Student Profile: Abhi Amarnani, AMA Rep, Partner in Medical Education

On the educator pathway.

Abhi Amarnani, a SUNY Downstate third-year MD/PhD student, advocates nationally for students to have a say in the evolution of medical school curriculum. He is also the vice chair of the national 12-member American Medical Association (AMA), Medical Student Section Standing Committee on Medical Education.

Abhi showcased the Downstate College of Medicine to over 350 attendees of the AMA Med Ed Conference in Chicago in October. Both the AMA and Downstate are strong proponents for student participation, Abhi said.

“Downstate does a very good job of taking input and encouraging us to play a role in the curricular development of our medical education,” he said.

Downstate launched the Medical Educator Pathway (MEP) at the beginning of the 2015 school year to equip future educators, academic researchers and curriculum developers. The pathway is directed by Dr. Lee Eisner, Dr. Nagaraj Gabbur, and Dr. John Kubie, and received funding from the Downstate College of Medicine Alumni Association.

Abhi was one of more than 60 students at the first information session. He joined the program, and through MEP encouragement, has been piloting the development of a population health elective with five other students.

“Participating in the MEP is an effective yet simple way to incentivize students to come out of the woodwork and bring forward MedEd innovations,” Abhi said.

Dr. Phyllis Supino is the major content mentor for the elective, with support from Dr. Pamela Sass. The students are now working with their mentors to submit their program proposal through the formal elective approval process.

As part of the project, Downstate students engaged with a simulated group practice through the NYU Health Care by the Numbers toolset, funded by an AMA grant for curriculum development. Students use both introductory virtual patient panels and real de-identified patient data from the New York State Department of Health SPARCS database. These panels provide a broad look at community health information and introduce students to open-data technology that will one day be a standard skillset.

“It’s a marriage of technology and public health,” Abhi said.

The other five student participants are Downstate medical third-year Debashree Sengupta, third-year Daniel Chiu, third-year Andrew Davidowitz, second-year Kenny Chao, and second-year Sophia Dynes.


Assistant professors of medicine named, Division of Gastroenterology, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine

Drs. Jennifer Katz, Prameela Rao and Savanna Thor have been named assistant professors of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The appointments fulfill critical clinical and medical education needs in the department and position SUNY Downstate as the leader in gastroenterology services in Brooklyn, according to Moro O. Salifu, MD, MPH, MBA, FACP. Dr. Salifu is Professor & Chair, Department of Medicine, Edwin C. and Anne K.Weiskopf Endowed Chair in Nephrology.

Unique expertise that now differentiates Downstate from other Brooklyn providers includes the ability to provide advanced endoscopic procedures as well as programs in inflammatory bowel disorders, motility disorders, hepatology, and cancer screening. These services will be provided at the main campus and at UHB Bay Ridge.

Jennifer Katz, MD:
Dr. Katz graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine, graduating with a distinction in gastroenterology research. She completed her internal medicine residency at NYU Langone Medical Center in 2012 and her gastroenterology fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center in 2015. During her fellowship, she was awarded a visiting fellowship in IBD at Mount Sinai Medical Center by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). She is also board certified as a physician nutrition specialist.

Her clinical focus includes inflammatory bowel disease, nutrition in health and disease, irritable bowel syndrome, women’s health, and GI issues in pregnancy, celiac disease, and colorectal cancer screening. She is proficient in upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, and capsule endoscopy.

Dr. Jennifer Katz

Prameela Rao, MD, MPH: Dr. Rao graduated from Albany University School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency at Montefiore Medical Center in 2012 and her fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology at Downstate in 2015. During her fellowship, Dr. Rao completed training as a visiting fellow in transplant hepatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Dr. Rao’s clinical interests span the entire breadth of gastroenterology and endoscopy, with a particular emphasis on the treatment of hepatitis and other disorders of the liver. Her interests also include colon cancer screening and women’s health and GI issues. She is proficient in upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, and capsule endoscopy.
Dr. Prameela Rao

Savanna Thor, DO, MPH: Dr. Thor graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her internal medicine residency at Drexel / Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. Her specialty training includes a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology taken at Drexel /Hahnemann, where she served as chief fellow.

Dr. Thor’s specialization includes performing upper endoscopy and colonoscopy to diagnose and treat disorders of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon, as well as esophageal and anorectal manometry, capsule endoscopy, and impedance testing. Her special interests include pelvic floor dysfunction, constipation, fecal incontinence, swallowing disorders, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as colon cancer screening, GI motility disorders/functional GI disease, and anorectal disease.

Dr. Savanna Thor

Drs. Katz, Rao, and Thor bring invaluable clinical and academic experiences that will be vital to gastrointestinal and hepatology services at Downstate, as we continue to grow the division, implement innovations, and improve upon our partnerships with all practitioners. Dr. Shivakumar Vignesh, Downstate chief of gastroenterology & hepatology, played a critical role in these recruitments.

