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Hispanic Heritage Month Feature: A Look at Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s Incredible First Year!

Dr. Camacho-RiveraJust a short year ago, we had the distinct privilege of welcoming Marlene Camacho-Rivera, ScD, MS, MPH, to SUNY Downstate who joined the School of Public Health as Assistant Professor in the Community Health Sciences Department. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrants, and a proud product of the New York City Public School System—Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s distinguished scholarship and MPH training began at Tufts University, and she continued with her studies through completion at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She later pursued post-doctoral training in cancer epidemiology at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research where she carved out her investigative interests.

A social epidemiologist, Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s research portfolio has been steeped in understanding and defining the roles of structural and social determinants of health. The objective of her work is to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes among some of the most vulnerable, at-risk brown and black communities.

Today, her research interests center around three primary areas:

  1. Elucidating social determinants of racial/ethnic disparities in chronic diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer;
  1. Exploring within group heterogeneity the prevention and treatment of chronic disease outcomes among racial/ethnic groups;
  1. Developing culturally-tailored, patient-centered interventions to improve chronic disease self-management among urban minorities.

In the brief time she has been at Downstate, she has immersed herself in critical research—publishing and presenting several projects.

Please see the list of some of her most prominent works, below:

The significance and critical nature of her growing body of work, to-date, has led her to countless fellowships from nationally-acclaimed organizations including, but not limited to, the National Hispanic Health Foundation, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Hispanic Federation of New York. In addition to her research projects being endorsed by organizations like the National Cancer Institute, she has published more than 40 articles and book chapters, and serves as a sitting-editorial board member for PLOS ONE, Frontiers in Public Health, and BMC Public Health.

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As though her professional contributions weren’t impressive enough, Dr. Camacho-Rivera’s one-year milestone at Downstate has culminated in one of the greatest academic honors—acceptance by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a reviewer in the Early Career Reviewer Program! In this capacity, Dr. Camacho-Rivera will be accompanied by trailblazing researchers around the country to review grant applications across a broad spectrum of research topics related to social, epidemiology, economics, psychology, sociology, and demography.

It goes without saying that Dr. Camacho-Rivera has been an undeniable value-add to Downstate, an asset to the pursuit of health equity, and one whose work will continue to spur meaningful advancements for public health—in the classrooms at Downstate, within the communities we serve, and around the globe.

Fighting Stigma with Transparency: World Alzheimer’s Day 

Alzhheimers Day

The month of September is observed as World Alzheimer’s Month (WAM) with September 21st set as the day marking the month’s pinnacle. WAM unites Alzheimer’s associations with common messaging with this year’s theme being, “Let’s Talk about Dementia.” 

Dr. Cohen & Dr. ReinhardtCarl I. Cohen, M.D., Michael Reinhardt, M.D

Downstate is privileged to be the site of a Center for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, funded in part by the New York State Department of Health. One of only ten sites in New York State with this designation, our Center is led by Carl I. Cohen, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor and Director of Geriatric Psychiatry, and Michael Reinhardt, M.D., Assistant Professor and Clinical Assistant Dean.

To observe WAM, Dr. Cohen shared his experience with reaching out to caregivers and patients via telehealth in the September edition of Psychiatric Times. Below are excerpts from his first-person account, “Treating Dementia Patients in the Time of COVID”:  

“[The patient] looks around, bewildered. He hears my voice but cannot determine from where it is coming. He cannot focus on the computer screen in front of him and does not know what is required of him. A voice from the side says, ’Dad there’s the doctor. Didn’t you want to ask him something?’  The patient stares blankly and asks, “Where? I don’t see him.”  

“Early claims that telehealth is ‘virtually perfect’ do not fit well with our experience with dementia patients. It has been more than 5 months since our team saw our dementia patients in-person. Some we will never see again, as they have succumbed to the coronavirus. Others survived the battle with the virus, but their brains were injured on the battlefield, and their dementia progressed to a more severe stage of deterioration.” 

