SUNY Downstate Celebrates Class of 2020 Today with Virtual Commencement

By Office of Communications & Marketing | May 20, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: John Gillespie | | (314) 708-9090

Brooklyn, N.Y. (May 20, 2020) - SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University today celebrated the achievements of 700 graduates of the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the School of Public Health, the School of Health Professions and the School of Graduate Studies. Downstate also honored leaders in academia, medicine, and research at its first-ever University-wide Virtual Commencement.

With the continuing concern about the spread of COVID-19, NS the State still ‘on pause’ and practicing social distancing, Downstate’s traditional ceremony at Carnegie Hall took place via a 3:00 P.M. LiveStream Virtual Commencement.

The roll of graduates was announced by Mr. Les Trent, Senior Correspondent for CBS’s Inside Edition.

"Our graduates have worked exceptionally hard and sacrificed a great deal to become physicians, nurses, and advanced healthcare professionals,” said SUNY Downstate President Wayne J. Riley, M.D. “Although they were not able to walk across the famed Carnegie Hall stage this year, we wanted to ensure they were recognized for their achievements. This virtual ceremony has afforded them the opportunity to celebrate as graduates.”

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color, and the class of 2020 reflects the diversity of these communities. More than 43 percent of our new physicians will remain to practice in New York City, highlighting their commitment to delivering healthcare in communities with the greatest need. Nearly 60 percent of the graduates are from communities of color: 24 percent identify as African-American, 24 percent identify as Asian-American/Pacific Islander, and 10 percent identify as Hispanic.

Next year, graduates from all five schools will be invited to participate in Downstate's in-person Commencement ceremonies, where they will be able to march in procession and be hooded on stage.

New York Commissioner of the State Department of Public Health Howard, Zucker, M.D., J.D., delivered the commencement address. Dr. Zucker was appointed by Governor Cuomo in 2015 and has led the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SUNY Downstate conferred Honorary degrees to:

The Honorable H. Carl McCall, M.Div, D.D., D.H.L, Doctor of Humane Letters
The Honorable Chairman McCall
serves as Chairman Emeritus of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, where he was as a Trustee for 12 years and Chair from 2011-2019. Previously, he was Comptroller of the State of New York, Ambassador to the United Nations, Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Civil Rights, and a three-term New York State Senator.

Daisy Cruz-Richman, Ph.D., R.N., Doctor of Science
Dr. Cruz-Richman
is Dean Emeritus of the College of Nursing. During her tenure as Dean, she strengthened both the nursing programs at Downstate and in the SUNY system. She was a leader in enhancing nursing programs nationally, working to improve the criteria for nursing education. Dr. Cruz-Richman is a founding member of the “New Careers in Nursing” scholarship program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Eli A. Friedman, M.D, MACP, Doctor of Science
Dr. Friedman
is a 1957 graduate of the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and a renowned physician in the field of nephrology and kidney dialysis. Dr. Friedman launched the first federally-funded dialysis clinic located at Kings County Hospital Center.  He led a successful lobbying effort in 1972 to ensure that Medicaid would cover all patients needing dialysis. He also invented the “Suitcase Kidney,” a portable dialysis machine in 1976.

John Ruffin, PhD., Doctor of Science
Dr. Ruffin
joined the National Institutes of Health in 1990 as Director of the Office of Minority Programs and is the Founding Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). He is credited with recognizing health disparities as a scientific discipline. Before his retirement in 2014, Dr. Ruffin provided leadership for $2.8 billion in NIH health disparities research.

The College of Medicine conferred 195 Medical Doctorate, M.D. degrees. The School of Graduate Studies conferred 10 Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The School of Public Health conferred 27 Advanced certificates in Public Health degrees; 67 Master of Public Health degrees; and 13 Doctor of Public Health degrees.

The College of Nursing conferred 118 Bachelor of Science degrees; 112 Master of Science degrees; and six Advanced Certificate degrees. The College of Health-Related Profession conferred 18 Bachelor of Science degrees; two Advanced Certificate degrees, 112 Master of Science degrees, and 20 Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees.


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City, and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by the expertise of an outstanding medical school and the research facilities of a world-class academic center. More than 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate's staff.

A regional center for cardiac care, neonatal and high-risk infant services, pediatric dialysis, and transplantation, Downstate also houses a major learning center for children with physical ailments or neurological disorders. In addition to UHB, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.