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Downstate Colleges and Schools to Implement COVID-19 Surveillance Testing

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It has been nearly nine months since public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publicly confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States, and since then, the devastating toll of COVID-19 continues to test our collective resolve beyond imagination. To date, there have been more than 246,000 COVID-related deaths and more than 11 million confirmed cases across the country.

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Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D.

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Keydron Guinn, Ph.D., MBA, MA

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Jenny Libien, M.D., Ph.D.

With cases here in New York City and nationally back on the rise at alarming rates, Downstate leadership continues to closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic, while safely and cautiously planning for the days ahead. As such, I am pleased to share that on November 9th—following the Memorandum of Understanding between SUNY and Labor Unions, and under the leadership and Guidance of Kitaw DemissieM.D.Ph.D., School of Public Health Dean and Professor, Keydron Guinn, Ph.D., MBA, MA, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, and Jenny Libien, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of Pathology and Associate Professor of Pathology and Neurology—Downstate launched the University-wide Surveillance Testing Program here on campus. The program aims to rapidly detect, trace, and contain COVID-19 through pooled surveillance testing.

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This approach, which was developed and validated by SUNY Upstate Medical Center, is designed to look at samples of the campus population and give an estimate of infection rates in school communities. Selected individuals are being notified via email and asked to create a COVID-19 Surveillance Account to schedule a testing appointment. The email also includes a link to an instructional video demonstrating the swabbing technique. On the day of the scheduled testing, the selected individuals will report to the testing location with their SUNY Downstate ID and mobile phone and will be given a test kit to collect their saliva sample. The saliva from multiple individuals will then be pooled and tested together. For any pool tests that return positive, a repeat test will need to be performed on each individual sample in the pool to exactly pinpoint positive cases.

Riley with screening staff

Dr. Riley with staff

Our Downstate Surveillance Testing Workgroup, which consists of key Downstate administrators and faculty from all five of our schools and colleges, has been working diligently to develop a comprehensive strategy that focuses on identifying potential hotspots and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, if a college campus reaches 100 confirmed cases or five percent of the campus’ population tests positive, all in-person activities must be suspended for two weeks and moved to remote learning. With the oversight of the Workgroup, Downstate leadership is working to prevent such a scenario by keeping a close watch on campus activities, and this new Surveillance Testing Program is an important component in achieving that goal.

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Many thanks to Dean Demissie, Dr. Guinn, and Dr. Libien for their steadfast leadership throughout the establishment and launch of our surveillance efforts on campus, as well as to all the members of the Surveillance Testing Workgroup—including Charles F. Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, Senior Vice President and Dean of the College of Medicine; David H. Berger, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of the University Hospital of Brooklyn; Patricia Winston, MS, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations for the University Hospital of Brooklyn; Denise Bruno, M.D., MPH, Associate Dean for Global Engagement in the School of Public Health; Aimee AfablePh.D., MPH, Associate Dean for Community Engagement in the School of Public Health; Adriana Conde, MA, Assistant Vice President for Employee & Labor Relations;  Alix Laguerre, MS, Administrator, Clinical Laboratory Services; Anna Plourde, M.D., MPH, Director of Clinical Microbiology; 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; Michelle Scaggiante, Vice President and Chief Information Officer; Raquel Williams, Esq., MBA, Senior Counsel; and Stephanie Bernadel, Personnel Associate in the Office of Labor Relations—for making this massive undertaking a reality and thank you in advance to the entire Downstate Community for your full cooperation and participation.  I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dorine Cooper, MA,  Executive Assistant to Dean Demissie in the School of Public Health, for her seamless administrative support throughout the launch of this important initiative.


College of Medicine

Drs. Richard Rosenfeld and Todd Sacktor Featured in AACU’s SUNY Distinguished Academy Week

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Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH, MBA

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Todd Sacktor, MD

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In exciting news, I’m proud to share that last week the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) hosted the ”SUNY Distinguished Academy Week: Living Well Will Help Protect You From Disease” and featured two Downstate College of Medicine Faculty members— Richard M. Rosenfeld, M.D., MPH, MBA, Distinguished Professor and Chairman of Otolaryngology, CEO of the University Physicians of Brooklyn ENT Faculty Practice, and Chair of the SUNY Downstate Committee for Plant-based Health and Nutrition; and Todd Sacktor, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology and of Neurology— in their audio series the Academic Minute.

Dr. Rosenfeld discusses why underlying or pre-existing conditions can exacerbate your physical health when battling COVID-19 in his episode entitled, Lifestyle Medicine and COVID-19, while Dr. Sacktor spoke to his compelling research regarding where our memories are anatomically stored, which just may help address the question in the title of his episode, “How Can Traumatic Memories Be Erased?

