The New York Academy of Medicine welcomes new board chair Dr. Wayne J. Riley, President of SUNY Downstate

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Oct 21, 2020

Historic moment as a 173-year-old institution dedicated to medicine, public health, and health equity elects first Black physician as Chair of its Board of Trustees.

NEW YORK (October 21, 2020)—The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University jointly announced Wayne J. Riley, M.D., MPH, MBA, MACP, as Chair of NYAM’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Riley is the 17th president of the Brooklyn-based SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, where he also holds tenured professorships in internal medicine, health policy, and management. Dr. Riley joined the NYAM Board of Trustees in 2017.

He is the first African American to lead the organization’s board as he succeeds James Flynn, MS, President, Deerfield Management Company LP.

With nearly 175 years of leadership in medical science, advocacy to improve medicine, public health, and disparities in healthcare, NYAM’s mission to attain health equity in pursuit of a healthier New York—and the world—has never been more vital. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequities—furthered by a 400-year legacy of systemic racism—that have created poor health outcomes for millions, many in communities of color. NYAM is responding to this public health crisis with the passion and unique know-how of its longstanding institutional expertise, as well as a commitment to addressing social justice issues to reach health equity.

Since joining the NYAM board, Dr. Riley’s guidance and leadership have significantly impacted NYAM’s strategic plans, including its new Action Agenda for Health Equity. Fueled by the current state of health inequities, Dr. Riley’s ongoing contributions and leadership of the Board of NYAM and its partnership with the executive leadership will help lay the groundwork to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers in the years to come.

“Dr. Riley’s leadership of the NYAM’s Board of Trustees will enhance and enrich NYAM’s perspectives in our pursuit of disrupting common thinking patterns, changing systems and bolstering the influence of our work to result in meaningful change,” said NYAM President Dr. Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS. “We are fortunate to benefit from his wealth of experience as a top physician, educator, and administrator, and I can think of no one better to head our Board as we continue to pursue our vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life.”

“I am honored to assume the role of Chairman of the Board of The New York Academy of Medicine,” said Dr. Riley. “At this critical time in New York and our nation, while we deal with a global pandemic, unjustifiable and worrisome distrust of medicine and science, social justice matters, systemic racism, and persistent health disparities—all of which significantly impact communities of color—understanding the intersectionality of where these variables meet begs for viable solutions, and systematic, positive outcomes. NYAM’s voice, advocacy, and leadership remain critically important in affecting positive change, and I look forward to the work we will continue to engage in as a Board and an organization.”

“We are pleased to congratulate Dr. Riley on his historic appointment as Chairman of NYAM’s Board of Trustees,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president, and CEO of New York-Presbyterian. “Dr. Riley is an outstanding leader, skilled physician, and dedicated educator with a deep commitment to providing high-quality health care to every New Yorker regardless of their ability to pay.  As we navigate this profound moment of converging social, economic, and health crises, we look forward to Dr. Riley’s leadership as we work together to address health disparities that disproportionately affect communities of color.”

"Dr. Riley's historic appointment as Board Chair of The New York Academy of Medicine is great news and he is the exemplar of the leadership needed to build upon the Academy's work to drive health equity,” said One Brooklyn Health System and Interfaith Medical Center CEO, LaRay Brown. "In his role as President of SUNY Downstate, Dr. Riley is an invaluable partner as we work to achieve the aims of Governor Cuomo's Vital Brooklyn Initiative. I look forward to what his leadership at the Academy will bring to our work to make a difference in the communities of Brooklyn."

“The NAACP has long been on the frontlines fighting for equitable access to proper healthcare for communities of color,” said NYS NAACP President Dr. Hazel Dukes. “Healthcare parity continues to be elusive, leading to inadequate access to services as well as poorer health outcomes, especially for African Americans. As a physician who understands health disparities, chronic illnesses, and healthcare underfunding that overwhelm our communities—all of which have impacted us during the pandemic—Dr. Riley’s appointment as the first black Board Chair of The New York Academy of Medicine is a welcome voice in this fight as we continue to work to bring viable healthcare change to our communities.” 

Before he was appointed president of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences in 2017, Dr. Riley served as clinical professor of medicine and adjunct professor of Health Policy & Management at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Before that, Dr. Riley served from 2007-2013 with distinction as the 10th president and chief executive officer and professor of medicine at the historic Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. An academic, primary care general internist, Dr. Riley has more than 25 years of progressively senior executive level management, policy, and leadership experiences in academic medicine, patient care, research administration, academic health center administration, healthcare management, health policy, biotechnology, the corporate sector, government service, advocacy, and organized medicine.

Dr. Riley holds a bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Yale University, a Master of Public Health in Health Systems Management from the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, and earned the Doctor of Medicine degree from the Morehouse School of Medicine. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. Dr. Riley completed his residency training in internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, rising from an instructor of medicine to vice president and vice dean for Health Affairs and Governmental Relations. He also held an associate professorship of Internal Medicine. He served as Assistant Chief of Medicine at the famed Ben Taub General Hospital and Chair of the Medical Board for the Harris County Hospital District.

Dr. Riley is immediate past president and president emeritus of the 105,000-member American College of Physicians (ACP) — the nation’s medical specialty society representing the internal medicine specialty and its subspecialties. He is an elected member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (NAM) of the National Academy of Sciences, where he served as vice-chair and then chair of the NAM section on the Administration of Health Services, Education, and Research, and is a Master of ACP. Dr. Riley is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Arnold P. Gold Medical Humanism Honor Society, and the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. He also received the SUNY Downstate Ailanthous Award for Outstanding Public Health Leadership and has been awarded honorary degrees from three institutions: a Doctorate of Humane Letters (DHL) from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, the Doctorate of Science from Tuskegee University, and the Doctor of Science from Mount St. Joseph University.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana and now a Brooklyn resident, Dr. Riley currently serves on the boards of HCA Healthcare, Inc., HealthFirst, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, YMCA of Greater New York, Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens and as Secretary and Member of the Board of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Sullivan Alliance of the Association of Academic Health Centers.

In April of 2020, he was appointed by the Comptroller-General of the US General Accountability Office (GAO) as a Commissioner of the US Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and is a member of the Commonwealth Fund’s Physician Payment Advisory Commission.  He is also President-Elect and Secretary-Treasurer of the Society of Medical Administrators (SOMA)—an organization of fifty of its leading physician-executives.

About The New York Academy of Medicine

The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) tackles the barriers that prevent every individual from living a healthy life. NYAM generates the knowledge needed to change the systems that prevent people from accessing what they need to be healthy such as safe and affordable housing, healthy food, healthcare, and more. Through its high-profile programming for the general public, focused symposia for health professionals, and its base of dedicated Fellows and Members, NYAM engages the minds and hearts of those who also value advancing health equity to maximize health for all. For more information, visit and follow @nyamnyc on social media.



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.