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Downstate Kicks-Off the New Academic Year with the 2021 Student Orientations!


The Bulletin is back, and so is the start if a new school year! Downstate kicked off the 2021-2022 Academic Year at Downstate kicked off with great excitement and anticipation in late August as the College of Nursing, the School of Public Health, and the School of Health Professions welcomed our new students to the Downstate Community with the Annual Fall Student Orientations.

I was proud to welcome so many enthusiastic, impassioned, and brilliant students to SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. As orientation week commenced, I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting with, speaking to, and engaging many of our new scholars. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of those we welcome year after year, and AY 21-22 is certainly no exception. The eagerness and curiosity is coupled with balanced and incredible diversity—and a reminder that regardless of how the world around us changes, Downstate will always be home to the best, brightest, and most passionate minds. Here’s a glimpse into how our schools kicked off the new academic year.


College of Nursing Orientation


The College of Nursing (CON) kicked off the new academic year in an impressive way—pinning and welcoming nearly 300 new nursing scholars across five programs to its student orientation program on August 30th—one of the largest incoming classes in the CON to-date!

Dean Lori Escallier, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, FAAN, welcomed new students in Alumni Auditorium where an onsite orientation program was offered to 95 Accelerated Baccalaureate Program students. Joanne Ritter-Teitel, Ph.D., MA, RN, Chair of the Entry Level Program, presented program specific information along with two 2021 graduates from the Accelerated Program, Rebecca Kaye and Tracy Wong. They enthusiastically greeted the new class and provided pearls of wisdom for success in this fast-paced, 14-month baccalaureate program. Jean McHugh, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, Accelerated Program Director, who provides ongoing support and mentorship to students accepted into program, also greeted students.

The College of Nursing also welcomed 26 new RN-BS students via a virtual orientation program and were greeted by Barbara Messina, Ph.D., ANP, RN, Associate Dean for Entry-level Programs, and Barbara Kitchener, Ph.D., RN, RN-BS Program Director.  CON’s graduate and certificate programs enrolled 177 new students who were welcomed by Annie Rohan, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-PC, NNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN. She was joined by Associate Dean for Advanced-Level Programs, Track Directors Beth Steinfeld, DNP, WHNP-BC, Director of Advanced-Level Program in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Core, and Nataliya Shaforost, DNP FNP-C CDCES, Director of Advanced-Level Program in the DNP Core.

Finally, I want to commend Dean Escallier. Under her leadershipthe College of Nursing has seen consistent growth and increasing enrollment in the Master’s Programs, including the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) tracks, and the newer DNP program. For AY 21-22, total enrollment in the College of Nursing has climbed to a remarkable 533 students—the largest in CON history!


School of Public Health Orientation

School of Public Health banner

The School of Public Health (SPH) boldly launched the new school year, welcoming one of its largest Fall cohorts of students—96 new public health scholars.  Of those 96 students, ten are pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Public Health (ACPH), 74 are enrolled in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program, and 12 are students in the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree program.

Tracey E. Wilson, Ph.D., Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs and Research in the School of Public Health, welcomed students and throughout the program, they heard from faculty who shared the history of public health, as well as SPH’s mission of “Building the Bridge to Health Equity for All.” Students learned about the immense impact and roles that public health professionals play in protecting health, extending life expectancy, and enhancing quality of life—all of which were made undeniably clear as we continue to live through the COVID-era. 

Students learned about SPH’s record of excellence in education, research, and community service—as well as its nationally-recognized, highly-trained diverse faculty. New SPH students were also thrilled to hear about SPH’s new Hy-flex course options that will enable them to participate in classes through asynchronous and synchronous online options, as well as in-person learning. Most importantly, they met fellow cohort members and connected with their respective Department Chairs—Denise Bruno, M.D., MPH, Chair of Community Health Sciences; Laura Geer, Ph.D., MHS, Chair of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences; Elizabeth Helzner, Ph.D., Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; and Thomas Mackie, Ph.D., MPH, Chair of Health Policy and Management.  

Many thanks to Dr. Wilson; Marlene Camacho-Rivera, ScD, MS, MPH, Assistant Dean for Student Engagement and Success and Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences; Raeann Rolston, Student Recruitment Specialist; and Paula Spann, Senior Staff Assistant, for putting on a dynamic program for our new students at SPH.


