s, the Foundation’s philanthropic work and grants grew to become centralized around expanded and enhanced education for the broad spectrum of health professions. Today, they remain the only national not-for-profit body, whose mission is wholly committed to the advancement of professional health education—and I am proud to share that they have remained resolute in advancing that mission. 

Earlier this year in late February, the Foundation convened a national conference for healthcare professionals on the issues of medical racism and reducing discrimination throughout the health professions. The conference brought together healthcare leaders and professionals from across the country who collaborated to produce guidance and recommendations as a first step towards eliminating the discrimination in healthcare that plagues the most vulnerable populations. I also had the distinct privilege of lending my thoughts and voice to this critical conversation and, though it was unknown at the time, that conference and the recommendations my peers and I put forth, could not have come at a more relevant and opportune moment.  

In response to glaring inequities in health outcomes underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing national civil unrest regarding racial and social injustice, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation published the recommendations from the conference, developed by myself and my peers in healthcare, in their recent summary report: Addressing Harmful Bias and Eliminating Discrimination in Health Professions Learning Environments.

This is only a first step in a series of ongoing events and actions that must occur within the health professions before real change can manifest and before true equity in the care provided to all Americans can exist.  Still, I remain encouraged by the great and meaningful efforts made by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, humbled and honored to have lent my support to this critically-important report, and steadfast in my belief that change will come, so long as we all remain professionally unwavering in the path forward.


Downstate Urology Resident, Arturo Holmes tells his story on ABC’s Nightline News!

photo of Arturo Holmes

As some of you may recall, this past summer, I shared how Arturo E. Holmes II, M.D., Downstate Urology Resident, opened up about his experiences with racial profiling in a Washington Post opinion editorial entitled, I’m a Black Doctor. I Wear My Scrubs Everywhere, in which he discussed using his scrubs as a layer of protection from prejudice, hate, and any potential harm that may come to him.

In the perspective piece, Dr. Holmes noted, “I wear scrubs and a mask when I’m shopping at the grocery store, rollerblading home from work and even meeting up with friends, always seeking to preemptively exonerate my blackness with my professional garb. It’s about protecting myself. Like many black Americans, I’ve been followed by security personnel through department stores without cause and pulled over by police officers at night for no reason.


TV screen shot


It was a line that resonated so deeply with audiences across cultures, it piqued the interest of several networks for follow-up interviews with Dr. Holmes on his opinions of the ongoing civil unrest around the country. Since then, Dr. Holmes has been on an impressive press tour, including a live broadcast interview with Good Morning America’s Amy Robach and a profile interview with Byron Pitts of ABC’s Nightline News which aired on the evening of September 10th.

TV screen shot

For those that missed the ABC Nightline News feature, please WATCH FULL VIDEO HERE!

Many thanks to Dr. Holmes for continuing to add to this critical dialogue and for sharing a story that so many of us can relate to, and so many more can learn from.



College of Nursing

College of Nursing Welcomes International Students to the DNP Program

DNP title banner

Earlier this year, I was proud to announce that our College of Nursing (CON) officially opened its doors to doctoral students. Approval for CON’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree was received in late 2019 following official review from the State University of New York and the State Education Department—paving the way for qualified RNs to earn their doctorate at two entry points: at the post-baccalaureate level, and with advanced standing at the post-Master’s level.

Today, the program is in its second official semester of operation and has already reached a new milestone—international status! I’m pleased to announce that our DNP Program has welcomed two exceptional, international students from Haiti for the Fall 2020 Semester: Abdonie Laguerre and Blandine Jean-Louis.

photo of Abdonie Laguerre

Abdonie Laguerre’s educational and professional goals are driven by her desire to strengthen and transform the national healthcare system of Haiti and the ease in which the Haitian population can access healthcare services. After spending a year post-graduation rotating through the Internal Medicine practice at the University Hospital of Mirebalais in Haiti, Abdonie developed an interest in training specialized nurses that can provide care to the people of Haiti while also helping to overcome shortages of qualified personnel in the delivery of care. Abdonie is eager to begin using the merits of this program to help elevate not nursing, and other health professionals, to strengthen public health care policies in Haiti.

photo of Jean-Louis

Blandine Jean-Louis’, RN, BSN, MSN, IPF, interest in matriculating through a doctoral program is rooted in her desire to better understand nursing sciences following her nursing training in Haiti that provided her the theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as the expertise to confidently pursue her doctoral studies. At the conclusion of CON’s DNP program, Ms. Jean-Louis hopes to help strengthen the healthcare systems in Haiti via research on the training and management of nursing care and the development of new programs that address and enhance quality of care, the development of a postgraduate family nurse practitioner program, and the supervision and training of future family nurse practitioners in her home country.

