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Welcome Back!

It’s the start of a new year and though the early days of 2021 were most unsettling and trying, Downstate Health Sciences University continues to do the work necessary to emerge stronger than ever.

We remain steadfast in our effort to forge a healthy path forward even as we continue to battle the pandemic. We have risen to the challenge turning this chapter at Downstate into a season of evolutiongrowth, and progress. We continue to strengthen our academic, research, and clinical missions, while also addressing health equity and other important social issues.

Though there is still much work to be done, I have no doubt each day—no matter how challenging—will only amplify Downstate’s distinction, value, and its meritorious history. We continue to make promising strides and demonstrate the excellence that has and will always be a part of our legacy.


Featured Story

Downstate’s COVID-19 Vaccine Response

Vaccine Group Photo

Downstate was ground zero as a Governor Cuomo-appointed COVID-only Hospital—closely monitoring what we knew about the virus and doing our best to protect health and safeguard life on behalf of the communities we serve. After living through this global health pandemic without viable therapeutics available, our healthcare heroes at the University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) were overjoyed to receive and ready to deploy the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine DistroVaccine Distro CollageVaccine Distro image 3

On December 15th, shortly after the FDA authorized the vaccine for emergency use, our healthcare heroes sprang into action. Under the guidance of UHB and Coronavirus Taskforce leadership, an inoculation strategy was launched—clearing the way for thousands of our selfless frontline heroes and dedicated workforce to begin receiving their first dose of the life-saving vaccine.

CLICK HERE to WATCH the #iGotTheShot Video!

I’m proud to share that by January 5th, just a few short weeks following our inoculation program launch, Downstate successfully administered 100-percent of its first allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine—operating under an aggressive, seven day-a-week schedule.

Senator Malatras

After hearing of our remarkable accomplishment and the effectiveness of Downstate’s vaccination strategy, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, Ph.D., paid our campus a visit to acknowledge and honor the great work of our incredible workforce and to see our vaccine operation in action. 

Chancellor Malatras shared the following:

 “Today, I saw firsthand the tireless dedication of SUNY Downstate staff to not only operationalize an inoculation program, but do it all while batting the virus during the winter wave. I’m proud of their heroic efforts. From establishing a COVID-only hospital, to developing the world’s most accurate saliva test, to healthcare students graduating early to battle the virus, to getting healthcare workers vaccinated quickly—SUNY continues to evolve to meet the needs of this unprecedented moment.”

Seanator Malatras

I am incredibly proud of our heroes who continue to work honorably on behalf of our institution, our patients, and the communities we serve. Our hospital workforce bravely answered the call-of-duty in record-numbers, joining the millions of health care professionals globally on the frontlines against COVID-19 and deserve to be protected as they continue to heal communities most impacted by this virus.

The strength of our vaccine deployment has also made clear that Downstate is up to the challenge and is ready to effectively distribute the vaccine to the communities we serve. After enduring nearly a year of relentless devastation, with more than 24-million confirmed COVID-19 cases and an increasing 405,000 COVID-related deaths across the country, Downstate stands ready to do everything in its power to administer the vaccine to as many as possible, starting with the most vulnerable.

I’d like to thank our Coronavirus Task Force, as well as our leadership in the hospital and across campus for making our vaccine rollout a success and for navigating these uncharted waters with bravery and poise. And a very big THANK YOU to all of our frontline heroes for your continued sacrifices, and for putting your duty and the needs of mankind above all else during one of the most uncertain times in modern history. Because of you, our beloved institution remains a source of light and beacon of hope for the communities we serve.


College of Medicine

COM Students Transform HPREP into a Virtual Experience

Virtual Dissection

Downstate’s Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) is an initiative of the College of Medicine’s Student National Medical Association’s chapter and the Daniel Hale Williams Society. Every year, HPREP invites 10th, 11th, and 12th graders from local Brooklyn communities to participate in dynamic instructional sessions to increase their awareness of the health professions while fostering interest in the sciences.

Pre-pandemic, HPREP was held on campus. This year, despite the ongoing crisis, students in the College of Medicine came together to quickly adapt HPREP into a virtual experience to ensure that young members of the communities we serve did not miss out on this opportunity.

