Your Independent Alumni Association

This past week, one of our residents came into the Alumni Association office to discuss setting up an endowed scholarship in memory of a resident who passed away unexpectedly this past May. This resident is also a graduate of the College of Medicine from SUNY Downstate.

As we discussed her desire to set up this scholarship, she talked about how important it was for her to have this scholarship benefit students and not have the funds spent on supporting the school or the hospital. In my three years as your Executive Director, this sentiment has been repeated on a regular basis. It was a wonderful reminder of why the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate was incorporated.

In the 1880’s, long before there was a SUNY System, the graduates of the medical school in Brooklyn wanted to establish an Association that specifically supported students and student needs without the influence of the medical school or the medical school administration. These physicians banded together to form the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate. They each paid dues to create a pool of money to operate the organization and on top of that, made some donations to fund student needs.

In 2017, our Association, and the Alumni Fund continue to be separate legal entities from SUNY Downstate. Although our contract with the SUNY system dictates that all of our projects and programs must benefit SUNY Downstate, EVERY one of our funding decisions is made by our Board of Managers and Board of Trustees. These two boards have one seat for the President of SUNY Downstate, but every other seat is held by a graduate of the College of Medicine. These alumni dedicate their time and energy to make sure that every dollar that we grant out from your generous donations and dues payments goes directly to support students.

Our Board of Managers is an elected body of College of Medicine graduates who organize and manage the annual Homecoming and Reunion (May 4-6. 2018 at the Marriot Brooklyn Bridge), the Alumni Today Magazine (Editor Constance Shames MD ’63), Alumni Events, our email newsletters, and our social media. The Board of Trustees consists of alumni of the College of Medicine who have served at least one term on the Board of Managers. They are the voting body that determines any and all grants that are given to our medical students including scholarships, travel grants, event and club support, research support, and other requests to support student needs.

Thank you for your continued donations and dues payments. They allow us to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to our medical students, fund summer and full year student research projects, reimburse student travel to conferences where they are presenting papers, and purchase white coats and a senior class gift for each of our medical students.

This continuing legal separation (137 years ago) from SUNY Downstate allows us to do what you would do as an alumnus/a with the donations instead of being influenced by the needs of the hospital or medical school. Students first and students always. That is why we are here as an alumni association.

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Equal Opportunity Funding

The Alumni Association remains committed to diverse and inclusive practices.

Diverse and Inclusive practices are subjects many organizations often speak about, but seldom practice, however  the Alumni Association – College of Medicine SUNY Downstate, is not one the aforementioned organizations. Staying true to the vision of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, the Alumni Association remains committed to serving the broad spectrum of individuals that attend SUNY Downstate’s medical school.

Recognizing differing ideologies based on life experience, culture, language, and ethnic background, leads to profound innovations in medicine.

The Alumni Association is proud support Downstate’s minority students with scholarships every year, funded by our generous donors.

This year we provided over $67,859, to African-American, Latino, and Native-American medical students. Depending on your definition of minority/under represented, if we include Asian-American students we have provided over $220,677 this year.

To donate to one of our scholarships to support under-represented individuals at the College of Medicine or to support any of our initiatives that insure medical students have access to the best education possible, click the link provided below. If you have any questions about different ways to contribute do not hesitate to call the Alumni Association office at (718)-270-2075.

Link to donate:  https://www.downstate.edu/alumni/alumni-giving/index.html

Student Profile: Ellen Song

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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.


Supporting med students since 1850.
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Anonymous Alumnus Donates 200 iPad Minis to 1st-Year Downstate Med Students

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Downstate’s first-year medical students got a highly anticipated email Tuesday, September 20. The more than 200 iPad minis purchased by an anonymous Downstate alumnus for the entire class were ready to pick up in the Alumni Office.

“It’s easier to pull stuff up for anatomy,” said med student, Vinny Sinatra, waiting to pick up one of the 7.9-inch, 32GB iPads. “You can put it in a Ziploc bag and take it to anatomy with you. It’s small enough to fit in your coat pocket.”

Student Oriana Tascioe plans to download the 3D Essential Anatomy app, and use her new iPad through the course of the day.

“It’s a lifesaver,” she said. “It’s not like I can carry around my laptop during anatomy.”

First-year Clifford Chao was inspired by the philanthropy.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I didn’t know people did this kind of thing, but now that I know, one day I would consider doing it too.”