DNP page 1

Downstate’s DNP Program prepares nurses for the highest level of nursing practice in which they can actively participate in attaining the “triple aim of health care”: improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of health care. Our program draws upon an academic environment that embraces cultural and educational diversity and prepares students to improve the lives of underserved and difficult-to-access populations.

Because of its dynamic and progressive curriculum, our DNP Program is pulling in global perspectives that are sure to shape in-class discussions, add to the relevance and depth of understanding with the program’s curriculum, and will contribute to the improved and streamlined practice of nursing, globally.  

Many thanks to Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Dean and Professor in the College of Nursing, and Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, Director of the DNP Program and Chair of the College of Nursing Graduate Department, for their exemplary leadership and commitment to the development, launch and for the continued progress of Downstate’s DNP Program!



School of Public Health

SPH’s Dr. Camacho-Rivera Publishes COVID-19 Cannabis Health Study

image of text and virus

As the world continues to watch the devastating effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic unfold, healthcare providers and researchers are working overtime to learn about the virus and the populations that are most vulnerable or susceptible to the effects of the novel strain. With the virus attacking the lungs, individuals who use marijuana medicinally, could be at an increased risk for being one of the harder-hit populations. Still, additional studies need to be conducted on this subject to fully understand the threat this virus presents to this particular community.

photo of Marlene Camacho-Rivera

I’m pleased to share that Marlene Camacho-Rivera, SC.D, M.S. MPH, Assistant Professor for the Community Health Sciences Department in the School of Public Health, co-authored a study that was recently published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, entitled: The COVID-19 cannabis health study: Results from an epidemiologic assessment of adults who use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the United States

The study examines the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on medicinal cannabis behaviors among adults with underlying chronic health conditions and is one of the first to investigate the impacts of COVID-19 on individuals who use medical marijuana for a number of ailments.  To aggregate data, the study employed the use of an online survey/questionnaire for individuals 18 and over who have used the medical marijuana within the last calendar year.

The majority of participants were non-Hispanic white men, with the most common conditions reported being: mental health, chronic pain, cardiometabolic, respiratory, and autoimmune disorders. Mental health cases showed the most staggering increase in medicinal cannabis use of 91 percent since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

photo of test tube and masked lab worker

Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s research found that while more than 50 percent were afraid of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis—or worse, passing the virus onto someone they knew—only a nominal amount of participants made the transition to a nonsmoking version of marijuana. The study suggests that providers may want to consult patients with underlying health issues on the use of cannabis.

CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to Dr. Camacho-Rivera for her seminal work in helping to rapidly expand and advance our understanding of the relationship between medicinal and the novel coronavirus, as well as it's impact on specific populations. This study will not only protect the health of the communities we serve, they will also advance the health of populations, globally.



School of Health Professions

DMI Faculty Rivka Hellmann and Ivana Struk Awarded SDMS Foundation Research Grant

photo of sonogram exam

In exciting School of Health Professions news, I’m proud to share that Rivka Hellmann, MS, RDMS, RDCS, Clinical Associate Professor for the Diagnostic Medical Imaging (DMI) Program, and  Iryna Struk, MS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, Clinical Assistant Professor for the DMI Program, have been awarded a grant of $5,000 from the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) Foundation Research Grant Program. Only a maximum of four SDMS research grants are awarded per year nationally, ranging from $2,500-$5,000, and two of our DMI Faculty were successful in securing one of them!

