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A Tribute to the 9/11 Lost

photo of 9/11 Memorial

Twenty-one years ago, the United States experienced one of the worst attacks on American soil when 2,977 people died in the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA attacks of September 11, 2001.

I am sure we can each remember precisely where we were when we heard the news. Though the pain has become something we live with, it has not gone away. So many lost loved ones, including family, friends, and colleagues.

First responders dashed to scenes to offer help—hundreds gave their lives in this unselfish gesture of humanity; healthcare professionals waited for patients to arrive—few would come, and thousands of regular citizens offered to donate blood for those who might need it—the need never materialized. Unfortunately, it was too late for the thousands of souls lost that day.

We each have our own stories and remembrances of that day, but what NEVER changes is the memory of how we came together as a nation. SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University continues to honor the lost, and will always remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for the sake of others. 

photo of 9/11 Memorial

Photos: Jin S. Lee


Dr. John LaRosa Announces Retirement from Downstate

photo of John C. LaRosa, MD

Last week, John C. LaRosa, M.D., officially retired from the Downstate faculty, where he served as Professor of Medicine and Public Health. Before joining the faculty full-time, Dr. LaRosa served as the 15th president of Downstate Health Sciences University (Downstate Medical Center at the time) from 1999 to 2012. His consequential leadership, vision, and positioning of Downstate as a leading academic medical center touched all aspects of this Institution. 

During his tenure as Downstate’s president, Dr. LaRosa oversaw the creation of a new School of Public Health, the opening of a new biotechnology incubator, and the launching of a larger biotech facility at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. He also obtained funding for the Public Health Academic Building, which houses our School of Public Health, state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms, research laboratories, and a simulation center. 

I was fortunate to have met John LaRosa when he served as Chancellor of the Medical Center at Tulane University in New Orleans from 1994 to 1999. He was instrumental in transforming Tulane into a research powerhouse and an academic medical center committed to community service. 

Throughout his career, Dr. LaRosa remained active in his research. He published 250 scientific articles and appeared as a cholesterol expert on the Today Show, Nightline, and numerous local news outlets. In addition, he has appeared in similar public affairs programs in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and throughout Europe.

He also served as the chair of the first National Cholesterol Conference, the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee, the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Endocrine and Metabolic Drugs, and a member of the American Heart Association’s Task Force on Risk Factors. 

Please join me in saluting Dr. John C. LaRosa for his stellar service to Downstate and the academe. We thank Dr. LaRosa, congratulate him on a remarkable career, and extend warm wishes for a great retirement life with his wife, Judie LaRosa, Ph.D., RN., who also just retired from Downstate.

Please click here for a message and a photo gallery about Dr. LaRosa.




UHD Performs first Brooklyn Barostim Implantation for Heart-Failure Patient

Barostim Implantation diagramCongratulations to the team of Adam Budzikowski, M.D., Ph.D., Panos Kougias, M.D., and MSc, Marina Svyatets, M.D. who recently completed UHD's—and Brooklyn’s—first successful implantation of the Barostim™ Baroreflex Activation Therapy. The procedure took place the first week of August at UHD on an 85-year-old patient with a history of systolic heart failure, permanent atrial fibrillation, implanted defibrillator, and progressively worsening exertional dyspnea. The patient tolerated the procedure well and is recovering speedily.

Barostim diagramThe world’s first FDA-approved heart failure device to use neuromodulation—the power of the brain and nervous system—to improve the symptoms of patients with systolic heart failure, the Barostim Baroreflex Activation Therapy was designed to treat heart failure patients who have had little to no success with other proven treatment options.

Unlike other heart failure treatments, the Barostim neuromodulation device is a minimally-invasive implantable technology therapy for the symptoms of heart failure. The device does not touch the heart; instead, utilizing an electrode on the patient’s carotid artery, electrical impulses are sent to advise the brain of the heart’s condition, allowing its function to improve.

