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Downstate Makes Progress in National Convalescent Plasma Trial

image of bag of plasma

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of convalescent plasma in patients who tested positive and have been hospitalized for COVID-19. The treatment stems from studies that support the function of antibodies and involves the collection of antibody-rich plasma from the convalescent plasma of recovered COVID-19 patient donors. Results have suggested that antibodies created by the immune systems of former COVID-19 patients could help to fight infection.

Coordinated by The Mayo Clinic, an expanded access program (EAP) for convalescent plasma was launched back in April.  Downstate announced its partnership to participate in the national project to use convalescent plasma as a therapy that could potentially help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover.

Since then, the convalescent plasma donation program was launched and is managed by Downstate’s Transplant Immunology & Immunogenetics Laboratory. Staff implemented antibody screening unlike other research enterprises in the country. From inception, Downstate innovatively incorporated a rapid 15-minute test as part of their convalescent plasma screening process—a tool that soon proved to be a fast and convenient method to select convalescent plasma donors with potent anti-virus antibodies.

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Downstate was also one of the first institutions to investigate antibody laboratory tests in convalescent plasma using validated quantification. To date, no study has identified a defined quantifier for convalescent plasma as appropriate for the treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients. We recognized that our patient population was unique and, as such, established our own treatment guidelines through the Convalescent Plasma Treatment Program at Downstate in partnership with the FDA-Approved Mayo Clinic Extended Access Program—allowing our clinicians to offer enhanced care to our diverse patients.

I’d like to extend my deep gratitude to our researchers and frontline heroes for their trailblazing work and for supporting Downstate’s efforts to identify viable therapies and therapeutics for the communities we serve. Your unwavering commitment and professional support throughout these most uncertain times has immeasurably added to our ability to protect the most vulnerable populations that have been gravely impacted by this virus.


College of Nursing

CON Virtually Hosts 2020 White Coat Ceremonies

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The College of Nursing (CON) virtually held its Annual White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage that emphasizes the importance of compassionate patient care as students begin their academic journeys. Lori EscallierPh.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Dean of the College of Nursing, provided opening remarks at the event, noting that as students enter Downstate’s Nursing Program, they are to embody the virtuous altruism, duty, and responsibility, symbolized by the white coat—while vowing to provide the highest quality, evidence-based, compassionate, and equitable care to every diverse patient population they serve. 

Special remarks to students were provided by Victoria Ayvazian, Nursing Student Council President, who also welcomed Deborah Trautman, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, American Association for Colleges of Nursing President and Chief Executive Officer.  Dr. Trautman encouraged and congratulated students, and later introduced the ceremony’s keynote speaker—Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.

A registered nurse serving Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, Congresswoman Underwood commended scholars for their selfless commitment to the field and commented on the profound symbolism of the ceremony. She underscored for students the critical role nurses play in society, imparting that in challenging times like these, it is their nursing backgrounds that will serve to protect the health of their patients, ultimately safeguarding the future of our nation.

The ceremony continued with the announcement of our new College of Nursing Scholars from program chairs for each of the departments in the school—Jean McHugh, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, Associate Professor and Director of the Accelerated (BS to RN) Program; Barbara Kitchener, Ph.D., RN, Assistant Professor and Director of the RN to BS Program; Beth Steinfeld, DNP, WHNP-BC, Associate Professor and Director of the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Program; Nataliya Shaforost, Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program; and Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, FAANP, FAAN, Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs and Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, announced scholars in each of tehir respective nursing programs.

The event concluded with Mary Hickey, Ed.D., WHNP-BC, FNP-BS, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Faculty Development, who led the newly-coated students in reciting the traditional Nightingale Pledge—promising to practice the art of medicine with honor, integrity, and loyalty.

CONGRATULATIONS to our scholars who are moving into one of the most trusted professions in the midst of a global pandemic. The world has called upon you in this moment of need, and we applaud all of you who have honorably stepped-up. Many thanks to the amazing College of Nursing leadership, all participating students, and staff for pulling together a meaningful and memorable virtual program.




