Student Profile – Malcolm Winkle

This month’s SUNY Downstate College of Medicine student profile is of Malcolm Winkle, class of 2018. Malcolm completed his undergraduate education at The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education- The City College of NY where he majored in Biomedical Sciences.

What is/will be your specialty? Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Who is/was your favorite professor at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and why?
Dr. John Delury and Dr. Elliot Dehaan (both infectious Disease Doctors); they both take their time when assessing patients, rounding with their respective teams, and allowing students to take advanced roles in caring for patients; they both are excellent listeners and encourage team input and teach to better orient the team to the most important problems that a patient faces.

What is your favorite memory so far of your time studying at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine?
Receiving aid from the Alumni Association to study cancer pain mechanisms at NYU College of Dentistry for 6 months where I decided what my specialty was going to be.

How has the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate helped you?
The Alumni Association has supported me with research stipends, networking opportunities with local physiatrists, and CV editing for the residency match. Pretty much anything career-oriented I can think of that I need help with I feel comfortable speaking to the Alumni Association and am confident that they can provide optimal support.

Is there anything else that you think Alumni would like to know about you?
I plan on assisting the Association in any way that I can in the future. I am grateful for its support.

How has the Alumni Association influenced your experience at SUNY Downstate?
The Alumni Association has served as a one stop shop for career guidance that is flexible to any need that I may have. It has made my time at Downstate more enriching by opening opportunities that I didn’t know were available to me: networking, stipends, resume/CV development and more. Downstate is a large organization and having the Alumni Association makes it easier to find the things you need.

When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
When I was in high school I had the opportunity to shadow physicians. I enjoyed the patient-doctor relationship that my advisors had with their patients and how much patients trusted their physician’s recommendations and judgement.


First Year Student Profile – Ana Maria Lopez

This month’s special edition student profile is of first year medical student Ana Maria Lopez, class of 2021. In this profile she included her dog, Pancake Lopez, who is accompanying her on her journey to becoming a doctor. Ana Maria completed her undergraduate education The City College of New York.

Hometown: Valley Stream, Long Island and Buffalo, NY

 Potential specialty: Cardiology ❤

What inspired you to study medicine? I have an extreme love for the biological sciences. I also desire to help and potentially inspire people through my profession. What could be a better choice?

How is your family handling the fact that you’re in med school now? They are overly thrilled and amazingly supportive. Pancake: Grandma takes care of me when Mommy has it super busy.

How did you choose Downstate? I did a few summer programs at Downstate during my undergraduate career and fell in love with the school.  Pancake: I was born in Brooklyn, so I figured I’d return.

How does it feel to actually start med school? It feels like a huge weight has been lifted while simultaneously a larger weight has been added! But seriously, I feel so super blessed and excited to finally be here. Pancake: I don’t know what Mom is stressed about. I am having a wonderfully stress free time. I’m happy I get to see so many people on my walks. Also, I get to sleep when we study!

Student Profile – Zaki Azam

This month’s SUNY Downstate College of Medicine student profile is of Zaki Azam, class of 2019. Zaki completed his undergraduate education right here in our borough at Brooklyn College, where got his Bachelors in Science in Psychology. He is still unsure about his future specialty in Medicine but has had some remarkable experiences here at Downstate.

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

“My favorite professor is Dr. Eisner, because she always pushes her students to achieve even more than they think is possible.”

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

“My favorite memory is attending the AAMC Conference in Seattle with the faculty and Dean of the College of Medicine. I got to know them personally while presenting on the importance of student and faculty wellness.”

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 has helped me realize great strengths through projects I would otherwise not have had an opportunity to pursue. Given the funding to present at a national conference has not only encouraged me but also gave me the confidence to continue formulating new ideas and present in such settings in the future. I look forward to the next time I can count on the Alumni Association for assistance whether it be for research, presentations or more.”

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.

Help support the next generation of doctors.
Give today!

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.

Support for medical students since 1880.
Join the Alumni Association-College of Medicine, SUNY Downstate, today!

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.

Supporting med students since 1850.
Join us!

SUNY Downstate Student Profile: Demitri Dedousis


Demitri Dedousis, a third-year SUNY Downstate medical student, presented his preliminary findings, “The Effect of Formative Usage on Summative Grades for Preclinical Medical Students,” Sept. 3 at the Pediatric Medical Student Research Forum at the University of Florida. His travel was funded partially by an Alumni Association travel conference grant, provided by alumni giving.

The project goal was to evaluate whether the use of weekly formative exams by first- and second-year SUNY Downstate medical students has a positive result on student outcomes as measured by unit summative scores. He and classmate Christina Sorrento will work to continue further analysis.

How was this experience valuable?

Attending the Future of Pediatric Practice conference was valuable in many ways. It gave me a chance to present my research and receive critical feedback and suggestions for future directions. I also had the opportunity to network with physicians from all over the country and received career and residency application advice.  Finally it was refreshing to mix with medical students from all over the country who share similar interests.

