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Downstate “Rises Up” for United Hospital Fund

Every year, the United Hospital Fund (UHF)—a nonprofit organization that works to improve efficiencies across healthcare systems in New York in an effort to ensure affordable, accessible, and quality care for the most vulnerable New York populations—hosts its annual fundraising gala.

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This year’s event, held virtually on October 5th, featured a musical tribute to the region’s healthcare workers. One of our own, Elizabeth Kao, M.D., a resident physician in the Department of Surgery, joined peers from seven hospitals in a moving rendition of “Rise Up.” Throughout the event, photos of healthcare workers who bravely fought to protect the public through the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring and summer—including from Downstate—were on view. Dr. Kao’s wonderful performance can be seen HERE.

Heroes Work Here photo

And while not every photo we submitted was presented, I thought the Downstate campus would enjoy seeing the full gallery of shots we shared. CLICK HERE to view photo gallery.

I was pleased that we were so well represented at this event, which raised critical funds for UHF’s programs and policy analyses. Thank you, Dr. Kao, and thank you again to all our essential hospital and frontline healthcare workers for all your work on behalf of our community. 

Honoring Pastoral Care Week

Pastoral Care Week poster

Pastoral or Spiritual Care Week—celebrated from October 22-28—is an important time at Downstate. It's one of the few moments that allows us to pay homage to our religious leadership at the University Hospital of Brooklyn, and acknowledge the healing ministry they provide.

This annual commemoration underscores the importance of faith-based care and the spritual advisors who provide it through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling.

These trained professionals minister to the needs of persons of all faiths or none. They practice in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice facilities, nursing homes, and military settings throughout the world, and all too often, their work goes unrecognized.

pastoral care article

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Downstate's spiritual advisors have overcome challenges in order to continue maintaining a personal connection with patients during these most challenging times. They quickly altered their services, transitioning to a tele-chaplaincy modelopting for phone calls, and relying heavily on the technology of Zoom, Cisco Web, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skypeto facilitate prayers, scripture readings, and spiritual counseling, so that they may continue serving as vessels of hope amid devestating grief, for patients, colleagues, and families. 

Their work has been so transformative, that it has even been highlighted in community news and local publications. In a Special Coronavirus Issue of "The Voice," Reverend Sharon Codner-Walker, Clinical Board Certified Protestant Chaplain, Department Director, was featured for the spiritual healing and comfort she provided patients in their most critical hour.

Pastoral Care Group Photo

On behalf of everyone at Downstate, I would like to thank our spiritual leaders  and support staff:

Reverend Sharon Codner-Walker, Clinical Board Certified Protestant Chaplain and Department Director

Rabbi Yitzchok (Joseph) Holtzman, Jewish Patient/Family Liaison

Fr. Isaie Jean-Louis, Catholic Priest

Fr. Emmanuel Conduah, Catholic Priest

Iman Abdul Rashid, Muslim Patient/Family Liaison

Reverend Rose Bristol-Francois, Protestant Chaplain Assistant

Minister Gem McCalman-Oxley, Non-Denominational Chaplin Assistant 

Minister Bernice Stone, Protestant Chaplain Assistant

Ms. Susan Edwards, Administrative Coordinator

Ms. Wena Douglas, Office Assistant

Ms. Robin Marcano, Spiritual Care Volunteer

Pastoral Care Week image

The comfort, healing, and strength each of you extend to our patients, their families, healthcare providers, and all of us who seek your council is invaluable and appreciated beyond measure.


College of Medicine

Downstate Students Advocate for Refugee Rights with Asylum Clinic

Asylum Clinic hands

New York City is home to thousands of refugees who arrive here seeking asylum from persecution, violence, torture, and war. They are among over 79 million people displaced worldwide and have unique social, psychological, and medical needs and risk factors. Although their care is complex and challenging for providers, it is also incredibly rewarding. The growing global refugee crisis has grave public health implications requiring immediate attention and actionable response from healthcare practitioners across the country.

