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Downstate Residents “Die-In” to Highlight Racism and Police Brutality

die in 1

Since the horrific killing of George Floyd, the outrage and international public outcry continue be felt and heard around the world.  It was an act that shook humanity, sending shock waves around the globe. Corporations, activists, celebrities, and everyday civilians have expressed solidarity for the grave injustice done to George Floyd, calling for an end to police brutality, and an end to the systemic racial injustice that plagues this country and global nations.  

In response, future doctors of Downstate—Emergency Medicine Resident Physicians, along with their colleagues from Downstate’s 51 other residency and fellowship programs—powerfully showcased their respect for black lives, as well as their commitment to black and brown communities, on Clarkson Avenue with a staged “Die-In” demonstration.

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Emergency Medicine Residents, students, University Hospital of Brooklyn staff, academic staff, passers-by, and many others, kneeled or laid on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the precise amount of time a, now former, Minneapolis police officer knelt on and intentionally compressed the neck of George Floyd that led to his inhumane and untimely death.

die in 3

More than 300 frontline staff and others from our community banded together—taking the knee or laying flat on the street—in acknowledgement and in honor of the many lives lost at the hands of police violence, by calling out each of the countless names of victims that have yet to see justice. Following the demonstration, dozens of Downstate students, donning white coats and scrubs, walked to Grand Army Plaza to join the ongoing, massive protests throughout the city.

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The demonstration was symbolic of what I already knew to be true—Downstate is home to the most passionate, humane, selfless and trailblazing of student bodies, and I am proud to lead an institution where commitment to a cause doesn't end once the day does, or when the noise quiets.  THANK YOU for showcasing our collective values, for being fearless advocates for positive change, equity, and for being vessels of hope and continued healing on all fronts.


College of Medicine

Downstate’s Residents and Fellows Celebrate with Virtual Commencement

virtual commencement

A few weeks ago, we said congratulations and good luck to more than 700 graduates in our University-wide Commencement recognizing the achievements of our scholars from all five schools and colleges here at Downstate. Just last week, we bade adieu to 300 more during last week’s Commencement for our Residents and Fellows.

Amid continued concern about the spread of COVID-19 and with the State of New York still observing and enforcing social distancing guidelines, Downstate celebrated the graduation of its 300 residents and fellows with a special virtual ceremony which premiered on YouTube on June 11th.

I could not be prouder of this cohort of exceptional residents and fellows who bravely answered the call of duty without hesitation and carried the burden of what will likely go down in history as the deadliest public health crisis we’ve ever witnessed. Their presence on the frontlines of the pandemic not only demonstrated their commitment to and understanding of our diverse community, it also made clear how well-prepared our residents are to respond to their professional challenges.

The Class of 2020 Residents and Fellows included 300 physicians across 21 different residency programs and 26 fellowship programs. Twenty members of the class will move on to new residencies and fellowships at SUNY Downstate, while four will join SUNY Downstate as full-time members of the SUNY Downstate faculty. The remaining graduates are on their way to joining health care facilities across the country that are waiting for them to jump in and continue fighting on the frontlines in a battle against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

CONGRATULATIONS to our incomparable Residents and Fellows! Words alone cannot articulate the deep gratitude our entire community has for your remarkable sacrifices, for the lives you’ve saved, and for being consummate professionals.

Many thanks to Teresa Smith, M.D., M.Ed., Associate Dean of Medical Education and Affiliations and Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine, and everyone involved in the coordination of this pivotal event.


Dean Brunicardi Tees Up New COM Vision with New Leadership—CONGRATULATIONS to Drs. Markell, Smith, Douglas, and Lazarleadership

Just before we began observing mandated stay-at-home orders, the Dean F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D., College of Medicine, made great strides in advancing his strategic vision for the College that include new approaches to education, development of leading-edge research initiatives, and new internal faculty grant programs—starting with four critical leadership appointments.

Dr. Mariana Markell

Dr. Mariana Markell, M.D., has been appointed Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education effective February 1.

Dr. Markell joined SUNY Downstate in 1987 as Director of Inpatient Dialysis and then served as the Medical Director of the Kidney Transplant Program until 2006. She served as Director of Transplant Nephrology for nearly 15 years creating the first Transplant Nephrology Fellowship Program in New York City that has trained some of the leading transplant nephrologists in the country.