Telehealth is better than nothing, says Dr. Cohen, but it is not the same as pre-COVID-19 care. From assessing the behavior, function, or cognitive status of patients, to deciphering whether technology is creating surplus deficits, or even whether patients have access to the right equipment to benefit from telehealth, physicians need to be even more vigilant in their approach to care of these vulnerable patients. He worries that the pandemic has eviscerated vitally important community support programs and adversely affected caregivers.  

For now, he says, “We plod on, honing our telehealth skills and maximizing its benefits.” 

To learn more about Downstate’s Center for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, please CLICK HERE


Dr. Pascal Imperato Details Experience from the 1976 Swine Flu Pandemic with BBC News

Dr. Imperato in 1976

In exciting news, Pascal James Imperato, M.D., MPH&TM, MACP, Founding Dean, Dean Emeritus, and Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Public Health was featured in an exclusive BBC News Interview where he detailed his remarkable leadership during the 1976 Swine Influenza Pandemic.

As some of you may know, Dr. Imperato spent an impressive six years as the Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control and Principal Epidemiologist, First Deputy Commissioner of Health, and Director of the department’s Residency Training Program in Public Health. He also served as Chair of the New York City Swine Influenza Immunization Task Force for the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH), and in Mayor Abraham D. Beame's mayoral administration, where he was appointed as Commissioner of Health and Acting Health Services Administrator of New York City.

BBC News

During his tenure at NYCDOH, the 1976 swine flu pandemic posed a threat so great, that President Gerald Ford took extraordinary measures to protect citizens across the country and safeguard national public health. President Ford mandated a mass vaccination in the United States.

Dr. Imperato

As Dr. Imperato was then the sitting-Deputy Health Commissioner as well as Chair for the New York City Swine Influenza Immunization Task Force, he was faced with the unprecedented task of developing and launching the program for mass vaccination in the City. Initially, Mayor Beame was tapped to get the first shot that was to be accompanied by a photo opportunity to allay public concerns; but when the Mayor backed out, Dr. Imperato volunteered without hesitation. It was a move that would prove to be successful early on as it spurred great turnout across the City.

Dr. Imperato’s experience is an incredible tale of intrigue and insight, and how things played out throughout this national crisis can most certainly be revisited for the invaluable lessons it imparted and for what we may need to prepare for as we manage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I’m beyond grateful for Dr. Imperato’s service, for his unparalleled leadership through those uncertain times, and for his guidance through the trials we are experiencing today.




College of Medicine

4th Year Med Student Amy Allen Awarded “Physicians of Tomorrow” Scholarship

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Amy Allen

I’m proud to share that 4th year College of Medicine scholar Amy Allen, has been selected as one of only 20 across the country to be awarded the “Physicians of Tomorrow” Scholarship!

Just a year ago, Ms. Allen made Downstate history when we announced her as the first SUNY Downstate COM student to receive the prestigious Fulbright Award, and now she is making history, yet again, as the first Downstate scholar to be honored by the American Medical Association (AMA) with the “Physicians of Tomorrow” scholarship.

Ms. Allen earned her undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Global Health from Cornell University. While studying at Cornell, she completed research on the stigmatization of epilepsy in Zambia, and later co-founded a non-profit organization that is now developing a secondary school in the East African country. After completing her undergraduate studies, she moved to the Middle East to serve as a General Chemistry Teaching Assistant at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar before arriving at Downstate to pursue her medical doctorate.

As a part of her Fulbright Fellowship, she took her studies to Ukraine where her projects focused on the diagnosis of HIV in older adults and care dynamics among substance users. Additionally, she led lectures on essential emergency medicine topics for first responders to the military conflict in eastern Ukraine and for students at a medical university in Kyiv. Now in her final year of medical school and after completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Kyiv, Ms. Allen hopes to pursue a career in Global Health and Emergency Medicine.

CONGRATULATIONS, Ms. Allen! Thank you for continuing to be a history maker and for your great contributions to the legacy of excellence here at Downstate!


College of Nursing

Dr. Annie Rohan Inducted into American Academy of Nursing

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Dr. Annie Rohan

I am thrilled to announce that Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs and Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program for the College of Nursing (CON), has been inducted into the American Academy of Nursing, in recognition of her esteemed scholarship and her tireless commitment to the field of Nursing.

