SUNY Downstate Student Profile: Alisen Huang, COM ’19


Alisen Huang received funding from the Alumni Association to conduct summer research, and we followed up with her about the experience.

What do you consider your “hometown?”

Elmhurst, Queens

What did your research entail?

We administered questionnaires to stroke patients in the acute setting. The questionnaires assessed fatigue, depression, personality, purpose in life and daytime sleepiness. My summer project evaluated the relationship between purpose in life and daytime sleepiness.

How valuable was this opportunity? In what way?

The opportunity was amazing! I had an awesome, supportive research team and I got to directly interact with patients. The physicians I worked were also great (though approaching them was intimidating for me).

I was able to observe some of the clinical trials that were going on so I got to see how stroke codes are handled and what happens after a patient is enrolled in the trial.

I’m also still working in the lab when I can. Although my summer project was to collect baseline data, the study itself is longitudinal so it’s still ongoing. I help out with getting patient followups and entering data.

What did you learn that might make you a better researcher, and eventually, a better doctor?

I got to work on communication with patients. We learn about it in class and get some practice with it but over the summer, I was really able to feel out what worked or didn’t work with different patients.

How valuable was the funding to you? I know you’re a med student, and probably trying to keep expenses to a minimum.

I really appreciated the funding, it definitely helped with my expenses AND I was able to explore an area of medicine that I was interested in learning more about.

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Michael Zenilman, MD `84, New Chair of Surgery at New York Methodist


Michael Zenilman, MD `84, has joined New York Methodist Hospital as chair of the Department of Surgery. He will also serve on the Weill Cornell Medicine faculty, recruited as a professor of surgery.

A specialist in gastrointestinal surgery and expert in geriatric surgery, Dr. Zenilman is a graduate of the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate. He went on to complete a residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University in St. Louis before becoming professor of surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he was vice chairman and program director of the surgical residency program at Montefiore Medical Center. He then returned to SUNY Downstate as chairman of surgery and program director. He most recently served as vice chair and regional director of surgery at Johns Hopkins.

While at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Zenilman was tasked with developing a healthcare system in the D.C. metro area that integrated community surgeons and hospitals into the Hopkins healthcare system. That background puts him in a unique position to navigate the changes coming to NYM. “Healthcare is moving towards comprehensive disease management,” he said. “That’s something we can bring to New York Methodist Hospital because all the pieces are here.

“I’m extremely impressed with the quality of faculty we have here, the dedication of the staff and – most importantly – the way in which everyone interacts,” Dr. Zenilman continued. “There’s a wonderful culture of camaraderie that’s pretty unique.”

Dr. Steven Silber, senior vice president for medical affairs, added that Dr. Zenilman is the right person to build upon that legacy. “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Zenilman as our new chair of surgery,” said Dr. Silber. “He is not only a star surgeon, but a skilled and energetic administrator. There is no one better suited to guide New York Methodist’s surgery department through this time of change.”
“I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Zenilman, a remarkable surgeon, teacher and national leader to New York Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine,” said Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, chairman of the Department of Surgery and the Lewis Atterbury Stimson Professor of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine, and surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “In this exciting new chapter for New York Methodist’s Department of Surgery, his leadership will be essential in helping us succeed and ultimately expand our vision for new levels of excellence in healthcare.”

New York Methodist Hospital (NYM), a voluntary, acute-care teaching facility located in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, houses 651 inpatient beds (including bassinets) and provides services to about 42,000 inpatients each year. In addition, approximately 500,000 outpatient visits and services are logged annually. The Hospital, founded in 1881, has undergone extensive renovation and modernization over the years. NYM has Institutes in the following areas: Advanced and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Advanced Otolaryngology, Asthma and Lung Disease, Cancer Care, Cardiology and Cardiac SurgeryDiabetes and Other Endocrine Disorders, Digestive and Liver Disorders, Healthy Aging, Neurosciences, Orthopedic Medicine and Surgery, Vascular Medicine and Surgery and Women’s Health. New York Methodist Hospital is affiliated with the Weill Cornell Medical College and is a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System.

New York Methodist Hospital
Read the full press release on Dr. Zenilman, here.

