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Third Times the Charm - Boosters on the Rise at Downstate

Not long ago, Downstate reached an incredible milestone when our workforce reached the required inoculation rate against COVID-19—facilitating the State’s mandated 97 percent vaccination benchmark.

Led by our incredible nursing staff from University Hospital of Brooklyn, our vaccination operations and strategy have been robust and very organized. While getting doses of the COVID vaccine to every member of our community was certainly no easy feat, having our community vaccinated will most certainly help to maintain a safer campus environment. Still, I know we all want to protect our families, friends, colleagues, and ourselves. As such, the third times the charm, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

Dr. Riley getting a booster shot

Instead of speaking about it, I thought it best to demonstrate how simple, painless, and efficient getting a booster shot is. Earlier this month, Nurse Pauline Marfo-Boateng, RN, Assistant Director of Nursing, administrated the extra antibody boost that will provide an added layer of protection against the novel coronavirus—making me a safer neighbor, provider, colleague, family member, and friend.

If you are interested in receiving you COVID-19 booster shot at Downstate, and have not, please CLICK HERE.



School of Public Health

SPH Announces the 2021 Lenard and Christine Szarek Fellowship Awardees

photo of Michael Szarek and poster

The School of Public Health (SPH) has just announced its 2021 Szarek Fellows! This year, five deserving SPH scholars, Lydia Fu, Rebecca Hill, Sheikh Jahan, Claire Nurse, and Danvy Truong, who demonstrated their leadership and academic distinction were named as the newest cohort of awardees. The Lenard and Christine Szarek Fellowship Fund was established by Michael Szarek, Ph.D., MS, Associate Dean for Research Administration and Executive Director of the Center for Clinical and Outcomes Research, and was designed for SPH students matriculating in our Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs. Each year, the Szarek Fellowship Fund provides $5,000 awards to 10 eligible masters and doctoral students. Selection criteria is based on academic performance in their programs, as all applicants must have a minimum 3.75 G.P.A. along with at least of 12 credit hours of coursework to qualify. 

Here’s a closer look at out 2021 Szarek Fellows Cohort:

Lydia Fu

Program: MPH

Concentration: Epidemiology


photo of Lydia FuIn addition to serving as a first response worker with Downstate’s COVID-19 surveillance team, Lydia Fu has been working in research for Downstate’s COVID-19 contact tracing effort since its inception. She is also assisting Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in SPH’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, in the dissemination of her research on school discipline policies and adolescent school outcomes and risk behaviors. Ms. Fu earned her undergraduate degree with general honors in Chemistry from The University of Chicago (UChicago) and her BMA in Animation from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Before Downstate, she was a creative and media professional for a tech company. As a research assistant in the Department of Chemistry at UChicago, she worked with microfluidic devices to study the embryonic developmental patterns of drosophila. Not long after, while volunteering at UChicago Medicine, she assisted in a project investigating the impact of neighborhood violence on patient health outcomes on the South Side of Chicago. Ms. Fu is immensely grateful to the Selection Committee, SPH faculty, and her fellow peers who offered innumerous late nights of support during hectic exam weeks while tackling homework assignments together.


Rebecca Hill

Program: DrPH

Concentration: Epidemiology


photo of Rebecca HillRebecca Hill is a North Carolina native with undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology, as well as a graduate degree in Criminology. She is currently pursuing the DrPH in Epidemiology. Her dissertation, which she will defend later this year, examines the link between discrimination and cardiometabolic disease risk. Following graduation, Ms. Hill plans to continue her career in public health research as a Biostatistician for the Center for Health System's Effectiveness at Oregon Health & Science University. Ms. Hill believes the knowledge and experience she gained through her doctoral studies, as well as the support she received from the Szarek Fellowship, will play key roles in helping to reach her goal of becoming an epidemiologist and health researcher. She would like to thank all SPH faculty, staff, and fellow students for their positivity and unwavering support. A special mention goes to Dr. Rosenbaum, who has served as Ms. Hill’s advisor and dissertation chair, and whose guidance and encouragement propelled her professional and academic pursuits to the next level.


Sheikh Jahan

Program: MPH

Concentration: Health Policy and Management


photo of Sheikh JahanGrowing up, Sheikh Jahan witnessed the struggles of her parents to provide her and her siblings opportunities to become the people they are today. Ms. Jahan is currently working on alcohol and substance use intervention on college campuses, and is humbled to be pursuing a field with responsibilities that have proven to be essential to so many. She would like to thank her parents for making her dream come true by sacrificing their life in Bangladesh and immigrating to restart in a new country. She would also like to thank her siblings for the encouragement and for always reminding her how capable she is to attain all her academic and professional goals. Ms. Jahan hopes to bring change within lower income communities that struggle with many preventable chronic diseases because of the lack of access to, and communication with health professionals. Ms. Jahan hopes that her MPH degree in Health Policy & Management will help her to bring about changes she has always wished to see implemented for communities like hers.


