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The Pandemic and Food Insecurity Among Cancer Survivors

Food Insecurity

In a first-of-its-kind study, Community Health Sciences assistant professor Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Sc.D., MPH, was the first lead author on a study that highlighted the increased burden of food security and mental stress among U.S. adults during the pandemic. Cancer survivors, adults from rural communities, and adults from minoritized backgrounds were especially vulnerable.

Using data from the 2020 COVID-19 Household Impact Survey, Dr. Camacho-Rivera and her team that included researchers from the University of North Carolina, University of South Florida, and the University Miami, used two questions to assess food insecurity: “We worried our food would run out before we got money to buy more,” and “The food that we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.”

Marlene Camacho

Dr. Camacho-Rivera found that in general, pandemic-associated disruptions, including increased unemployment, social distancing, and lockdowns, significantly contributed to new or worsening economic barriers to food security. For example, at the height of the pandemic, 26 percent of all survey respondents reported food insecurity, compared to 11 percent in a 2019 survey conducted by the USDA.

Among cancer survivors, pandemic-related food insecurity was even higher (at 32 percent). Those aged 30-44 and over 60 years, who lacked a high school diploma, lived in rural areas, and/or were uninsured or on Medicaid, reported even higher rates. Additionally, black cancer survivors were almost twice as likely to report being food insecure compared to their white counterparts. Cancer survivors with food insecurity also reported higher levels of mental stress, including depression, loneliness, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

The paper, “Food Insecurity Disparities and Mental Health Impacts Among Cancer Survivors During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was released as a preprint in medRxiv on February 7, 2022.


College of Nursing Appoints Three New Faculty Members

The College of Nursing has onboarded three new faculty members for the spring semester. Each brings a wide range of academic and clinical experiences to Downstate. All three previously served at Downstate as adjunct faculty.

Sincere McMillanSincere S. McMillan, D.N.P., MS, RN, ANP-BC, joins the college as a full-time associate professor and is the lead faculty member for health assessment and adult primary care courses for the Family and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner master’s degree programs. Dr. McMillan works concurrently as a nurse practitioner in the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In this role, she provides medical management for hospitalized older adults. She has also developed geriatric oncology education programs for advanced practice nurses.

Dr. McMillan began her career as an RN in 2006 after graduating magna cum laude from Adelphi University. She graduated from the Rory Meyers College of Nursing at New York University earning the master’s in Adult Health in 2009, and received her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Walden University in 2019. She has written and lectured widely on topics related to geriatric oncology.

June PaulJune C. Paul, D.N.P., MPH, CNM, FNP-BC, is a certified nurse-midwife joining the College of Nursing faculty as a part-time clinical associate professor. Dr. Paul has served on the staff of New York-Presbyterian Hospital as a nurse practitioner since 1989, caring for ante-and post-partum high-risk patients. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a certificate in Nurse-Midwifery from Downstate. Dr. Paul also earned the MPH focusing on International Family Planning and Services from Columbia University and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Paul has substantial clinical experience, having served as a medical-surgical, operating room, labor and delivery, and post-anesthesia care nurse. She has also served as a clinical preceptor to midwifery and nurse practitioner students and medical residents. Dr. Paul has held adjunct faculty appointments at Downstate, Columbia University, and St. Georges University in the West Indies, and also mentored nursing students at CUNY/Medgar Evers College.

Marie ClaireMarie-Claire Rosenberg Roberts, Ph.D., MS, MPA, RN, who currently works as an adjunct instructor of Medical-Surgery Medicine and Statistics in the School of Health Professions’ Diagnostic Imaging Program, joined Downstate as a full-time clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing, teaching Health Assessment, and Evidence-Based Practice and Research.

Dr. Rosenberg Roberts earned the doctorate in Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and a master’s in Biostatistics and Quality Improvement from Dartmouth College, an MPA from Clark University-Israeli Branch, and a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Tel Aviv. 

Dr. Rosenberg Roberts has held academic positions at Touro College, Pace University, and New York University. She has also worked as a research associate at the Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire. Her research interests include patient outcomes measurement and evaluation, workforce issues, and health policy related to nursing practice.

