SUNY Downstate to Launch Patient Navigator Program In Partnership With Brooklyn Free Clinic and Brooklyn Center for Health Disparities

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Jul 19, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Dawn S. Walker | | 917-439-9666

Program will connect patients to health management resources to help combat longstanding inequities in access to care for chronic conditions; program to be funded by a $50K grant from Aurinia Pharmaceuticals

Brooklyn, NY – SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University today announced a new partnership with the Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC) and the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC) to launch a Patient Navigator Program, designed to teach second-year medical students how to serve as liaisons between patients and their medical care teams, and to prepare them to deliver equitable conscientious care as healthcare professionals.

Made possible through a $50,000 grant from Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, the new pilot program will offer six second-year students a unique elective within the Rheumatology Division. The students will be trained to follow patients in the Arthritis Clinic at University Hospital, primarily for those at risk due to a history of severe disease manifestations, poor records of appointment keeping, low medication adherence, undereducation, and lack thereof of healthcare literacy, and/or language difficulties.

Patient Navigators will act as liaisons between the patients and their medical teams, check-in with patients following missed appointments, remind patients to pick up their prescriptions, visit those community organizations and hospitals without rheumatology services, and provide educational materials in multiple languages to identify minority and/or economically disadvantaged patients. These duties will play an essential role in improving both the patient experience and ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare.

"The Brooklyn Free Clinic and Brooklyn Health Disparities Center's unflagging commitment to quality care embodies the best of who we are at SUNY Downstate," said College of Medicine dean F. Charles Brunicardi, M.D. "We are excited to launch this new program, providing an invaluable experience as patient navigators through hands-on clinical experience, data analysis, and professional development. It is one of Downstate's latest ventures to bolster our foundation of excellence and improve the patient experience for all while preparing the next generation of world-class healthcare providers."

"It is exciting to launch this student-led program to address longstanding inequalities in healthcare access and delivery," said Vice-Chair for Research and Rheumatology Division Chief Ellen M. Ginzler, MD, MPH, who wrote the $50K grant. "We know that Black and Hispanic patients with systemic lupus erythematosus regularly experience more severe disease and worse outcomes than white patients. As a result, patients will have better access to care, and our student leaders will enhance high-quality, compassionate care to immigrant, at-risk, and underserved individuals."

"The Brooklyn Health Disparities Center is excited to work with our colleagues and this promising group of new healthcare leaders at the Brooklyn Free Clinic as we look at other ways of serving our at-risk communities," said BHDC Director and SUNY Downstate Chair of Medicine Moro O. Salifu, M.D. "Their commitment to serving these communities in such a meaningful way speaks to their recognition of a great need to make quality healthcare a ready access."

Patient Navigators will also gain additional clinical experience and access opportunities to improve their professional development, data analysis, and case presentation skills. Participants can expect to commit 8-10 hours per week to the program.

The program is open to six interested 2nd year medical students, with a preference toward minority and/or international students, particularly those proficient in a second language.  Interested students may apply by emailing a copy of their resume/CV to Dr. Ellen Ginzler, Chief, Rheumatology Division (, and Grace Shadid, Patient Navigator Program Student Manager. The deadline to apply is Monday, July 26th, 2021.


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.