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SUNY Downstate Student Profile: Eileen Harrigan, COM 2018


Where did you do your undergraduate education and what did you study?
I went to Wesleyan University, and I studied Biology and Neuroscience & Behavior.

Who is/was your favorite professor at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and why?
I’ve enjoyed learning from lots of professors at Downstate, but I have to say that the person who has influenced me most is Dr. Yaacov Anziska, an alumnus of Downstate. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Anziska during the Neurology clerkship and I was so impressed by the way he educates and advocates for his patients. He is one of the most knowledgeable educators I have come across during my time on campus, and he is constantly seeking educational opportunities for his students. His level of clinical expertise is something I really aspire to.

What is your favorite memory so far of your time studying at Downstate?
I think my favorite memory at Downstate has to be when a few classmates and I organized an event to raise awareness of racism and discrimination in medicine. We set out to join students together in a conversation on social responsibility in medicine, and we were unsure of what to expect in response to our campus-wide invitation. We planned for days and days. We organized for days and days. When the time of our event finally arrived, I was so thrilled to see dozens of students, faculty and staff members in attendance to join us. Some students shared their experiences with racism, while several faculty members offered their support and solidarity. It was incredible to witness such deliberate mutual support on our campus, and I am so grateful for that experience. It makes me so proud to know that I am part of a community that is both diverse and passionately dedicated to equality and justice.

What is/will be your specialty?
I expect to pursue a career in Neurology.

How has the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate helped you (scholarships, clubs, events, white-coat ceremony, senior week, research, summer research, technology, healthcare in developing countries elective or other)?
The Alumni Association supports groups like the Brooklyn Free Clinic, which is a student-run clinic at Downstate. With the support of the Alumni Association and others, we offer free and very-low-cost healthcare to our uninsured neighbors in Brooklyn. This clinic serves as a major milestone in our careers. It is often the site of our first doctor-patient relationships, where we can explore both the compassionate and practical sides of the healthcare system. The BFC also provides an environment where we can find mentorship from volunteer attending physicians and build our clinical skills.

Is there anything else that you think Alumni would like to know about you?
I grew up as the youngest of four in a small town on Long Island called Manorville. My dad worked as a plumber and my mom became a policewoman when I was in middle school. I moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Wesleyan and began working in the lab of Eric Nestler at Mount Sinai. There, I studied the neural mechanisms of substance abuse and mood disorders. I became determined to attend Downstate after meeting several Downstate-educated physicians and taking an interest in the public healthcare system. Since my time at Downstate, I’ve been involved in the Student Ethics Society, the Brooklyn Free Clinic, Flu Shot club, and a new student organization called Downstate Dialogues, which a few classmates and I recently created. Through this group, we host conversations and events on campus focused on issues of race, gender, and identity in the medical field. My long-term goal is to use my experiences from Downstate to work towards creating a more equitable healthcare system.

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SUNY Downstate News Digest, Sept. 14, 2016


circle logo white on blueResearchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the University of California, Irvine (UCI), have created a model illustrating how economic globalization may create stressful employment factors in high income countries contributing to the worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Read more about SUNY Downstate and UCI’s connection between work stress and heart disease, here.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the SUNY University at Albany have jointly received a Best of New York Award from the Center for Digital Government (CDG) for a collaboration tool designed to share health-disparities research and scholarship between the two institutions. Read more about Downstate’s CDG award for health disparities, here.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center reported new systolic heart failure study findings regarding the budgetary impact of adding Ivabradine to standard of care in patients with chronic systolic heart failure in the US. Read more about Downstate’s systolic heart study, here.

There was a great turnout for SUNY Downstate’s Brooklyn autism fair Sept. 25. More than 300 people and nearly 30 local organizations providing services to people with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, at the Grove at SUNY Downstate for food, fun, information and community. See photos and read more about Downstate’s Brooklyn autism event, here.

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SUNY Downstate Class Notes, Oct. 14, 2016

Richard Allen Williams, MD ‘62
Dr. Williams was named 117th President of the National Medical Association in August, 2016. He is currently Clinical Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicineand President/CEO of the Minority Health Institute, Inc. in Los Angeles, California.

