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Chancellor Jim Malatras Announces Downstate as Hub for Student Mental Health Tele-Counseling

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The past eight months have been a trying time for us all. Beyond the immediate threat of infection posed by the COVID-19 virus, pandemic mitigation measures put in place have had their own adverse effects on public health. While social-distancing protocols, stay-at-home orders, and city lockdowns have helped flatten the curve and have slowed the spread of the virus, they have also created a pervasive climate where anxieties and bouts of depression can brew, posing a threat to mental health and well-being.

Understanding this, SUNY leadership has implemented a key initiative to support and protect the mental health and well-being of our student communities. On October 4th, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, Ph.D.—joined by SUNY Board Chairman Merryl Tisch, Ed.D., and newly appointed SUNY Board members Marcos Crespo and Camille Joseph Varlack, J.D.—visited Downstate’s campus to announce a new comprehensive mental health and wellness program for SUNY students across all 64 campuses.

As some of you may recall, SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley, J.D., and I were appointed in late 2019 to serve as co-chairs for the Student Mental Health and Wellness Task Force—focusing on the establishment of early interventions and innovative approaches that address the mental health and wellness needs of SUNY students.

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As an extension of this work and in partnership with Thriving Campus, students throughout the SUNY System can download a user-friendly mobile app to access care provided by a network of more than 6,000 licensed mental health service providers. Additionally, our campus, along with SUNY Upstate Medical University, will be a hub for student tele-counseling services that will be provided by SUNY physicians, psychologists, and nurse practitioners—offering a range of services including cognitive behavioral therapy, clinical consultations, and crisis support.

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I am honored that Downstate has been selected as a site for this important resource. Our hope is that it will improve the lives of SUNY students through these challenging times and long after.



Arthur Ashe Institute Hosts Virtual 26th Annual SportsBall Honoring Drs. Anthony Fauci and James Mahoney

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Last Wednesday, October 14th, marked the 26th Anniversary of SportsBall—the Annual Black Tie & Sneakers Gala hosted by the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) in support of its innovative community health education programs and research initiatives. Though celebrated virtually to prioritize safety, the 2020 festivities certainly did not disappoint.

This year’s event brought out support from some of the most notable leaders in public health, business, public office, entertainment, philanthropy, and medicine. Everyone came together to honor the life and legacy of the late, famed tennis champion and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe, while pledging their commitment to alleviating health disparities in urban communities across the country.

Arthur Ashe playing tennis

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Cheryl Wills

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Anthony Fauci, M.D.

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Michael R. Bloomberg

Hosted by Cheryl Wills, “NY1 Live at Ten” anchor and host of “In Focus with Cheryl Wills,” the event featured a keynote address by AAIUH SportsBall 2020 Honoree, Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for the National Institutes of Health. Though he needs no introduction, he was welcomed by none other than former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Dr. Fauci has become a household name that the American people trust and have turned to for critical and accurate information throughout the coronavirus pandemic—and we were proud to recognize his remarkable leadership during these most challenging times.

Dr. Fauci was one of three AAIUH SportsBall 2020 honorees recognized that evening. Additionally, the law firm of Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C. was recognized for its partnership in fighting for social justice and discrimination in the workplace.

photo of James A. Mahoney, M.D.Finally, and certainly most close to the hearts of everyone in the Downstate Community, a posthumous award was bestowed upon a Downstate legend—the late James A. Mahoney, M.D., beloved University Hospital of Brooklyn Physician and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine. Dr. Mahoney postponed his pending retirement and put his life on the line to join other first responders, providing critical care to our most vulnerable patient communities during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Mahoney was an inspiration to everyone who knew him, and his legacy will forever be remembered. I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Mahoney’s family for allowing AAIUH and Downstate to honor his life, and to his daughter, Stephanie Mahoney for accepting the award on his behalf.

CONGRATULATIONS to the incredible AAIUH team, and a very special thanks to Marilyn Fraser, M.D., CEO of the Arthur Ashe Institute, and LeeAnn Hicks, AAIUH Executive Manager for Corporate Affairs and Events, for coordinating another beautiful and successful gala.