Physicians, nurse practitioners, and licensed mental health professionals have the power to double the chances of asylum approval by conducting exams that document evidence, for use in asylum court, of past psychiatric or physical trauma. With these independent medical examinations, the clinic provides valuable evidence as part of an asylum applicant’s legal case. OB/GYN and psychiatry specialties are especially needed for cases involving Female Genital Mulitaltion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Downstate students can also contribute to these cases by scribing during evaluations and write affidavits for asylum seekers.

Amid the recent crackdown on immigrants and asylum seekers, Downstate’s Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) researches and calls attention to the catastrophic human toll of U.S. immigration policies and advocates for the United States to honor its obligations under domestic and international human rights law. PHR’s goal is to grow its base of volunteer physicians, clinicians, and mental health professionals who provide clinical evaluations for refugees seeking immigration relief in the United States. As part of these efforts, PHR will host its 2nd Annual Asylum Clinic Training on Sunday, November 15th, from 9am-3pm.

Asylum Clinic posterDownstate’s PHR chapter was started last year and is growing quickly, thanks to committed students and clinicians at Downstate dedicated to promoting human rights in medicine. I applaud the efforts of our tireless and dedicated students in PHR who use their passion and education to advance and advocate for justice. Many thanks to COM students Shannon Frank and Gayatri Venkataraman, and all participating PHR members for coordinating this critical training.

For those interested in supporting the clinic, CLICK HERE to REGISTER for training.

To learn more about Downstate PHR, be sure to VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.


College of Nursing

Dr. Mary Hickey Awarded 2020 NPWH Inspiration Award for Education

photo of Mary HickeyIn exciting news, I am proud to announce that Mary Hickey, Ed.D., WHNP-BC, FNP-BS, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Faculty Development in the College of Nursing (CON), was honored by the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH) with the 2020 NPWH Inspiration Award in Education! Dr. Hickey was one of only six Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNPs) who were nationally recognized and honored for their commitment, leadership, and professional distinction within their profession.

NPWH Inspiration Award posterThe NPWH Inspiration Awards pay tribute to exemplary leaders and practitioners in women’s health advanced practice nursing. Awarded annually at the national level, the Inspiration Awards are conferred in the categories of education, research or quality improvement projects, clinical practice, and policy to professionals who are at the top of their field, have a track record of exemplary achievement, and whose work continues to influence and advance women's healthcare and advanced practice nursing.

Dr. Hickey’s career has been marked by her devotion to the training of her WHNP students, and here at Downstate, she has made it her mission to provide our scholars the most solid foundation via intentional curricula designed to center on “women's health and the provision of care to all women to the highest standard of excellence.”  Additionally, Dr. Hickey continues to advance the mission and goals of the College of Nursing, serving as an integral member to critical projects.  In June of this year, she played a key role in securing a 5-year, $3.25M Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) scholarship grant entitled, Brooklyn's Bridge: Reaching Across the Healthcare Quality Chasm with Disadvantaged Advanced Practice Nursing Students—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. 

CONGRATULATIONS on this incredible achievement and honor, Dr. Hickey.  Thank you for your continued commitment to your profession, to excellence, and for shining a light on Downstate.




School of Public Health

Dr. Sergios Kolokotronis Publishes Long-Awaited International Genomic Investigation Into Coronavirus

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photo of Sergios-Orestis KolokotronisAs some of you may recall, in February, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, Ph.D, Evolutionary Epidemiologist and Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health’s (SPH) Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, joined a team of international researchers to conduct a genomic investigation into the virus.

Dr. Kolokotronis was one of six researchers at five different institutions that formed an international ad-hoc collaboration initiative to uncover the evolutionary trajectory of the novel coronavirus—looking at the genetic profile of the virus as it presents in each patient within the larger context of coronavirus strains with the hopes that it may help aid the development of a treatment, a vaccine, or a cure for the virus.

eLife logoI’m excited to report that after much anticipation, Dr. Kolokotronis’ research was recently published in the flagship Journal eLife!

The study, Dynamically Evolving Novel Overlapping Gene as a Factor in the SARS-Cov-2 Pandemic—adds critically-needed insight into the novel strain, helping researchers understand the advent of the virus with precise and complete documentation of their genomes. Dr. Kolokotronis and the team of investigators note that overlapping genes are typical in viruses associated with pandemics, but remain broadly ignored.

