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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

School of Public Health

Alumni Spotlight

Jake LittmanJake Littman

Hometown: Copake, New York

Degree(s), Concentration, and Class Year at SUNY Downstate: MPH, Health Policy and Management, Class of 2020

Undergraduate Major: BS in Psychology

Current Profession: Planned Giving Assistant at Doctors Without Borders

Community involvement: Working with members of Downstate Physicians for Human Rights on a continuing care initiative to connect clients from the Downstate Asylum Clinic to health resources to meet their individual needs.

Award Received: Lenard and Christine Szarek Fellowship Fund


1. Why did you choose to study at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health (SPH)? Did SPH meet your expectations?
I chose Downstate for its location, affordability, national Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accreditation, and focus on serving diverse urban and immigrant populations. The SPH did not meet my expectations - it exceeded them. In professors, I found experts in their fields with incredible varieties of backgrounds and expertise, while in peers, I found camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose in using our education to create positive change.


2. What was the most memorable experience or advice you received during your time at SPH that struck you as particularly meaningful?
Rather than a specific experience, what I find especially memorable about my time at SPH is the overarching sense of community cohesion. What struck me from the beginning of my journey was the palpable feeling that professors and peers alike wanted to use their education to create positive change and make the world a better place in their own way. Having that shared purpose was a special thing, and to me is what makes Downstate unique.


3. Which SPH community member (e.g. faculty, staff, mentor, fellow classmates) influenced you the most and why?
While many SPH community members impacted me, I have to give special thanks to Dr. Judith LaRosa and Dr. Daniel Ehlke. As my advisor, Dr. LaRosa was always welcoming and positive, and was an excellent introduction to the Downstate community. As a professor and mentor, Dr. Ehlke was a fantastic educator and connector, whether relating classroom concepts to the real world or bringing together people who can share mutual benefit. I am lucky to still be in contact with him and receiving guidance long after graduating.


4. Where has life taken you since you graduated from SPH? How has your experience at Downstate SPH prepared you for your career?
Since graduating, I have been working full-time for Doctors Without Borders while applying to medical school. My time at Downstate actually led to my current position, as I first started interning for Doctors Without Borders to fulfill the field experience requirement for my degree. In the long-term, I hope to use my public health knowledge to better provide for individual patients as a physician, and to serve communities as an advocate for health equity and public-spirited changemaker.


5. Could you describe your current profession? What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of your profession?
As Planned Giving Assistant at Doctors Without Borders, I work as part of a seven-person team that processed over $100 million in donations in 2020. I maintain an online database of donors, work with attorneys and executors to process gifts from estates, reach out to those interested in including Doctors Without Borders in their estate plans, and help process Charitable Gift Annuities.

The most rewarding aspect of my position is learning about Doctors Without Borders’s impact through presentations from those in the field and interacting with people from various corners of the organization. As someone who wants to one day work in the field as a physician, it is both humbling and inspiring. The most challenging aspect of my position is that it is very detail-oriented. I often have to take complex collections of information and organize them coherently, and missing one detail can throw off the entire equation.


6. What advice do you have for prospective students?
Whatever your specific interests in public health may be, chances are there is someone at Downstate that is an expert in that realm and can provide specific guidance to help you along your journey. Do some research beforehand, so by the time you begin coursework, you can hit the ground running by expanding your network and attaining mentors that can help you use your degree in whatever capacity you desire.


7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I hope to be recently graduated from medical school and in the early stages of my residency. In five years from then, I hope to be working in the field as a physician with Doctors Without Borders. And in five years after that, I hope to be practicing as a physician while spending my time outside the clinic serving my local community and advocating for health equity.



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