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Class of 2021 IN-PERSON Commencement Ceremonies!

Ford Theater Drone Shot

photo from the stage looking out

Downstate commencement ceremonies have always been highly anticipated occasions for our students, their families, faculty, and all of us at Downstate. This year proved to be no exception after more than a year of virtual learning and social distancing, our graduates experienced a much-deserved, in-person commemoration fitting of their accomplishments.

On May 25th and 26th, Downstate hosted its 2021 Commencement ceremonies at the Coney Island Amphitheater—recognizing the achievements of more than 700 graduates.

College of Medicine and School of Graduate Studies

I was elated to kick off Commencement 2021 with the first ceremonies for Downstate’s School of Public Health (SPH) and the School of Health Professions (SOHP). After I had the privilege of welcoming our students, and before conferring degrees to our incredible SPH and SOHP Class of 2021 graduates, our scholars heard from the leadership of their schools. Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, SOHP Dean and Professor, offered encouraging opening remarks, charging students to, “…go forth, facilitate positive impacts, give back through mentoring and teaching young people about your professions, and remember Downstate and the School of Health Professions. Finally, never, ever, lose sight of the fact that integrity, service, and excellence will be the cornerstones of your success.Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., followed with his greetings to students and expressed to our SPH scholars, “The ways in which each of you have risen to this historic occasion have left me over-confident that the public health training you have received at Downstate SPH has prepared you to lead every community, locally and globally, into a brighter, healthier future.”

photo of Allen Lewis

Allen Lewis

photo of Kitaw Demissie

Kitaw Demissie

graduates sitting

graduate reading

The College of Medicine (COM) and the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) followed in the afternoon—honoring the academic journeys of more than 200 doctoral students in Medicine and in the Biomedical Sciences. Before having their degrees conferred, the graduates heard remarks from F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, COM Dean and Senior Vice President, who shared with students, “Today celebrates your achievement and marks a beginning. I urge you to go out into the world and use your talents and the education you gained at SUNY Downstate to commit yourself to your chosen professions, that of a Doctor.” Dean Brunicardi was followed by Mark Stewart, M.D., Ph.D., SGS Dean and Professor, who noted for graduates, “As each of you who are graduating have grown into new scientists, you have also – whether you realize it or not – have also grown to become mentors and role models yourselves.  I encourage you to embrace this important role as enthusiastically as you embrace your role as a scientist. The world will always need mentors and role models, as the challenges we face in science and medicine only seem to get tougher.”

photo of F. Charles Brunicardi

F. Charles Brunicardi

photo of Mark Stewart

Mark Stewart

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge an important milestone for our scholars in the BRIDGES to Medicine Program (BRIDGE)—a program I commissioned to provide a new access point into medicine for underrepresented students and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds seeking admission into our College of Medicine. This was the first year that our BRIDGE Scholars earned master’s degrees from the School of Graduate Studies for their work completed in the year preceding their official entry into Downstate’s College of Medicine, and I could not be more proud of their commitment to their academic pursuits.

CON Commencement

photo of Malatras and Riley

photo of Lori Escallier

Lori Escallier

photo of Jim Malatras

Jim Malatras

The following day, the College of Nursing (CON) concluded Downstate’s 2021 commencement activities. This was a particularly special and historic ceremony for the College of Nursing as it marked the first year Downstate awarded Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees to our scholars. Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FANN, greeted her Class of 2021 scholars, sharing that, “nurses are resilient and persevere,” and acknowledged that “through these trying times, you brought humility, grace, tolerance, and understanding. All traits that confirm your commitment to the profession of nursing.” Our nursing scholars were also privileged to have SUNY Chancellor, Jim Malatras, Ph.D., present to help celebrate their incredible achievements. Chancellor Malatras had this to share following his time at the CON Nursing Ceremony:

Today, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is graduating a broadly diverse class of heroes who have already demonstrated what it takes to care for patients with dignity and respect. They have stepped up in the face many unknowns, and they have remained dedicated to completing their studies. Under the tireless leadership of President Riley, when New York needed the medical university to combat this public health crisis, the team responded with all resources available. For this we are grateful and extremely proud.

As SUNY Downstate sees its first graduates of their Doctorate of Nursing Program receive their degrees, New York State can feel confident knowing the next generation of nurses, and all other Downstate graduates entering into medical professions, have been trained by world-class doctors and leaders. Congratulations to you all on achieving this milestone—we know you will serve as advocates for your patients and will be an asset to wherever this next chapter takes you."

In all, we conferred 1004 degrees and 34 Advanced Certificates across all Schools and Colleges this year. In addition to our 2021 graduates, Downstate recognized our 2021 cohort of Honorary Degree recipients—M. Monica Sweeney, M.D., MPH, FACP, Harold P. Freeman, M.D., and Ali S. Khan, M.D., MPH, MBA—three very prominent and influential figures who have helped to expand the reach and recognition of health care nationally and internationally.

commencement graduates

commencement flyers

commencement audiance

As each of our scholars enter their chosen fields, I rest assured that the future of healthcare and public health is in the best of hands. To all of our Class of 2021 Graduates, I extend a heartfelt and roaring CONGRATULATIONS on the successful completion of your academic journeys here at Downstate.