There were 15 HPREP scholars who attended lectures, dissections, and career sessions that were held from October 3rd through November 21st of 2020. The six-week program included four instructional sessions that focused on the physiology of the eye, brain, heart, and kidney.

Additionally, students participated in two developmental sessions, a "Career Day" and a "College Day." Career Day brought together Downstate students from numerous health professions across our five schools and colleges to discuss what inspired their decisions to enter their chosen field of study, the trials and tribulations they may have encountered, the do’s and don’ts of professionalism/how to present your best self, and provided a relatable and tangible connection to health care. College Day allowed the HPREP scholars to engage with current college students to demystify the college application process and to become familiar with strategies to enhance the competitiveness of their applications. 

On the final day of the program, students presented their research on coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, and asthma—illnesses that disproportionately affect populations in Downstate’s patient communities.

HPREP is one of the many important programs at Downstate that are critical to building strong ties with our communities, as well as to advancing our mission of graduating a diverse and inclusive student body.

Virtual Dissection Group

I would like to thank the following people for their roles in making HPREP a success this year: 

  • Colleen Beckford (COM ‘23), Heidi Sosa (COM ‘23). and Diarra Ndiaye (COM ‘24)—HPREP co-directors 
  • Jigar Govind (COM ‘23), Aaron Kuang (COM ‘23), Bertilia Tavarez (COM ‘23). Athena Vallejo (COM ‘23), Nicole Ackerman (COM ‘24), Bradley Amazan (COM ‘24), Isaac Nyarko (COM ‘24), and Julianny Perez (COM ‘24)—HPREP Facilitators
  • Michael Harrell, MPA and the Office of Community and Government Relations
  • Runako Gulstone and the Office of Diversity Education and Research
  • Farah Burnett and the Office of Financial Aid
  • Daniel Hale Williams Society Executive Board Members and Downstate’s National Medical Association’s Student Chapter.
  • Karen Jeoffroy, M.D.—Emergency Medicine Resident
  • William Barlow, D.O.—Department of Anesthesiology Resident
  • Coraima De La O Veliz—College of Nursing Student, Accelerated Bachelors
  • Rebecca Kaye—College of Nursing Student, Accelerated Bachelors
  • Luisa Ferreras—School of Health Professions Student, Physician Assistant
  • Ishraq Kashem—College of Medicine Student c/o 2023
  • Roseline Idoko—College of Medicine Student c/o 2023
  • Anna Fomitchova—College of Medicine Student c/o 2023
  • Owen Edwards—College of Medicine Student c/o 2023
  • Rachel Corona—College of Medicine Student c/o 2024
  • Lulu Wei—College of Medicine Student c/o 2024
  • Miar Elaskandrany—College of Medicine Student c/o 2024


College of Nursing

Dr. Lori Escallier Appointed to CCNE Report Review Committee!

Lori Escalier

I’m delighted to announce that Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, Dean and Professor in the College of Nursing, was recently appointed to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education's (CCNE) Report Review Committee.

CCNE is a specialized accrediting agency that provides educational and training standards with the goal of enhancing the quality and integrity of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree nursing programs. The CCNE assess the academic programming of institutions that confer Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certificates, as well as Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees and also manage the accreditation of post-baccalaureate nursing residency programs. More importantly, "the Commission protects public health and the public interest by assessing and endorsing programs that stimulate effective educational practices, self-regulatory processes, and continuous quality improvement programs. Programs that receive the Commissions' stamp of approval assure good educational practices and competent nurse graduates."


Members of the CCNE's Report Review Committee are commissioned to oversee, evaluate and analyze a number of critical reports that underscore program performance — including annual reports, progress reports, and other specialized reports —from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs across the country to assess the progress and strength of each institution's curriculum and the merits of its academic programming.

The CCNE and its Report Review Committee are governed by a 13-member Board of Commissioners, for which Dr. Escallier also serves, who collectively represent CCNE’s community of interest. The Board has final authority on all policy and accreditation matters affecting CCNE.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Escallier and thank you for your committment and your endless contributions that continue to foster growth and drive the success of CON's academic programs, its students, and Downstate as a whole.