Claire Nurse

Program: DrPH

Concentration: Epidemiology


photo of Claire NurseClaire Nurse is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Before arriving at Downstate, she earned a Master of Occupational Therapy from New York University, and Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Ms. Nurse currently works as a research and teaching assistant here at Downstate. Her research interests include the health effects of environmental exposures and the intersection of climate change and public health. She is grateful to all the SPH faculty, particularly in epidemiology and biostatistics, who shared their knowledge and passion for the field. Ms. Nurse extends a special thanks to Dr. Szarek for his generosity in establishing the scholarship award.


Danvy Truong

Program: MPH

Concentration: Community Health Sciences


photo of Danvy TruongDanvy Truong is enrolled in the Master of Public Health program with a concentration in Community Health Sciences. In addition to being a graduate teaching assistant for CHSC 5206: Program Design & Evaluation, she is an intern at Aaya’s Table, an organization that manages Type 2 diabetes patients with a whole-food plant-based intervention. With extensive experience in healthcare, Ms. Truong recognizes the obstacles that numerous patients face—especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds—in receiving care. Therefore, she believes in empowerment through education and empathy can lead to better health outcomes. Combining her passions for plant-based nutrition and public health, she advocates for health equity in underserved communities. Ms. Truong would like to thank the Downstate community for being a vital support system through her professional trajectory.

CONGRATULATIONS to our 2021 awardees and thank you for the incredible and important work each of you are doing to both advance the health of the communities we serve, and raise the bar of excellence at Downstate. Many thanks to Dr. Szarek, the entire Szarek Fellowship committee, and the SPH faculty for supporting and encouraging the scholastic excellence of our public health students!



School of Health Professions

Dean Lewis Discusses Health Disparities at University of Pittsburgh “State of Science” Conference

photo of Allen Lewis

I am pleased to share that Allen Lewis, Ph.D., CRC, Dean and Professor for the School of Health Professions (SOHP), was an invited, featured speaker and panelist at the 2021 State of the Science Conference on Social Determinants of Health Disparities in Rehabilitation and Reintegration. The event was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering and Research Laboratories, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Uniform Services University of the Health Sciences. Dean Lewis was joined by a team of international and domestic experts on social determinants and health disparities in rehabilitation. 


In his presentation on “U.S. Healthcare Disparities in Rehabilitation,” Dean Lewis addressed many areas, including:

  1. when the public rehabilitation system recognizes the need to address cultural factors in service delivery
  2. what current literature tells us about the experiences of culturally diverse, underrepresented, and disadvantaged populations in the rehabilitation and disability systems
  3. implications of the concepts of cultural competency, humility, and efficacy in rehabilitative interventions
  4. implications of using assistive technology and telerehabilitation applications with culturally diverse, underrepresented, and disadvantaged populations
  5. the Lewis Three-dimensional Model tool for delivering rehabilitation services cross-culturally.

Throughout the presentation, Dean Lewis identified both institutional and individual sources of bias that contribute to health disparities and the tools for delivering culturally competent health services as a strategy to mitigate health disparities. He also addressed how social media and recent grassroots protests for social and racial justice can be leveraged to build coalitions that improve advocacy for disability issues. Dean Lewis concluded by reinforcing that if health disparity researchers learn how to embed knowledge translation strategies into their routine research methodologies, it would improve the impact of health disparity research on clinical practice.

Many thanks to Dean Lewis for addressing this important topic and for advancing the Downstate mission forward by working to improve health outcomes in every community.



The Office of the SVPR Announces The 2021 Seed Grant Program Awardees!

seed grant poster

The Office of the Senior Vice President of Research has announced its 2021 Research Seed Grant Program Awardees! Downstate’s Seed Grant Program was developed to advance our growing research enterprise via targeted investments in projects deemed competitive for federal extramural research support. Applications were solicited from faculty across all five of our schools and colleges in two tracks:

Track 1: Projects focused on health equity or health disparities (as described by NIH NIMHD) from individuals or teams of DHSU faculty investigators. 

Track 2: Projects in any area from teams (two or more) of DHSU faculty investigators who have not received federal (or other substantial) funding together in the last four years

A review committee, comprised of five Downstate faculty and 10 faculty from other SUNY campuses, convened to review a total of 32 applications. The applications were scored in four categories:

  • Quality of Research Proposal;
  • Potential to Lead to Extramural Funding;
  • Track Record of PIs (Track 2 only), and
  • Potential to create synergy and long-term collaboration.

Reviewers met for a virtual NIH style study section and, at the end of the review, four Track 1 applications and six Track 2 applications were awarded.

Congratulations to our inaugural 2021 cohort of Seed Grant Program Awardees!

Please see the full list of projects and faculty awarded in this round, below:

image of names


In the Community

Would You Run 26.2 Miles to Support the Community and the Brooklyn Free Clinic?


map imageOn November 7th, Downstate will be represented in the TCS New York City Marathon as an official charity partner! Five dedicated, stellar athletes will represent our student-run Anne Kastor Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC), which hopes to raise $30,000 in support of the programs and healthcare services it provides at no cost to the community. 

BFC volunteers are students and physicians from Downstate’s College of Medicine, School of Health Professions, College of Nursing, and School of Public Health. Their combined talents, dedication, and belief in health equity and social impact are all part of what makes this institution and the BFC so special. 

