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Brooklyn’s Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University Announce a New Hematology-Oncology Collaboration

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Feb 2, 2023

New Collaboration Will Expand Access to Cancer Care for Underserved Brooklyn Communities

Brooklyn, NY – Maimonides Health and Downstate Health (the clinical enterprise of Downstate Health Sciences University, Downstate University Hospital (UHD), and University Physicians of Brooklyn (UPB) today announced the launch of a hematology-oncology partnership that will leverage the strengths of both organizations to expand access to cancer care in Central Brooklyn. Residents in this area, including East Flatbush, Farragut, and Rugby, are disproportionately at risk for common forms of cancer that can be treated if caught early enough.

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This partnership will allow patients at the University Hospital of Downstate (UHD) to access a broader range of specialists from the Maimonides Cancer Center while leveraging Downstate’s academic and research capabilities to benefit more patients in the borough. The combined program will be the most extensive hematology-oncology practice in Brooklyn, and begin seeing patients immediately.

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, the only academic medical center in the borough of 2.7 million people, plays a critical role in medical research and medical, nursing, and health professions education as well as care delivery; Maimonides, the borough’s largest independent health system, is a key teaching affiliate and clinical site of SUNY Downstate, with advanced clinical specialty programs.

Under this new Hematology-Oncology collaboration, clinical services and medical education will be provided at both acute care locations. Kevin Becker, M.D. was named Chief of the newly-formed joint Maimonides-SUNY Downstate College of Medicine’s Division of Hematology-Oncology. Dr. Becker currently serves as the Hematology-Oncology Division Chief at Maimonides Medical Center and Medical Director of the Maimonides Cancer Center.

This agreement builds on previous collaborations in Neurology and Pathology, where Maimonides and Downstate have also established combined regional programs over the past six years. It serves as another step in the growing partnership between the two organizations that are critical in meeting the healthcare needs of Brooklyn residents while focusing on some of the borough’s most underserved communities.

Combined, the East Flatbush, Farragut, and Rugby neighborhoods of Brooklyn are home to a population of 133K people, of which 83.5 percent are citizens. As of 2020, 49.8 percent—66.4K people—were born outside the United States.

According to a 2018 NYC Community Health Profile for East Flatbush, 19 percent of East Flatbush residents live in poverty, compared with 20 percent of New York City’s residents; 15 percent of adults in East Flatbush are uninsured, and 9 percent reported going without needed medical care in the prior 12 months. In 2020, there were 25 times more Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) residents (112K people) in East Flatbush, Farragut, and Rugby neighborhoods than any other race or ethnicity. The five largest ethnic groups in East Flatbush, Farragut, and Rugby communities are Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) (84.2 percent).

Statistics show that people diagnosed earlier with cancer are more likely to survive, have better care experiences, and have lower treatment morbidity, resulting in an improved quality of life compared with those diagnosed later. However, access to quality healthcare can vary from one neighborhood to another. Neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, low rates of insurance, under-insurance, and limited access to affordable healthcare can inadvertently contribute to a lack of resources and opportunities supporting positive health outcomes in underserved communities.

New York State Cancer Registry statistics 2015-2019 cite the highest cancer incidence among men and women for the East Flatbush area was an average of 23 annual cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas—14.4 per 100,000 of the population, followed by 22.8 average annual cases of myeloma—14.3 per 100,000 of the population, and 19 average annual cases of leukemia—13.0 per 100,000 of the population.

This crucial partnership between Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University seeks to level the playing field for underserved communities, particularly in Central Brooklyn—where access to quality healthcare can be challenging based on socioeconomic, insurance, poverty, and other factors impacting households.

“As mission-driven institutions, we are aligned in the conviction that everyone deserves access to high-quality care right in their neighborhoods – and that’s exactly what this partnership brings to underserved communities in Central Brooklyn,” said Maimonides Health CEO Ken Gibbs. “This partnership with SUNY Downstate capitalizes on both organizations’ strengths to increase access to cancer care for our patients, who come from diverse and too often underserved communities and serves to underscore how the expanding relationship between our institutions can benefit the people of Brooklyn. I thank the leadership of SUNY Downstate for working with us to make this a reality.”