Dr. Rosenfeld is one of Downstate's most formiddable thought leaders in medicine. With more than 350 scientific publications, and after nearly 1,000 scientific presentations, he is recognized as an international authority on guideline development, evidence-based medicine, and otitis media.  He has served as President of the American Society of Preventive Oncology, President of the International Society for Otitis Media, Chair of the Guideline International Network North America, Editor-in-Chief of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, and currently participates in the American College of Lifestyle Medicine as an invited member of the Research Committee and Expert Panel, and chairs the Expert Consensus Panel on using a plant-based diet to treat and reverse type 2 diabetes.  In addition to being perennially featured in Castle Connolly’s “Best Doctors in America” since 1996, Dr. Rosenfeld has received numerous national honors including the AAO-HNS Distinguished Service Award, the SENTAC Robert Ruben Award for Excellence in Pediatric Otolaryngology, the Guideline International Network Janoua Mlika-Cabanne Innovation Award, and the IAPO Award for Worldwide Contributions to Pediatric Otolaryngology. Dr. Rosenfeld received his residency training in Otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Medical Center and completed a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. 

Todd Sacktor lecture poster

Dr. Sacktor, whose work has been called “paradigm shifting,” is one of the foremost memory researchers of our time. He received an A.B. from Harvard College, and an M.D. with Distinction for Research in Neuroscience from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and did his residency training in Neurology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. There, he conducted extensive research on the role of the enzyme protein kinase C (PKC) in the short-term memory of Aplysia, in the laboratory of James H. Schwartz, at Columbia’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, directed by Eric Kandel. After establishing his own laboratory here at Downstate in 1990, he discovered a brain-specific isoform of PKC called PKMzeta. In 2002, his lab “demonstrated that PKMzeta was both necessary and sufficient for maintaining long-term potentiation—the leading candidate mechanism for memory in the brain.” In 2006, Sacktor and his colleagues uncovered PKMzeta’s impact in maintaining the brain’s long-term memory trace by showing, for the first time, that a long-term memory could be effectively erased by inhibiting a single molecule—a finding that editors of Science highlighted as one of the top ten “Breakthroughs of the Year.” His subsequent work has continued to elucidate PKMZeta’s role in memory formation, earning him New York Times frontpage coverage in 2009 and a prestigious 10-year MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) award from the National Institutes of Health in 2012, a recognition that fewer than five percent of funded NIH investigators are selected to receive.

Many thanks to Drs. Rosenfeld and Sacktor for contributing to this critical dialogue and continuing to elevate and enhance the visibility of Downstate!

CLICK HERE to LISTEN to Dr. Rosenfeld’s AACU Academic Minute!

CLICK HERE to LISTEN to Dr. Sacktor’s AACU Academic Minute!


College of Nursing

Downstate Adjunct Professor and Alum Published in Applied Nursing Research

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I am pleased to report that June C. Paul, DNP, MPH, CNM, FNP-BC, Adjunct Professor for the “Professional Nursing Practice with Obstetric and Gynecological Clients” course in the College of Nursing (CON), recently published an abstract in the journal Applied Nursing Research.

Dr. Paul’s study, "Postpartum Glucose Screening Among Women with Gestational Diabetes," is a retrospective chart review designed to determine the completion rate for diabetes glucose screening during the postpartum period. It also compares follow-up rates of screenings among women with Class A1 GDM, which is controlled by diet and exercise alone, and those with Class A2 GDM, or pharmacologically managed GDM due to suboptimal glycemic control, at the 4-12 week post-delivery stage.

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Follow-up screening is an important issue, since women with postpartum GDM have previously been shown to have a substantially higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first five years after delivery, have an increased long-term risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and have a higher likelihood of developing GDM in a subsequent pregnancy.

Dr. Paul found that type of GDM had no impact on the follow-up rate for post-delivery glucose screenings. She also concluded that new approaches to postpartum screening need to be established and implemented in order to enhance the rate of post-delivery screenings for women with gestational diabetes of all classifications.

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Dr. Paul holds multiple degrees from SUNY Downstate. She earned her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Nursing from here, as well as a certificate in Nurse Midwifery. She also holds an MPH with a focus in international family planning services from Columbia University and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University. 

Dr. Paul has substantial clinical experience, having served as a medical-surgical, operating room, labor and delivery, and post-anesthesia care nurse.  She has worked at New York Presbyterian Hospital since 1989, initially as a Certified Nurse Midwife providing full scope midwifery care to women of childbearing age. In her current role as an inpatient OB Nurse Practitioner, she triages pregnant patients that come to the labor and delivery unit for evaluation and provides postpartum and antepartum care for low- and high-risk patients. 

