SUNY Downstate Graduates Hundreds of New Health Professionals

May 21, 2014

Drs. Donald Wilson, Susan Hassmiller, Marvin Moser, and Florence Kavaler Receive Honorary Degrees; Dr. Kiyomi Koizumi Receives President’s Award; Dr. Monika Conley Receives Ailanthus Award

Brooklyn, NY – SUNY Downstate Medical Center graduated a new class of physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, research scientists, and public health professionals at commencement ceremonies held recently at Carnegie Hall. SUNY Downstate President John F. Williams, Jr., MD, EdD, MPH, FCCM, told the graduates that the world is waiting for their talents, drive, and passion.

At the ceremony for Downstate’s College of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health, honorary doctor of science degrees from the State University of New York were bestowed upon Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP; Florence Kavaler, MD, MS, MPH; and Marvin Moser, MD, FACP, FACC. Kiyomi Koizumi, MD, PhD, received Downstate’s President’s Award and Monika Conley, PhD, received the Ailanthus Award.

Dr. Wilson addressed the graduates, noting that while all of them know that we have the best medical treatment in the world, “at the same time we do not enjoy the best health.” He also pointed out that while underrepresented minorities make up nearly 30 percent of the population, only seven percent work in the healing professions: “Unless the diversity of the healthcare workforce increases, it will be increasingly difficult to reduce bias and provide culturally competent healthcare.”

Dr. Wilson added, “As practitioners and scientists, we are granted extraordinary powers by our patients and by society.  We have the power to help people every day.” He cautioned them, however, saying, “When decisions are made that you feel are not in the best interest of your patient, it is your duty to challenge them. Accept nothing that threatens this sacred healer/patient relationship, and tries to turn it into some kind of detached business venture.”

Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, was the speaker at the ceremony for the College of Nursing and School of Health Professions and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Dr. Hassmiller told the graduates, “You will make a difference, that’s what’s so special about being a health professional – the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  Sometimes it will be one person at a time and sometimes it will be more – a family, a community, or even a state or a nation.”

Dr. Hassmiller added, “I hope you will help to build a culture of health in our country. I hope you will help to ensure that good health flourishes across geographic, demographic, and social sectors. I hope that you will help to ensure that individuals and families have the means and the opportunity to make choices that lead to healthy lifestyles.” She concluded by urging the graduates to use their gifts “to change our health system so that it better serves people and their families.”


The College of Medicine graduated 218 new physicians. The School of Graduate Studies granted PhD degrees to 10 students, four of whom also received their MD degree from the College of Medicine. The School of Public Health granted its first Doctor of Public Health degree, and also granted 40 Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees. Six MPH degree recipients also received an MD degree. Four Advanced Certificates in Public Health also were awarded.

The College of Nursing awarded 68 Bachelor of Science degrees in the RN to BS program and 58 Bachelor of Science degrees in the Accelerated BS program.  Master of Science degrees were granted in nursing (clinical nurse specialist), family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesia, nurse midwifery, and women’s health nurse practitioner, totaling 66 MS degrees. The four nurse midwifery graduates also received the Advanced Certificate in Midwifery from the School of Health Professions.

The School of Health Professions graduated 138 students, granting Bachelor of Science degrees in diagnostic medical imaging and physician assistant. Master of Science degrees were granted in medical informatics, midwifery, and occupational therapy. Bachelor of Science in health sciences/Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees were also granted, as was an Advanced Certificate in Midwifery.

Dr. Donald Wilson is a nationally known advocate for diversity and equity in health care, medical education, and biomedical research. He is currently the John Z. and Akiko J. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean Emeritus at the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Medicine (UMB), where he formerly served as dean, vice president for medical affairs, and professor of medicine. When appointed to UMB in 1991, Dr. Wilson became the nation’s first African-American dean at a predominantly white medical school. During his tenure as dean, the student body became more diverse and the number of full time underrepresented minority faculty more than doubled. At the same time, research funding more than quadrupled. Prior to UMB, Dr. Wilson served 11 years as chair of medicine at SUNY Downstate.


Dr. Susan B. Hassmiller joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 1997, and is presently its senior advisor for nursing. In this role, she shapes and leads the Foundation’s strategies to address nurse and nurse faculty shortages in an effort to create a higher quality of patient care in the United States. Dr. Hassmiller serves as co-director of the Future of Nursing Scholars program, an initiative that provides scholarships, mentoring, and leadership development activities and postdoctoral research funding to build the leadership capacity of nurse educators and researchers. In partnership with the AARP, Dr. Hassmiller directs the Foundation’s Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, which seeks to increase access to high-quality, patient-centered care in a healthcare system where nurses contribute as essential partners in achieving success. Among the many awards Dr. Hassmiller has received is the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest honor given to a nurse by the International Red Cross.

Dr. Florence Kavaler is a leader in public health and a pioneer in quality assurance and health risk management. Over her long career, she has launched initiatives to improve quality and access to care; implemented programs to root out fraud in health care; and trained large numbers of professionals who went on to become leaders in public health. Dr. Kavaler graduated from Downstate’s College of Medicine in 1961. She has served with the New York City Department of Health, the U. S. Public Health Service, and the Milbank Memorial Fund Commission for the Study of Higher Education in Public Health. Now retired, she also served as associate dean for research administration in Downstate’s School of Public Health, where she chaired two departments: Health Policy and Management, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

Dr. Marvin Moser, a 1947 graduate of Downstate’s College of Medicine, is a pioneer in treating and preventing hypertension. Called a “hypertension icon,” Dr. Moser has evaluated virtually every anti-hypertension medication in a distinguished career spanning almost six decades. He is currently clinical professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. At a time when hypertension was not universally considered harmful, Dr. Moser was among the first physicians to identify its seriousness and that its complications could be prevented or possibly reversed. He was also among the first to stress the role of salt in the diet, the benefits of combination therapy, the cost and cost-effectiveness of therapy, and the fact that Blacks are more susceptible to the complications of hypertension than other populations.

Dr. Kiyomi Koizumi is Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Downstate. She has devoted her entire professional career to Downstate. Dr. Koizumi is recognized internationally as one of the great pioneers in the field of hypothalamic electrophysiology and has been praised for her clarity of thought and logic and reasoning. Her research focus has been on control mechanisms of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates sensory impulses, brainstem function, and the generation of biological rhythms, and interpreting them through an integrative approach. Her work was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 40 years. From 1990 to 1998, she led the Department of Physiology as interim chair. The President’s Award is given to distinguished professionals who have made significant contributions to health care or to society and who have also served SUNY Downstate in an extraordinary capacity.

Dr. Monika Conley is senior managing director and partner at the Public Resources Advisory Group, one of the top three financial advisory firms to state and local governments in the nation and the largest in New York State by volume. She is also president of the John Conley Foundation for Ethics and Philosophy in Medicine, which was founded by her late husband, an otolaryngologist recognized worldwide for the many significant contributions he made in the treatment of cancer of the head and neck. Dr. Monika Conley has been involved with the Foundation since its inception. SUNY Downstate’s Division of Humanities in Medicine received funding from the early days of the Foundation to support lectures and educational activities promoting ethics and professionalism for students, residents, and faculty. In 2012, the Division was renamed the John Conley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities to acknowledge continued and enhanced support from the Foundation. Downstate’s Ailanthus Award is named after the Ailanthus altissima, the rugged tree featured in the Betty Smith novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” The award is given to those whose tenacity and dedication have benefited SUNY Downstate and the people of Brooklyn.


About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.