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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Alfred Stracher Memorial Fund

Past Awardees

2020 Clinician Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award

Adam S Budzikowski, MD, PhD, FHRS

Adam S Budzikowski, MD, PhD, FHRS is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. He received his MD degree in 1990 from the Medical University of Warsaw in Poland. He then joined its Department of Clinical and Applied Physiology, where his research focused on neurogenic mechanisms of spontaneous hypertension in an animal model and culminated in a PhD degree in 1995 under the supervision of Dr. Ewa Szczepańska-Sadowska. Following his graduation, he pursued post-doctoral training in neurogenic mechanisms of salt-sensitive hypertension at the Hypertension Unit of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and under the guidance of Dr. Frans HH Leenen. The research, completed in both Warsaw and Ottawa, showed a pivotal involvement of the median preoptic nucleus in translating pulsatile increases in plasma sodium, associated with feeding, into sustained elevation of sympathetic output and a resulting hypertension.  The mechanism involves release of endogenous ouabain and downstream activation of angiotensin II and the vasopressin system. 

Most of his clinical training was completed in the USA, starting with a medicine residency and a cardiology fellowship at SUNY Stony Brook. There, with the inspiration and guidance of Dr. Roman T Pachulski, he decided to pursue training in clinical cardiac electrophysiology, which he completed at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY. The Medical Center provided a unique exposure to hereditary arrhythmias, given its registry of patients with long QT syndrome—the oldest and largest in the country. Furthermore, being a home to all Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trials, the Center allowed access to some of the most advanced devices and groundbreaking device-based therapies. The training completed here was very influential in shaping a future research interest in device-based strategies for reduction of ventricular tachycardia.    

Since coming to SUNY Downstate in 2007, Dr. Budzikowski has developed a complex ablation program from the ground up, including the ablation of atrial fibrillation and scar-related ventricular tachycardia. A number of technological advances in electrophysiology were introduced, including 3-dimensional mapping, irrigated catheter ablation, force sensing catheters and high-density arrythmia mapping. Most recently, thanks to his efforts, the institution acquired a laser ablation system for pulmonary vein isolation for treatment of atrial fibrillation.

Medical education has been his passion from the very beginning of his career, when he became a physiology course director at the Medical University of Warsaw. Here at Downstate, in addition to helping supervise and mentor for the Student Summer Research Program, he has mentored numerous residents and fellows. Currently, he is an Associate Program Director for the Cardiology Fellowship and a Program Director for the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship. He has had the privilege of being involved in the training, so far, of 14 electrophysiology fellows and many general cardiology fellows.    

Mentoring and providing guidance in professional and research career development is one of the most essential functions of an academic teacher.  On a personal level, it is a way of expressing his gratitude to his mentors for influencing, guiding, and accelerating his professional and personal growth.

2020 Basic Scientist Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award

Dr. Chaqour

Dr. Chaqour is a Professor in the Departments of Cell Biology and Ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. He received his M.Sc. and M.e.d. degrees in Biomedical and Biological Engineering from the University of the Sciences (Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy) and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of REIMS-Champagne-et-Ardennes. Dr. Chaqour began his academic and research career at the University of Pennsylvania as a Research Fellow, continuing as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology before joining the Department of Cell Biology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. Dr. Chaqour is one of the founders and actively NIH-funded members of the SUNY EYE Institute, a collaborative research consortium integrating the complementary strengths of the four SUNY Medical Universities in the State of New York.

Dr. Chaqour has been engaged in biomedical research on the adaptive and maladaptive responses of cells and tissues to mechanical stresses (e.g., shear stress, stiffness of the extracellular matrix, pressure overload) and to chemical injury imparted by hypoxia, hyperoxia, hyperglycemia and/or hyperlipidemia. He identified a new set of molecular markers of cellular responses to mechanical and chemical injuries known as CYR61/CTGF/NOV (i.e., CCN) proteins and showed that their expression or lack thereof affects blood vessel homeostasis and barrier function over short vascular distances, causing localized neovascular growth, edema and hemorrhage. Dr. Chaqour’s investigations unearthed a protective effect of the intactness of these molecules against blood vessel stiffening, the latter a hallmark of a plethora of microvascular and inflammatory diseases including diabetic microangiopathies, aneurysm, wet age-related macular degeneration and neovascular glaucoma.

Dr. Chaqour has maintained a continuous extramurally funded research program that steadily increased over the years. He has been the recipient of K01, R56, and numerous R01 and R21 NIH grants as well as private Research Foundation awards. He has completed all funded projects and produced high impact peer-reviewed papers, many of which have been featured on journal covers, in journal highlights and/or as top best paper of the year. Dr. Chaqour is also a frequent participant in NIH-sponsored activities, serving as an ad hoc, and more recently, a permanent reviewer in multiple NIH study sections, and in numerous national and international review committees and editorial boards.