School of Health Professions Orientation


For the 2021-2022 Academic Year, School of Health Professions’ (SOHP) Dean Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, welcomed 150 new students who will pursue their baccalaureate, master's, doctoral degree, or advanced certificate in SOHP’s programmatic offerings.

Orientation was held on August 30th for 62 new SOHP students in the Diagnostic Medical Imaging, Medical Informatics, and Midwifery programs. Asynchronous activities were provided along with an in-person program that included a broad overview of each program's expectations, giving them an opportunity to: 

  • Meet incoming students from other disciplines
  • Learn about Financial Aid
  • Meet with facultyand currently enrolled students
  • Register for classes
  • Meet with representatives from Student Life & Services


Returning students also volunteered for “big siblings” roles for new students helping to make their transitions in their respective programs smoother.  

A special thank you to the staff of the Offices of Student Life and Services and to all the other departments that contributed to welcoming Fall 2021 entering and returning students to the School of Health Professions. 


I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all of our students, alums, faculty, and staff who helped make this year’s student orientations go off without a hitch. To all of our new scholars—WELCOME to Downstate! We wish you a dynamic and successful academic year!



Downstate’s BioBAT Receives $50m from City’s Expanded LifeSci NYC Investment!

photo of BioBAT lobby


This past July, Downstate received wonderful news on the research front when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced it would commit a $50M investment in life sciences to Downstate’s BioBAT in support of expanding its existing lab space. The endowment is being awarded as a part of LifeSci NYC—a city-wide initiative launched by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to spur the development of new life science jobs throughout the five boroughs and to establish New York City as a global leader in the life sciences.

These significant investments in advancing the life sciences agenda of New York City, including at BioBAT, will be invaluable in fulfilling the City’s aspirations to be a national leader in the life science space. It will also attract national and international life scientists, investors and developers, further driving important new innovations. This impactful commitment to invest in infrastructure at BioBAT will greatly enhance and further develop our biotechnology platforms.

Since its founding, BioBAT’s mission has worked to directly advance and expand opportunities within the life science industry in New York City. A 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, BioBAT—a partnership established by Downstate and the Research Foundation for SUNY—serves as a scientific research, exploration, and manufacturing hub that offers tax-free, cost-effective rental laboratory and office space to biotech firms. When all phases of BioBAT’s expansion are complete, its tenant companies will generate more than 500 new jobs.

BioBAT demonstrates Downstate’s commitment to growing biotechnology, as well as advancing science and technology that will contribute to Downstate’s role as an economic engine in Brooklyn.

I would like to extend sincere appreciation to the NYCEDC for this incredible gift and the opportunity to contribute so greatly to the growth and advancement the Life Sciences in the City. I would also like to commend Eva Cramer, Ph.D., President of BioBAT and Vice President for Biotechnology, for working to grow the footprint and reach of our institution’s biotechnology enterprise.


Read NYCEDC’s Official Press Release HERE!


UHB Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for New Mammography Suite!

Mammography Suite photo 1

I’m proud to share that in late July, we cut the ribbon and opened the doors of our beautiful, new, state-of-the-art Mammography Suite at University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB)! The new suite was recently renovated and redesigned, and now serves as a full-service breast cancer screening center with leading-edge digital technology.

Digital mammography is the most effective and thus the primary screening tool used in breast cancer detection. As we know, early detection is key to saving lives when it comes to breast cancer—so leaning on enhanced technology to support diagnosis in earlier stages, while the cancer is more easily treatable is critical. The new suite offers the full spectrum of breast imaging services— including digital mammography and breast ultrasound, ultrasound and stereotactic biopsies.

Mammography Suite photo 2

UHB now offers technology in the form of 3D mammography—an innovation used to identify breast cancer by allowing doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. This 3D mammography uses dynamic computing to convert digital breast images into a pile of thin layers or "slices"– building what is essentially a "three-dimensional” (3D) mammogram.

Mammography Suite photo 3

An extensive renovation, the space has been completely overhauled and expanded by approximately 3,600 square feet—increasing the space from its original capacity by a little over 40 percent. In addition to the technological upgrades, the suite now features an upgraded reception space, two digital mammography exam rooms, an ultrasound room, a private consultation room for patients and healthcare providers, individual gowning spaces, and a separate waiting area for gowned patients, and patient lockers.