School of Public Health

Public Health Students Published in Leading Publications!

SPH Collage

(Left to right: Sharon Billey, Natalie Baker, Rozanne Caesar, and Camara Perkins. Not pictured: Jamila Taylor and Korto Togba)

I am delighted to share that several students in the School of Public Health (SPH) are now published authors after penning Op-Eds on the importance of social connectedness of older adults in the age of COVID-19.

Jamila Taylor, Sharon Billey, Camara Perkins, Rozanne Caesar, and Korto Togba drafted and successfully placed articles in the Queens Eagle, Amsterdam News, Guyana Chronicle, and more, as a part of an assignment in one of SPH’s new and dynamic required courses, Public Health Leadership and Interprofessional Practice PUBH 5201.

Dr_Lori_HoepnerThe course — developed and led by Lori A. Hoepner, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences — was introduced in the Fall 2019 Term as a SPH core curriculum course. The course was designed to articulate for MPH scholars the close connection between public health practice and health care by identifying the overlapping components.

Using an interprofessional education (IPE) model, the course allows for collaboration from students and faculty from all five schools/colleges across campus, while also inviting non-SUNY faculty to participate in the education. I myself, had the honored of convening the inaugural lecture for the course in 2019.

In the semesters since, Dr. Hoepner's course has featured an innovative Big Data Workshop with students and faculty from the College of Medicine and the School of Graduate Studies, a special screening of the documentary Nor Any Drop to Drink, and an incorporation of geriatric IPE in collaboration with the BRIDGE program during the Summer 2020 Term.

Our scholars in this course continue to produce exceptional work, with some of our leading local publications taking note.

When time allows, please give the students’ articles provided below a read—you’re sure to be as impressed as I was!

CONGRATULATIONS to our incredible SPH scholars, and bravo on a job well done! I look forward to reading more of these publications from our talented students in the coming semesters!


School of Health Professions

2020 Physical Therapy White Coat Ceremony

SOHP Ceremony

With the virtual support of friends and family, Downstate’s School of Health Professions’ Physical Therapy Class of 2022 slipped their arms into the sleeves of their brand-new white coats. This is a milestone in their educational journeys—marking the transition from the classroom to the clinical phase of their education at the 2020 Annual Physical Therapy White Coat Ceremony.

This year’s virtual White Coat Ceremony was very different from previous, in-person ceremonies. That said, the virtual ceremony proved more an advantage than a barrier as we recorded the largest PT White Coat Ceremony attendance with more than 200 joining in from across the country and world.

Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean of the School of Health Professions, addressed the students, their families, and friends during the virtual event. Students were also welcomed by Joanne Katz, PT, DPT, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor for the Physical Therapy Program, who noted the white coat is the celebration that marks the end of full-time classroom instruction, but also symbolizes the gift and responsibility to take care of patients.

The ceremony underscored the importance of the white coat and what it represents--a badge of honor worn by physicians and health professionals since the late 19th century, that has etched into the profession an emphasis on ethics, professional practice, and responsibility.

A rite of passage, the white coat serves as a symbol of the honorable duty, excellence, accountability, compassion and inclusiveness required of their chosen profession. Rather than having the students walk across the stage of Alumni Auditorium this year to receive their white coats, each student wore his/her own white coat and virtually dedicated a few words to faculty, peers, and their loved ones.

After donning their new white coats, students recited the Oath of Professionalism during the ceremony making them officially one step closer to becoming practitioners.

CONGRATULATIONS to the PT Class of 2022! 


Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Brigitte Desport Accepted into NYSSSC Coaching Academy!

Faculty Desport

In exciting news, Brigitte Desport, DPS, OTR/L, BCP, ATP, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Associate Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program for the School of Health Professions (SOHP), was admitted into the NYS Student Success Center (NYSSSC) Coaching Academy’s Spring 2021 Cohort! Admission into the Academy is a competitive honor with only 15 professionals from various institutions throughout the State selected annually. Dr. Desport will be provided additional training and support to effectively launch and lead comprehensive student success innovations right here at Downstate.