Munish Khaneja, MD `97
Dr. Khaneja joined Altruista Health in October as Chief Medical Officer. Munish Khaneja, MD will oversee clinical strategy and regulatory innovation across all products and services, and will work directly with Altruista Health clients to translate those innovations into clinical, operational and financial improvements.

Albert Kaufman, MD, Downstate professor, retired 1999
Dr. Albert Kaufman, Emeritus Associate Professor of Physiology, is still living in Brooklyn within 5 miles of Downstate.  Much of his retired life has been spent assisting his very talented wife in her career as a fine artist, including setting up a website that may be seen at  Last year he began taking his writing career seriously and has been submitting poetry and prose to various publications, none of which have taken his career seriously yet, except for the publishers of Pharos who included the poem Hope Springs Eternal in their Spring 2015 issue.  He would love to learn how his former students are doing and can be contacted at

In Memoriam
Harold Bernanke, MD `54
Dr. Bernake died suddenly August 20, 2016 in Rockville, MD at 87. He was a lifelong New Yorker and served as a physician on active medical staff at Montefiore Hospital for decades. He enjoyed medical practice until shortly before his death, and relished travels, conversation, good food, and a long laugh. Read Dr. Bernanke’s obituary in the Washington Post.

William “Bill” Sciales, MD `56
Dr. Sciales died on September 27, 2016, at 86. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Dr. Nancy Shevell Sciales, MD, five children and nine grandchildren. Read Dr. Sciales’ obituary on

Martin Robert Feller, MD ‘60
Dr. Feller died Aug. 31, 2016, at Good Samaritan Hospital, West Islip, NY, surrounded by his family, from complications of Crohn’s Disease. He was born June 19, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY, to Louis and Fay (Cohen) Feller. Dr. Feller was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and of DUNY Downstate School of Medicine. He was a captain and physician in the US Air Force. Dr. Feller was a radiologist in West Islep, NY, with South Shore Radiologists PC. Read Dr. Feller’s obituary in the New York Times.

Elinor Sverdlik Sachs (Dr. Elinor Kron), ‘70
Dr. Kron, age 72, passed away in St. Francis Hospital on July 20, 2016. Born in Washington, DC, she graduated from South High School in Valley Stream. She graduated from Cornell University in 1966, with a major in chemistry. Elinor received her MD Degree from Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York in 1970, and did her residency in radiology at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. Upon moving to Hartford, she joined the Radiology Group at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Continuing in that field, Elinor became a partner in Radiology Associates of Hartford, serving the St. Francis Care Group, specializing in mammography, until her retirement in 2013. For much of her career she was the only female radiologist in her practice, and she took pains to extend herself to the many female technicians who worked with her. The female technicians in the Mammography Unit dubbed her “Queenie.” From a young age, Elinor enjoyed painting, a pastime she later resumed as she approached retirement. She explained that since her profession required her to analyze images, she wanted to adapt those skills to imagery in painting. In addition to studying with recognized local artists, she came under the tutelage of Sir Roland Richardson, an internationally-exhibited painter from St. Martin, who is known as the “Father of Caribbean Impressionism.” Roland recognized her aptitude with color and line, and invited her to study in his Master’s Classes on St. Martin. Elinor was invited to display her work at some juried shows in Connecticut, and people purchased her pieces for their collections. Elinor and her husband Jeremy also traveled through Europe, enjoying the painting and sights of Spain, Portugal, Turkey, France, England, and Greece, among other countries. Read Dr. Kron’s obituary in the Hartford Courant.

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SUNY Downstate Student Profile: Patrick Eucalitto, Class of 2018


Where did you do your undergraduate education and what did you study?

Georgetown University, Culture & Politics, Class of 2009
Bryn Mawr College, Pre-med Post-bac program, Class of 2014

Who is/was your favorite professor at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and why?

I’ve had too many awesome professors and mentors that make it impossible to decide.

What is your favorite memory so far of your time studying at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine?

That pre-exam combination of freak out and solidarity that only happens late at night in the library with close friends.

What is/will be your specialty?

Halfway through 3rd year, I have really liked everything so far and I still see far too many options to choose a life-long specialty right now. 

How has the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate helped you (scholarships, clubs, events, white-coat ceremony, senior week, research, summer research, technology, healthcare in developing countries elective or other)?