For those who missed the ceremonies, or to see additional photo highlights, please CLICK HERE to VIEW!



College of Nursing

Dr. Annie Rohan Announced as Recipient of the 2021 NONPF Outstanding Research Award

photo of Annie Rohan

I am pleased to share that Annie RohanPh.D., RNFAANPFAAN, Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs and Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program in the College of Nursing (CON), was recently awarded the 2021 National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) Outstanding Research Award!

The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), is the sole entity explicitly dedicated to endorsing and advancing the highest quality in nurse practitioner (NP) education. Every year, the NONPF honors renowned leaders in academia and researchers who embody the tenets of scholarship via discovery, applied research, and instructional education. The award is bestowed upon the distinguished few whose work serves to enhance the advancement of the nursing profession through information development, translational discovery within the NP practice, curriculum development, and nursing public policy in the following ways:

  • Significant influence of research in nurse practitioner education
  • Evidence of a significant impact on one or more clinical problems through the use of evidence-based practice in any setting
  • Ongoing funded research concerning phenomena of relevance to NP practice, policy, or education
  • Ongoing funded research concerning nurse practitioner practice models
  • Success in obtaining funding for NP education programs, practice demonstration models, or any other NP-related project 
  • Publication of scholarly works in research, clinical journals, and textbooks
  • Significant influence in evolution of health policy through research/scholarly works

Dr. Rohan is a SUNY alumna who earned her BS in Nursing from SUNY Binghamton and later earned a certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Cornell University Medical College Continuing Education Program for Nurses, an MS degree from Columbia University, and a Post-Graduate certificate in Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner from Stony Brook University. Midway through advanced practice, Dr. Rohan returned to Columbia University where she earned the Ph.D. and was selected to become a member of the first national cohort of Jonas Nursing Scholars.

Dr. Rohan's more than 25-year clinical career notably supports her academic priorities, which includes work as a national advisor to the American Nurses Association (Nurse Practice Advisory Council) and to the March of Dimes (Nurse Advisory Committee). 

npf_logoDr. Rohan has received several awards recognizing her clinical and scientific contributions. Her educational research focuses on developing writing skills in graduate nursing students and using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Her interdisciplinary clinical research focuses on using technology to address persistent issues impacting pediatric health.

CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Rohan! Many thanks for your significant contributions to nursing scholarship and excellence. Your work continues to elevate the profile of both Downstate and the College of Nursing.


School of Graduate Studies

Doctoral Student Zhou Fang Awarded by American Association of Immunologists

photo of Zhou Fang

Congratulations to Ms. Zhou Fang, a Molecular and Cellular Biology Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Graduate Studies, who was recognized for excellence by the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) during its 104th annual meeting, Immunology 2021, held virtually in May.  

Ms. Fang received an AAI Trainee Abstract Award, a cash grant given to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows whose first-author abstracts have the honor of being selected for oral presentation in the meeting’s Block Symposia.  

Her presentation focused on the complement system, a set of proteins that assist (i.e., complement) antibodies and immune cells in protecting the body from infection, and the actions of the system in people infected with COVID-19,  

We found that one member of the complement system, C5, is abnormally produced and activated and that this abnormal activation can have a significant negative impact on surviving COVID-19 infection,” said Ms. Fang. Her research suggests a potential therapeutic target to improve COVID outcomes. 

Ms. Fang, who expects to defend her thesis next year, is a student in the laboratory of Ming Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., a Research Associate Professor in the departments of Anesthesiology and Cell Biology. Dr. Zhang, an expert in inflammatory and ischemic diseases, has been funded by the NIH, the National Science Foundation, New York State, and SUNY. He teaches in both our College of Medicine and School of Graduate Studies, and mentors not only med and grad students, but also residents and fellows as well. 

THANK YOU, Ms. Fang, for your outstanding work, and Dr. Zhang, thank you for all that you do on behalf of our students and Downstate. 



SPH Alumnus Max Medozile Accepted into Drexel’s GATHER Post-Doctoral Program

photo of max medozileI am extremely pleased to share that Downstate School of Public Health’s Class of 2020 DrPH alum Macceau (Max) Medozile, DrPH, has been accepted into Drexel University’s prestigious NIH-funded GATHER (Global Alliance for Training in Health Equity) program as a postdoctoral trainee. 

GATHER, part of Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health’s Global Health Program, matches trainees with U.S.-based and international co-mentors. Participants receive intensive skills-based research training and also have the opportunity to travel to one of three research sites in Brazil, Kenya, and Mexico. Dr. Medozile is one of only four individuals accepted into the highly competitive program’s Class of 2021-2022 scholars.  

While in the SPH, Dr. Medozile wrote his dissertation, “Factors Affecting Cholera Mortality in Haiti: 2010-2012,” under the advisement of Lori A. Hoepner, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciencesand; Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., Ed.D, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences; as well as Sergios Kolokotronis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.  


In 2019, Dr. Medozile received the Rao Scholarship, enabling him to travel to Haiti to collect raw data on cholera vaccination delivery efforts from clinics. Unfortunately, his travel to Haiti coincided with major unrest in the country, but he was able to successfully conduct on-site interviews with cholera treatment facility administrators.