New York Student Access Center

The NYSSSC, sponsored by SUNY in partnership with its community of stakeholders, was established to emphasize the importance and value of evidence-based practices in student development programming designed to drive academic and professional success. In support of its mission, the NYSSSC launched a Student Success Coaching Academy, which brings seasoned leaders in academia, like Dr. Desport, from New York State who have demonstrated a commitment to cultivating growth and advancement amongst New York State’s higher-ed student population.

Dr. Desport and her fellow cohort members will work collaboratively to deliver on the NYSSC mission by building substantive student success reform capacity, innovation, and leadership across the state; supporting evidence-based strategies that support student success reforms at scale for all students; and identifying structural and cultural practices and policies that positively impact campus-based student success and support closing equity gaps.”

CONGRATULATIONS on this wonderful achievement, Dr. Desport! Your work with the NYSSSC will be pivotal in supporting and advancing the scholarship and professional growth of our student body.


Dr. Michael A. Joseph Bids Downstate Adieu

Michael Joseph

I write today to share the bittersweet news that Michael A. Joseph, PhD, MPH, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Epidemiology for the School of Public Health (SPH), is leaving Downstate to serve as Vice Dean for Education at the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. 

Dr. Joseph has served as an invaluable educator and mentor—both within SPH and throughout Downstate—over the last 16 years. working to enhance the competitive edge of our academic programming, the exit opportunities of our student body, and the career development of junior faculty members.  His selfless and unflagging commitment to advancing our school and institution to new standards of excellence and innovation has been exemplary—earning him great respect from faculty, students, academic peer institutions, and community partners alike.  In addition to his current role, Dr. Joseph has served as Vice Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatics and Interim Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, working to strengthen departmental leadership and streamline operational processes across the School of Public Health.

On January 7, 2019, Dr. Joseph was appointed as the Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs for SPH. Upon the appointment of SPH Dean Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., he immediately stepped up as his right hand—working to provide critical insights into the lay of Downstate’s land, and smoothly transitioning Dr. Demissie into his new role as Dean of SPH. 

During his two-year tenure as Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, under his strategic guidance, SPH experienced significant growth in student enrollment tied to his intentional growth strategy that included the development of a strong recruitment and enrollment team.  As a direct result of his expertise, SPH successfully created articulation agreements with three New York colleges with significant minority and first-generation student populations: SUNY Westbury, Department of Public Health; Medgar Evers College, School of Science, Health and Technology and School of Business; and Brooklyn College, Department of Health and Nutrition Science.

Dr. Joseph’s time at Downstate is marked by rare leadership. He is one of those few that understands that in order to lead a body to new heights, you must stand with them, not apart or above. In every position, he rallied various SPH teams together—bringing the same approachable energy, enthusiasm, respect, and encouraging stewardship to every challenge. For many SPH students, Dr. Joseph’s presence ignited and fueled their motivation to achieve their maximum potential—enhancing student retention rates and contributing significantly to our primary mission—to diversify the next generation of public health leaders. 

It is always a sad day when you must bid a revered colleague farewell.  That said, Dr. Joseph’s departure is a testament to the quality and distinction of our faculty. When our leadership move into new roles that advance their careers, it speaks greatly to the professional experience and foundation they developed at Downstate. 

Dr. Joseph will continue in his role as Vice Dean at Downstate until February 1st, 2021, and his new appointment will take effect on March 1st, 2021. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Joseph, and wishing him much success and happiness in his new role. 


Downstate Shout Outs!

Shout out to…

All those from Downstate who represented the campus in the “Three Campus Community Conversation on Achieving Health Equity Through Eliminating Health Disparities,” a three session event between SUNY’s Albany, Downstate, and Upstate campuses.

Stacy Blain, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Cell Biology, has received a translational research grant award from METAvivor Research and Support Inc., which funds research directed at metastatic breast cancer, for her work on “p27Kipl: A game changing target in metastatic breast cancer.”

Fadi Gaye, an intern in Downstate’s Office of Diversity Education and Research and student from SUNY Oswego, who received the statewide Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence, which honors EOP students who have overcome significant obstacles to achieve their goals. Ms. Gaye aspires to attend our School of Health Professions’ Physician Assistant program.


Have a Shout Out to recommend?

Send to Ellen.watson@downstate.edu




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