photo of Pascal James Imperato

Pascal James Imperato, MD, MPH&TM, MACP

Founding Dean, Dean Emeritus, and Distinguished Service Professor
School of Public Health

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Academic Qualifications:
  • MD: State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University
  • MPH&TM: Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Background and Expertise:

Dr. Pascal James Imperato is Founding Dean and Dean Emeritus of the School of Public Health, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer of SUNY Downstate, and Distinguished Service Professor. He established the school's Center for Global Health which he directed from 2011 though 2016. Prior to becoming Dean, he was Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health in the College of Medicine. He received his BS degree in biology, magna cum laude, from St. John’s College where he was mentored by the distinguished biologist and parasitologist, Dr. C. William Lacaillade. He received his MD degree from the State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University, College of Medicine. Following his second year, he was a Research Fellow of the Health Research Council of the City of New York. He spent the summer in Downstate’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology studying malaria parasites with the eminent parasitologist, Dr. Herbert Walton Cox. He then spent several months of his fourth year as a Smith, Kline, and French Foreign Fellow providing medical care at Kowak, a remote Maryknoll clinic in the North Mara District of Tanganyika Territory (now Tanzania). While there, he also conducted a study of malaria parasitemia in clinically healthy individuals, and studied traditional medical practices among the Luo people. During this time and throughout his career, he came under the tutelage of Dr. Duncan W. Clark, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Community Health, and former Dean of the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

Dr. Imperato completed his residency in internal medicine at Long Island College Hospital where he was assigned to the Tropical Disease Clinic under Dr. William Gordon Mullin. He then served as a physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club. He was awarded the Glorney-Raisbeck Fellowship of the New York Academy of Medicine, and served his fellowship at the International Center for Medical Research and Training (ICMRT) located at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, and at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, from where he received his MPH&TM degree. At Tulane, he was mentored in parasitology by Dr. Paul Chester Beaver, and in tropical medicine by Dr. Philip Edmund Clinton Manson-Bahr. An expert on leishmaniasis, Manson-Bahr encouraged him to study the disease in West Africa. Upon graduating from Tulane, he was awarded the Tropical Medicine Prize and the Faculty Award for the Best Master’s Thesis. He was also inducted into the Eta Chapter of the Delta Omega Society, the Honorary Society in Public Health.

Dr. Imperato was then recruited to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (then the Communicable Disease Center) by Dr. Alexander D. Langmuir, Director of the Epidemiology Branch, and Dr. Donald Ainsle Henderson, Head of the Smallpox Eradication Unit. On joining the CDC, he entered the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service as a Lieutenant Commander, and later held the rank of Captain in the Active and then the Inactive Reserve. He served for six years as a medical epidemiologist with the Center in West Africa. Based in Mali, he oversaw mass immunization campaigns against smallpox, measles, yellow fever, cholera, and meningococcal meningitis. He also conducted research on these diseases as well as on leishmaniasis and histoplasmosis. He studied traditional African therapeutic systems in Mali and their interactions with allopathic medicine. His field studies of the art of the Bamana, Dogon, and Peul peoples of Mali are internationally valued in the field of African art scholarship. For his work in Africa, the U.S. Department of State awarded him its Meritorious Honor Award and Medal, as did the U.S. Agency for International Development.

During his six-year tenure at the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Imperato successively served as Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control and Principal Epidemiologist, First Deputy Commissioner of Health, Director of the department’s Residency Training Program in Public Health, and as Chair of the New York City Swine Influenza Immunization Task Force. Mayor Abraham D. Beame then appointed him as Commissioner of Health and Acting Health Services Administrator of New York City. He also simultaneously served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Chair of the New York City Board of Health, and chaired the Interagency Health Council and the Executive Committee of the Health Systems Agency. He later served in these positions under Mayor Edward I. Koch.

While at the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Imperato initiated the Nurse Epidemiology Program that altered the department's approach to investigating and controling outbreaks and epidemics. As Commisioner of Health, he recruited National Service Corps physicians to provide treatment and preventive services and address health and health care disparities among the city's disadvantaged populations.

His mentors at the New York City Department of Health were Dr. Lowell E. Bellin, who served as Commissioner of Health from 1974 to 1977, Dr. Aaron D. Chaves, Assistant Commissioner for Chronic and Communicable Diseases, Dr. Howard B. Shookhoff, Chief of the Division of Tropical Medicine, and Louis Neugeborn, Deputy Commissioner for Administration.

During his time at the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Imperato was Clinical Professor of Public Health at Cornell University Medical College and on the faculty of the School of Public Health at Columbia University. On leaving the New York City Department of Health, he became Professor and Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health in the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, where he succeeded one of his mentors, Dr. Duncan W. Clark, an internationally eminent leader in public health and preventive medicine. Dr. Imperato was later appointed Distinguished Service Professor.

In 2001, Dr. Imperato assumed the additional responsibility of Director of the Master of Public Health Program. With the steady expansion of the program, in 2008 he became Dean of the Graduate Program in Public Health and the School of Public Health Initiative, and in 2009 Founding Dean and Dean of the School of Public Health.