Dr. Medozile plans to build on his doctoral research by studying risk factors and determinants of health associated with HIV and tuberculosis in Kenya. He will be paired with Drexel faculty mentors, as well as the Head of Health and Systems for Health at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Dr. Abdhalah Ziraba. APHRC is a leading pan-African research institution that conducts policy-relevant studies on population, health, education, urbanization, and related development issues across Africa. 

Dr. Medozile will use this post-doctoral training to reinforce his analytical skills, expand his public health researcher career, and to collaborate and network with other scholars. 

CONGRATULATIONS on this exciting opportunity, Mr. Medozile! Also, a very big THANK YOU to Drs. Hoepner, Landsbergis, and Kolokotronis, for your mentorship and impeccable training of our students matriculating through SPH’s dynamic programs.




MD/MPH Student Lily Lee Awarded the 2021 National Excellence in Public Health Award

photo of lily_lee

In exciting news, I am pleased to share that Ms. Lily Lee, MD-MPH Candidate, was recently awarded the Local 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award, and the National 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award by the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee! The award was announced at the 17th Annual Awards Ceremony for the School of Public Health.

At the suggestion of Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor for the School of Public Health, and a nomination written by Michael Joseph, Ph.D., MPH, former Downstate SPH Vice Dean and Associate Professor—F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, Dean for the College of Medicine and Senior Vice President, nominated Ms. Lee for the prestigious honor. The award recognizes medical students who are public health champions, whose work advances the US Public Health Service mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our nation, and who are helping address public health issues in their community.

A native from Queens, New York, Ms. Lee studied Chemistry and Children studies in undergrad, before arriving at Downstate to pursue her MD-MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology. Her professional and research interests include adolescent risk behaviors, media influences, and environmental exposures.

An SPH Student Ambassador that focuses on recruiting students into the MPH program, Ms. Lee has remained actively involved in a number of different research projects with faculty in the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health. Additionally, she serves as an instructor for the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health, as well as a researcher and volunteer with the Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI).

CONGRATULATIONS on this incredible double-achievement, Ms. Lee! We are very proud of the meaningful work you are doing here at Downstate, and of the commitment and passion for which you are pursuing your chosen fields.


Downstate Shout Outs!

Camille A. Clare, M.D., MPH, Professor and Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Sabina Hirshfield, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, for being named to the class of 2020-2021 SUNY PRODiG faculty. The program, “Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth,” aims to increase the representation of historically under-represented faculty at SUNY in general and women faculty of all races in STEM fields. 

Social workers I-Ting Cheng and Clivia Torres, from Downstate’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, for leading a virtual seminar on “Dementia Symptom Management – A Workshop for Caregivers” on May 21st with Heights and Hills, a Brooklyn nonprofit that serves more than 5,000 older adults and their families. 

Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes and Teamsters Local 187 for recently delivering another PPE donation to Downstate, this time of 160,000 isolation gowns and 120,000 masks shared between us and Woodhull Hospital. 

Cula Dautriche, M.D., Ph.D., PGY3 Dermatology, for being interviewed by Allure Magazine’s new platform, “The Melanin Edit,” which seeks to explore “every facet of a melanin-rich life” and provide culturally aware information on innovative treatments for derm conditions, while also celebrating  Black pride. 

 Moro Salifu, M.D., MPH, MBA, FACP, Professor and Chair of Medicine, Carla Boutin-Foster, M.D., Associate Dean of Diversity Education and Research, and Mathieu Eugene, New York City Council Member, for collaborating on an editorial carried by hyperlocal news site BK Reader on “Increasing Vaccine Uptake: It Is Not Only What We Say but Also Who Says It.” Their commentary discusses the alarming uptick in vaccine hesitancy in the very communities that are most severely impacted by COVID. See https://www.bkreader.com/2021/05/20/increasing-vaccine-uptake-it-is-not-only-what-we-say-but-also-who-says-it/ 

Raavi Gupta, M.D., Raavi Gupta, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, for her role as Principal Investigator in a Phase I clinical trial to study the treatment of mild symptomatic COVID-19 with Emericasan. This drug inhibits the inflammatory effects of caspase enzymes, which have been shown to be upregulated in patients with COVID-19 and may be involved in long-term complications now called “long haul” disease. The first patient was dosed in March. Results thus far show good safety profile, are promising and may help understand why some COVID-19 patients experience none to mild symptoms, while others have far worse outcomes. This trial was possible after conducting successful basic science studies at Downstate and Weill Cornell, with results that were published this month in the journal Allergy and securing FDA approval to conduct the Phase-1 clinical trial. Downstate was selected to be the sole enrollment site for this study. Dr. Gupta is joined by Subodh Saggi, M.D. and Jason Lazar, M.D., both Professors of Medicine, and Zaheer Bukhari, M.D., clinical coordinator. The trial is sponsored by Histogen, a clinical-stage therapeutics company, and Amerimmune, a research center and immunology laboratory.




International COVID Symposium

International COVID Symposium poster