School of Public Health

Dr. Daniel Ehlke Presents at TRANSPORT’s 2020 Health Disparities Symposium

image from Health Disparities Symposium

Here in the United States, black men and women account for a staggering 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths—nearly a quarter of all coronavirus deaths—yet the Black community only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s population. What coronavirus has put squarely into focus for so many, especially members of the healthcare community, are the glaring health disparities found in communities of color and the medical racism that drives them.

To address the historically inequitable healthcare burdening black and brown communities, and in response to glaring health disparities underscored by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, TRANSPORTTRANSlational Program of health disparities Research Training—held its annual Symposium on Health Disparities. TRANSPORT is an NIH grant-funded initiative that builds on previous work done at Downstate to focus on increasing diversity and allocating resources to study the causes of racial disparities in healthcare.

photo of Daniel Ehlke

Designed to bring together Downstate’s most formidable health disparities thought leaders, the symposium addressed the history of heath inequities in at-risk communities, as well as real-world pathways for progress via a virtual panel discussion. I am pleased to share that Daniel Ehlke, Ph.D., MA, Interim Chair and Associate Professor for the Department of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health, was one of the Symposium’s panelists. 

CLICK HERE to LISTEN to Dr. Ehlke’s presentation

Dr. Ehlke joined Downstate as a faculty member in 2010. Throughout the years, he has excelled in the classroom where he has taught a range of courses in health policy, advocacy, and international health systems. He has also served as a frequent speaker on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reform across various center-wide venues, including medical Grand Rounds. In 2013, he served as co-host of the Brooklyn Free Clinic-sponsored TedMed Live event, and in 2018, he received the acclaimed Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Dr. Ehlke is the co-editor of the prominent health policy textbook, Health Politics and Policy, 5th edition, with work underway for the next edition. His research interests center around episodes of care in health reform, both in the United States and abroad, and in the role of citizen-patients in shaping and reshaping the health systems they navigate. He continues to hone his expertise on the ever-shifting terrain underlying the ACA. 

A graduate of Brown University, Dr. Ehlke earned his Ph.D. in Political Science. He has presented at the annual conferences of the American Public Health Association and American Political Science Association, among other professional organizations. 

Many thanks to Dr. Ehlke for contributing to this critical conversation. 


School of Health Professions

Dean Lewis Delivers Keynote Address to NYC Bar Association

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photo of Allen Lewis

Earlier this month, Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean and Professor for the School of Health Professions, delivered the keynote address to the New York City Bar Association as part of a continuing Legal education session on the topic of "Providing Equal Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Disabilities, Even in the Time of COVID-19." 

During his address, Dr. Lewis shared a presentation with more than 70 NYC Bar Association members on the following key topics:

  • access and the ethical principle of justice
  • disability 101
  • typical profile of individuals with disability before the COVID-19 pandemic
  • healthcare system access challenges for the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • healthcare system access challenges for individuals with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • ten considerations for healthcare systems
  • and six considerations for attorneys, including a call to action for what an every attorney can immediately do to be part of the solution in improving access to medical care for individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Lewis was followed by an expert panel of three attorneys with specialized disability law practices, one of whom is counsel for the American Association of People with Disabilities—the largest disability advocacy organization in the nation. The panel further dissected the topics presented by Dr. Lewis, and later led a meaningful question and answer segment on his presentation to the Association.

Many thanks to Dean Lewis for adding to this important discourse and briefing our city’s legal experts who add an extra layer of protection for our most vulnerable members of society.


University Hospital of Brooklyn

Downstate Disaster Medicine Expert Dr. Bonnie Arquilla Retires

photo of Dr. Bonnie Arquilla

Allow me to shine a light on the work of Bonnie Arquilla, D.O., FACEP, Professor and Director of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the College of Medicine’s residency education program and University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) and affiliate clinics.