The most important contribution to science by Dr. Chaqour is his role in teaching and fostering the development of aspiring biomedical researchers. Dr. Chaqour is particularly passionate about communicating his ideas and research interests to young individuals and helping them explore their own. He has mentored undergraduate, M.D.-Ph.D., Ph.D. and postdoctoral trainees, many of whom have gone on to successful professional careers of one type or another in the USA, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. Among their current job titles are: department chair, assistant and associate professor, practicing doctor, and successful entrepreneur. He also helps fellow faculty members fulfill their potential and navigate decisions regarding their academic and professional careers. Dr. Chaqour continues striving to better himself as a researcher and teacher to further his own intellectual growth and help nourish the learning experience of others.

2019 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Recognition Award

Samy I. McFarlane, MD, MPH, MBA, FACPDr. McFarlane is at the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medicine/ Endocrinology who completed his IM residency, Chief residency and endocrinology fellowship at SUNY-Downstate/ Kings County Hospital Center and held several leadership positions including Program Director and Chief of Endocrinology. During his tenure as a PD and chief of Endocrinology, the division was transformed into a powerhouse of research and academic output where fellows graduated to hold leadership and academic positions at major institutions including the National Institute of Health. He also served as the Director of the IM Clerkship, where he promoted research and other scholarly activities among our students, edited, and co-authored with his Downstate students the popular review book, The First Aid for Medicine Clerkship, McGraw Hill and co.that has become the recommended clerkship reading at major universities. Dr. McFarlane also holds Professorship in Emergency Medicine and Radiology. He was the founding director of the EM clerkship, and he developed and taught an introductory course on bone densitometry for the Radiology residents and fellows.

He is a prolific researcher and authored over 300 publications including several books in the areas of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. He uses research and publications as a way to promote the career of his students, residents and fellows. His funded research by the NIH, ADA and NKF as well as other major institutions was cited over 10,000 times. He is the founding editor of several journals and currently is the Editor-In-Chief for the International Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolismas well as the International Journal of Clinical Trials and Research.  Nationally, Dr. McFarlane is a 2- term elected member of NIH-NIDDK and served twice as a Chair at NIH- NIDDK U01 committee. He also served as a Chairman of the clinical sub-committee of the National Kidney Foundation, Kidney Early Evaluation Program (NKF-KEEP). Dr. McFarlane is the past District President of the American College of Physicians and is the recipient of numerous awards including recognitions from the United States Army, the US Congress and the Gold foundation for Humanism in Medicine.

Dr. McFarlane has a broad clinical, academic and leadership experiences as well as credentials including Master in public Health from SUNY-Downstate and Master in Business Administration in Health Care from the George Washington University. He is a well sought after as a mentor for resident, fellows and post graduate trainees and junior faculty from Downstate as well as other institutions including NYU and LIJ to name a few. He is particularly committed to the advancement of the career of new generation of investigators, particularly among minority scholars, something that will ultimately translate into culturally tailored and highly effective care to ease the burden of the chronic diseases affecting our communities such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

2018 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Recognition Award

Xian-Cheng Jiang, Ph.DXian-Cheng Jiang, Ph.D, is a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Shanghai Medical University, China, in 1981 and 1984, and his Ph.D. from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1989.

Dr. Xian-Cheng Jiang is a pioneer and leader in the field of lipid biology. He was the first to explore the effects of phospholipid transfer protein, phospholipid remodeling, and sphingolipid biosynthesis on lipoprotein metabolism in the setting of cardiovascular disease. As a continuously funding PI on NIH, American Heart Association (AHA), and Veterans Affair (VA) (total ~ 8 million dollars) over the past 23 years, he has revolutionized our understanding of the complex and intricate regulatory pathways of phospholipid metabolism and how they impact heart disease. His research is supported continuously, since he has an active VA Merit grant (2016-2020), a foundation grant (King’s Foundation (2017-2019), and a NIH RO1 grant (2018-2023).

Importantly, Dr. Jiang is an outstanding mentor. In the last 16 years, as an associate professor and then a tenured professor, he trained 15 postdoc fellows and 11 pre-doctor graduate students. These trainees are ranking from postdoc fellow to lecturer, resident, director-level clinician, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor in four different countries (USA, China, Germany, and India). Dr. Jiang (as the corresponding author) has 52 papers with his mentees (as the first author) since 2003.