As a result, the heart regains strength over time as heart failure symptoms lessen, allowing patients to resume normal activities. In addition, the therapy is customizable to each patient’s needs. As a result, it can potentially reduce other heart failure-related health risks such as kidney disease, stroke, and death.

We look forward to providing this option as a resource to heart-failure patients who are eligible for this surgery.


College of Medicine Student Receives Harvard Hope Scholars Prize

photo of Christopher D. GeorgeCongratulations to fourth-year College of Medicine student Christopher D. George, who is among this year’s Harvard Medical School Hope Scholars—an esteemed prize awarded to medical students of color who have extensively contributed to biomedical research. Chris, a Columbia University alum, grew up in Wakefield, a medically underserved neighborhood in the Bronx. His family’s difficulties in accessing medical care and resources led him to seek a career in medicine.

Chris has helped elucidate the impact of nocturia with Urology chair Jeffrey Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., and Medical Education chair Jason Lazar, M.D. MPH. Chris was also a 2021 Downstate Alumni Research Year Scholar, during which he analyzed actinic keratosis genetic risk, epidemiology, and longitudinal progression at Erasmus MC Dermatologic Cancer Institute in South Holland, Netherlands. For this project, he received research support from Dermatology Interim Chair Sharon Glick, M.D.

Chris, who looks forward to being a lifelong learner, educator, and physician-scientist, plans to complete a Ph.D. on the genetic epidemiology of keratinocyte carcinoma in a collaboration involving Erasmus MC, Harvard’s Department of Population Medicine, and the Kaiser Permanente California Division of Research.

The degree will be awarded by Erasmus MC, one of Europe’s most authoritative scientific university medical centers. His focus will be to understand unique skin cancer markers better and help guide the development of novel targeted therapeutics that further the goals of precision medicine. 

Hope Scholarship logo

The Hope Scholarship is part of the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP), jointly sponsored by Harvard’s Minority Faculty Development Program, the New England Board of Higher Education, and the Massachusetts Medical Society. The scientific, academic, biopharma, and healthcare communities widely support the scholarship.

Each Hope Scholarship will be awarded $7,500 over two years for educational purposes; awardees will be formally announced in Boston on October 3 at BSCP’s annual fundraising event.


BioBat Company Admitted to Mayo Clinic Mentorship Program

Biotia, Inc logo

Biotia, Inc., a woman-led, early-stage health technology startup located at Downstate’s BioBAT life sciences incubator at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, is one of only seven companies admitted to the second cohort of a Mayo Clinic program designed to help health tech startups become market ready. 

Mayo Clinic logoThe Mayo Clinic Platform Accelerate initiative focuses on developing healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) products. The highly competitive, 20-week mentorship program admits early-stage companies with breakthrough ideas for improving healthcare to create and refine their business models.   

As a member of the Mayo Clinic Platform, Biotia will receive a $200K benefit package that includes access to Mayo’s de-identified datasets, its AI model validation frameworks, guidance on Food and Drug Administration clearance, and clinical workflow planning support.

As a tenant of BioBAT, Biotia has access to benefits that contribute to its success, including sophisticated science space and affordable rents in a tax-free zone. In addition, BioBAT helps nurture a culture of innovation in an empowering environment fueled by Downstate support, where other scientists and entrepreneurs surround each other.  

Biotia also recently announced it had raised $8M in Series A financing that will allow Biotia to expand its outreach to companies involved in the diagnosis, mitigation, and control of global infectious diseases.


Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs Granted Accreditation  

ACOTE logo

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) has granted full accreditation to the School of Health Profession's Occupational Therapy Program for ten years. After a rigorous self-study and site review, ACOTE found our Occupational Therapy (OT) master’s program fully compliant with all standards.

The ACOTE review team commended the OT program for emphasizing equity, diversity, and inclusion, fostering interprofessional education, its excellent leadership and faculty, and optimal fieldwork experiences that facilitate students’ personal and professional growth.