For appointments, including colon cancer screening, please call 718-270-4772.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center Public Health/Academic Building: Construction

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Lee Rose, project manager

Downstate’s new Public Health/Academic Building under construction will house the School of Public Health, open-plan research laboratories, a state-of-the-art clinical simulation center, and multi-function spaces designed to accommodate team-based learning. Situated between the Basic Sciences Building (BSB) and Clarkson Avenue, the new building’s entrance plaza will open into an expansive lobby serving both buildings.

The 112,701 square-feet, 8-story building, which was designed to meet LEED Silver energy conservation and DMC sustainability standards, will provide a comfortable learning setting for Downstate students, as well as an accessible venue for professional development.

The project was designed by Ennead Architects, whose prior projects include the William Clinton Presidential Library, the Rose Center for Air and Space at the American Natural History Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum Entry Pavillion and Plaza. The project is being managed for Downstate by the  State University Construction Fund (SUCF). Gilbane Inc. will serve as construction manager, and Tutor Pirnie Corporation is general contractor.

The building’s design is based on three stacked linear “bars” of varying length, depth and height. This arrangement of form and shifting volumes provides a dynamic counterpoint to the monolithic solidity of the BSB and is meant to create a strong, modern institutional identity for SUNY Downstate and a new “face” on Clarkson Avenue.

The building’s form and image speak to the future, expressing the vitality of progressive ideals of education and research – while paying homage to Downstate’s accomplished history through its connection to the BSB. The building symbolizes departure and connection, the future and the past, and innovation and legacy.

Building Organization

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The design enables interdisciplinary interaction. Gathering spaces and corridor intersections will encourage social and intellectual interactions between students and faculty. The new building will connect to the BSB at three levels: at the First Floor for public access; at the Basement level for service access; and at the Seventh Floor for research use. Each of the three bars of the building has a distinct personality:

Bar 1: 1st – 2nd Floor. The first bar contains a double-height entry lobby (open and integrated with the existing BSB lobby), social spaces, and flexible instructional spaces. It features a welcoming entry plaza, which will be the new front door to the existing academic campus.



Bar 2: 3rd – 5th Floor. The second bar contains the School of Public Health administrative offices and state-of-the-art simulation center. The longest of the bars, its mass is centered on the BSB in celebration of the existing symmetry and in deference to the BSB’s historical significance as the first building on campus. Private offices within the second bar will be located along the perimeter, while public shared spaces and open offices will be centrally located to maximize flexibility. A sixth floor is excluded because of elevation alignments with the existing Basic Sciences Building.

waiting area

Bar 3: 7th, 8th and Mechanical Floors. The third bar contains research laboratories and the mechanical penthouse. It is shifted slightly to the east to allow for uninterrupted lab benches along the north face and maximized program efficiency. This bar connects to the BSB at the 7th floor.


Outdoor Lighting and Exterior Signage

evening outside

The outdoor lighting will provide safety, security and comfort for staff, students and visitors to SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Illuminated inclined columns will provide a focal point to the entrance at night. In addition to illuminating the walkway and building entry, the exterior lighting will enhance exterior building signage.




The entry to the building is centered on the original main entry to the BSB, with an off-center open space leading to the entrance. The entrance plaza will be sheltered by the upper floors of the building and will afford access via several broad steps and ramp.

The exterior northern spaces address the challenges of a significant site grade change. The new landscape plan by SCAPE Landscape Architects provides for universal accessibility, access to utility vaults, vehicular access and building and site security maintenance.

The different pavements – concrete pavers, flagstones, and stone aggregates – complement the colors and proportions of the building facade. These various finishes and textures lock into the landscape at the edges, and with the plantings scheme slip past each other to create an interwoven edge.

Plantings at the pavement edge, between the BSB and the new building will be those varieties found in the deep shade of a forest, including perennial plants such as ferns and evergreen groundcovers. These planted zones transition into lawn where brighter conditions allow. The plan incorporates water-efficient landscaping by using native and adapted plants where possible.

SUNY Downstate, Kings County Hosptial presentation: Proximal Small Bowel Obstruction and Strongyloides

Strongyloides final edit

Strongyloides stercoralis, a parasitic helminth, affects an estimated 100 million people worldwide. The parasite is commonly known to cause abdominal pain and diarrhea especially in tropical and subtropical endemic areas such as Southeast Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan African, and parts of the southeastern United States.

Presented by Roger C. Cui, Scott Dougan, Patricia Leung, MD, Thomas McIntyre, MD

The SUNY Downstate College of Medicine Alumni Association supported this presentation given at the spring 2015 ASiT Conference in Glasgow by reimbursing student travel expenses.

Alumni donations made travel possible for two dozen Downstate medical students presenting at national and international conferences in 2014.

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