SUNY Downstate Announces Keynote Speaker For 2024 Commencement Exercises

By Office of Communications & Marketing | May 2, 2024

FemInEM Founder and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine Alumnus Dara Kass, M.D. Selected as Keynote Speaker

Dara Kass, MDBROOKLYN, NY – SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University today announced that FemInEM founder and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine alumnus Dara Kass, M.D., Emergency Medicine Physician, and Healthcare Strategist & Communicator will serve as the keynote speaker for the May 15, 2024 SUNY Downstate 2024 Commencement Exercises to be held at the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn.

Dr. Kass was most recently a Biden Administration appointee, serving as Region II Regional Director for the Department of Health and Human Services. She will speak at the 11:00 AM ceremony for the College of Nursing and the School of Health Professionals, as well as the 3:00 PM ceremony for the College of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. During the afternoon ceremony, honorary Doctor of Science degrees will be conferred upon Samuel Waxman, M.D., founder and CEO of the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, and M. Roy Wilson, M.D. M.S., President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, for their outstanding contributions to science, academic medicine, and healthcare policy.

“Commencement honors the hard work and tireless commitments our students have invested in advancing healthcare,” said SUNY Downstate president Wayne J. Riley, M.D. “I am delighted to welcome Dr. Kass to celebrate the commencement of this new cohort of doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals. Her pioneering efforts in emergency medicine have been instrumental in confronting systemic gender disparities and nurturing the advancement of women in the medical field. We are proud to see how Dr. Kass’s journey emphasizes that Downstate graduates excel in their fields and lead towards universal, equitable healthcare.”

Dara Kass, M.D., is a distinguished emergency medicine physician and a Biden administration appointee as Region II Regional Director in the United States Department of Health & Human Services. She is also the founder of FemInEM, a multimedia platform dedicated to promoting gender equity in emergency medicine by providing support for women in the field.

“As a graduate of SUNY Downstate and now honored to stand as your keynote commencement speaker, I am reminded of the transformative power of education and service. My journey from these halls to the forefront of healthcare policy and advocacy has been shaped by the values instilled in me by this institution,” said Dr. Kass. “I am a testament to the potential within each of us to effect positive change in the world. SUNY Downstate added to the fire lit in me by my emergency nurse mother. As such, my work in healthcare advocacy has become even more critical to making a difference.”

Dr. Kass was a steadfast advocate for frontline healthcare workers, supporting their access to personal protective equipment and effective disease control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was her son’s living liver donor when he was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; she has since become an advocate to reform organ donation policies and increase access to life-saving transplants. Dr. Kass is also involved in other nonprofit organizations that address public health issues such as gun violence and access to reproductive healthcare.

A frequent MSNBC healthcare contributor, Dr. Kass is a proud Brooklyn native who, after completing her B.S. in neurobiology and physiology at the University of Maryland, earned her M.D. degree and completed her residency at SUNY Downstate’s College of Medicine.


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn is one of four academic health centers (AMCs) in The State University of New York (SUNY) 64-campus system and the only SUNY AMC in New York City dedicated to health education, research, and patient care for the borough’s 2.7 million residents. Its flagship hospital, University Hospital at Downstate (UHD), is a teaching hospital and benefits from the expertise of Downstate’s exceptional medical school and world-class academic center research facilities. With a staff of over 800 physicians representing 53 specialties and subspecialties, Downstate offers comprehensive healthcare services to the community.

UHD provides high-risk neonatal and infant services, pediatric nephrology, and dialysis for kidney diseases and is the only kidney transplantation program in Brooklyn. Beyond its clinical expertise, Downstate houses a range of esteemed educational institutions, including its College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. Downstate fosters innovation through its multifaceted biotechnology initiative, the Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT, which support early-stage and more mature biotech companies.