Dr. Arquilla joined Downstate in 2000 and, in addition to her clinical role, has served as Director of Emergency Preparedness for both UHB and Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC). When she first stepped into these roles, they served primarily regulatory functions, as she provided leadership and guidance to our hospital throughout JOINT Commission inspections. However, following the tragedy of September 11th, just a year after her appointment, those functions evolved to support our institution’s critical need of addressing preparedness. Since then, Dr. Arquilla’s work has served to augment and transform operations of our hospital, enabling our workforce to understand, embrace, and implement superior levels of emergency and disaster readiness measures.

Throughout her time at Downstate, Dr. Arquilla has managed the coordination of a broad spectrum of disaster preparations for UHB and KCHC—from arranging necessary equipment and overseeing disaster contingency planning for both hospitals to implementing periodic drills involving city agencies. She has also provided essential training to hospital staff, both in clinical and administrative roles, in various areas of emergency management and preparedness.

At Downstate, Dr. Arquilla implemented the largest hospital-based bomb blast response exercise in New York City that involved hundreds of volunteers; coordinated a realistic active-shooter drill for UHB employees; extensively prepared staff on the use of PPE in preparation for receiving possible Ebola cases; and trained UHB staff on procedures for full-scale vertical evacuation of patients in the event of hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters.

Since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest public health crisis in modern history, Dr. Arquilla's work has been instrumental to Downstate’s ability to provide continuous, quality care to our diverse patient populations.

A respected researcher, Dr. Arquilla has contributed greatly to medical literature with publications in dozens of journals and books throughout her career. Her research interests have focused on surge capacity planning during catastrophic events, preparation and planning for communicable disease outbreaks, preparing vulnerable populations for disaster, training and disaster drill design, ethical issues related to disaster, and the legal, social, and practical issues related to quarantine. Dr. Arquilla has also played an integral role in Downstate’s residency education mission where she has served as a faculty mentor to dozens of students and their student-led research projects.

Dr. Arquilla earned her doctorate at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency Training in Emergency Medicine at Lincoln Hospital and Mental Health Center, Bronx New York. She is board certified in both Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care. She holds a number of memberships across a range of prestigious medical societies, associations, and academies including: the American College of Emergency Medicine, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, the World Association of Disaster and Emergency Medicine, and the American Academy of Hospital and Palliative Medicine.

After more than 20-years of distinguished service to Downstate, Dr. Arquilla has announced her plan to retire. However, as anyone would guess, due to her allegiance to the practice of medicine, taking care of patients, and to our students, she will continue working part-time to provide emergency preparedness expertise and guidance as our institution continues to navigate challenges through the end of this pandemic. While her full-time presence will be missed, congratulations on her retirement are certainly in order.

On behalf of everyone at Downstate, I would like to thank Dr. Arquilla for her stewardship, commitment to our students, her service to the community, and for advancing and adding to the quality of Downstate’s fabric.



Faculty Spotlight

Michael F. Myers, M.D., A Doctor’s Doctor 

photo of Michael F. Myers

Michael F. Myers, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, has just published a deeply moving, beautifully written book. Becoming a Doctors’ Doctor: A Memoir, details how Dr. Myers came to be a psychiatrist to other physicians, specializing in treating those at high risk for suicide. 

It is a story of his patients’ demons, but also of coming to terms with the demons that he himself holds, and with the principles that have guided his life. “My journey,” Dr. Myers says, “has taken decades, and continues to evolve.” He shares stories of patients he has treated and learned from, mentors who guided him, and moments that were pivotal or deeply enlightening. 

“From medical school forward, I developed an interest in studying, understanding, and treating the common—and not so common—emotional and behavioral problems that happen to us doctors. I quickly learned that we are no different than the patients we treat, a terrifying notion to most doctors, including myself,” he says. 