The Alumni Association maintains a positive, helpful presence on campus with school-wide events and has also supported me personally with scholarship opportunities, without which I would not be able to make ends meet with the cost of medical education in the US in 2016.

Is there anything else that you think Alumni would like to know about you?

That I’m grateful for their support and someday will pay it forward to young medical students in the future.

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Munish Khaneja MD `97 joins Altruista Health as Chief Medical Officer


Munish Khaneja, MD will oversee clinical strategy and regulatory innovation across all products and services, and will work directly with Altruista Health clients to translate those innovations into clinical, operational and financial improvements, according to Altuista.

Most recently, Dr. Khaneja served as Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness and Pharmacy at EmblemHealth, a large regional health plan serving more than 2.4 million members in New York and Connecticut. At EmblemHealth, Khaneja was responsible for Medical Management, Pharmacy and Behavioral Health divisions and was the corporate Clinical Lead for Population Health/Value Based Purchasing. His achievements at EmblemHealth included an extensive reorganization of Medical Management into an integrated care management model, leading a successful RFP of the PBM services that produced a large net savings for the plan, and strengthening the clinical behavioral health and clinical delegation oversight functions to provide members with a highly coordinated and patient-centric care environment.

Prior to EmblemHealth, Dr. Khaneja served as the SVP and Chief Medical Officer of Affinity Health Plan, a regional health plan in the New York City area serving Medicaid, Medicare and Health Exchange populations. At Affinity, he managed Medical Management, Pharmacy Management and Quality Management, where he strengthened the Medical Management UM review process, established the pharmacy benefit coverage as a part of the state carve-in with over $250 million in annual spend and led the quality management team that brought the health plan into the top half of New York State’s quality rating.

In addition to his experience as a health plan executive, Dr. Khaneja has held numerous clinical and academic roles. He served as Lead Hospitalist at Kings County Health Center in Brooklyn, New York and Chief Medical Officer of the Greater Hudson Valley Health Center, a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

Dr. Khaneja graduated from Brooklyn College Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Chemistry and completed his MD from the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine. He is a Board-certified internist and also is certified in Medical/Healthcare Informatics from the Oregon Health Sciences University. He completed his Masters in Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

“Dr. Khaneja has devoted his career to supporting safety net populations and the organizations that serve them in almost every clinical and executive capacity imaginable,” said Ashish Kachru, CEO of Altruista Health. “He possesses a deep, holistic understanding of the payer, provider and health information technology aspects of care management. Coupled with the fact that he has also been a customer of Altruista Health at Affinity Health Plan, the addition of Dr. Khaneja to our executive team will bring tremendous value to our clients.”

“In this era of value-based care, health plans, healthcare delivery systems and individual clinicians are taking on new responsibilities and serving patients in new capacities,” said Khaneja. “As the lines between these three blur, Altruista Health is positioned at the vanguard of this evolution, as our care management and care coordination solutions are highly adaptable to emerging payer-provider business models. We have an opportunity to help vulnerable populations lead healthier lives, and I’m excited to work closely with our clients to deliver on that promise.”

About Altruista Health
Altruista Health delivers population health management solutions that support value-based and person-centered care models. Our GuidingCare technology platform integrates care management, care coordination and quality improvement programs through a suite of sophisticated yet easy-to-use web applications. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area, Altruista Health has grown into a recognized industry leader, culminating in a spot on Deloitte’s 2015 Technology Fast 500. Health plans and healthcare providers in more than 35 states use GuidingCare to transform their processes, reduce avoidable expenses and improve patient health outcomes.

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Richard Allen Williams, MD `62, Named 117th President of National Medical Association


