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Dr. Sabina Hirshfield: Reducing HIV Risk Behaviors with Tech and e-Messaging Campaigns


While HIV is now considered a chronic, manageable illness, prevention and access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) remain complex public health issues, especially among diverse sexual minority populations. Alongside a transdisciplinary and multi-institutional team of experts, visiting associate professor of Medicine, Sabina Hirshfield, Ph.D., has been working to reduce HIV transmission risk behaviors with web, video, and message-based interventions as part of her federally funded work in the STAR Program.  

Recently, Dr. Hirshfield and colleagues developed and tested the efficacy of an HIV prevention messaging app that offers access to free HIV test kits and prevention services for HIV-negative and HIV-positive diverse sexual minority men (SMM). The research-based app, called HealthMindr, was developed at Emory University. The CDC-funded study found that prevention practices, including HIV testing and uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), increased among those who used the app. A version of HealthMindr is currently under development for healthcare providers, health departments, and community-based organizations.

In addition to several mHealth HIV Prevention studies that Dr. Hirshfield is involved with, she is co-leading an NIH-funded national mHealth intervention (START) to reach 350 SMM living with HIV and who use stimulant drugs such as cocaine or crystal methamphetamine. The goal of START is to encourage men to take their HIV medication more consistently, regardless of whether they are seeking formal substance use treatment. The START study app is in the final stages of development and is set to launch this spring.

You can find out more about Dr. Hirshfield’s research here.


Students Representing Four Downstate Academic Units Compete in Interprofessional Case Competition

Students have represented SUNY Downstate in the annual Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition for over a decade.

The Emory Case Competition gives students from various backgrounds a chance to develop solutions to a current global health crisis. The multidisciplinary competition spans the fields of medicine, public health, health policy, and business and includes teams from all over the world. This year, students from four of our academic units will be representing Downstate in the competition.

College of Medicine StudentsCollege of Medicine Students 2College of Medicine students Nitasha Goyal, Daniel Rosenthal, and Natalia Monsalve bring their experiences in health education, fieldwork, community engagement, and innovation to the team. Dienta Tajudin represents the School of Public Health with interests in population health, urban and immigrant health policy, and mental healthcare for refugees. Maningbe Camara, from the School of Health Professions, contributes her background in infection disease microbiology, informatics, and data processing. And finally, College of Nursing student Cagatay Celik brings experience in engineering and direct patient care. 

The 2022 competition will be hosted virtually from March 11-19, 2022, with up to 60 national and international teams competing. Please join me in wishing our Downstate team great success!


Spotlight on Surgery Resident Physician & Research Fellow Jodi-Ann Edwards, M.D., PGY2 RY3

Jodie Ann Edwards

General Surgery resident and MPH student Jodi-Ann Edwards, M.D., is a mother, community advocate, mentor, volunteer, first-generation immigrant, and self-described Brooklyn indoor gardener pursuing a career in academic surgery.

Compassionate and empathetic, she combines scholarship with service to our medical students, patients, and the community while advancing the principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI).

Born in Jamaica and raised in South Florida, Dr. Edwards joined Downstate as a categorical General Surgery resident in 2017 after receiving her medical degree from the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. Dr. Edwards completed two clinical years and decided to pursue research.

She is currently completing her third dedicated research year as a Department of Surgery Laboratory research fellow. Under the mentorship of assistant professor of Surgery Chongmin Huan, M.D., Ph.D., her basic science research focuses on the molecular biology of acute pancreatitis. In addition, as a member of Surgery’s Research Group, she is involved in clinical research focused on surgical disease outcomes, quality improvement, and healthcare disparities.

Dr. Edwards believes that physician workforce diversity is key to enhancing the quality of medical education and improving overall patient care. She credits Downstate leaders such as College of Medicine dean F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., FACS, and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education and Affiliations Teresa Y. Smith, M.D., MSEd, for providing opportunities to represent Downstate. She also serves as the Department of Surgery’s representative for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity initiatives in Undergraduate and Graduate Medical Education committees. As part of this commitment, Dr. Edwards intends to increase DEI and improve the learning environment within her specialty.

Dr. Edwards is a 2021 Diversity in National Medical Fellowship (NMF) Clinical Trials Research Emerging Investigator Awardee and a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. In addition, she is a volunteer with Downstate’s Health Professions Recruitment Exposure Program (HPREP) and with YoungLives Manhattan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young mothers and expecting mothers.

Dr. Edwards is a peer reviewer for the Annals of Surgery Open Access, has research publications and commentaries on health equity and social determinants of health, and is a contributor to Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery Textbook Questions & Answers 11th Edition with Dean Brunicardi, and associate professor of Surgery Lisa Dresner, M.D.