Dr. Jiang has published more than 170 peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Nat. Med.; JCI; Gasteroenterology; Hepatology; Circ. Res; ATVB; JBC, and JLR. He served as a standing or ad hoc member for VA, AHA, and NIH study sections.  He is an associate editor of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, and Journal of Lipid. He is editorial member of Journal of Lipid Research. Dr. Jiang has received widespread recognition for his research and for his exceptional teaching and mentorship contributions, including the SUNY DMC President Research Award (2002); SUNY Promising Inventor Award (2003, 2005); AHA Volunteer Recognition Award (2007); SUNY Chancellor’s Award (2010); SUNY DMC Excellence in Education Award (2015), andAlfred Stracher Memorial Award (2018)

2017 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Recognition Award

Steven Levine

Steven R. Levine, MD, is a Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Emergency Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He received his. B.S. from the University of Michigan in 1977, and his M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1981. Following a residency in neurology at The University of Michigan Medical Center, he completed a 2 year stroke and cerebrovascular disease research fellowship at the Henry Ford Health Science Center in Detroit, Michigan, one of 8 (at the time) nationally designated NIH Centers for Stroke Research where he studied human, in-vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the brain during stroke under the mentorship of K.M.A. Welch. They discovered a cerebral pH "flip-flop" from acidosis to alkalosis during acute ischemic stroke in humans and published the first serial 31-Phosphorus MR spectroscopy profiles of acute human stroke. He also investigated antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) (circulating immunoglobulins implicated in promoting thrombosis) and organized the Antiphospholipid Antibodies Stroke Study (APASS) Group that led to multi-center, epidemiological studies demonstrating aPL as a risk factor for first ischemic stroke. He became involved in acute stroke clinical trials and in 1990-4 was one of 7 site principal investigators in The NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial that led to the first FDA-approved treatment for acute ischemic stroke in 1996. In the late 1990s he coined the term "telestroke" in a new concept paper envisioning the use of real-time telemedicine to increase tPA treatment within acute stroke care. Over 25 years later telestroke is now part of routine stroke care at many hospitals. Since coming to Downstate in 2010, he has completed a longitudinal cohort study of aPL in older, community dwelling adults, initiated an NIH-funded SUNY-wide neurological clinical trials infrastructure (NeuroNEXT) as well as an NIH-funded SUNY Downstate Hub for neurological emergency clinical trials (NETT). His research team has developed mobile (smart phone) apps for stroke survivors, developed a longitudinal cohort to study predictors of post-stroke fatigue, and currently is investigating factors influencing physician decision making for thrombolytic treatment of acute stroke. He has mentored over 30 stroke fellows, over 50 residents, and many students and junior faculty. He has been the recipient of K24, T32, and R25 NIH research training grants and has been extremely fortunate to be NIH funded continually for 28 years.


2016 Recipient of the Alfred Stracher Recognition Award


Todd C. Sacktor is the recipient of the 2016 Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award. Dr. Sacktor, a Distinguished Professor of Physiology, Pharmacology, Anesthesiology, and Neurology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1978, and his M.D. with Distinction for Research in Neuroscience from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1982. Following a residency in neurology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, he studied the role of protein kinase C (PKC) in short-term memory using the mollusk Aplysia californica, a model system of learning and memory, in the laboratory of Dr. James H. Schwartz at Columbia's Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, directed by Dr. Eric R. Kandel. He discovered that PKC was activated during sensitization and translocated in Aplysia sensory neurons.

Around 1990, it became clear that PKC was not a single enzyme, but a small gene family of isoforms. At the same time, there was tremendous interest in the learning and memory field that long-term potentiation (LTP) in the mammalian hippocampal slice preparation could lead to insights into learning and memory. LTP is a persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity that produce a long-lasting increase in signal transmission between two neurons.

When Dr. Sacktor set up his own laboratory at SUNY Downstate in 1990, his first goal was to characterize the complete PKC isoform family in the hippocampus. He discovered a brain-specific PKC isoform, PKMzeta. PKMzeta is generated from an internal promotor site in the PKC/PKMzeta gene. Its mRNA is transported to neuronal dendrites but is normally translationally repressed.

During LTP, many of the signaling pathways important for LTP induction derepress translation of PKMzeta mRNA to increase the synthesis of PKMzeta. Subsequently, PKMzeta was found to increase synaptic transmission by increasing the number of postsynaptic AMPA receptors. Inhibitors of PKMzeta were found to disrupt both established LTP and memory. Thus, together with colleagues, Dr. Sacktor's laboratory has demonstrated that PKMzeta is both necessary and sufficient for maintaining long-term potentiation and storing the long-term memory trace.

The 2016 Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award has been awarded to Dr. Sacktor for: a) his long-term focus on unravelling the molecular mechanism behind lifelong memory, a crucial brain function that becomes dysfunctional in neurological diseases, and b) his ongoing, highly valued and very caring mentoring of not only his students but of young faculty in his department.


2015 Recipient Of The Alfred Stracher Faculty Recognition Award


Tracey E. Wilson, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and holds a doctoral degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. She has an active research program in the psychosocial determinants of health behavior, with a focus on HIV and other infectious diseases, in interventions to reduce risk for infectious diseases, and on promoting adherence and engagement in care in chronic conditions. Dr. Wilson has a long history of working in teams to advance public health, and makes a concerted effort to include junior faculty and advanced level students in these teams. In this context, and also as a member of departmental and school-wide committees, she works to ensure that junior faculty are aware of the requirements for tenure and promotion, and advises faculty on approaches to ensuring successful and satisfying careers.



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