Dr. Markell now leads and manages the undergraduate medical education program in the College of Medicine, helping to design new educational and wellness programs, as well as strengthen the curriculum. In addition to new duties, Dr. Markell will continue to serve as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology, where she attends and teaches students, residents, and Fellows on the Transplant service.



Dr. Teresa Smith

Teresa Y. Smith, M.D., MSEd has been appointed Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and Affiliations, and Designated Institutional Official (DIO) effective February 1.

In her new role as the SUNY Downstate DIO, Dr. Smith will have authority and responsibility for the oversight and administration of each of Downstate’s accredited GME programs and for ensuring compliance with all institutional and program requirements, as established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Dr. Smith is currently an Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine at Downstate, and for more than four years was the Residency Program Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Training Program, which is considered one of the largest and leading E.M. training programs in the country. She is also a Clinical Advisory Dean in the College of Medicine, assisting medical students in making career choices and advising them through the residency application and selection processes. 



Dr. Montgomery Douglas

Montgomery Douglas, M.D., has been appointed Chairperson of the Family and Community Medicine Department, effective March 1.

Recognizing the role and relationship of primary care and family medicine to community health, Dr. Douglas will also serve as Population Health Strategy and Innovation Chief for One Brooklyn Health System (OBHS), the $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” initiative launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in January 2018.

The Vital Brooklyn initiative will address chronic social, economic, and health disparities in Central and northeastern Brooklyn. Downstate will partner with OBHS hospitals to transform the healthcare delivery system by building programmatic bridges to support the academic mission and vision of the University Hospital of Brooklyn.



Dr. Jason Lazar

Finally, Jason M. Lazar, M.D., MPH, has been appointed Vice Dean for Education and Chair of the newly created Department of Medical Education effective March 1.

Dr. Lazar joined the Downstate’s Department of Medicine as the Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology in 2003, where he serves as Professor and Clinical Assistant Dean in the College of Medicine. Dr. Lazar also holds appointments in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Neurology, as well as in the School of Public Health. He was also appointed Vice Chair of Medicine for Education.

In his new role, Dr. Lazar will be responsible for oversight and support of the undergraduate medical education, the expansion of the Center for Healthcare Simulation, and the development of a broader array of programs to support faculty in their roles as educators.


CONGRATULATIONS to the COM for these new appointments.


College of Nursing

Dr. Barbara Ann M. Messina Joins the RNBS QSEN Task Force

Barbera Messina

I’m delighted to announce that on May 28, Barbara Ann M. Messina, Ph.D., R.N., ANP, Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, joined the RNBS Quality and Safety for Nursing Education (QSEN) Task Force!

The QSEN, arguably one of the most important topics in the field of Nursing, is a national initiative designed to rise to the challenge of preparing future nurses who will have the education, skillset, and attitudes necessary to advance the quality of care and safety of the healthcare systems in which they work. According to a report from the American Nurse Association (ANA), QSEN was formed in response to calls for improved quality and safety in nursing, and was designed to align nursing education and nursing best practices in quality and safety standards.

QSEN Taskforce

The RNBS QSEN Task Force was later initiated in 2015. The purpose of the Task Force was to establish a system thinking framework to advance nursing scholarship and promote QSEN integration and Systems Thinking into the RNBS Education. This role with the task force will allow Dr. Messina to work with experts to integrate QSEN initiatives and Systems Thinking into the CON RNBS curriculum, further elevating the curriculum’s competitive advantage.

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Messina and THANK YOU for continuing to develop, grow, and advance the education of our students in the College of Nursing.  


School of Public Health

SPH Awarded SUNY Research COVID Seed Grant Funding

Grant Funding

In exciting news, I am pleased to share that the School of Public Health has three projects that were funded by the SUNY Research Seed Grant Program. 

Intended to augment and complement various seed funding programs offered and administered by SUNY campuses, the SUNY Research Seed Grant Program works to create a broader portfolio of options for faculty research while emphasizing SUNY strategic priority research areas. The recent funds awarded to SPH faculty come from a program designed to support SUNY faculty in conducting novel coronavirus (COVID-19) research. The program is sponsored by the SUNY Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) and the projects it supports include multiple faculty members across a diverse set of public health issues.