“We are excited about this unique hematology-oncology partnership with Maimonides Health and look forward to joining our resources to provide necessary medical care for patients diagnosed with certain cancers,” said SUNY Downstate president Wayne J. Riley, M.D. “We are capitalizing on opportunities to optimally align our resources in ways that allow us to expand our footprint and provide learning and teaching experiences for our medical teams, including students. Collaborations like this are key factors in growing patient access and providing timely care.”

“I am incredibly proud of the excellent Cancer Center we have built here at Maimonides, and it is an honor to collaborate with my colleagues at SUNY Downstate so that we can build on the strengths of these two pillars of healthcare for Brooklynites,” said Maimonides-SUNY Downstate Division of Hematology-Oncology chief Kevin Becker, M.D. “We all know that early detection and treatment save lives. By expanding access to these treatments, we’re going to save lives across Central Brooklyn.”

“A key factor in a successful partnership strategy calls for a deep understanding of the communities that will benefit from such a collaboration,” said SUNY Downstate Professor and Chair of Medicine and Acting Hematology & Oncology Division Chief Moro O. Salifu, M.D. “We can streamline services for all types of cancers with this partnership and are committed to providing the clinical, academic, and administrative leadership for the benefit of our patient community.”

“University Physicians of Brooklyn (UPD), the faculty physician practice of Downstate Health, is an important partner in this vital collaboration,” said UPB executive director Lori A. Donnell, MBA. “Our physicians, much like their Maimonides counterparts, are excited by the possibilities of all that we can accomplish together and look forward to providing better healthcare access for our patients.”

“Healthcare systems are increasingly expanding or developing new partnerships to support efforts at improving community health,” said University Hospital at Downstate chief executive officer David H. Berger, M.D.“Our partnership with Maimonides allows us to remain competitive in an ever-changing healthcare environment while growing respective patient bases and enhancing areas of expertise. However, more than anything, this partnership is a win for our patient community.”

“We are pleased to hear about this new partnership between SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Health,” said SUNY Council Chair Rev. Kirkpatrick G. Cohall. “In a community where healthcare needs are greater due to socioeconomic and other factors, it is vital that we continue to identify areas where greater emphasis can be focused to provide expanded access and care to its residents.”

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said, “This borough is at its best when we work together on behalf of the well-being of our people, and that’s precisely what Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate are demonstrating with this new collaboration to expand cancer care in central Brooklyn. Working hand in hand, Maimonides and Downstate are bringing a holistic approach to cancer care to an underserved community where socioeconomic barriers combine with racial inequities in health. It’s precisely intentional partnerships like these that will begin to close the gap in health outcomes for our Black and Brown communities. I’m so grateful to the teams at Maimonides and SUNY Downstate who made this collaboration possible, and I send a huge congratulations to Dr. Kevin Becker, who will lead the partnership as Chief.”

State Senator Iwen Chu said, “The innovative partnership we are celebrating today with Maimonides Medical Center and SUNY Downstate is going to be a game changer for Brooklyn residents across the borough. Combining the cancer care expertise of these two highly-regarded institutions will significantly benefit my constituents – as well as Brooklyn residents in numerous other neighborhoods. I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Ken Gibbs and Dr. Wayne Riley on this groundbreaking initiative.”

State Senator Simcha Felder said, “This new oncology partnership by Maimonides and SUNY Downstate will significantly advance their reach across the borough even further. Brooklyn residents should be able to access state-of-the-art cancer services without having to leave the borough. This innovative new collaboration will ensure that they receive the high-quality health care they deserve…right here at home.”

State Senator Andrew Gounardes said, “Brooklynites who have been diagnosed with cancer are struggling enough without having to commute all the way into Manhattan to receive care. I’m thrilled that the launch of this partnership between Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate today will change that. Brooklyn has long needed expanded access to specialists, treatments, and research capabilities, and I appreciate the impact this will have on families all across our borough.”

State Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “SUNY Downstate has been there for our community through thick and thin, and this new partnership with Maimonides will increase access to cancer care for some of our most underserved neighbors. I’m grateful to the tireless healthcare workers who serve Central Brooklyn and look forward to further opportunities for collaboration and support.”

State Senator Kevin Parker said, "The joint Maimonides-SUNY Downstate Division of Hematology-Oncology partnership is a game changer for the health needs of Central Brooklyn families. The forward-thinking leadership of both institutions to collaborate to gain economies of scale to provide access to cancer diagnosis and treatment is transformational and should be encouraged and commended. This intentional shift in hospital collaboration is familiar to these institutions as their Neurology and Pathology partnership has made a difference for Brooklyn families. I remain committed to supporting hospital collaborations that positively affect healthcare delivery to the 21st Senate District and New York residents at large."

State Senator Roxanne Persaud said, “It is great to see the continued partnership between Maimonides and SUNY Downstate. This collaboration will meld SUNY Downstate’s academic research capabilities and Maimonides’ cancer specialists into expanding access to cancer diagnosis and treatment. This much-needed access will greatly serve not only Senate District 19 but Brooklyn as a whole.”

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn said, “The partnership between SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Medical Center will now provide world-class care to residents in Southern Brooklyn is groundbreaking and vital. By leveraging the strengths of both organizations, we are expanding access and increasingly, the quality of care for cancer diagnosis and treatment for our underserved communities. I thank all the organizations, legislators, and stakeholders in this partnership that will immeasurably benefit our communities. I congratulate Dr. Kevin Becker for assuming leadership as Chief of this newly formed joint Maimonides-SUNY Downstate Division of Hematology-Oncology. This is a great step forward for a growing partnership critical for meeting the diverse health needs of Brooklyn residents. I am dedicated to helping it grow further to benefit my constituents and all Brooklynites.”

Assembly Member Monique Chandler-Waterman said, “The healthcare needs of the residents of the great borough of Brooklyn are vast. We are happy we can rely on the medical institutions we know and trust to provide services to meet our needs as cancer impacts people at younger ages and the healthcare system braces for what is expected to be a 50% increase in the rate of cancer by the year 2050. The collaboration of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Maimonides Medical Center to provide expanded access to cancer care for underserved Brooklyn communities is a welcomed step in the right direction.”

Assembly Member Brian Cunningham said, “Together, these institutions will make a powerful impact, providing hope and healing to countless individuals affected by hematological and oncological conditions. This collaboration is a shining example of what can be achieved when we work together towards a common goal, and it gives us all reason to be optimistic about the future.”

Assembly Member Maritza Davila said, “Congratulations to SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Medical Center on the announcement of your groundbreaking new partnership in cancer care and hematology! This collaboration will greatly enhance access to top-notch cancer care for the residents of central Brooklyn, providing a much-needed resource for the community. The combined efforts will make a positive impact on the lives of many individuals and families. Keep up the great work.”

Assembly Member Latrice Walker said, “I am excited about the new partnership between Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate. It will help fill a void in Brooklyn, especially in underserved communities that will benefit from increased access to cancer care, including diagnosis and treatment. Access to quality healthcare ought to be a basic human right in every corner of New York State.”

Assembly Member Jaime Williams said, “I am proud to support this groundbreaking partnership between Maimonides Medical Center, and SUNY Downstate, which builds on previous successful collaborations between these two great institutions and which I am confident will lead to better health outcomes for my Brooklyn constituents. This initiative will provide the community with easy and improved access to cancer screenings and diagnostics, which has been historically lacking in far too many communities of color.  This is an important step toward ensuring that all Brooklyn residents have access to the high-quality healthcare they need and deserve.”

Assembly Member Stefani L. Zinerman said, “As the American Cancer Society has noted, African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers. I welcome this initiative from SUNY Downstate and Maimonides with the hope that it will help correct some of the persistent inequalities our communities face when it comes to cancer treatment, prevention, and care.”