Dr. Rohan joins College of Nursing Dean Lori Escallier, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, also a fellow of the Academy, and its 2020 Class of Fellows—a cohort of 230 of the nation’s nursing leaders that recognizes “health leaders who have enhanced the quality of health and nursing, fought to reduce health disparities and inequalities, and strengthened the nursing education and health delivery systems” across the United States.

The American Academy of Nursing is a professional body that works to advance national health policy and practice through the “generation, synthesis, and dissemination” of nursing knowledge. Fellow selection is incredibly competitive and based on the individual’s comprehensive contributions to the Nursing Profession and to the betterment of health, both nationally and globally. Known as one of the highest honors, Fellowship within the Academy is represented by the most exemplary, successful, and prominent leaders in policy, research, administration, practice, and academia.

A SUNY alumna, earning her BS in Nursing from SUNY Binghamton, Dr. Rohan later earned a certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Cornell University Medical College Continuing Education Program for Nurses, an MS degree from Columbia University, and a Post-Graduate certificate in Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner from Stony Brook University. Midway through advanced practice, Dr. Rohan returned to Columbia University where she earned a Ph.D. and was selected to become a member of the first national cohort of Jonas Nursing Scholars.

Dr. Rohan's more than 25-year clinical career notably supports her academic priorities that includes work as a national advisor to the American Nurses Association (Nurse Practice Advisory Council) and to the March of Dimes (Nurse Advisory Committee). 

Dr. Rohan has received several awards recognizing her clinical and scientific contributions for her publications. Her educational research focuses on developing writing skills in graduate nursing students and using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Her interdisciplinary clinical research focuses on using technology to address persistent issues impacting pediatric health.

CONGRATULATIONS on this incredible achievement, Dr. Rohan!



School of Public Health

Double SPH Alumna and DrPH student Nahima Hoque Selected as Public Health Officer in U.S. Air Force


It is with great pride that I share two-time School of Public Health alumna and DrPH student, Nahima Hoque, was recently selected to be a Public Health Officer in the United States Air Force. In this role, Ms. Hoque will assist the Air Force in its health promotion efforts and apply epidemiological surveillance techniques to measure health and disease trends.
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Ms. Hoque first became interested in international relations and national security while interning for the UN during her enrollment in the MPH program at Downstate. With a goal to combine these distinct interests with public health, her education continued in our DrPH program, and she became an active member in AmeriCorps and later pursued the Boren Fellowship. During the fellowship, Ms. Hoque lived in Jordan for a year where she studied Arabic. Upon completion of that program, she went on to work with the Air Force and was selected as the Public Health Officer.

CONGRATULATIONS, Ms. Hoque! We are immeasurably proud of your dedication to humanitarian aid and relief missions.


University Hospital of Brooklyn

Downstate Miracles—An Organ Donation that Saved Five Lives in Time for Organ Donor Enrollment Day



As some of you may know, LiveOnNY’s state-wide Organ Donor Enrollment Day is this Thursday, October 8, and to illustrate the importance of this day, I want to share a recent, heart-warming and inspiring organ donation story from the University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB).

Just this past summer, in July of 2020, in the midst of countless tragedies from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a story of hope, humanity, and renewed life arrived as the family of a 28-year old patient in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) of the hospital decided to make the most generous of gifts—the gift of life via organ donation.

As a result of this family’s selflessness, our patient’s legacy will endure. The donation transformed the lives of at least five patients who were critically in need of life-saving organ donations, while helping to improve the lives of countless more.

This one patient’s donation resulted in the following medical miracles:

  • right kidney and pancreas saved the life of a 47-year-old man
  • left kidney saved a 52-year-old woman
  • liver saved a 45-year-old man
  • heart saved a 70-year-old woman
  • and lungs saved a 55-year-old man

Additionally, the donation of bone and vertebral tissue will help to heal many others, while the donation of intestinal tissue will support critical medical research efforts.

I’d like to take this time to thank this brave family, as well as everyone at University Hospital of Brooklyn who helped to make this remarkable donation possible, and encourage our entire Downstate Community to look into and consider the humanitarian benefits of becoming an organ donor.

For those interested in enrolling to become a life-saving organ donor, please CLICK HERE.