Dr. Kolokotronis and the team of researchers “identified and characterized ORF3d (a novel overlapping gene in SARS-CoV-2 which is also found in Guangxi pangolin-CoVs) then documented the evidence of ORF3d translation, characterized its protein sequence, and conducted an evolutionary analysis at three levels":

  1. Among multiple SARS-related coronaviruses,
  2. among 3,978 SARS-CoV-2 isolates, and
  3. within 401 individual patients using deep sequencing

The study underscores the value in understanding overlapping genomes related to the novel strain, as researchers were able to connect similarities between ORF3d and other genes in developing viruses.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Kolokotronis! Thank you for seminal contributions to scientific literature and for continuing to elevate the School of Public Health.


*Full paper will be available on November 11th!


School of Health Professions

Dr. David Kaufman Awarded SUNY Seed Grant Funding for Health Disparities Research

photo of David KaufmanIn exciting news, I am pleased to share that David Kaufman, Ph.D., FACMI, Clinical Associate Professor for the Medical Informatics Program in the School of Health Professions, was approved for a $30,000 grant for his proposal, “Community-Health Centered Informatics Solutions to Reduce Health Disparities in Underserved Stroke Populations” that will be funded by the SUNY Multidisciplinary Small Team Grant.

Intended to support SUNY faculty in the development and submission of extramural grant proposals, the SUNY Multidisciplinary Small Team Grant Program works to create a broader portfolio of options for faculty research while emphasizing SUNY strategic priority research areas.

SUNY RF logoA respected researcher, Dr. Kaufman’s work appears in more than 150 publications and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to conduct research pertaining to health literacy and eHealth literacy. Since 1994, he has been involved in several human-computer interaction projects pertaining to the evaluation of electronic health records, computer-provider order entry systems, language-learning systems for medical professionals, and a large-scale telemedicine system for patients with diabetes. He also has extensive experience conducting cognitive research in relation to informatics initiatives and evaluating a wide range of health information technologies developed for clinicians, patients, and health consumers. 

Awards like Dr. Kaufman's and the recent grant awarded to the Diagnostic Medical Imaging Program to study the effect of placenta location on fetal and maternal outcomes from the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) Foundation Research Grant Program, were previously unheard of in SOHP,  but are happening now as a result of Dean Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, and SOHP Leadership's intentional and systematic school-wide research capacity building efforts.

CONGRATULATIONS Dr. Kaufman, and thank you for your contributions to scientific research, for advancing the continued success and mission of SOHP, and for working to close the health disparities gap on behalf of our most vulnerable communities.




Downstate Welcomes Dr. Camille A. Clare as New Chair of Obstetrics And Gynecology Department  


photo of Camille A. ClareI am pleased to announced the appointment of Camille A. Clare, M.D., MPH, as the new Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Professor at the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health. 

Dr. Clare is currently the Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at the New York Medical College School of Medicine. She has served as Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) and held leadership positions addressing inequities and healthcare disparities in underserved communities for nearly two decades.

We are proud to have Dr. Clare join Downstate. Her expertise as an OB-GYN specialist will add greatly to a community that has struggled to improve healthcare quality and outcomes, especially for pregnant and child-bearing women. As we continue to lead the charge for improved access to key services for women and underserved populations in Brooklyn, Dr. Clare’s experience will help further our mission and bring care to those seeking quality maternal, obstetric, and gynecologic care.

Dr. Clare is a graduate of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and completed her residency at The State University of New York at Buffalo. She is currently an attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York City Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan.

Dr. Clare serves as Director of Resident Research for her department at New York Medical College, and is Chair-Elect of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Section of the NMA, the largest and oldest organization of African American physicians in the United States. She is also the National Medical Association (NMA) Region 1 Trustee, and Secretary of the NMA Board of Trustees.

In addition to her leadership on the local, regional, and national levels of NMA, Dr. Clare has been active in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), including her recent ascent to the role of ACOG District 2 Chair this year. Leadership in these organizations illustrates Dr. Clare’s commitment as a medical educator, academic specialist in general obstetrics and gynecology, a clinician, clinical researcher, and community advocate for patients throughout New York City.