Hellman & StrukRivka Hellmann, MS, RDMS, RDCS, Iryna Struk, MS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT

The SDMS Foundation is a non-profit organization whose core purpose is to enhance the art and science of medicine by advancing diagnostic medical sonography. Their Research Grant Program provides support for innovative and critical research projects that will contribute to the progress and continued growth of the medical sonography field. 

SDMS logo

This study, approved by the SUNY Downstate Institutional Review Board, will investigate the effect of placental implantation site on maternal and fetal outcomes. Research will be conducted by faculty of the Diagnostic Medical Imaging Program at the School of Health Professions in collaboration with University Hospital’s Department of OB/Gyn and Maternal Fetal Medicine, as well as the OB/Gyn Ultrasound Department.

Many thanks to Ms. Hellmann and Ms. Struk for their excellent work, and for their contributions that will continue to advance the DMI program as well as Downstate’s mission.



SOHP announces the Launch of the SOHP Dean’s Lecture Series on Culture

diversity image of many hands

More than 7-months after the first coronavirus case hit home here in the United States, so much of the world we once knew has dramatically changed. Beyond the shift in our daily routines, the way we work, and socialize, this pandemic and several other unfortunate events have made it impossible to turn a blind eye to historical and societal ills in this nation, turning 2020 into a year for greater vision, clarity, and opportunity.

The School of Health Professions (SOHP) launched a new lecture series here at Downstate—The SOHP Dean’s Lecture Series on Culture—presented by Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean and Professor for SOHP.

This new series was designed to specifically address matters of culture, so that students in the SOHP and all other Downstate schools and colleges have opportunities to increase their understanding and be better equipped to deliver health services—with the goal of improving the health outcomes of the culturally diverse and vulnerable populations we serve. 

collage of faces

The lecture series will be conducted via a 30/30 format, featuring a 30-minute presentation on the given lecture’s topic followed by 30-minutes of dialogue and Q&A. Each lecture will convene monthly on the fourth Wednesday at 5pm and will cover a new topic on culture at each session. Though it targets Downstate students, it will be open to the entire Downstate Community.

The inaugural lecture, entitled, The Concept of Culture and Why It Matters in Effective Healthcare, will be held by Dean Lewis on Wednesday, September 23rd at 5 p.m. via Zoom. Please see subsequent lectures and dates below:

o    Lecture 2, October 28th 2020 at 5PM:
The Business Argument for Effectively Embracing Culture

o    Lecture 3, November 25th 2020 at 5PM:
Human Beings and Cultural Difference

o    Lecture 4, December 23rd 2020 at 5PM:
Cultural Competency, Efficacy and Humility

o    Lecture 5, January 27th 2021 at 5PM:
The Role of Culture in Social Determinants of Health and Health           Equity

o    Lecture 6, February 24th 2021 at 5PM:
Health Disparities 101

o    Lecture 7, March 24th 2021 at 5PM:
Key Concepts Relevant to Culture (Race, Ethnicity, Nationality,              Phenotype,  Racism: Individual/Institutional/Systemic, Prejudice,          Discrimination: Dejure vs. Defacto, Assimilation, Acculturation,            Amalgamation, Privilege)

o    Lecture 8, April 28th 2021 at 5PM:
Strategies to Promote Cultural Pluralism

o    Lecture 9, May 26th 2021 at 5PM:
Culture and the Delivery of Health Services: Where the Rubber            Meets the Road

 For those interested in taking part in this series, be sure to CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for the first virtual lecture. 



Research Roundup

SUNY Downstate Investigators to Collaborate on Two Cancer Genomics Research Projects

I am extremely pleased to share that Downstate faculty from the Departments of Medicine and Surgery have been selected by the New York Genome Center (NYGC) to collaborate on two projects – the first addresses pancreatic cancer, with investigators from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Northwell Health serving as Co-PIs; the second targets colorectal cancer, again working with a team from Cold Spring Harbor.

The New York Genome Center is an independent academic research hub for genomic studies that has pulled together and collaborates with an extensive network of academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, and community health centers throughout the New York metropolitan area.