Awarded faculty members and their respective projects are as follows:

latoya towers

1. LaToya L. Trowers, Ed.D, MBA, CHM, CHN, Assistant Professor of Health Policy & Management

Project Title: Understanding the Role of Telemedicine during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Project Summary: The goal is to understand how the current telehealth service can respond effectively to socially vulnerable populations and those with multiple chronic conditions before and during a pandemic. These discoveries will facilitate the design of a service that can directly meet the needs of this population by increasing access to care, reducing comorbidities, and adding value to the health care system’s pandemic response. The objective of this grant is to characterize the role of telemedicine for socially vulnerable populations.


Marlene Camacho-Rivera 

2. Principal Investigator: Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences

Study Investigators: Elizabeth Helzner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., Ed.D. in Environmental and Occupational Health, Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Carla Boutin-Foster, M.D., Associate Dean of Diversity Education and Research, and Moro Salifu, M.D., MPH, MBA, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

Project Title: COVID-19 Exposure, Response, Physical and Mental Health Sequelae among Health Professionals

Project Summary: Health professionals are at risk of physical and mental health consequences as a result of being first responders to traumatic events, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Risk factors for adverse health outcomes may include individual-level factors (e.g. personal health history, smoking); organizational factors (e.g. workload, inadequate staffing, or access to personal protective equipment); or community-level factors, such as social isolation or support. This study will examine the physical and mental health impacts of COVID-19 across a diverse cohort of 500 health care workers throughout New York City.


Azure Thompson

3. Principal Investigator: Azure B. Thompson, Dr.PH., MPH, Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences

Co-Investigators: Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics; and Laura Geer, Ph.D., MHS, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Environmental and Occupational Health

Project Title: Associations between cigarette, e-cigarette and marijuana use and COVID-19 outcomes in racially/ethnically diverse patient populations

Project Summary: Cigarette, e-cigarette, and marijuana smoking or vaping have been identified as potential risk factors for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) morbidity and mortality, and preliminary data suggest racial/ethnic, gender and other social disparities in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. This study will examine the associations between self-reported cigarette, e-cigarette, and marijuana smoking or vaping and COVID-19 outcomes.  This includes including ventilator use, time-to-discharge, discharge to home, new cardiovascular and lung disease, and mortality among patients in a COVID-only hospital in a racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood Brooklyn, and whether race/ethnicity, gender and other sociodemographic characteristics modify these associations.

CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to our faculty in the School of Public Health for your seminal work in helping to rapidly expand and advance our understanding of the novel coronavirus. These studies will not only protect the health of the communities we serve, they will also advance the health of populations, globally.


School of Health Professions

OT Scholars Inducted into Pi Theta Epsilon National Honor Society

Occupational Therapy

OT Scholars

In March, during a brief, but beautiful ceremony, eight students from the Occupational Therapy (OT) Program were inducted into Pi Theta Epsilon, the national honor society for Occupational Therapy. . This was the 29th induction ceremony for Downstate’s chapter, recognized by the Association of College Honor Societies, and as a program of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. Faculty from across the School of Health Professions’ (SOHP) programs, as well as friends and family celebrated—before social-distancing guidelines were put in place—with the inductees as they pledged their new society.

The mission of Pi Theta Epsilon is to support the practice of occupational sciences and the practice of authentic occupational therapy by promoting research, leadership and scholarly activities by its members. In this way, the organization serves the profession while helping to ensure quality health care services for the public.

The Alpha Kappa Chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon at Downstate was initiated in1992 to recognize and encourage scholastic excellence and advancement among occupational therapy students across our campus and throughout our alumni network.

Held in Alumni Auditorium and conducted by new OT chair, Kelly Lavin, OTD, OTR/L, as well as the Department of Occupational Therapy faculty, this year’s inductees included: Katherine Balton, Alan Fishman, Ariane Mallon, Laura Park, Kalena Patton, Krista Rozas, Isabel Salazar, and Jamie Sobin.

CONGRATULATIONS to our new inductees and thank you for working so hard to excel in your chosen discipline!