Running on behalf of the BFC are: 

Richard Rosenfeld, M.D., MPH, MBA, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology, has a profound interest in health longevity. He did his first marathon at age 60, with two virtual marathons thereafter. Dr. Rosenfeld says this year, at age 63, he hopes to best his personal record of 3 hours and 50 minutes. 

Stella Kim Hansen, is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a strong belief in social justice, advocacy work, and direct action. She is running to support BFC because it helps the uninsured and others who have limited access to health care.

Cameron Moattori, M.D., is a graduate of Downstate’s College of Medicine, Class of 2021, who volunteered for the BFC throughout his medical school experience. “I know how much time and effort goes into making sure the clinic runs seamlessly,” he says.

Anh-Tuan Tran is a first-year Physical Therapy student at Downstate who has run 70-mile trail ultramarathons and is running his first New York City marathon. Since returning to school he has focused on getting faster and catching up with friends on long runs. He’s in the first wave of runners, and will start at 9:10 am.

Sana Sajjad is a College of Medicine student who has wanted to run the NYC marathon for a long time, and is thrilled to be able to do so as a representative of the BFC. “I had the opportunity to volunteer as a first-year and it's one of the best experiences I've had during my medical education,” she explains. “Nearly everyone on campus is involved with the BFC in some manner and it's a cornerstone of student life.”

Close to $25,000 has been raised to date—great, but still short of the goal. All contributions -- no matter what size -- are greatly appreciated.  

I would like to thank our runners—students, faculty, and staff— who are donating their time to make the clinic successful.  

For those interested in supporting their cause, CLICK HERE!


Shout Outs

Shout out goes to...

Ellen M. Ginzler, M.D., MPH, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medicine and Chief of Rheumatology, for receiving the prestigious 2021 Halsted R. Holman Award for Excellence in Clinical Research awarded at the Lupus 21st Century Conference. The prize recognizes scientists for “outstanding achievement that bridges new discoveries in lupus care with an understanding of what works, for whom, at what cost, and the practical barriers to their application.” The 21st Century Conference is a unique, by-invitation-only, meeting for prominent scientists from North America, South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. It is sponsored by the Lupus Research Alliance and held once every three years.

Henri Tiedge, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology and of Neurology, also attended the conference.

Kinnos, a company in Downstate’s Biotechnology Incubator, for being recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for developing “Highlight,” an innovative liquid bleach product.  Highlight infuses the wipes hospitals use to disinfect surfaces with a bright blue color, allowing users to see their work.  WHO included Highlight in its compendium of resources for low resource settings and praised Kinnos for helping providers to “correctly use disinfection…thus reducing contamination and improving safety.”

Paul A. Landsbergis, Ed.D., MPH, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, for his work with the Center for Social Epidemiology, which promotes public awareness of the role of environmental and occupational stress in the etiology of psychological disorders and cardiovascular disease. The Center recently released its Healthy Work Survey for Organizations, with the goal of working with organizations to assess the level of work stressors that are causes of common mental and physical health problems. See the Healthy Work Campaign HERE!

Vikram Pagpatan, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health Professions, for being appointed to the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). In this role, Professor Pagpatan will help inform, and advance DEI within AOTA itself and guide the OT profession towards becoming a more unified and inclusive community.

Fatemeh Mohammadpour-Touserkani, M.D., PG-4 Child Neurology Resident, for presenting findings at the American Neurological Association Annual Meeting on October 18, 2021. A detailed chart review showed that some patients with COVID-19 experience isolated encephalopathy and that the condition cannot be explained by the concurrent medical problems that are typically observed in COVID patients.  “Possible explanations may be the direct neurotoxicity of the virus or damage to the blood-brain Barrier,” explained Dr. Mohammadpour-Touserkani. The presentation was awarded as one of the top scorers in the meeting and was a product of teamwork between the departments of Neurology and Psychiatry. It was supervised by Yaacov Anziska, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology, and Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.B., B.S., Professor and Interim Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.


Must See Downstate TV

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


Training in the Digital Age: How Virtual Reality is Transforming Clinical Education | Digital Health 101  

Digital Health 101 is a new Interdisciplinary Lecture Series launched by UHB CEO Dr. David Berger. This second lecture in the series features Dr. Brian Gillett, M.D., a former Downstate faculty member and the current President and Chief Medical Officer of Health Care Scholars Inc., a cloud-based simulation management platform employing virtual reality technologies. 

The Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health’s 27th Annual SportsBall Gala

Hear from entertainers, sports legends, community heroes, and healthcare leaders, and Arthur Ashe Award honorees, including President Riley, who gathered virtually to pay tribute the late tennis legend’s legacy. (You can hear Dr. Riley’s comments at 27:10.) Hosted by AAIUH CEO Dr. Marilyn Fraser and Time Warner Cable’s anchor and senior reporter Cheryl Wills. 




SOHP Dean's Lecture Series

CLICK HERE to REGISTER for Lecture 3 (November 17, 2021): Critical Thinking