Please join me in wishing great success to our new colleagues!


Downstate's COTAD Chapter Celebrates Culture and New Year Traditions Across the Globe


group photo

The Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) chapter at SUNY Downstate’s Occupational Therapy program is leading the charge in diversity, cultural competency, and cultural humility from a student-developed and student-led approach! 

The chapter held its first Spring semester event on “Cultural Awareness on the Celebration of New Year’s Around the World,” highlighting traditions, values, and customs from a cross-cultural approach. Countries examined included China, Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, Israel, India, Ethiopia, and many more. Additionally, students and faculty provided an in-depth discussion on appreciating culture as part of best practices within holistic healthcare approaches. 

COTAD is a national organization of occupational therapy practitioners, students, and educators dedicated to making health equity a priority at all levels of healthcare. Downstate’s chapter was the first to be established on the east coast.   

Thanks to our participating students and faculty for a successful event and increasing awareness of cultural practices and bias in healthcare through impactful discussions.


The Importance of Diversity in Urology

Clinical Affairs associate dean and Clinical Urology associate professor Brian McNeil, M.D., MBA, FACS, participated in The Impact of Diversity in Urology: How Black Urologists Shape Patient Outcomes. Presented by the Prostate Cancer Impact Alliance, this webinar focused on the importance of increasing the number of Black and African-American urologists.

Dr. McNeil shared his career journey and emphasized how culturally competent care shapes patient outcomes, why Black voices are critically needed in urology, and how the  presence of Black physicians can make a difference in the lives of their patients. To see the webinar, click here.


The Role of Religion in the Civil Rights Movement 

I was honored to greet the esteemed guests for the Black History Month panel discussion, The Role of Religion in the Civil Rights Movement. Downstate’s rabbinical chaplain Yitzchok Holzman, SUNY Council chair and Lenox Road Baptist Church senior pastor Rev. Kirkpatrick Cohall, and Christian Cultural Center senior pastor A.R. Bernard engaged in a lively discussion moderated by Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health chief executive officer Marilyn A. Fraser, M.D.

More than 100 people tuned in via livestream and chat. The panelists viewed a short clip about faith-based collaborations during the civil rights movement, and then responded to questions. The conversation also addressed how community organizations and houses of worship are a catalyst for social change and social justice, mainly for communities that continue to be underserved. To view the livestream event, click here.


Downstate’s Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology to Participate in Initiative to Improve Maternal Health of Black Women Announced by Vice President Kamala Harris

Maternal Health Care

University Hospital at Downstate (UHD) is one of only 12 hospitals selected by the Essential Hospitals Institute (EHI) to join a newly formed collaborative focused on improving obstetric outcomes for Black pregnant or birthing patients.

As part of this new program, Downstate will develop and share data and best practices with partnering hospitals and the 300-plus members of America’s Essential Hospitals network.

Americas Essential Hospitals

The EHI initiative—funded by the CVS Health Foundation—was announced at the White House in December as part of Vice President Kamala Harris’s Maternal Day of Action Summit. Members of the collaborative were selected from a field of competitors throughout the U.S. UHD, which will receive a $45K grant from EHI, is the only participating hospital in New York State.

As part of the project, Obstetrics & Gynecology chair Camille A. Clare, M.D., MPH, will lead a community-engaged, multidisciplinary workgroup laser-focused on hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. The workgroup team will include senior leadership, physicians, social workers, community leaders, and nursing staff, with involvement from the departments of Maternal and Child Nursing, Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, and OB/GYN. Additionally, the SUNY Women’s Community Advisory Board, a collaboration involving the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and a broad base of birthing-focused organizations that serve Central Brooklyn, will help drive outreach and community engagement.  

Also integral to the workgroup and project is associate administrator and director of Nursing’s Maternal and Child Health Services Theresa Uva, R.N., MS, and Christina Pardo, M.D., MPH, FACOG, vice-chair of quality improvement and innovation, director of health equity, and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The workgroup will create and execute protocols, safety drills, and simulations, monitor outcome metrics, and educate faculty, staff, and community members. Among its many goals, one will be to educate women on the risks of  hypertension, signs and symptoms, and the care needed to mitigate this disease. An equally important goal is to empower women to speak out loudly if they feel they are not being heard.