With the abovementioned upgrades to the space, Downstate can now accommodate between 12,000 and 18,000 mammograms annually, nearly three times the amount offered on an annual basis in years prior.

A HUGE thanks to all who were instrumental in making this new Mammography Suite a reality— David Berger, M.D., MHCM, FACS, Chief Executive Officer of UHB; Patricia A. Winston, DNP, MS, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Senior Vice President for Hospital Operations for UHB; Deborah Reede, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Radiology, and her phenomenal team, as well as everyone in our Facilities Management & Development and Environmental Services departments for their steadfast leadership and follow-through in expanding our clinical offerings for the communities we serve!

Mammography Suite photo 4

For those who missed the ribbon cutting, WATCH HERE!

For more information and to learn about the importance of regular cancer screenings, CLICK HERE! If you wish to schedule an appointment, call 718-270-4438 or 718-270-7333.


New Downstate Brand and Website Set to Launch Fall 2021

brand launch

When I was first appointed President of this great institution, one of my primary objectives was to establish Downstate as a prestigious, recognizable, and highly-competitive brand with global reach and one that commands respect—from our clinical peers, from prospective students and patients, from the communities we serve, and the public at-large.


As many of you may recall, to advance that process, I submitted a proposal to legally change our name to something more fitting of our institutional history and contributions to the sciences. In June 2019, the SUNY Board of Trustees unanimously approved that proposal, amending the Institution’s legal name to The State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University.” With our new designation serving as a stronger reflection of our academic, research, and clinical offerings, as well as our innovations, it was time to pivot to reconceptualizing who we are as an institution, as a force within the health sciences, higher education, and clinical care, and as a brand comprehensively. 

MBLM logo

Shortly after our name change, I commissioned the Downstate Rebranding Initiative—a campaign designed to competitively reposition Downstate’s brand (in narrative, in messaging, in design aesthetic, and in reputation). Led by Sefanit Befekadu, Director of Institutional Communications, with the support of Sean Thill, Graphic Designer, and members from the Office of Communications and Marketing (OCM), the initiative has been a collaborative process between OCM, our contracted brand agency vendor, MBLM NYC, as well as our critical internal stakeholders—students, faculty and leadership across campus.

Of course, no plan to reposition Downstate’s brand could be complete without considering the platform that engages the source of our largest, most consistent audience—our website. In July of 2019, we concluded our vendor search and awarded the bid to an external web design agency, mStoner, who was selected to build a fresh, innovative, and user-friendly site for Downstate. Led by John Zubrovich, Director of New Media Services in OCM, Aaron Cormier, and Sean Nurse, web managers from our New Media Team, have been working feverishly to complete the execution of our new website. The overhaul of the new site has been a massive undertaking and is being built with ease of function, aesthetic presentation, and data-driven content in mind. Moreover, the site will reflect it’s role as a primary tool for recruiting prospective students, faculty, and staff, while also connecting with the community, and sharing our innovations in research and clinical care.

mStoner logo

I cannot begin to tell everyone how thrilled I am to unveil the final products from both of these critical initiatives. These updates and improved resources for our Downstate Community are long overdue by many years.  The ongoing rebranding initiative and website redesign are set to conclude and culminate with our brand launch event that will be held before the end of the calendar year. Event details are forthcoming.

Many thanks to Dawn Walker, Associate Vice President of Communications & Marketing, and the designated Brand and Website designated teams for their efforts over the past 2-years to reveal a new and improved Downstate.


SPOTLIGHT: SPH’s Dr. Thomas Mackie Appointed as Chair of the Department of Health Policy  Management

photo of Dr. Thomas Mackie

Earlier this summer, the School of Public Health welcomed Thomas Mackie, Ph.D., MPH, as the new Chair of Health Policy and Management, one of my very own academic departments.

Trained as a medical sociologist and health services researcher, Dr. Mackie’s research aims to bring new evidence to pressing pediatric and perinatal mental and behavioral healthcare policy and practice challenges. His portfolio of work is motivated by the rapid expansion of system-wide innovations that seek to address gaps in access to quality mental health care for Medicaid-insured youth and their caregivers. His mixed-methods research examines an array of system-level innovations, including universal screening programs, delivery system enhancements (e.g., investment in a trauma-informed systems of care), healthcare provider supports (e.g., consultation programs), and monitoring programs (e.g., prior authorization and drug utilization reviews).