An Important Message on Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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In 1989, the United States Congress passed a public law proclaiming October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; the same legislation has passed every year since then.

During Domestic Violence Aware Month, we shine a light on domestic violence to help countless women and men get through some of the most challenging and frightening circumstances, educate others about those challenges, and share resources to help survivors get the help they need.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 individuals per minute in the United States are physically abused by an intimate partner. This equates to more than 10 million women and men each year who are abused.

No one should suffer, nor should one suffer in silence. At SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, we are committed to providing the resources to anyone who needs help to leave a violent situation or manage difficult situations.

Downstate’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary information assessment and referral service that provides all employees with a confidential setting to discuss personal issues and get the necessary help. All current employees, their immediate families, Downstate retirees, and their immediate families are eligible to use the EAP service. Additionally, all residents and house staff of University Hospital and individuals who hold faculty appointments, regardless of assignment, are eligible to use the EAP services.

Magda Alliancin, Ed.D., is Downstate’s EAP Program Coordinator; she can be reached at magda.alliancin@downstate.edu. I encourage anyone needing assistance to contact her. All information is confidential.



College of Medicine

Honoring the Legacy of Class of 1954 Alumnus: The Harry Weinrauch Scholarship

photo of Harry WeinrauchToday, in honor of the late Harry Weinrauch, M.D., Class of 1954 COM Alum, I am proud to announce the Harry Weinrauch Scholarship—a partial, four-year scholarship that has been awarded to four gifted and passionate students pursuing the M.D. here at Downstate. The students selected were those whose character most closely aligned with Dr. Weinrauch’s humanity and who intend to use their medical education to care for and help heal patients as a calling, rather than simply pursuing a career in medicine. Following the passing of Dr. Weinrauch, his family established this scholarship in his honor with the hopes his legacy and impact on the sciences and on communities will be remembered and cherished for years to come.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Weinrauch suffered the indignities of living in an anti-Semitic society, and was unable to attend secular school where he could pursue his dreams of becoming a doctor. Against all odds, his family escaped to the United States in 1940. With his scholastic ambitions nurtured here in the states, he graduated high school in Kingston, New York, and went on to earn his undergraduate degree in chemistry at New York University. Upon graduating, he was offered a teaching position at Yale, but instead enrolled at Downstate to begin his medical scholarship.

United States Air Force logoFollowing his internship and residency training, Dr. Weinrauch joined the United States Air Force to serve in the Man in Space Program, for which he received a Commendation Medal. Humbled and ever-grateful for the opportunities this country afforded him, he wanted to give back before continuing his medical training. Being responsible for earning his own way, he respected and recognized the dignity of hard-working people from every station in life and, and as such he went on to provide care for Kentucky coal miners and their families. After his service, Dr. Weinrauch completed fellowship training in Cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital, and grew to be a respected cardiologist who successfully owned and operated his own private practice for more than five decades here in New York City. 

Dr. Weinrauch’s legacy is marked by his endless pursuit of knowledge and the universal truths of life that keep us connected as individuals, regardless of origin.  He was a humanitarian, with a unique gift of understanding, respecting and relating to people from all walks of life—a valuable quality that enabled him to provide excellent care to a legion of diverse patients by whom he was treasured.

As an homage to his life and pathway to medicine and as a tribute to the education and experience Downstate bestowed upon him—The Harry Weinrauch Scholarship was awarded to four Downstate College of Medicine students who are guided by humanity and exceptional character, with preference given to immigrant and first-generation students. It is his family’s hope that these awardees will continue to be a credit to society and the population they serve.

On behalf of F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, Senior Vice President and Dean for the College of Medicine, and everyone at Downstate, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Weinrauch Family for their incredible generosity and commitment to advancing humanity in Medicine. Dr. Weinrauch’s life and legacy will most certainly be revered and celebrated at Downstate.