We are excited to provide more quality healthcare opportunities for our community!


Shout Out to:

UHD CEO David Berger, M.D., for his NEJM Catalyst article Addressing Social Determinants of Health Requires Stronger Public-Private Alliances

Graduate Medical Education and Affiliations associate dean Teresa Y. Smith, M.D., MSEd, FACEP, for this great conversation with trailblazer Barbara Ross-Lee, M.D. Dr. Lee changed the face of medicine when in 1993, she became the first African American female dean of a United States medical school at Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is currently the president of the American Osteopathic Foundation.

Our phenomenal Downstate residents for Thank-a-Resident Day. More than 490 institutions participated in this special annual day celebrating resident physicians and fellows. Thank-a-Resident Day was launched in 2018 by the Gold Humanism Honor Society to recognize the “hospital house staff” and the indispensable ways they contribute to healthcare. See Downstate the Thank-a-Resident video here.

The School of Public Health for their new video highlighting the Masters of Healthcare Administration Program.

The Midwifery program, a cornerstone practice at SUNY Downstate since 1932. Today, it is recognized nationwide for providing excellence in education, solid clinical experiences for students, innovation, and diversity. See the new Midwifery Program video here.


Media Moments—In case you missed it…

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



Featuring:  Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health CEO Marilyn A. Fraser, M.D., community engagement and relations manager Faven Araya, and senior program coordinator Kenya Kirkman.

Dispatch from Brooklyn: In Mental Health, ‘Kids Helping Kids’ Works – Feb 25, 2022


The Daily Gazette (Albany)

Featuring: Obstetrics and Gynecology chair Camille Clare, M.D.

Forum Examines Racial Disparity as Black Vaccination Rate Lags – Feb 16, 2022 


Endocrinology Advisor

Featuring: Otolaryngology chair and distinguished professor Richard M. Rosenfeld, M.D., MPH, MBA

Plant-Based Diet Reduces Risk of Severe COVID-19 – Feb 16, 2022



Featuring: Radiology associate professor Jinel Scott, M.D., MBA, and Radiology and Internal Medicine clinical associate professor Stephen Waite, M.D.

Radiologists Can Help Overcome Hurdles and Bring About Positive Change – Feb 15, 2022



Featuring: Cardiology chief fellow Yuvraj S. Chowdhury, M.D.

Don’t Expect Success in Interventional Cardiology, Prepare for It! – Feb 24, 2022


Must See Downstate TV…

The 6th Annual Samuel L. Kountz, Jr., M.D., Lecture and Award Ceremony

Featuring W. Marcus Lambert, Ph.D., associate vice president for research strategy and operations as keynote speaker. Surgeon-scientist Samuel L. Kountz, Jr., M.D., was the first African American transplant surgeon in the United States. Dr. Kountz established the SUNY Downstate Transplant Program and was appointed Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1972. See the lecture and awards here.


From the Downstate TV Vault: The Nitric Oxide Story Continues…

Downstate’s Dr. Robert Furchgott won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998, for discovering the nitric oxide molecule. This video, which has exceeded over a hundred thousand views, focuses on the impact of nitric oxide on daily life and prospects for new understandings—filmed in 2018 and featuring professor of Pathology and Bioengineering Randall Barbour, Ph.D.


Save the Date…

TRANSPORT Symposium Friday, March 11, 2022

Save the Date

8:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.

Advancing the Science of Community Engaged
Research : Lessons Learned from Covid-19

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

View the Meeting Agenda



Patient Safety

Join Us for UHD's Patient Safety and Quality Fair

Wednesday March 16, 2022

12:00 P.M. to 5:15 P.M. 

The Patient Safety and Quality Fair will be a dynamic event, filled with speakers, games, and an incredible keynote presentation titled, "Risky Business: Quality, Equity and Essential Hospitals," presented by Dr. Bruce Siegel, M.D., MPH, President and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals

You will also hear remarks from members of leadership at Downstate. This is part of our We Care journey toward zero harm and becoming a High-Reliability Organization (HRO).

Do not miss outregister!

CLICK HERE for registration. 



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