Dr. Myers is Canadian, and although he trained at Los Angeles County General Hospital, the majority of his career, both in education and in private practice, was in Canada. The work that he undertook, of treating medical colleagues in trouble, is a highly specialized niche. It involves recognizing physicians in distress, helping them work through vulnerabilities, their fears, and their denial—it can be exhilarating; it can be exhausting; it can be heartbreaking. 

In 2008, Dr. Myers gave up his private practice in Canada and joined the Downstate faculty as Vice Chair of Education and Director of Training in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Within weeks of arrival, he was offered a new position as ombudsman for medical students. “The health of our medical students is precious and must be safeguarded in their time with us. My task was to evaluate and resolve any complaints that medical students had about being mistreated in the course of their education.” 

Although he has stepped down from his direct supervisory roles with residents, Dr. Myers continues to work closely with senior leadership in the Department of Psychiatry and with those involved with Graduate Medical Education. He continues to teach, facilitate grand rounds, serves on the College of Medicine’s admissions committee, and plays the role of ombudsman to medical students. He is an ongoing consultant to the GME Wellness Committee. 

Dr. Myers recently held seminars for every single resident on campus (nearly 1,000) relative to physician wellness and how to cope with the stressors unique to physicians. In March 2020, when Governor Cuomo designated University Hospital of Brooklyn as a COVID-19 hospital only, he worked with Ramaswamy Viswanathan, MBBS, Director of the Consultation-Liaison Service, offering weekly virtual support groups, one for hospitalist physicians and another for emergency medicine physicians. 

image of book coverDr. Myers has spent time giving voice to the courageous physicians who struggle with psychiatric illness and being their mouthpiece and chronicler. He has spoken at conferences in the United States, London, Europe, and Australia. He writes a bimonthly blog for the Psych Congress Network and is an occasional contributor to Psychology Today

Overall, he is gratified that there have been profound and long overdue changes since he first entered medical school. 

“More and more physicians are talking about their mental health struggles in significant ways, some in private, others publicly…  And the ever-evolving world of medicine is changing too, with recognition of, and renewed respect for, its physicians.” 

Thank you, Dr. Myers for the great work that you do for our students, residents, faculty, and advancing Downstate’s legacy. 

Dr. Myers’ book is available in bookstores and in print and Kindle format from Amazon. 


In the Community

COM Students in Downstate’s AMA Chapter Host Virtual Career Event for Local BK Teens!

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AMA logoI am pleased to share that last month, students in the Downstate chapter of the American Medical Association (AMA) hosted a virtual “Healthcare Careers Exploration Program” for high school students in our local Brooklyn communities.

Designed to provide students with information regarding the purpose of each healthcare discipline within the spectrum of care and the professional pathways for success each provides, the event called on the expertise of leaders and scholars across our campus. Members of Downstate’s AMA chapter recruited students and faculty from various fields within healthcare—including Midwifery, Medicine, Physician Assistant, Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Medical Informatics, Ph.D. studies, and Diagnostic Imaging.

More than 250 students from The High School for Medical Professions, Origins High School, Cultural Academy for the Arts and Sciences, and Brooklyn Collegiate High School, virtually joined together for a session that included a PowerPoint presentation on key information about pursuing any of Downstate's highlighted careers in healthcare, as well as an interactive question and answer session in which students could directly engage Downstate experts about each of their fields of interest.

I’d like to thank all the students, faculty, and staff who made this event a success. Special acknowledgment to Michael Harrell, Assistant Vice President for Constituent Relations in the Office of Government and Community Relations; Mark Stewart, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies; Barbara KitchenerPh.D.,RN, Assistant Professor and Director of the RN to BS Program; Phillip Bones, MEd, Assistant Dean in the School of Health Professions; AMA student board members in the College of MedicineClaire Choi, President; Erica Licari, Vice President; Fradah Gold; Secretary; and Andrew Voigt, TreasurerJoy Noel Anderson, RN, Midwifery, Fabien Paul and Augustine Gnalian, Physician Assistant students; Elizabeth Adenegan and Katelin Faria, Occupational Therapy Students; Coraima DeLaOVeliz and Tracy Wong, College of Nursing Students; and Adesoji Taiwo, Medical Informatics Student.