 

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Alumni support for medical education since 1850!
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Downstate Student Renee McDonald-Fleming, Public Health, and the Long Way Across the Street

 

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Renee McDonald-Fleming grew up in a gabled brick house on 37th Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, directly across the street from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She used to ride her bike under the sycamores that dwarf the streetlights, and watch doctors take their smoke breaks by the ambulance bay from her bedroom window.

Twenty years later, Downstate is her medical school, just like she said.

“I’d say, ‘I’m going to be here. When the time comes, I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to come to this school,’” Renee said. “I just worked toward it.”

Renee is a third-year Downstate medical student, considering a specialty in OB/GYN, Gastroenterology or Pulmonology. She took the long way across the street, though, so to speak, working two years first in basic science and immunology at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and then as an NIH Health Disparity Fellow. Research led Renee to start contraception education classes at three women’s shelters in southeast Washington DC. Her interest in health led her to medical school.

“During my time at the NIH, I was thinking about how my passion for research fit with my desire to do medicine,” she said. She set up a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, Downstate Chair of Urology, before she matriculated.

“I said, ‘I’m going to be a student, and I want to kind of do some public health research,’” Renee said. “That’s how it began. Halfway through the year, I found that the Alumni Association had a program where they funded research, and I applied.”

The summer 2015 research grant, funded by Downstate medical alumni, enabled Renee to work with the Downstate Department of Urology, with Dr. Weiss as advisor. She also collaborated with Dr. Michael Joseph of the School of Public Health, with assistance from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Renee used data from the Brooklyn VA and the National Health Interview Survey database to determine how the diagnoses of cancer in minority men had changed following a 2012 USPSTF recommendation against the use of PSA for prostate cancer screening. With a majority population of minority students, Downstate had a prime population for the study, she said.

“(Dr. Weiss) let me act like I was the principle investigator,” she said. “Being a part of a team and following suit is important, but being a leader and thinking from the ground up, figuring out how to troubleshoot it, to make it work, from beginning to finish, is a good skill set.”

Public health, with its shifting social influences, requires constant investigation.
“You have to think of innovative things, where you can have an impact,” she said. “This is population-based.”

As an NIH fellow, Renee got an idea while listening to the ads for female contraception on her Pandora radio station, targeting her geographic location. “They know the situation,” she said. She researched, contacted the DC government for free female condoms, and spent her afternoons answering questions in shelters.

“I decided I wanted to give the power of contraception to homeless women,” Renee said. “It was my first exposure to health disparities. Then I was like, this is how I can make an impact. This is what put the seed in my heart. In terms of being a physician, this is what I can do.”

Renee had her first vision, for medicine, as a second grader, hearing her friend’s doctor dad talk at a school career day. She had a second vision for her career while working with databases, interpreting the health data of a population. The summer research project offered practical hope that she could combine medicine and public health into one career.
“This was the start,” Renee said. “I feel like this was something I’d always wanted to do and now I have the opportunity to do it. That’s how I see myself being of value as a physician, doing more in a public-health aspect to directly impact my patients.”


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Brooklyn Free Clinic Thanks Downstate Alumni Volunteers

bfcThe Brooklyn Free Clinic is completely run by students from Downstate’s five schools.

In August, the Brooklyn Free Clinic recognized Downstate alumni volunteers for “dedication to student medical education and community service,” said Cleopatra McGovern, Chief Operating Officer. “We are so grateful to them for working with us.”

The list of clinic volunteers includes former and current (and future) attendings at the BFC who are also Downstate alumni, as well as Douglas Lazarro, MD ’90, who offers patients free ophthalmology appointments at Downstate.

James Ferguson

Ernest Garnier

Amanda Harris

Michelle Haughton

David Marcus

Michael O’Brien

Lorenzo Paladino

Richard Sadovsky

Sarah Yu

The Anne Kastor Brooklyn Free Clinic is a free clinic for the uninsured that was founded by SUNY Downstate students in 2006. It is staffed and operated by Downstate students from the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, and the College of Health Related Professions. In addition to student volunteers, the clinic operates under the supervision of volunteer attending physicians, many of whom are SUNY Downstate alumni. Read our 2015 profile, here. And click, here, to learn how to become a volunteer.

The Alumni Association contributes financially to the Brooklyn Free Clinic annually. All gifts, including $6,000 for the 2016-17 academic year, come from alumni and return to students and the Brooklyn community. Students screen hundreds of patients annually at 840 Lefferts Avenue.