An accomplished researcher, Dr. Clare has received grants as a principal investigator for several projects, including those addressing barriers to contraception in adolescents from the NYC-NYU Clinical, Translational Science Institute on female genital-cutting, and from the Society of Family Planning Research Fund. She is well-published in several peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Disparities, American Journal of Perinatology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Clare is a sought-after speaker for her expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in obstetrics and gynecology.

Dr. Clare has been recognized for her teaching as a medical educator and earned the Award for Teaching from the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2012, and the Medical Student Teaching Award from New York Medical College in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017-2019, consecutively. She has received multiple awards from New York Medical College for mentoring medical students and residents in their career goals. In 2017, she received the ACOG Mentor of the Year Award, and the Mavis and Ephraim Hawthorne Golden Krust Foundation Award as a Champion of Education. In 2018, Dr. Clare was inducted into the Iota chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society as a faculty member at New York Medical College.

Dr. Clare is the child of a first-generation immigrant family from Jamaica, West Indies, a native New Yorker, as well as an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She will assume her new role at SUNY Downstate in January.

Please join me in extending a very warm Downstate welcome to Dr. Clare!

Bulletin Bonus

A Downstate Videographer’s Documentary Makes the Cut as Finalist In International Film Festival

Elder's Corner poster

photo of Adesiji Awoyinka

In exciting news, Adesiji Awoyinka, Downstate Videographer in the Office of Communications and Marketing, has made news after his documentary feature film, Elder's Corner, was selected as a finalist making it's USA Premiere at the prestigious DOC NYC Film festival in the coming days!

The festival, being held virtually this year, will take place from Nov 11th - 19th and is open to USA audiences only. DOC NYC has quite an impressive set of films slated for this year. and as the largest documentary film festival, both nationally and internationally, it is one of the most competetive film fesivals to gain entrance into.

"It's an honor to be included in such a competetive and lauded event. This has been 10 years in the making for me. Elder's Corner is a musical journey through Nigeria's colorful yet turbulent history as told through the lives and work of the country's legendary and long forgotten musical pioneers." -Adesiji Awoyinka.

I'm always impressed by the incredible talent displayed across our campus. There is so much more than meets the eye at Downstate. 

CONGRATULATIONS, Mr. Awoyinka, and best of luck at DOC NYC 2020!

For tickets to the virtual festival, PLEASE CLICK HERE


Downstate Shout Outs!

Taylor Conrad, M.D., PGY 5, EM/IM Resident, for being the national winning resident presenter at the 2020 Clinical Pathologic Case Finals Competition on October 25, 2020, sponsored by the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine (CORD-EM). And Antonia Quinn, D.O., Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, for serving as a competition judge. 

The Down2Vote Team, Downstate Students for Choice, Students for a National Health Program, Downstate’s SNMA Chapter, Daniel Hale Williams Society, and White Coats for Black Lives for their collective efforts to increase voter registration and get out the vote. 

All the Downstate residents, fellows, and faculty in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine who contributed to the 2020 CHEST Annual Meeting, October 18-21st.  Downstate’s team for the highly anticipated rapid-fire CHEST CHALLENGE earned a place in the top three national finalists and took second place, earning a $3,000 prize for our program. Michael Myers, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, gave a session on physician suicide, “How to Recognize and Help Your Colleagues in Trouble.” And an abstract by Ghassan Samaha, M.D., PGY5, on effects of full dose anticoagulation therapy given to UHB patients with COVID-19-associated thrombosis was picked up by several media sources.  

Moro Salifu, M.D., MBA, MPH, MACP, Professor and Chair of Medicine, for giving the Day 2 keynote at the Greater New York Hospital Association’s 31st Annual Symposium on October 28. Dr. Salifu presented on the COVID 19 response and how the epidemic has affected minority populations. 

Have a Shout Out suggestion? Send to Ellen.watson@downstate.edu 




SPH Info Session

SPH Info Session poster


SOHP Deans Lecture Series

SOHP Deans Lecture Series poster






President's Bulletin
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