The projects that Downstate will work on are part of an NYGC multiphase research initiative called Polyethnic-1000, or P-1000 that is investigating the role of ethnicity in several major cancer types. P-1000’s ultimate goal is to use the power of genomics research to address cancer care inequities in underserved populations.

photo of Laura Martello-Rooneyy

Laura Martello-Rooney, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor and Director of GI Research, Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, who has an extensive background in GI diseases and molecular oncology, is the primary Co-PI for our Downstate site.

The NYGC grant funding will last for two years. Competition was intense, with proposals evaluated by an independent review board comprised of eminent experts in cancer biology and cancer health disparities. The six winning projects, including Downstate’s two, were chosen based on relevance, innovation, experimental design, achievability, and most effective use of the P-1000 network. Findings from the projects will be shared with the research community; data will be stored in a repository maintained by the NYGC that will serve as a global resource for efforts to understand the roles of ethnic diversity in cancer.

Downstate’s first project, Molecular Determinants of Increased Vulnerability to Pancreatic Cancer Among African Americans, seeks to understand why African Americans have higher incidences and lower survival rates after diagnosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in comparison to other populations. In addition to Dr. Martello-Rooney, the Downstate GI/Hep team also includes Shivakumar Vignesh, M.D., Division Chief and Associate Professor of Medicine, and Evan Grossman, M.D., Assistant Professor and Director of Medical Nutrition, along with Francesco Serafini, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery and Director of Surgical Oncology at Downstate/Kings County.

The second project, "Uncovering the Mechanisms of Colorectal Cancer Disparities in African Americans," employs a multipronged approach to understanding the genetic and non-genetic factors contributing to disparities in colorectal cancer outcomes among African American patients. Downstate members of this team include Dr. Martello-Rooney, Mohammad Almeqdadi, M.D., GI/Hep Fellow; and Henry Talus, M.D., FRCS, Chief of Colorectal Surgery and Assistant Professor of Surgery.

In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related death followed by pancreatic cancer in African Americans.

“We don’t know precisely why,” says Dr. Martello-Rooney. “Clearly, social determinants such as access to care and economic disadvantage play a role, as do multiple comorbidities, including obesity. But we believe that underlying molecular and cellular differences could also be a factor. The results of these studies have the potential for wide-ranging impact.”

Dr. Martello-Rooney was among the scientists interviewed for an article on the NYGC grants appearing in the The New York Times on Tuesday, September 15. (Click here for link.)

Congratulations and thank you to all who are involved!



Downstate Shout Outs!

The U.S. Department of Education’s annual College Scorecard, released at the end of June, again confirmed that alumni of Downstate’s undergraduate programs are the highest paid in the nation, 10-years post-graduation.

With the support of Downstate's Office of Admissions, in particular, Kenneth Lyttle, Associate Director of Admissions, the School of Public Health Dean and Professor Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., and his incredible Recruitment and Enrollment Team – Michael Joseph, Ph.D., MPH, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Daniel Illyayev, Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Student Affairs, and Arlene Mbonu, Strategic Partnership Coordinator – for doubling SPH total enrollment from 217 students enrolled in Fall 2019 to 440 students in Fall 2020.  

Jeans M. Santana, M.D., PGY4, Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, for being appointed to a 2-year term on the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Committee on Academic Anesthesiology.

Mariano Aberasturi, R.N., for being featured in the blog, Interviews of Filipino Americans #CopingWithCovid, by award-winning journalist Cecelia Brainard. Mariano’s advice includes, “Try to live positively… and be nice to everyone.”

All those involved in creating The Downstate of Mind blog, a website dedicated to medical education by medical students, for medical students. Current students involved in this project include Amarachi Uwaga, Ana Maria Lopez, and Tejen Shah, COM 2021; and Patrick Flanigan, COM 2022, as well as faculty mentors Lee Eisner, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Antonia Quinn, M.D., Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine. Email content suggestions to thedownstateofmind@gmail.com, and follow on thedownstateofmind.blog

Montgomery Douglas, M.D., Chair of Family and Community Medicine, for responding to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine on how race-based algorithm tools can contribute to health disparities. Dr. Douglas argues that patient-centered care demands these be used to improve health equity, not exacerbate it. See Dr. Douglas’ full response in The Downstate of Mind blog.





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