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Approved Alumni-Supported Programs for 2016/17

 

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For more information on the above programs, click here:

Support for students presenting at conferences
SUNY Downstate full-year research scholarship
Global Health Elective for medical students, SUNY Downstate School of Public Health
The Brooklyn Free Clinic
SUNY Downstate Medical Educators Pathway

Be a part of the opportunity — give today

 

Global Health Assembly: Medical Students Without Borders

The SUNY Downstate School of Public Health celebrated the 19 fourth-year medical students Monday, March 14, who will undertake the Global Health in Developing Countries elective in four nations this April.

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Downstate medical alumni gave $50,000 this year for travel expenses, an investment in global health. Students study health systems in income- and resource-poor countries, and provide meaningful medical service.

Pascal Imperato, MD, dean and distinguished service professor, School of Public Health, said his colleagues from other schools are amazed by the diversity of the elective’s locations, and the money available for students.

“Most medical schools do not fund their students,” Dr. Imperato said.

Since the program was started in 1980 by the then-titled Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, 386 students have participated in 41 countries.

The program is one of the largest and most successful of its kind among US medical schools, according to the Department of Public Health.

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Participating 2015-2016 students and the nation of their study/service:

Olufunke Bakare, Guatemala
Akshay O. Bhatt, India
Emily R. Bokser, India
Danielle Brooks, India
Cynthia Gaw, Taiwan
Rebecca M. Gonsalves, Guatemala
Natalie Rose Howlett, Guatemala
Anne-Sophie Janvier, Guatamala
Christina A. Johnson, Guatemala
Lynchy Lezeau, Guatemala
Deborah Moon, Guatemala
Jennah A. Morgan, Guatemala
Nurah M. Morgan, Guatemala
Disha L. Shastry, India
Kathleen Siapno, Taiwan
Sarah C. Stokes, India
Rose C. Wei, Taiwan
Michelle Xu, Taiwan
Sibgha Zaheer, Thailand

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Help fund next year’s Global Health Elective!
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IRA Charitable Rollover is Back

Individuals 70 1/2 and older may once again donate up to $100,000 from their individual retirement accounts (IRA) directly to charitable nonprofits, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH) was signed by the president Dec. 18.

The summary from the US Senate Finance Committee:

Section 112. Extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes. The provision permanently extends the ability of individuals at least 70½ years of age to exclude from gross income qualified charitable distributions from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). The exclusion may not exceed $100,000 per taxpayer in any tax year.

 

The donation is tax-free, but must be made from an IRA, according to Nathan Stetler, Vice President of Business Development, The Stetler Company. The donor must also not receive goods or services in return for the rollover gift in order to qualify for tax-free treatment.

Reinstating the rollover benefits Americans nationwide, according to the National Council of Nonprofits. It’s an invaluable avenue for funding social, religious, artistic and academic programs.

SUNY Downstate alumni donate thousands annually to help Downstate med students pay for their education, travel to conferences, gain hands-on experience in Brooklyn and around the globe, among other programs.

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Downstate Alumni: Supporting a Legacy of Scholarship and Research

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A #GivingTuesday look at programs supported by SUNY Downstate medical alumni, and their effect on the lives of medical students.

Alumni donations cover eight weeks of full-time research for Downstate students in the summer between their first and second years. Another alumni-funded program supports an MD/PhD summer research program, and another a $28,000, full-year research scholarship.

Sun Mei Lui was the 2015-2016 full-year recipient. Her research encompassed, “Targeting complementing C3 to inhibit heart ischemia/reperfusion injury.”

“The Downstate Alumni Research Scholarship allowed me to not only explore a cutting edge field of research, but also to apply the medical knowledge I have to a practical setting to solve a real life problem in medicine, outside the context of a textbook,” Sun Mei Lui said.

The alumni scholarships align with Downstate’s past and future – from research to discovery, tightening ties with the Brooklyn community, New York affiliates and the world.

Eli Friedman, MD, Downstate ’57, famously established the first federally funded dialysis program in 1964, and invented the portable dialysis machine in 1973.  Raymond Damadian, MD, produced the first human images using magnetic resonance imaging with a machine he built at Downstate in 1977.

In the 1880s, Brooklyn’s sole medical college supported George Sternberg, MD, the first immunologist to demonstrate the bacillus of typhoid fever.

The tradition will continue, said Carlos N. Pato, MD, PhD, Dean of the College of Medicine, in a recent address to school leaders. “From basic research to our patients, and their families’ lives.”

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