Staff Spotlight

Wren Lester Appointed to Press Ganey’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Client Advisory Council

Wren Lester

CONGRATULATIONS to Wren Lester, Ph.D., Chief Experience Officer and Director of Patient Relations, who has been selected to join Press Ganey’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Client Advisory Council—a significant honor and accomplishment in recognition of the critical roles that Dr. Lester, University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB), and Downstate comprehensively play in developing one of the most diverse and inclusive workforces, that drives enhanced, equitable care for our East Flatbush Community and borough.

In this role, Dr. Lester will join fellow exemplary leaders in health care to collaboratively share and advise Press Ganey Associates—one of the leading healthcare companies known for disseminating patient experience and satisfaction surveys—on best practices in approaching Equity Partnership, as well as on diversity, equity, and inclusion related data across the healthcare continuum.

Dr. Lester plays a key role in driving health equity and inclusion initiatives in the continuum of care and patient experience at University Hospital of Brooklyn. She focuses on compassionate patient-centered care, manager coaching, and staff training to improve patient experience and workforce engagement. She also continues to serve as a facilitator of process redesign throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for family visitation, patient support and comfort, as well as ‘New Normal’ planning. Additionally, Dr. Lester worked to rapidly implement innovations to comply with patient isolation and strict infection control regulations and protocols.

In addition to her work here at UHB, Health Equity and Inclusion are personal passions for Dr. Lester. She recently completed the PhD in Health Sciences at Seton Hall University. Her recent dissertation focused on Relationships Between Social Determinants of Health and Patient Readmissions to an Acute Care Hospital within 30 Days of Discharge. Dr. Lester notes this is especially timely and relevant as the current pandemic continues to raise public awareness about the vastly disproportionate impacts of COVID on social determinants like race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, income, and education-level. She remains committed to using her platform and role at Downstate to further drive equity in patient care.  

CONGRATULATIONS on this great achievement, Dr. Lester, and thank you for continuing to foster and enhance excellence in patient care and experience throughout UHB.

Downstate Shout Outs!

Gabriel Davis, third year student in the College of Medicine whose deeply moving poetry was featured in the “Poetry Thursdays” section of in-Training, an online peer-reviewed publication for medical students by medical students. 

Jelanie DeShong, Director of Government Relations, for being named a “Brooklyn Hero” by City and State/ New York, the daily newsletter that covers government and politics, for his support of UHB staff during the COVID-19 crisis. Mr. DeShong spearheaded the hospital’s PPE donation drive and coordinated food deliveries to staff. He also helped worried families who were unable to see their loved one admitted to the hospital during our COVID-only designation.  

Mohammed Emam, M.D., Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Sports Medicine, for weighing in with KNBR Sports Radio on whether it was the new artificial turf or rushed pre-season conditioning that caused a recent rash of NFL injuries at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. 

Downstate Psychiatry Residents who participated in the Brooklyn Psychiatric Society’s Resident Research Competition and especially Lance Irons, M.D., PGY2, for second place recognition in the poster presentations and Paulo Sales, M.D., 2020 resident graduate, who earned second place in the oral presentations. The competition was founded in 1992 by Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.D., DMSc, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Christina Pardo, M.D., MPH Assistant Professor and Director of Health Equity in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was featured by PIX 11 News during its recent spotlight on “Birthing While Black.” Through her work both on and off campus, Dr. Pardo has become one of Downstate’s leading voices in the fight for racial equity in maternal health. “Change,” she says, “begins with each patient encounter, through both addressing our own biases and advocating for the best care of each patient.” 

Richard Sabel, MA, MPH, OTR, GCFP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, for “Float Like a Butterfly,” a demonstration of chair yoga and mindfulness for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation’s first-ever virtual national fundraising and awareness day, “Let’s ZOO This!” held on September 12th.  

Maria G. Rosario-Sim, Ed.D., PPCNP-CP, RNC-OB, Associate Professor of Nursing, for receiving the Nurse Researcher of the Year Award 2020 from the Philippine Nurses Association of New York.  



SPH Info Session, SOHP Deans Lecture Series, Organ Donation Day



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SOHP Dean Lecture





President's Bulletin
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