College of Nursing

DNP Students Awarded HRSA Grant-funded SDS Scholarships!

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Earlier this year, the College of Nursing (CON) secured a 5-year, $3.25M Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) scholarship grant, an award designed to support the financial costs associated with the master and doctoral-level training of nursing students from traditionally underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The grant will enable leadership in the College of Nursing to provide financial support and relief via Scholarships for Disadvantages Students (SDS) to approximately 40 to 60 deserving nursing students this year alone, and to more than 200 students over the 5-year span of the award.

I am pleased to share that the first round of SDS funds has been allocated and the funds have already provided much-needed financial relief while transforming the educational journeys of these outstanding College of Nursing students. 

Here are just a few of the messages if gratitude that poured in from some of our 2020 SDS Scholars!

“By awarding me this scholarship, I can continue the path of success. I will continue to provide higher quality and safe service to patients and seeking more sources to help my community. Your financial generosity has allowed me to be one step closer to my goal and has inspired me to help others by giving back to the community. I hope one day I will have a chance to help other students achieve their goal just as you have helped me.” 
-LM, DNP student (Brooklyn) 

I am truly honored and grateful that you all selected me to receive such a scholarship. I am so thankful to have educators like you all, who genuinely care to see their students excel. I can't thank you all enough.” 
-TO, DNP student (Queens) 

“I have been a student of SUNY Downtown since 2016. One of my concerns in completing my terminal degree, as with many other students, has been student/financial debt. I cannot express how significant this contribution is towards my education and professional career.” 
-YR, DNP Student (Brooklyn) 

“You have given me the courage to continue to do what I love - to be an expert in nursing practice, to be a change agent, and to improve health outcomes. To the Dean of College of Nursing Dr. Escallier, Dr. Messina, Dr. Hickey, and to everyone who worked with Dr. Rohan to make this scholarship a success, I say thank you. Your kind gestures have made a big impact in the lives of others. May God bless you.”  
-PA, DNP student (Brooklyn)


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Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP PC, FAAN

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Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP

CONGRATULATIONS to our College of Nursing scholars and thank you for adding to one of the most important and rewarding professions, and for choosing to pursue you career here at Downstate. 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, Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs, and Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, for securing this grant.



School of Public Health

DrPH Alumnus Dr. Harrynauth Persaud Publishes Research on Barriers to Screening for Prostate Cancer

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photo of Dr. Harrynauth PersaudI am pleased to report that a School of Public Health (SPH) alumnus from the DrPH Program, Harrynauth Persaud, DrPH, MSHS, PA-C, recently published research in the Journal of Community Health!

The study, "Barriers to Prostate Cancer Screening Among Indo‑Guyanese", was conducted as a part of his dissertation work—reviewed by Denise Bruno, M.D., MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Associate Dean for Global Engagement, Director of the Center for Global Health, and Chair of the Dissertation Committee for SPH; as well as Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences.

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Denise Bruno,M.D., MPH

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Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH

Prostate cancer is one of the top three most prevalent forms of cancer amongst men in many industrialized countries—and though highly treatable in its early stages, it remains one of the leading causes of death due to a lack of timely screening. Still, despite these realities and the threat it continues to pose to men’s health, prostate cancer screening continues to be obscurely practiced in many vulnerable populations. Dr. Persaud’s study attempts to investigate impediments to prostate cancer screening, specifically with Indo-Guyanese men.

His study identified four major themes to be the source of this population’s significantly lower rates for prostate cancer screening:

  1. lack of knowledge about the disease
  2. fear of diagnosis
  3. embarrassment
  4. and personal reservations about the rectal exam.

His findings also suggest that Indo-Guyanese immigrants lack fundamental understanding of prostate cancer and the importance of screening.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Persaud, and many thanks for significant contributions to medical literature!



School of Health Professions

Occupational Therapy Program Partners with Susan G. Komen Foundation!

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As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—a national public health campaign backed by the collective forces of this country’s leading breast cancer philanthropic organizations that was designed to create widespread public awareness of the disease, as well as to drive development goals in support of “prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure” related breast cancer research.