Occupational Therapy: Making a Smooth Virtual Transition

Zoom Desk

Following the onset of New York’s coronavirus outbreak in mid-March, students and faculty throughout Downstate had to quickly transition to virtual distance-learning. The world of Zoom, Webex, Skype, and GoTo Meeting made a roaring entrance into our lives, and the suddenness of these changes elicited many feelings of constrain, isolation, and uncertainty. The everyday exchanges that we took for granted, that kept us connected, slipped away.

As an antidote, Richard Sabel, MA, MPH, OTR, GCFP, Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Health Profession’s (SOHP) Occupational Therapy Program, started a weekly, early evening series called Coffee & Conversation: Zoom Chats with Occupational Therapy Practitioners. The program offers Occupational Therapy (OT) students an informal, engaging opportunity to hear stories from an array of practitioners. More importantly, it provided an opportunity for faculty and students to come together, be engaged and inspired, and have fun—despite the magnitude of the coronavirus. To date, there have been 10 programs.

Building on this success, Professor Sabel reached out to the New York State Occupational Therapy Association. He thought a statewide program, following a similar format, would be helpful during these trying times. We are happy to report that SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University’s Occupational Therapy Program, in collaboration with the New York State Occupational Therapy Association, co-host a bimonthly program titled Dessert & Dialogue. Every other Tuesday evening at 7:00pm, OT practitioners throughout the state are staying connected, sharing ideas, hearing inspired lectures, and earning CEUs, all while remaining safely distanced.

We all look forward to the day that we can come together again in person. In the meantime, Zoom and similar platforms, with a little imagination, are continuing to open the door to new possibilities for the Downstate Community.


University Hospital of Brooklyn

Downstate Receives PLATINUM AWARD for Commitment to Organ And Tissue Donation

UHB Live On NY

workplace partnership

It’s with great pride that I announce two special awards presented to SUNY Downstate’s University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB)—The LiveOnNY Certificate and the Workplace Partnership for Life (WPFL) Initiative’s PLATIMUN AWARD!

Formerly New York Organ Donor Network, LiveOnNY is the federally-designated organ procurement organization (OPO) for the greater New York Metropolitan area. Established in 1978, LiveOnNY is the second largest OPO in the United States, serving the culturally and ethnically diverse population of 13 million residents across the country, including residents in New York City and Long Island. Working closely with Downstate's Samuel Kountz Transplant Center and other transplant centers in the city, they coordinate organ, eye, and tissue donation for transplant in the New York region; educate the public and health care professionals about donation and transplantation; and promote the importance of signing up on the New York State Donate Life Registry.

UHB Live On NY

LiveOnNY honored Downstate with the LiveOnNY Certificate in recognition of the of our institutional efforts to drive increased organ and tissue donation, as well as the lives Downstate has improved via life-saving and life-enhancing transplants.

A representative from LiveOnNY had this to say about Downstate:

There is no way that we at LiveOnNY can do this work without you and your staff. We do this work to honor the wishes of those patients who signed up on the registry; for those donor families (your patients’ families) who generously give the “Gift of Life” and subsequently find comfort in knowing their loved one is helping others to live on; and for the recipients, who are saved by these gifts.”

Downstate also earned national recognition for our efforts to increase organ, eye, and tissue donor registrations, through the Workplace Partnership for Life (WPFL) hospital organ donation campaign. Created in 2001, the WPFL Initiative is a national program that Downstate took part in from 2018-2019 which unites the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with the organ and tissue donation community of businesses, organizations, and associations.

The WPFL hospital organ donation campaign challenges healthcare organizations to educate their staff, patients, visitors, and communities about the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donation and provide opportunities for donor registration. Each of the nearly 1500 organizations that participated earned points for completing awareness and registry activities.  Based on accumulated points, participating hospitals were awarded the status of Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Downstate received the PLATINUM AWARD for our exemplary work to promote organ and tissue donation across our clinical facilities and throughout our local community!

Congratulations and THANK YOU to all our dedicated, selfless, and talented physicians, nurses, and staff at UHB whose remarkable efforts to educate and help expand the pool of organ donors within the Central Brooklyn community will continue to save lives for years to come!