Along with her fellow residents and fellows, Dr. Edwards was awarded Downstate’s Certificate of Courage in 2020 for her work during the pandemic. In addition, she will receive the FAU Hall of Fame and Schmidt College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater in May. Read about SEED, a pipeline program developed by Dr. Edwards in her paper here, and about her, in a tribute to her grandparents.



SUNY Downstate and the College of Optometry Partner to Expand Interdisciplinary Offerings


SUNY Downstate and the SUNY College of Optometry announced a partnership to establish public health education and research programs on the SUNY College of Optometry’s 42nd Street campus. This partnership will allow SUNY Optometry and SUNY Downstate’s School of Public Health (SPH) to expand access to public health degree programs while creating collaborative research opportunities examining healthcare disparities and access, particularly in the area of eye and vision care. 

This partnership creates a new opportunity for students and faculty across programs to collaborate on both educational programs and public health research. Additionally, it expands opportunities for New York City residents to pursue degrees in public health.

This partnership extends the SUNY footprint and our collective capacities to understand and manage health challenges in underserved communities. SPH’s vision is to lead the way to urban health equity in New York and beyond; its mission is to improve the health status of urban and marginalized populations by training the next generation of diverse public health leaders, conducting practice-changing research, and enhancing public health interventions that transform the implementation of policy to create healthy communities.

Congratulations to the School of Public Health dean Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D., and College of Optometry president David A. Heath, O.D., EdM. Read the press release here.


Annual GME and Faculty Development Symposium

GME Symposium

Downstate hosted the annual GME UME Faculty Development and Resident-as-Teacher Symposium. The theme of the day was Professionalism in the Clinical Learning Environment. Along with Dean Brunicardi, I was honored to give welcome remarks and introductions. The day’s focus was around creating clinical learning environments for trainees that are professional and inclusive for ALL. 

Mason and Ross-Lee CollageFrom left to Right: Bonnie Mason, M.D., and Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O.

The lineup of speakers included Bonnie Mason, M.D., former V.P. of Diversity and Inclusion at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and now Medical Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of the American College of Surgeons and Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., president of the American Osteopathic Foundation. Dr. Lee-Ross was the first African-American woman to be appointed dean of a U.S. medical school.

The speakers discussed implementing equity across graduate medical education, the power of language when communicating with each other and patients, leading with love, building psychological safety into the learning environment, and addressing professionalism disruptions.

An interview and discussion with Dr. Ross-Lee about building a culture of excellence for learners and faculty concluded the event. Congratulations to event organizers, Teresa Y. Smith, M.D., MSEd, Elka Jacobson-Dickman, M.D., and Melanie Cheng, M.D.


Black History Month Honors and Celebrations

Black History Month

University Hospital at Downstate celebrated Black History Month and honored five employees for their exceptional service. Congratulations to these five deserving individuals: Department of Medicine administrator Josheila Crandall, Nursing Informatics’ assistant director, Michele Fisher, RN, MS., associate professor of Urology Llewellyn M. Hyacinthe M.D., MBA, FACS, assistant vice president, Surgical Services, and interim administrator Tashma Watson, Ph.D., RN, CSSM, and nursing assistant, Nursing Station 74, Carol King.


Sixth Annual Dr. Samuel L. Kountz Jr. Lecture and Award Ceremony


A special note of thanks to associate vice president for Research Strategy and Operations Marcus Lambert, Ph.D., who delivered the keynote, “An Analysis of Black STEM Degree Recipients: A Need for Greater Equity,” at the annual Kountz Lecture and Award Ceremony.

I also extend a special note of gratitude to this year’s award recipients for embodying and upholding the principles and values of Dr. Kountz and SUNY Downstate. The 2022 honorees are vice chair of the Department of Urology and the Urology Residency program director Brian K. McNeil, M.D., MBA, FACS, COM student Aaron Conway, MS, MA, Office of Medical Education senior manager Floyd Bennett, New Media Services director John Zubrovich, Cell Biology associate professor Richard Kollmar, Ph.D., Department of Family and Community Medicine professor Richard Sadovsky, M.D., Department of Family and Community Medicine professor Steven Liverpool, M.D., distinguished teaching professor of medicine/endocrinology and associate dean Samy McFarlane, M.D., MPH, MBA, Sodexo staff Jaren Steele and Bentley Bennett, and STEP program liaison Trevon Adams.


New Leadership and Faculty in Occupational Therapy

The Occupational Therapy Program in the School of Health Professions has added two new full-time core faculty members. T’Shura Brown, OTD, OTR/L, will serve as the program’s new full-time interim chair, and Krystal Brewington, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, joins as a full-time assistant professor. Together, they bring additional capacity to Downstate’s OT program, which mixes technical expertise with extensive hands-on training and is one of the most diverse OT programs in the country. 

