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Hundreds of New Health Professionals Graduate from SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall Brings Greetings; Drs. Carol A. Aschenbrener, James Gordon, and Shiriki K. Kumanyika Receive Honorary Degrees

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, addressed the graduating students, noting that Downstate is one of the most diverse medical centers in the country and that the graduates represent all races and reflect numerous cultures.

“Each of you brings a great deal to the table, your unique perspective on the world,” he said. “You have shared your life experiences with each other, taught each other, and learned from each other.” 

“In a society that is becoming ever more blended, yet ever more diverse, it is important that we educate individuals who know that the world is complex and who are culturally aware and sensitive to the fact that their patients come from many backgrounds.”

He added, “This we do at Downstate, and we do it very well.”

H. Carl McCall, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York, offered greetings and congratulations on behalf of the SUNY Board of Trustees and the entire SUNY System.

Speaking at the ceremony for SUNY Downstate’s College of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health, Chairman McCall noted that Downstate occupies an important place among SUNY’s 64 member campuses, educating the next generation of health professionals.

“You have chosen a noble field,” he told the graduates. “Healthcare, medicine, and health sciences are literally transforming lives on a massive scale all over the world – and you are joining an elite group of individuals who have committed themselves to the health and welfare of the citizenry of our planet.”

Carol A. Aschenbrener, MD, a distinguished leader in medical education and former chief medical education officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, received an honorary doctor of science degree at the same ceremony and delivered the commencement address.

Dr. Aschenbrener said, “It is service to others that gives our work dignity and meaning. And the foundation of service is caring, deeply caring for others. It is the caring that creates relationships, promotes health, and mitigates suffering. And it is caring for others that will send you home after longs days or long nights with a sense of fulfillment, with a silent, smiling knowing that you have done something to serve others, that you are creating meaning for your one precious life.”

Dr. Aschenbrener received the honorary degree for her contributions to medicine and medical education, her groundbreaking path as an administrator in professional education, and her devotion to safeguarding the public’s health.

Also receiving an honorary doctor of science degree at the ceremony was Shiriki K. Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, an internationally known epidemiologist and leader in public health and disease prevention. Currently an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, she is president of the American Public Health Association for 2015.

Dr. Kumanyika has provided advice and guidance to Downstate’s School of Public Health since its inception as a Master of Public Health Program in 2001. Dr. Kumanyika was awarded the honorary degree for her contributions to public health, for her efforts to increase the health and well-being of underserved communities, and for her counsel and assistance to SUNY Downstate.

At the ceremony for SUNY Downstate’s College of Nursing and School of Health Professions, James Gordon, EdD, PT, FAPTA, received an honorary doctor of science degree and delivered the commencement address. Dr. Gordon is associate dean and chair of the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California and a 1974 graduate of SUNY Downstate’s Physical Therapy Program.

Recalling his days as a physical therapy student, Dr. Gordon said, “At Downstate I found a purpose for my life. First, I discovered I could become good at something – physical therapy – if I worked hard and studied harder…Second, I could feel pride in this skill I was acquiring – I was using it to help people…Third, Downstate awakened in me an intellectual curiosity. I became engaged in trying to understand how the human body works.”

He concluded, “Looking back over my career, it astonishes me how much my professional life was shaped by my experiences as a student at Downstate. I hope that the same will be true for you – that 40 years from now, you will recall that you were here at Downstate during a magical time in its history. That you had exceptional faculty who helped you to gain the knowledge and skill you needed to become leaders in the community of healthcare practitioners.

Dr. Gordon received the honorary degree for his contributions to the field of physical therapy and to allied health, for his dedication to improving the lives of others, and for the distinction he has brought to his alma mater, SUNY Downstate Medical Center. 

The College of Medicine graduated 206 new physicians. The School of Graduate Studies granted PhD degrees to nine students, four of whom also received their MD degree from the College of Medicine. The School of Public Health granted two Doctor of Public Health degrees, and also granted 77 Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees. Four MPH degree recipients also received an MD degree. Advanced Certificates in Public Health also were awarded to 18 graduates.

The College of Nursing awarded 71 Bachelor of Science degrees in the RN to BS program and 59 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 88 MS degrees.The two nurse midwifery graduates also received the Advanced Certificate in Midwifery from the School of Health Professions. Two family nurse practitioner Advanced Certificates were also awarded.

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.


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.