Did you get any feedback?

Yes. Several physicians and faculty members who looked at my presentation board gave me suggestions for improvement and future directions. They pointed me to papers to read and educational strategies to research. One was kind enough to say “I can see that you will make a great medical educator someday, you are really looking at the foundation of medical education.”

Was it a good conference? How were the other presentations?

The other posters and presentations were of high quality. I was greatly surprised at what many of my peers were able to accomplish while in medical school or residency. There was also great diversity of topics covered, from molecular biology to social science.

Had you presented at a conference before?

I had not, this was a novel experience.

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

It was very valuable I would not have been able to attend this conference without Alumni Association support.

Are you a Downstate medical student who has been accepted to present at a conference? Check out the criteria to apply for an alumni travel grant!

Are you an alumnus and want to give?
Support medical education today!

Downstate Student Renee McDonald-Fleming, Public Health, and the Long Way Across the Street



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.”

Follow SUNY Downstate Medical Alumni on Facebook and Twitter

Orientation First Impressions: Meet 3 New SUNY Downstate Med Students

T better betterTamasha Persaud

Undergrad college or university:
I went to Vassar College for undergrad where I majored in Political Science and minored in Chemistry.


Potential specialty:
I haven’t decided what specialty I would like to go into, but Cardiology is one that I have been considering.

What inspired you to study medicine?
It’s hard to pinpoint a singular moment or experience that inspired my decision to study medicine. Growing up I remember being fascinated by the human body and how it worked. Something as mundane the healing of the scrapes on my knee a week after falling off my bike was captivating to me. So I guess I can say that my interest in medicine began before I could articulate it as such; it began with a curiosity about how the body works, how it is able to carry out a multiplicity of functions which keep us alive without us constantly being made aware of it. Moreover, seeing the debilitating effects of our body’s betrayal—when it stops working as it should, and the implications that had for quality of life, especially in communities deprived of adequate health care services, cultivated a sense of indignation which informed my decision to study medicine.

How is your family handling the fact that you’re in med school now?
My family and friends are proud, extremely supportive and excited for me.

Nick SantanielloNick Santaniello

Undergrad college or university:
I went to Georgetown University and studied Human Science.

I consider Staten Island, NY my hometown. 

Potential specialty:
I am undecided about my medical specialty.

How did you choose Downstate?
I chose downstate because I wanted to be in New York City. Brooklyn specifically offers such a diverse patient population, yet isn’t far from my home borough of Staten Island.

How does it feel to actually start med school?
Now that I am here starting medical school, I’m excited and quite a bit nervous. I know the path that lies ahead will be difficult but rewarding, and I’m looking forward to it.

Stan SorokaStan Soroka

Undergrad college or university:
I attended Union College in Schenectady, NY and completed a major in biochemistry and a minor in economics.

My hometown is Far Rockaway, NY, but I have lived most of my life in Valley Stream, NY.

Potential specialty:
I am not sure yet, but I have specifically considered anesthesiology or emergency medicine.

How did you choose Downstate?
I chose Downstate because of all of the people that I met during my different visits while I was applying. I also really like how collegial all of the faculty and students are, and how well the program prepares its students for residency.

Do you have any “medical heroes?”
No medical heroes come to mind, but I definitely have to consider my parents and grandparents as heroes for coming to the US (from Kiev, Ukraine) and providing me with everything I needed to be able to succeed and achieve going to medical school.

Supporting Downstate Med Students
since 1850. Give today!
New logo



SUNY Downstate Welcomes Class of 2020

orientation rings

The Class of 2020’s 190 students hail from 15 states and 69 different undergraduate colleges and universities, according to the Admissions Office. The newly minted med students toured Downstate Monday, Aug. 1, met administrators, and queued up for information on everything from photo IDs and financial aid to scrubs.

better orientation



M. Monica Sweeney, MD ’75, MPH
Medical Alumni Association President
Clinical Professor and Chair
Department of Health Policy and Management

Alumni Auditorium, August 1, 2016, addressing the Class of 2020
I’m very happy to be able to welcome you on behalf of the Alumni Association. The Alumni Association is really very important. We work to support you through your four years. And then, I ask you to support the Alumni Association so we can pay it forward.

Without you becoming a member of the Alumni Association, the functions that we support will not continue. So, what are they? We support summer internships abroad. We support travel to attend conferences. We support research. And all of that is possible because graduates come back, and give to the Alumni Association. We also support an activity that you will happily take part in, the White Coat Ceremony.

We also support an overseas elective, and just had our students come back from the overseas elective from the School of Public Health, and many of them say its the best elective of their four years.So, there are many reasons to support the Alumni Association. But, the minute you graduate, I want you to send your name in to us, so we can stay in touch with you.

Congratulations to all of you. You look a lot different than when we interviewed you. You sound a lot happier. (Laughter.) Together we’re going to have a great four years. Let’s support each other. Thank you.

rainy downstate

Follow @SUNYAlumni
on Twitter
and Facebook