SUNY Downstate Residents and Fellows Celebrate Graduation With Virtual Commencement

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Jul 11, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: John Gillespie | | (314) 708-9090

Graduates hailed for meeting the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the epicenter of New York City

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (June 11, 2020) – They came to SUNY Downstate fresh from medical school or residency ready to dive into their chosen specialties. Today, 300 graduates of SUNY Downstate’s residency and fellowship programs leave as battle-hardened veterans of the worst pandemic in more than 100 years.

Even now, as they prepare for next part of their careers, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing their experiences. Unable to assemble for a traditional commencement due to social distancing, a generation that grew up with the Internet celebrated their achievements with a virtual commencement on Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:00PM, which will be webcast on SUNY Downstate’s YouTube channel.

“We are proud of this cohort of residents and fellows as they fully embraced the magnitude of the greatest public health emergency of our lifetime,” said SUNY Downstate President Wayne J. Riley, M.D. “Their presence on the frontlines of care shows their commitment and understanding of our unique community and underscores why so many of our residents and fellows continue to work with our unique population.”

“This pandemic will no doubt stand out as the sentinel event in the careers of these resident’s and fellows,” said Charles Brunicardi, M.D., SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University SVP and Dean of the College of Medicine. “It has also been transformational to how we approach graduate medical education.”

“Over the course of just a few weeks, we needed to rethink and re-engineer the entire educational experience,” said Emergency Medicine physician Teresa Smith, M.D., M.Ed., Associate Dean of Medical Education and Affiliations and Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine. “Not only did we need to redeploy more than a thousand residents and fellows to direct care of COVID-19 patients, but we also partnered with the students, the faculty, information technology and the entire organization to move all of their lectures, grand-rounds and other educational programs to virtual platforms – innovations that we will continue to use long after this pandemic, and which we believe will provide a more robust and enlightened learning experience.”

This year’s class includes 300 physicians completing 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.

SUNY Downstate’s Graduate Medical Education Program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and offers residencies and fellowships in 51 different specialty areas in 22 different clinical department. In 1860, the program revolutionized medical education by being the first in the United States to bring the teaching of medicine to the hospital bedside so that physicians were no longer trained exclusively in classrooms. Today SUNY Downstate trains more than 1000 residents and fellows at more than a dozen major affiliated hospitals, and has the largest emergency medicine residency program in the United States. 


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City, and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by the expertise of an outstanding medical school and the research facilities of a world-class academic center. More than 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate's staff.

A regional center for cardiac care, neonatal and high-risk infant services, pediatric dialysis, and transplantation, Downstate also houses a major learning center for children with physical ailments or neurological disorders. In addition to UHB, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.