Dr. Mackie most recently served as faculty at the Rutgers School of Public Health and as core faculty at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers. He received a Joint-Doctorate in Social Policy and Sociology at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Brandeis University.

My thanks to Daniel Ehlke, Ph.D., for his commitment, dedication, and leadership during his service as Interim Chair of Health Policy and Management.

Please be sure to give Dr. Mackie a warm Downstate welcome!


Media Moments

In case you missed it – here are a few Editor’s Picks from recent news articles featuring either Downstate or quoting Downstate faculty, staff, or students:


BK Reader

Featuring Dean of Public Health Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., and Professor of Epidemiology Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D.

BK Experts Back de Blasio’s, Students Need Socialization -- September 1, 2021



The New York Times

Featuring Dean of Public Health Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D.

NYC’s Challenge: Keeping 1M Students Safe Amid Delta --August 26, 2021



The Washington Post

Featuring President Wayne J. Riley, M.D., MPH, MBA, MACP, and Respiratory Therapy Director Julie Eason

The Lament of COVID-19 Caregivers in the Nation’s Safety-Net Hospitals: “What Could be Next?” -- August 24, 2021



Becker’s Hospital Review

Featuring UHB CEO David H. Berger, M.D.

Becker’s Healthcare Podcast -- July 5, 2021



Must See Downstate TV

Downstate videos from the New Media Division of Communications and Marketing, featuring faculty, students, and staff. Want to see more? Check out Downstate TV on YouTube at:



Diversity at Downstate, Historic Notes from the Division of Research—Dr. Moro Salifu, Up Close and Personal 


Caring for the Health and Well-Being of Mothers and Children - Obstetrics and Gynecology Services at Downstate


Shout Outs!

shout out goes to...

The student-run Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC), for receiving a grant from the Brooklyn Communities Collaborative to purchase new medical equipment. In more good BFC news, its comedy fundraiser last semester brought in $9,482 to support programming.


And, on November 7th, a BFC team will be racing in the NYC Marathon as a charity partner. To date, $20,121 has been raised towards BFC’s goal of $40,000.  If you want to donate, CLICK HERE, or on the image above, or search for our team on the Marathon’s Charities page under “Faculty Student Association of Downstate Medical Center Inc.”

Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Sc.D., M.S., MPH, Assistant Dean for Student Engagement and Success and Assistant Professor for Community Health Sciences, and Rose Calixte, Ph.D., MS, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, both in the School of Public Health, for being awarded a COVID-19 Research Accelerator Grant for their proposal, “EVIDENCE: Elucidating COVID Disparities in Engagement of Chronic Disease Care.”  Their team was one of 15 applicants, out of 130, selected for this Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded grant.

Complementing this grant, Dr. Camacho-Rivera was also appointed to the 2021 class of Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity at George Washington University’s Workforce Institute, with the goal of developing community-centered strategies to address disparities in COVID19 vaccine access. This year-long fellowship launched June 14th.

Eva Cramer, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology and Vice President for Biotechnology and Scientific Affairs, and W. Marcus Lambert, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Associate Vice President for Research Strategy and Operations, for being named to theLife Sciences Power 50” list of scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors driving New York’s biotech boom by the publication City and State.

Jelanie DeShong, former Director of Government Relations, for being named to Governor Kathy Hochul’s new administration as Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs. While at Downstate, Mr. DeShong worked tirelessly to advocate for our programs with Brooklyn legislators. Last year, at the height of the pandemic, he was an ever-present campus force helping to facilitate PPE and food donations for our essential workers.

The 100-plus students who enrolled in Downstate’s new online Food as Medicine Initiative, a program that will supplement Downstate’s existing nutrition curriculum that was launched with a $10,000 seed grant from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The ultimate goal? To help communities that suffer from diet-impacted diseases. Many thanks to the Committee on Plant-Based Health and Nutrition, the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health for their work on making this happen.



New SOHP Dean's Lecture Series

Lecture 1 (September 23, 2021): Anticipating the Future and Building Learning Organizations