In honor of this critically important month, the student chapter of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) led by the School of Health Profession’s (SOHP) Occupational Therapy Program, partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise awareness around breast cancer through the organization of a Downstate Community monthlong “Let's Move" event where you can walk, run, and jog to support breast cancer awareness and research initiatives!  Participants can convert their steps into charitable dollars through the Charity Miles App by simply selecting to contribute their activities to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

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With the support of the Occupational Therapy Program leadership and student body, the event was organized by Elizabeth Adenegan, OTS, SUNY Downstate COTAD chapter Vice President. Vikram Pagpatan MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAS, Assistant Professor and Admissions Coordinator for the Occupational Therapy Program, COTAD faculty advisor, applauds the great efforts put forth by Ms. Adenegan, sharing that "Elizabeth is an avid advocate for justice and change, previously co-leading the inaugural Juneteenth COTAD event at Downstate and now taking charge in a very important global cause."

Many thanks to Ms. Adenegan, Mr. Pagpatan, and the entire COTAD student-chapter here at Downstate for ensuring the Downstate Community remains vigilant in its efforts to raise the awareness of this important issue. I encourage our campus community to display their commitment to the cause, as well as their Downstate pride, by uploading images on social media of your “on the move” physical activities, along with the hashtags #DownstateOnTheMove and #COTADatDownstate!


Celebrating the Health Professions in October!

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October is an important month for the School of Health Professions, as four of its disciplines commemorate the national celebrations for their professions. Though we are not on campus to partake in events as we would typically, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to shine a light on these important commemorations, as well as to thank the professionals from Downstate who are part of these critical disciplines that add significant quality to the continuum of health care.

  • October 4th – October 10th was National Midwifery Week, celebrating and recognizing midwives and the compassionate, equitable midwife-led care they provide to millions.
  • October 6-12 was National Physician Assistant Week, recognizing and honoring the Physician Assistant Profession and its contributions to the nation's health.
  • The month of October is National Physical Therapy Month, a designation designed to raise broad awareness about the public health benefits provided by physical therapy.
  • And, October is also Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month, a month that commemorates and sheds light on the role diagnostic medical sonographers play in medicine, as well as educating the public about the broad use of medical ultrasound and its critical role in health care.

I would like to take this moment to recognize our students, faculty, staff and all professionals across Downstate who are part of or contribute to the Midwifery Program, Diagnostic Medical Imaging Program, the Physician Assistant Program, and the Physical Therapy Program. Many thanks for the important work that you do, and for the essential roles you play in providing care and protecting the health of our communities.



Research Roundup

Downstate Selected for First NIH Rare-Form Diabetes Network

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A nationwide study funded by the National Institutes of Health will seek to discover the cause of unusual forms of diabetes. Downstate will join with 19 other U.S. research institutions to discover new forms of diabetes, understand what makes them different, and identify their causes.

photo of MaryAnn BanerjiThe Downstate site Principal Investigator is MaryAnn Banerji, M.D., FACP, Professor and Chief of Endocrinology, who also directs Downstate’s Diabetic Treatment Program. Dr. Banerji was one of the first physicians to identify “Flatbush Diabetes,” an atypical form of the disease that appears to be relatively common in African American and Caribbean American populations.

In New York, the adult population with diabetes has risen from 6 percent in 2000 to 10.5 oercent in 2017, with nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers affected. In Brooklyn, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death and also a major factor in deaths due to heart attack or stroke. It is not known how many people have undiagnosed atypical diabetes.

"There are so many unusual and atypical forms of diabetes in people and their families which are undiscovered,” says Dr. Banerji. “Discovering the underlying cause of new forms of diabetes is exciting and may lead to new treatment and cures for ordinary diabetes and its complications." 

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The NIH’s new Rare and Atypical Diabetes Network, or RADIANT, plans to screen about 2,000 people with unknown or atypical forms of diabetes that do not fit the common features of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and will build a comprehensive database on previously unidentified forms of diabetes for the scientific and healthcare communities.  