Downstate Host 20th Annual Campus Thanksgiving Dinner, TO-GO!

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Nearly 20-years ago, the Department of Student Life and the Student Center Governing Board started the annual Campus Thanksgiving Dinner in 2001—a direct response to the tragic events of 9/11. A moment of coming together and gratitude was needed, and the event soon became a highly-anticipated campus event.

Every year since, more than 60 faculty and staff members come together to serve an average of 350 students, a full Thanksgiving Feast. Despite this year’s turn of events, the event went on with safety remaining top-of-mind.

The event, which was transformed into a "TO-GO" event, was as successful and equally appreciated as they have been in years prior. Students from all five schools signed-up for different lunch distribution times to avoid crowding. Downstate faculty and staff braved the cold weather of the season to serve Thanksgiving meals on the patio of the Student Center to nearly 360 students, with a special Thanksgiving cupcakes on the side. 

Many thanks to the Department of Student Life and the Student Center Governing Board, as well as to the event’s co-sponsors, Med Council and University Council for making it such a success.

I look forward to feasting with everyone next year, hopefully with social-distancing behind us all! 



Downstate Shout Outs!

Shout out to…

The Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, for hosting its 28th Arthur Ashe Memorial Lecture on December 3, and the John Conley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities for supporting the event. The Institute was founded on December 3, 1992, when the tennis legend and humanitarian personally visited Downstate to announce its launch. It is one of only two organizations authorized by Mr. Ashe to use his name.

The SUNY Downstate Asylum Clinic, which recruited approximately 200 additional volunteers (half medical students and half physicians) at its latest recruitment event. Studies show that 90% of asylees are granted asylum after medical evaluations, while only 38% are given asylum without evaluations.

The SUNY Downstate Community Women’s Health Group, which collaborated with Life of Hope on Sante Fanm Se Lavi (Health is Life) at the Flatbush Caton Market on November 28, a community event featuring health information, screening, giveaways, and fun, as well as plenty of opportunities to shop for items straight from the Caribbean and Africa.

Jodi-Ann Edwards, M.D., PGY2, Department of Surgery, who is organizing two drives on gofundme.com on behalf of the Department of Surgery – one for New York Cares, the largest volunteer network in New York City, and the second for Toys for Hospitalized Children, a group that brings “joy through a toy” to children in hospitals and special needs facilities.

Downstate Psychiatry Residents who recently paid an advocacy visit to City Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene with members of the Haitian American Psychiatric Association.

Michael Reinhardt, M.D., Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Downstate’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, for speaking on “Brooklyn and #COVID – Challenging Cases” at the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain’s clinical conference on December 2.


Have a Shout Out to recommend?

Send to Ellen.watson@downstate.edu


Bulletin Bonus

Holiday Farewell

As we close the chapter on a historic year here at SUNY Downstate, I would like to take a moment to congratulate and THANK YOU—our incredible students, faculty, and staff—for all that you have achieved and all that you have done to advance the Downstate mission, especially during these most trying of times, in 2020. You are the engines that rev of morale and whose work continues to drive our institution down a prosperous and bright path.

No matter how you say it, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad, Season's Greetings, or any other expression of goodwill for the season—I want to wish you a peaceful, safe, and healthy holiday, as well as a hope-filled New Year. May the events of this past year serve as a humbling reminder of how blessed we all to experience another Holiday Season.

Our next edition of the Bulletin will be on January 18, 2021 following the holiday hiatus. Until then, stay safe and be well.




SPH Info Session

image of poster for SPH info session


SOHP Deans Lecture Series

SOHP Deans Lecture Series


Meet the SOHP Disciplines

Meet the SOHP Disciplines poster image



President's Bulletin
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