New Staff

David. J. Christini Joins Downstate As Senior Vice President Of Research

David Christini

We are excited to announce the appointment of David J. Christini, Ph.D., as Downstate’s inaugural Senior Vice President of Research to lead and help enhance our institution’s growing research enterprise. 

A Brooklyn resident, Dr. Christini brings to Downstate a wealth of experience in the academic research industry having spent more than two decades at Weill Cornell Graduate School. At Weill Cordell, Dr. Christini served in a numerous essential roles including as tenured Professor in the Department of Medicine, Vice Chair of Basic Research, and Director of Cardiovascular Research. Dr. Christini developed and contributed to dozens of published research projects that have advanced medical literature and the mission of the institutions he served. He has held several appointments including Vice Dean of Weill Cornell Graduate School, Associate Dean for Programmatic Development at Weill Cornell Graduate School, and Assistant Dean of Scientific Computing at Weill Cornell College of Medicine.

As Downstate's Senior Vice President of Research, Dr. Christini will serve as Operations Manager for the SUNY Downstate Research Foundation and assume responsibility of our expanding research enterprise amid plans to develop and deepen the scope of rich programs and projects across the sciences.

In collaboration with our colleges/schools deans, chairs, and faculty to strategically grow our institution’s funded research operations, Dr. Christini will work to expand our research capacities to create synergies among our research, clinical, and educational missions. From explorations focused on the development of new treatments and therapeutics, to faculty and student-led research driving groundbreaking innovations in health and medicine, Dr. Christini will be charged with developing, supporting, and driving strategic research programs across a broad spectrum of interests with a special focus on health equity.  

Dr. Christini is a member of several professional organizations—including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, the American Heart Association, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Physiological Society—and has served in a number of a national leadership positions including the elected Co-Chair of the 2020 Gordon Conference on Cardiac Arrythmia and three-time Co-Chair of the Real-Time Techniques for Biological Experiments Conference in 2005, 2012, and 2015.

Many thanks to Jack DeHovitz, M.D., MPH, FACP, Distinguished Service Professor, Director of Special Treatment and Research Program and Director, HIV Center for Women and Children, who led the executive search, as well as members of the Search Committee, that included: Heidi Aronin, MPA; Stacy Blain, Ph.D.; Shirley Girouard, Ph.D., RN, FAAN; John C. LaRosa, M.D.; Jacquelyn Meyers, Ph.D.; Bernice Projesz, Ph.D.; Henri Tiedge, Ph.D.; Laura Martello-Rooney, Ph.D.; Tracey Wilson, Ph.D.; and Margaret Kaplan, Ph.D.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Christini to Downstate.


UHB Welcomes Sean P. Smith as Sr. Associate Vice President of Hospital Finance

Sean Smith

I am pleased to announce that Sean P. Smith, MBA has joined SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University as our new Senior Associate Vice President of Hospital Finance to comprehensively develop and advance the University Hospital of Brooklyn’s short and long-term fiscal goals.  

Mr. Smith joins SUNY Downstate with nearly 20 years of experience in healthcare finance, having spent the last 13 years at Catholic Health Services and Saint Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York where he served as the Assistant Vice President of Finance and Strategic Financial Planning, as well as the Director of Budget and Reimbursement. 

During his time at Catholic Health and St. Francis Hospital, Mr. Smith was responsible for directing financial reporting, reimbursement procedures, and expenditure analysis for New York’s only designated cardiac care center—an institution that served more than 150,00 patients annually, with annual revenues exceeding $635M. Mr. Smith was also instrumental in the accounting, forecasting, and financial management for St. Francis Hospital’s 364-bed facility, as well as St. Joseph Hospital’s 203-bed facility, with a combined operating budget in excess of $600M and a $40M capital budget.

Reporting to the Interim Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the UHB, Patricia Winston, MS, RN and is responsible for providing effective business leadership, strategy development, financial stewardship and direction for the hospital-based clinical network to successfully achieve the Hospital’s operational and strategic goals and initiatives, while complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

Mr. Smith holds has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from St. John’s University and a Master of Business Administration, Health Services Management from Hofstra University.

Please join me in giving Mr. Smith a warm and enthusiastic Downstate welcome.






President's Bulletin
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
450 Clarkson Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11203