The study's researchers will collect detailed health information using questionnaires, physical exams, genetic sequencing, blood samples, and other tests. Those found to have unknown forms of diabetes may receive additional testing and their family members may be invited to take part in the study.  

The study opened for recruitment on September 30, 2020. Downstate is one of only two participating sites in New York State; the second is Columbia University.


CLICK HERE to READ FULL STUDY and for information on how to join.

Clinicians and patients can also reach Dr. Banerji at (718) 270-4697, (718) 270-4693, or (718) 270-6324, or via email,  MaryAnn.Banerji@downstate.edu 



Borough Hall Honors Two from Downstate as "COVID-19 Heroes"

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On September 24, Borough President Eric Adams held a special “COVID-19 Heroes” ceremony at Borough Hall to pay tribute to those who made a difference in their communities during the pandemic. I am proud to share that two members of our Downstate family were among the 80 honored.

photo of Daria PrimusDaria Primus, Staff Assistant II in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, was honored for winning the Brooklyn Arts Council’s “Beatz Coronavirus Song Contest.” Expressing herself best through music, Ms. Primus – who works at our Family Health Services on Lefferts Avenue – helped to spread awareness about the coronavirus through her artistry, getting the word out there to be mindful and stay safe. She was nominated by Tropicalfete Inc., a local Caribbean arts and cultural organization. Hear her original song, Social Distance (On the Extempo Rhythm), HERE

photo of Asra RashidAsra Rashid, a Master of Science student in the Physician Assistant Program and President of the Pakistani American Youth Society (PAYS), helped her organization distribute more than 140,000 freshly cooked hot halal meals in all five boroughs. PAYS also distributed masks and hand sanitizer, hundreds of toys, sweets, goody bags, ice creams, book bags, clothing, and more. Ms. Rashid herself helped organize the distribution of free hot meals to her community, as well as approximately ten free COVID-19 antibody testing events where hundreds of people were tested.

CONGRATULATIONS to Ms. Primus and Ms. Rashid and thank you for all you have done and continue to do to help on behalf of our communities. You have certainly made us #DownstatePROUD!


Downstate Shout Outs!

Shout out to…

Juliana Berk-Krauss, M.D., PGY3 resident in Dermatology, has been named a 2020 Fellow by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and will receive a $35,000 grant to support her project “Early Detection and Novel Therapies Impact Melanoma Incidence and Mortality.” Founded in 2007 by the Milken Institute, MRA seeks to accelerate treatment options and find a cure. Dr. Berk-Krauss was one of only 13 clinicians selected for this highly competitive honor. 

Basel Diebo, M.D., PGY4 resident in Orthopedic Surgery, for being named to the “Class of 2020 Top Twenty Under 40” by SpineLine, a publication of the North American Spine Society. Dr. Diebo is the first Syrian physician to match into orthopedic surgery in the United States since 1970. 

The School of Public Health for being ranked #11 by MPHonline.org in its “25 Best Doctor of Public Health Degrees for 2020” list. Programs were ranked for cost, reputation, and salary potential, using data from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche. Both online and campus-based programs were included in the analysis. 

Mohamed Rami Nakeshbandi, M.D., Interim Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer, and Rohan Maini, College of Medicine, for being highlighted in the 10/10/20 New York Times for their study on COVID-19 and obesity, which had been featured in the August 10th edition of the President’s Bulletin

School of Public Health Dean Dr. Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., and Chairman for the Department of Medicine Dr. Moro Salifu, M.D., MPH, MBA, FACP, for their virtual individual presentations at this year’s NAACP National Conference. The presentations focused on COVID-19 infections, treatments, and concerns.

Dilip Nath, AVP & Deputy Chief Information Officer, as well as the New American Voters Association for their generous donation to the Child Life Center.




SPH Info Session

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SPH Info Session poster 2


SOHP Deans Lecture Series

SOHP Deans Lecture Series poster






President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
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