Dr. Paul has served as a clinical preceptor to Midwifery and Nurse Practitioner students as well as medical residents. She has had held adjunct faculty appointments at SUNY Downstate, Columbia University, and St. Georges University, Grenada, West Indies, and has mentored nursing students at CUNY Medgar Evers College. Dr. Paul has a certificate in electronic fetal monitoring, as a first assist in cesarean sections, can perform limited third trimester OB ultrasounds, and can insert the Nexplanon contraceptive device. She was a trainer of Team STEPPS principles and is certified in basic and advanced cardiac life support.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Paul. We are proud of your academic achievements, especially those at Downstate, and we thank you for your significant contributions to women’s health care!




School of Public Health

DrPH Student Judy Yan Publishes Dissertation Research on Association Between Triclocan Antimicrobal and White Blood Cell Counts

I am pleased to report that the School of Public Health (SPH) Alumna Judy Yan, DrPH, MPA, was recently published in Environmental Research Communications!

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The study, "Association between Triclosan Levels and White Blood Cell Counts in US Adults from NHANES, 2011-2012", was conducted as a part of her dissertation work—reviewed by Laura Geer, Ph.D., MHS, Co-Principal investigator, Chair and Associate Professor for the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences—and is a first-of-its-kind analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The multivariable linear regression analysis, which assesses the relationship between urinary triclosan levels and white blood cell (WBC) counts, included 1,239 participants between the ages of 18-65.

Triclosan is a widely-used broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Though the study failed to show a statistically significant association between urinary triclosan levels and white blood cell counts,  ongoing assessment of triclosan levels on immune response is an important topic—epecially considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. Triclosan-containing products have been marketed by manufacturers as anti-microbial and chosen by consumers (though falsely, as triclosan does not combat viruses such as COVID and is not on EPA’s list of agents used to combat virus on surfaces) to combat the spread of the virus. This widespread use of this chemical in consumer products is cause for concern due to our human interaction with these products every day. 

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Triclosan was banned in 2016 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from over-the-counter antiseptic wash products because of a lack of data demonstrating long-term safety of daily use efficacy in reducing the spread of illness and infection. However, triclosan is still used in a multitude of healthcare and consumer products including clothing, toys, carpets, building materials and thousands of products made from plastics.

Epidemiological studies have linked triclosan exposure to several adverse health outcomes—including alterations in thyroid function and an increased risk for allergies and asthma, suggesting an immunomodulatory role for the endocrine-disrupting synthetic chemical.

The study concludes by suggesting that, considering prior studies establishing links between triclosan exposure and alterations in immune system parameters and susceptibility to allergic diseases, the effect of triclosan exposure on the mature and immature immune system should continue to be evaluated.

Additional study authors include Michael A.  Joseph, Ph.D., MPH, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Simone A. Reynolds, Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Ryne J. Veenema, ScM, MS3 in the College of Medicine.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Yan, and many thanks for your significant contributions to environmental and public health literature! I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Geer for working to advance the scholarship of our student body, while enhancing the visibility of Downstate in these important publications. 



School of Health Professions

SOHP Leadership Launches New “Meet the SOHP Disciplines” Lecture Series

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Often, when people think of health professionals, the first thing that comes to mind are physicians and nurses, and although they play an incredibly significant role in healthcare, they do not encompass the broad spectrum of health professions.  There are a myriad of significant clinical and non-clinical careers in healthcare that are critically essential to the continuum of care and greatly advance public health. Still, those professional pathways are not broadly known by most, both here at Downstate and beyond.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that the School of Health Professions (SOHP) has launched a new lecture series here at Downstate entitled, Meet the SOHP Disciplinesdeveloped by Allen Lewis, Ph.D. CRC, SOHP Dean and Professor, and presented by SOHP leadership and faculty from all six programs within the school.

This new series was designed to introduce the Downstate community and prospective students to the various disciplines taught in our School of Health Professions—Physical Therapy, Medical Informatics, Occupational Therapy, Midwifery, Diagnostic Medical Imaging, and Physician Assistant—and the opportunities that exist within each field. The lectures also underscore the unique contributions of the disciplines within the healthcare industry as a means of advancing common understanding around the landscape of health professions, and the role each play in the continuum of care.

The series will be conducted via a 30/30 format, with each lecture featuring a 30-minute presentation from SOHP faculty on a health topic relevant to that lecture's featured discipline, followed by 30-minutes of dialogue and Q&A. Though it targets current and prospective Downstate students, it will be open to the entire Downstate Community.