Councilmember Rita Joseph said, “This is such a great day for our community, a community that has always been forgotten regarding critical investment in tackling health disparities. The new groundbreaking partnership between the institutions on cancer care and hematology will save lives. We cannot leave our communities behind and must give them the best health care we can.”

Councilmember Farah Louis said, “I am thrilled to welcome this partnership between Maimonides and SUNY Downstate to our District. Our District is home to a large population of Black people and immigrants. The data is clear that our residents are at heightened risk for breast, prostate, and colon cancer. These diseases are easily treatable when caught early, but we have been historically underserved by the medical community. By bringing their expertise and care to our Brooklyn community, Maimonides and SUNY Downstate will save countless lives.”

Councilmember Darlene Mealy said, “Quality, affordable healthcare has always been a cornerstone principle of my tenure at the New York City Council. This new collaborative partnership between two of Brooklyn’s premier healthcare institutions – SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Hospital – is a welcome addition to providing top-notch medical services and care to residents of my District and the wider Brooklyn population. Taking aim at cancer and drawing on the collective experiences of both institutions is a win-win outcome that can only enhance the quality of life for all Brooklynites, especially our senior citizens’ community and those suffering from cancer. I applaud, support, and welcome this partnership and its potential to be a true “Cancer Center of Excellence” for all of us.”

Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse and Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Hospitals said, “Today marks a new day for cancer care in Brooklyn, and I am truly delighted to join in the celebration of this tremendous commitment to saving lives, eliminating racial health disparities, and advancing the health of all Brooklynites battling this chronic disease. I thank Downstate President Dr. Wayne Riley and Maimonides CEO Ken Gibbs for their steadfast leadership and unwavering support of this lifesaving endeavor.”

“Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Early detection and treatment are an integral part to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer,” said American Cancer Society vice president of community impact for patient support Natasha Coleman, MPH. “This collaboration between Maimonides and SUNY Downstate will help ensure that lifesaving work continues in the Brooklyn community so that people facing cancer get the help they need.”

Community Board 9 Chairman Fred Baptiste said, “Early diagnosis and treatment are key in improving cancer-related health outcomes. Brooklyn Community Board 9 is excited that Maimonides Health and SUNY Downstate are collaborating to expand access to quality health care to central Brooklyn community residents and across the Borough. We stand in full support of these two institutions and look forward to even more partnerships in the future to build a stronger and healthier Brooklyn.”

Community Board 17 Chairman Rodrick F. Daley said, “As a person who is going through pancreatic cancer treatment, I fully understand the need for having access to care. It is literally a matter of life or death. This joint partnership allows for easier access to necessary and pertinent care.  Before this joint effort, our community did not have a specific facility dedicated to our cancer needs. Many people and families had to travel far to get much-needed care. We applaud SUNY Downstate and Maimonides for putting our community first. With hematology and oncology in our backyards, many more lives will be lengthened if not saved.”

About Maimonides Medical Center

Maimonides Health is Brooklyn’s largest healthcare system, serving over 300,000 patients each year through the system’s three hospitals, 1800 physicians, and more than 80 community-based practices and outpatient centers. The system is anchored by Maimonides Medical Center, one of the nation’s largest independent teaching hospitals and home to centers of excellence in numerous specialties; Maimonides Midwood Community Hospital (formerly New York Community Hospital), a 130-bed adult medical-surgical hospital; and Maimonides Children’s Hospital, Brooklyn’s only children’s hospital, and only pediatric trauma center.

Maimonides’ clinical programs rank among the best in the country for patient outcomes, including its Heart and Vascular Institute, Neurosciences Institute, Bone and Joint Center, and Cancer Center. Maimonides is an affiliate of Northwell Health and a major clinical training site for SUNY Downstate College of Medicine. For additional information, please visit www.maimo.org.

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. It is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital at Downstate (UHD) is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by an outstanding medical school’s expertise and world-class academic center research facilities. Over 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate’s staff. For more information, visit www.downstate.edu or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate or Instagram @suny.downstate.

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