Dr. Richard Allen Williams, the newly installed 117th President of the National Medical Association, is currently Clinical Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine and President/CEO of the Minority Health Institute, Inc. in Los Angeles, California. He was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Upon graduating from Howard High School at the top of his class, he was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University and graduated with honors as the first African American student at Harvard from Delaware. He received the M.D. degree from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, performed his internship at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, Internal Medicine residency at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, and Cardiology fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Williams has numerous publications and awards to his credit and is the author of The Textbook of Black-related Diseases published in 1975, which detailed medical conditions peculiar to African Americans; no other book of its kind has been written before or since, and it is widely considered the classic seminal work on the medical status of blacks. Dr. Williams founded the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) in 1974 and served as its president for 10 years. Recently, he served as President of the Charles R. Drew Medical Society in Los Angeles, and is an internationally-recognized authority on hypertension and sudden cardiac death, and his new book contains a foreward written by the President of the AHA. Dr. Williams was recently selected as one of the 15 African American “Pioneers in Cardiology” (along with Dr. Charles R. Drew, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams and others. Currently, Dr. Williams is promoting his new concept called “Humane Medicine” which is designed to restructure the way in which medicine is taught and practiced in the United States. This concept is a forerunner of cultural competence. He was chosen by the National Medical Association (NMA) to receive the prestigious Dr. John Beauregard Johnson Award and was honored with a testimonial dinner by the Association of Black Cardiologists in August, 2000 in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments and was also presented with the Scroll of Merit, the highest award given by the NMA. He received the National Leadership Award from the Consortium on Southeastern Hypertension Control (COSEHC) and was named as one of the 100 best doctors in America by Black Enterprise Magazine. He was presented with Harvard’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was given the International Achievement Award by the LINKS, Inc., and selected to matriculate at the Oxford Round Table, University of Oxford, England.

Dr. Doris Browne, was elected President-Elect of the National Medical Association (NMA) at its 114th Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly in Los Angeles, California and will take the helm as the 118th President of the NMA on August 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, PA at its Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly.



To advance the art and science of medicine for people of African descent through education, advocacy, and health policy to promote health and wellness, eliminate health disparities, and sustain physician viability.

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Student Profile: Ellen Song

Ellen Song

Class of 2019
From Neighborville, Illinois
Prospective specialties, psychiatry, neurology
Summer research project: Involved Sprague Dawley rats to study 1) recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis (commonly happens in thyroid surgery as an accident), and 2) occlusion of the larynx (laryngospasm) which is a cause of death during epileptic seizures.
Prinicple investigator: Dr. Mark Stewart

Ellen Song was one of several students whose summer research was funded by the Alumni Association-College of Medicine, SUNY Downstate.

How did you choose Downstate?
I was working in New York City after college, and I wanted to go to school in the city, so I applied to all the schools in the city. Downstate is the only state school out of those schools so—

I also really liked that it serves underserved populations. I felt like the atmosphere here, when I interviewed, was very different from the other schools. I feel like I saw a lot of expensive new facilities, which sounds like a good thing, but it also means that’s where the priorities are. I saw a really new cancer hospital, for instance, but when I interviewed at Downstate – it serves a lot of uninsured people. It’s different.

Is that important to you?
Downstate’s hospitals serve a lot of immigrants, and my parents were both immigrants (from Beijing, China). I’d like to work with immigrant populations later in my life. There are a lot of barriers, economic and language just to name two, for immigrants in getting healthcare and it’s definitely a need that people are becoming more aware of.

What were you doing for your year in New York, while you applied to medical schools?
I was in consulting, for business, and it was not for me. It was just a first job out of college. I had studied math and I just went to the job fair. It wasn’t, “Do what you love,” necessarily. It was “Do whatever job you get.” So, I wanted to move back to Chicago, but I was only able to find a job in New York.

But you like New York, now!
I love New York.

What did the summer research project involve?
We were recording vocalization of the rats. This is the first time I’ve ever done animal research.

Ellen said the research, with policies to limit animal suffering, was an encounter with the ethics of research.

You learn a lot more working with animals than you would than if you were doing it on cells. Fortunately, there is also a lot of red tape in place to make sure the animals are treated well, like pain meds after surgery and maintaining a septic field, as you would for humans. It’s good that we’re not just doing research without caring about how the animals feel.

It’s never just science. There are ethics you need to consider when learning, or doing research. I wasn’t as aware of that dimension before this experience. When you’re just reading a textbook, you’re not aware of it.

The experience also illustrated the limitations of research.

Giving the example of rats, while they offer valuable information, they’re still very different from people. I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of things—you’ll think, “We’ll cut the nerve and it won’t recover, but then it does recover.” The research is valuable, but you realize, also, that there are limitations.

What do you look forward to in the new year?
Well, not a lot of time for research.

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