The inaugural lecture on Physical Therapy, entitled, Ergonomics while Working at Home and Incorporating Exercise, will be presented by SOHP PT Faculty Saren AhearnPT, DPT, and Loraine AntoinePT, DPT, on Wednesday, November 18 at 5 pm via Zoom. 

Please also be sure to see subsequent lectures below that will be held throughout the 2020-21 Academic Year, and don't forget to RSVP via the Zoom Registration Links provided.


December 16, 2020, at 5 pm—Medical Informatics

Leveraging Informatics Solutions to Support Emergency Preparedness and Chronic Care Management during a Pandemic” 

Presented by: David Kaufman, Ph.D., FACMI


January 13, 2021, at 5 pm—Occupational Therapy

“Face Coverings amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impact on Cultural and Social Occupational Performance” 

Presented by: Vikram Pagpatan, M.S., OTR/L, CAS, ATP


February 2, 2021, at 5 pm—Midwifery

Advocacy for Your Profession on a State Level” 

Presented by: Maryanne Laffin, CNM, L.M., MS, FACNM


March 3, 2021, at 5 pm—Diagnostic Medical Imaging

“Do I Need A Sonogram?”

Presented by: Yosefa Joy Pessin, DHSc, MS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT 


April 14, 2021, at 5 pm—Physician Assistant

“Prevention of Clinical Burnout”

Presented by: Stephanie Myers, DrPH, PA-C


Many thanks to Dean Lewis for developing this important series and to all the participating SOHP faculty for working to grow your student communities while building the visibility of these significant disciplines and viability of their respective programs here at Downstate.



Student Spotlight

COM Student Alissa Belzie Accepted into the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program!  

photo of Alossa BelizeI am pleased to share that Alissa Belzie, MS1 in the College of Medicine, has been accepted into the Class of 2020 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program! This impressive and competitive honor is bestowed on a select group of medical students who exhibit exemplary medical scholarship.

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The program is designed to enhance diversity and inclusion in opthalmology, particularly among underrepresented groups. Students are supported throughout the ophthalmology residency application process. The program focuses on personalized mentorship, career coaching and works to provide access to critically-needed resources.

"Through my involvement with the Student National Medical Association, I've come to understand the value of networking with and finding mentors from under-represented professionals in medicine to whom I can relate. The positive impact I've seen mentoring has on others' lives and in my own life has led me on an endless search for mentors as I progress to different stages of my life. As a first-year medical student, I intend to listen to the advice I've been given: be open to the many different fields of medicine out there. I am grateful for the acceptance into the American Academy of Ophthalmology Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program that allows me to get started on my pursuit of finding the right specialty for me. –Alissa Belzie, MS1

Alissa Belzie is a first-year medical student from Long Island, NY. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience with a double-minor in Chemistry and Spanish from the City University of New York, Queens College. After her graduation in 2018, she obtained a Masters Degree in Research in Sociology and Demography at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona on an academic scholarship. Alissa's research interests include health disparities, global health, mental health, and child welfare.

CONGRATULATIONS on this incredible achievement, Alissa! Thank you for your commitment to scholarship and excellence and for being an inspiration to those around you.


Downstate Shout Outs!

Shout out to…

Kinsley Cruickshank, College of Medicine, Class of 2022, has been appointed to the Student Voices Action Committee, a new forum announced by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras to amplify student opinion and expand representation. The 27-member group, which will focus on issues and challenges across the SUNY system, held its first meeting on October 22.

Robert Gore, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Executive Director of the Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI), is honored by Teachers College of Columbia University with its Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice in Practice.  

Dilip Nath, MBA, AVP and Deputy Chief Information Officer, for being named “A Top Chief Technology/Information Officer” at the 2020 National Diversity & Leadership Conference sponsored by the National Diversity Council, an organization that brings together private, public, and nonprofit sectors to discuss the many dimensions and benefits of a multicultural environment.  

Edward V. Quadros, Ph.D., Research Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology, is representing Downstate at the Synchrony International Symposium on “Translational Research in Autism: From Bench to Biopharma,” organized by the Brain Foundation. Held across eight virtual sessions in November and December, the symposium features representatives from academia, biotech, pharma, and venture partners from around the world.  Dr. Quadros was part of the prestigious Day 1 kickoff session, joining a high-powered panel that discussed cutting-edge research on rat models to help understand ASD in humans. He also participated in the November 8 afternoon session on neuro-metabolic studies in ASD, including a focus on anti-folate receptor antibodies and treatments, mitochondrial dysfunction, and chemical signaling in the nervous system.  

Antonia Quinn, D.O., Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, for being accepted into the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine’s Advanced Research Methodology (ARMED MedED) evaluation course. 


*To suggest a Shout Out, email Ellen.Watson@downstate.edu 









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