T'shura Brown

Dr. Brown earned her master of science degree in occupational therapy from Downstate in 2012 and her doctorate from Chatham University in 2017. In addition to working in the private sector, Dr. Brown has been a part-time lead instructor at Downstate for the past four years. In addition, she served as a senior occupational therapist for the New York City Department of Education for almost ten years and is an approved occupational therapy evaluator for children from birth to three years old.

In addition to lecturing in her specialty area, Dr. Brown has presented on access and barriers to care, health equity, and health disparities both in the U.S. and abroad. She is also active with Downstate’s Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity chapter.


Dr. Brewington, a board-certified hand therapist who is proficient in custom orthotic fabrication, has been in practice since 2011. She holds a master of science in occupational therapy from Howard University and a doctorate from Concordia University-Wisconsin. Her areas of expertise include orthopedic and sports-related injuries of the upper extremities. Dr. Brewington has also served as a senior clinician and multi-site director in private practice and an instructor for several OT/OTA programs. Her career in outpatient rehabilitation includes Washington, DC, and here in Brooklyn.

One of Dr. Brewington’s significant interests in occupational therapy practice is in developing countries, particularly Central and South America. She has participated in two medical missions abroad, where she and a team of colleagues provided free OT service. Once COVID travel restrictions are lifted, she will plan a service-learning fieldwork elective for Downstate OT students.   

Please join me in giving Drs. Brown and Brewington a rousing Downstate welcome! 


Shout Out to:


Cell Biology associate professor Janice Brissette, Ph.D., was among the women highlighted by EMBO Press during their Women in Science week celebrating women whose work appeared on the cover of an EMBO journal. Dr. Brissette’s laboratory developed a genetic technique called flash-forward genetics, which was featured on the cover of EMBO Reports. Dr. Brissette’s niece, Sydney Rodriguez, drew the cover illustration for the journal.


Otolaryngology chair Richard Rosenfeld, M.D., MPH, MBA, was the first and corresponding author on the new clinical practice guidelines on tympanostomy tube surgery for children--the most common ambulatory surgery performed on children aged six months to twelve years in the United States. The new policies provide evidence-based recommendations on patient selection and surgical indications and expanded clinical action statements. It also offers extensive patient education materials, including a plain language version developed specifically for consumers and patients. 

Medical Informatics chair and associate professor Mohammad Faysel, Ph.D., for presenting on “Cyber Security and Healthcare” as a Visiting Scholar at SUNY Poly. Dr. Faysel focused on the current status and foreseeable future of cyber security, as well as actionable defenses and policies.

College of Medicine student Zenab Jamil won the “Raise the Line” scholarship competition sponsored by Osmosis.org, an education training company. Ms. Jamil’s winning video can be accessed here.

College of Nursing Advanced Level Nursing Programs chair Beth R. Steinfeld, D.N.P., WHNP-BC, FNYAM, for being appointed to the Board of Directors of the National Certification Corporation, a nonprofit that credentials nurses, physicians, and other licensed health professionals in the obstetric, gynecologic, women’s health, and neonatal specialties.  

In case you missed it…

Here are our Editor’s Picks from recent news articles featuring Downstate or quoting Downstate faculty, staff, or students:


News 12

Featuring: Rami Nakeshbandi, M.D.

Hochul: COVID cases at lowest since October as New York is getting over the hump (news12.com) February 15, 2022



Featuring: Urology vice-chair Brian Keith McNeil, M.D.

Testes May ‘Serve as Viral Sanctuary’ for SARS-CoV2: Study – February 11, 2022


Gear Patrol

Featuring: Dermatology assistant clinical professor Jessica Krant, M.D.

Are You Overlooking your Eyebrows? Here’s How to Take Care of Them – February 8, 2022


M.D. Edge / Hematology and Oncology

Featuring: Community Health Sciences associate professor Aimee Afable, Ph.D., MPH

Spanish-speaking Navigators Show Hispanic Patients Path to CRC screening – February 9, 2022


Must-see Downstate TV

Must see Downstate TV features….

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University Celebrates Black History Month

Featuring Obstetrics and Gynecology chair Camille A. Clare, MD, MPH.


A Heart Disease Story by Dr. JoAnne S. Katz

Physical Therapy Program chair and associate professor Joanne Katz, PT, DEP, Ph.D., describes her family’s history with cardiovascular disease and how she takes care of her heart health.



To submit an item in consideration for The President’s Bulletin, please email BulletinSubmissions@downstate.edu.