In the College of Nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) received full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for five years. A subsequent evaluation will take place in the spring of 2026.

CCNE logo

The CCNE Board of Commissioners found that the DNP program met all accreditation standards and achieved all expected program outcomes.  Among other findings, the report noted the strong involvement of faculty and students in academic programming, the high level of Downstate and College of Nursing support for students, and the program’s expansive pool of clinical placement sites and clinical preceptors. CCNE also praised Downstate for sponsoring many interprofessional education opportunities and using assessment to foster improvement.  

Congratulations to SOHP dean Allen N. Lewis, Ph.D., CON dean Lori Escallier, Ph.D., R.N., OT chair T’Shura Brown, OTD, OTR/L, DNP Track director Nataliya Shaforost, DNP, the faculty from both programs for their hard work and dedication.


UHD Reboots BioVigil Hand-Hygiene Campaign

BioVigil logo

In 2018, SUNY Downstate partnered with BioVigil to reduce the volume of healthcare-acquired infections through innovative technology that reminds healthcare professionals to wash their hands before any patient interaction.

The technology was consistent across the board, reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) at University Hospital at Downstate, where BioVigil badges were regularly used. However, the onset of the pandemic has generated stricter rules for protecting patients and healthcare professionals.

Downstate recently rebooted the BioVigil public service campaign to increase awareness about the importance of proper hand hygiene to prevent spreading and transmitting infections. Hand hygiene is widely known to be the most critical intervention for preventing HAIs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated two million patients contract a hospital-related condition annually, and 99,000 die from the infection.

Healthcare workers particularly those in close contact with patients or who work close to patients are the primary users of the BioVigil badges. Doctors, nurses, aides, residents, fellows, students, technicians, and dietary and environmental staff are among the many healthcare workers who come in direct contact with patients.

The next set of campaign activities involves creating updated marketing collateral to move the campaign along, including the in-house production of a short video featuring employees using the BioVigil badge. Also, look for familiar faces soon as some of our favorite colleagues become ‘models’ of hand-hygiene compliance through a series of informational posters featuring UHD personnel wearing the badges.


Arnold P. Gold Foundation Welcomes New Honor Society Inductees

Arnold P. Gold Foundation logo

As Board Secretary of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, I am honored to congratulate the Class of 2023 Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) inductees. These College of Medicine students best represent role-model professionalism, leadership, caring, and humanistic qualities—attributes essential to the healing profession and fulfillment in a demanding and noble field.

Noor Anvery*

Colleen Beckford

Alexandra Belzie

Nicole Bodgan

Kingsley Cruickshank*

Marco Diaz-Cordova

Owen Edwards

Alana Engelbrecht

Gabrielle Estevez-Inoa

Antia Gomez

Jigar Govind

Alexandra Greenberg

Lauren Gruffi

Matias Icaza Beiza

Wajiha Kazmi*

Perry Kerner

Nina Kumar

Lawrence Langan

Shuhan (Sherry) Li

Takisha Morancy*

Iqra Nadeem*

Toan Nguyen

Ariana Otto

Charlotte Ruby

Molly Schneider

Lisa Scott

Kathleen Simons

Latia Skerving

Heidi Sosa

Bertilia Tavarez

Jason Truong

Radhika Viswanathan*

*Elected in 2021


The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) was created in 2002 by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation to recognize role models of the human connection in healthcare. There are now 180 chapters and nearly 45,000 members. Prominent members of GHHS include Vice Admiral and United States Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., Flint water crisis whistleblower Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., and former and first-ever appointed California Surgeon General Nadine Burke-Harris, M.D. GHHS members are expected to serve as leaders of humanistic care throughout their careers.

GHHS members receive a unique pin with the Gold Mobius loop, which symbolizes the continuous bond of trust, respect, and communication that connects healthcare professionals with their patients when humanism is at the core of healthcare.