Under Dr. Imperato’s leadership, the Master of Public Health Program, with its single concentration on urban and immigrant health, steadily grew. In 2005, it received the maximum five-year national accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Over the next four years, Dr. Imperato led the complex effort to transform the Master of Public Health Program into the School of Public Health. This required the creation of four additional MPH concentrations in Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, and Health Policy and Management. The core curricular courses and elective courses had to be created for all five concentrations. A similar process took place for the creation of the Doctor of Public Health degree programs in Community Health Sciences, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and Epidemiology. Four departments were created, chairs and faculty recruited, and a number of governing committees created. All of these initiatives required approval through an extensive process involving the central administration of SUNY, the New York State Education Department, the New York State Board of Regents, and the Council on Education for Public Health.

By 2008, the essential structure for a school of public health was in place. An academic convocation launching this initiative was held on April 11, 2008 at which the Chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees and the Interim Chancellor of the University presided. It was at this convocation that Dr. Imperato was formally installed as Dean. It was also in 2008 that the New York State Legislature and the Governor approved $100 million for the construction of the Public Health/Academic Building, which opened in 2018. Efforts to obtain funding for the building were led by Downstate's then President, Dr. John C. LaRosa, and State Senator Martin J. Golden who guided the proposal through the New York State Legislature and obtained approval from the Governor.

In 2010, a CEPH accreditation site visit took place, after which the school received national accreditation for the maximum possible of five years. Shortly thereafter, the Beta Iota Chapter of Delta Omega, the Honorary Society in Public Health, was established.

Dr. Imperato led the launching of a number of initiatives in the school, including the creation of the Center for Global Health in 2011, which he directed for its first five years. The educational activities under the center include the Global Health in Developing Countries elective for fourth year medical students, in which 520 students have participated in 42 host countries. Another initiative is the Global Health Practical Field Experience for MPH students through which they satisfy the practicum for the MPH degree. Students have participated in this program in Haiti, India, Jamaica, and South Africa. In 2013, the school established the Global Health Pathway in the new curriculum of the College of Medicine. The newest initiative which was launched under Dr. Imperato’s leadership was the Peace Corps Master’s International Program, which began in 2014.

Dr. Imperato led efforts to initiate an Advanced Certificate in Public Health, which was opened for enrollment in the summer of 2013. This 15-credit certificate has since drawn a large enrollment. Other Advanced Certificates are being developed, including one in Global Health.

Starting with a dozen MPH students in 2002, Dr. Imperato and his colleagues had over a fifteen year period, grown the enrollment of the School of Public Health to 280, of which 60 were Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) students. In 2022, the school had an enrollment of 500 students.

Dr. Imperato has served on a number of external committees and boards. He was a member of the New York State Council on Graduate Medical Education, the Board for Professional Medical Conduct, the Board of Directors of the Primary Care Development Corporation, and the Board of Regents of Long Island College Hospital. He was also Vice-Chair and then Chair of the New York State Board for Medicine, which oversees the licensing of physicians in the state. For several years he was a member of the Fulbright Screening Committee for Africa. He was also a member of the Global Health Committee and the Accreditation and Credentialing Committee of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, and a member of the Advisory Council of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He is currently a member of the Advisory Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility of New York City. Over the years, he has served as a consultant on health programs in Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development and non-governmental organizations. In 1985, he received a Fulbright Scholar Award to advise on the development of a medical school in the Yemen Arab Republic.

He served for seven years as editor of the New York State Journal of Medicine, chaired the Publications Committee of the American College of Epidemiology, now edits the Journal of Community Health, and is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and The Pharos. He is the author of over 300 scientific papers, 29 books, and numerous articles on the art and history of Africa.

He headed several College of Medicine committees and task forces. He served two 4-year terms as Chair of the Committee on Educational Policy and Curriculum (Curriculum Committee), chaired the Second Year Promotions Committee for twelve years, and was Chair of the Special Working Group on the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education Relationship. In 2005-2006 he was the Chair of the Search Committee for the Dean of the College of Medicine, and in 2018-2019, co-chaired the Search Committee for the same position. His research in recent years has focused on clinical outcomes and health care quality improvement.

Through 2016, Dr. Imperato served as the course director for the Global Health Elective, Global Health in Developing Countries. Through this elective, some 480 fourth-year SUNY Downstate medical students have been placed and supervised in oversees educational and clinical settings in 42 resource poor countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Oceania. Since its inception, he has obtained extra mural funding to support the travel expenses of student participants. Dr. Imperato also served though 1998 as the course director for the then required College of Medicine second year course in Preventive Medicine and Community Health.

Dr. Imperato is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. He is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and Delta Omega, the Honorary Society in Public Health. In 1999, he received the New York City Department of Health’s Public Health Achievement Award, and in 2000, he was made a Master of the American College of Physicians (MACP). In 2003, he was awarded the James D. Bruce Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions in Preventive Medicine by the American College of Physicians, and in 2008, the Haven Emerson Award of the Public Health Association of New York City for distinguished contributions to public health in New York City. In 2021, he was named a Notable in Health Care by Crain's Business Weekly and inducted as a Knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. He holds honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Tulane University and from St. John's University.