Shout Out to:

Midwifery Students Win National Scholarships

HongSu Yun (Esther) Hong

CraigLisa Craig

Midwifery students Su Yun (Esther) Hong and Lisa Craig for receiving Dorothea M. Lang CNM Memorial Scholarships from the American College of Nurse-Midwives Foundation.

The Foundation supports midwifery education, research, practice, and leadership activities that advance maternal, newborn, and well-woman healthcare services. These prestigious and highly competitive national awards are given to students based on academic performance, professional excellence, leadership potential, financial need, and plans to promote health equity.

Esther and Lisa are leaders in the Midwifery Program, strongly advocate for their classmates, and are deeply committed to racial and social justice. Lisa served as class representative for several years, and Esther was President of the Midwifery Student Association.


The Downstate MindGames Team who participated in the MindGames competition at this year’s American Psychiatric Association annual meeting. (The MindGames format is inspired by the “Jeopardy” T.V. quiz show and tests psychiatric knowledge.)  Downstate’s team was one of the three top-scoring finalists. Kudos to residents Amvrine Ganguly, M.D., Patrick Arthur, M.D., and Hagar Kandel, M.D.

Get with the Guidelines Program

University Hospital of Downstate, for receiving three awards from this year’s American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines program: 10-Year Recognition for Gold Plus achievement in Stroke or Heart Failure; Honor Roll for Type 2 Diabetes Care; Gold Plus recognition for 85 percent or higher adherence on all achievement measures for two or more years running.

Annals of Surgery features Downstate

Department of Surgery investigators and the iNSPIRe initiative, whose paper, “Timing of a Major Operative Intervention After a Positive COVID-19 Test Affects Postoperative Mortality, was published in the September 2022 issue of the high-impact journal, Annals of Surgery.

In this nationwide analysis, lead authors Panos Kougias, M.D., and Sherene Sharath, Ph.D., demonstrated that postoperative mortality after major operative interventions performed within eight weeks of a COVID diagnosis is significantly higher than mortality after identical procedures in COVID-negative controls. Furthermore, the mortality risk was exceptionally high among patients undergoing surgery within two weeks from a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Enhanced Communications Efforts

Office of Communications & Marketing staff, James Gerontzos, Arlean Saa, Ellen Watson, and the New Media Services Team—led by John Zubrovich—including Sean Nurse, Sean Thill, and Aaron Cormier, for creating Announcements, a new monthly feature on our website that provides frequent updates on what’s happening at Downstate. Be sure to log on for regular Announcements updates here.


In case you missed it...

Here are our Editor’s Picks:


Well-Being Study to Compare Mental and Overall Health Among Haitian and Haitian American Groups – August 1, 2022

Featuring: Neurosurgery Chief Ernest Barthélemy, M.D., MPH


Discover Magazine

Optical Illusions Are Weirder Than You Think – August 8, 2022

Featuring: Ophthalmology Professor Susana Martinez-Conde, Ph.D.


JAMA Psychiatry

Editorial: Ultrarare Coding Variants and Cognitive Function in Schizophrenia—Unraveling the Enduring Mysteries of Neuropsychiatric Genetics – August 17, 2022

Featuring: Institute of Genomic Health Co-Director Tim B. Bigdeli, Ph.D.


NIH Director’s Blog 

The Amazing Brain: Where Thoughts Trigger Movement – Aug 30, 2022 

Featuring: Physiology and Pharmacology Assistant Professor Salvador Dura-Bernal, Ph.D. 


Must-see Downstate TV…


Civic Health: How to Effect Change in Your Community’s Health.

August 30, 2022. A conversation with Downstate president Wayne J. Riley, M.D., New York Academia of Medicine president Judith A. Salerno, M.D., and Vot-ER executive director Aliya Bhatia.


White Coat Ceremony (Physician Assistant Program)

August 25, 2022. A rite of passage for PA students entering the next stage of their clinical career.  


Save the Date…

Wednesday, October 12, 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

IMPACT 2030 Implementation Kick-off 




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