Brooklyn Health Disparities Center

Pamela D. Straker, PhD

Dr. Pamela D. Straker is the Director of Operations for the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center and Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine/College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She is a licensed psychologist who has also had extensive experience in management of, and consultation to, not for profit organizations and programs serving populations in which the greatest health disparities have existed. Dr. Straker has also had significant experience with community based organizations, private funders, policy makers, and governmental entities, has taught on the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has implemented programs across Brooklyn and in Manhattan. Dr. Straker served as a Trainer and Program Coach at Yale University for Emotional Literacy within the Psychology Department, has provided consulting services to the primary and higher education systems, and has served as a psychologist peer reviewer for the Optum Health/United Health Group. She provides evaluation, coaching and psychotherapeutic services for a range of populations.  During her career she has
provided individual, family and group therapy, offered technical assistance, and served in foster care, Head Start, and other human service agencies. She has appeared as a guest on numerous television and radio programs. Dr. Straker holds a doctoral degree in Sch ool- Community Psychology from Hofstra University, where she also received a master’s degree and has achieved alumna status at Columbia University’s Executive Level Institute for Not-for-Profit Management. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Rochester. In her role with BHDC, she has strengthened the integration of BHDC’s Cores, has worked on the recruitment of other SUNY Downstate researchers, and has assured the Center’s dissemination of information. Additionally, she has participated in the expansion of  the Center’s collaboration with researchers and entities outside of the Center.

 The Training Core aims towards building and enhancing minority health services and outcomes research capacity at the Center, while offering the infrastructure necessary to recruit and train qualified minority college students, medical students, medical residents and fellows. The CORE provides training in the areas of health disparities research (i.e., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, dyslipedimia, mental health, cancer, sleep apnea, and others). Upon completion of their training, trainees are equipped with considerable scientific knowledge and skills, display an ethical approach to clinical problems and have the potential to become productive members of the scientific community and advocates for wellness.

Training Core

The Community Outreach Core serves as a bridge between center investigators and the community at large. It translates research findings emanating from the center into public health knowledge and conveys important issues and concerns of the community to researchers within the center.  This is achieved through outreach and information dissemination projects in the community using methods that engage service providers in the community. This CORE ensures that the scientific knowledge that is generated through research being carried-out at the Center is translated into information that can be readily used by neighborhood residents(more).

Community & Engagement Core

The Research Core is tasked with the role of developing and implementing the Center's research agenda. This agenda is guided by principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and directly informed by community input as channeled through the Community Engagement Core. The Research Core, in turn, provides opportunities for training of undergraduates and graduate and postdoctoral students, and for faculty development through the Training Core.

During the first three years of its existence, the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center has focused its efforts on identifying the risk markers for cardiovascular diseases. This has led to the creation of the CORG database, a registry of over 750 patients; developed by four SUNY Downstate affiliated hospitals. More recently, the Center has initiated a series of projects aimed at preventing the risks of cardiovascular diseases in Brooklyn, notably in connection to sleep apnea. Additionally, community initiatives conducted by the Community Engagement Core, serve as the basis for the development of research publications aimed at showcasing the theoretical framework that underlies the collaborative approach adopted by the Center.

With the support of its community partners, and academic and institutional collaborators, the Health Disparities Center plans to expand its research capabilities, in order to fully meet the health needs of the population of Brooklyn.

For a list of selected research publications from Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, go to the Research Publications page »

Research Core

Chief Program Officer Sandra Chapman joined the leadership of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center in 2012 as the representative for the Brooklyn Borough President's Office. She has nearly three decades of experience as a manager, problem solver and advocate in the public sector with special emphasis on streamlining services between a busy city agency and its residents. Prior to her appointment as deputy borough president, Chapman served as director of the borough president's Community Service Center (CSC). Long dedicated to serving others, Chapman built a team committed to helping residents struggling to access city services and she continues to supervise the CSC. 

Sandra Chapman , MPA

Dr. Marilyn Fraser is the Chief Executive Officer at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the co-Director of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center.  In her previous capacities as the Deputy Director and the Associate Director for Research & Training, she was primarily responsible for overseeing the Institute’s community outreach and research programs.  Dr. Marilyn Fraser is a graduate of the Spartan Health Sciences University School of Medicine in St. Lucia, West Indies, where she maintained an enviable scholastic record. During her medical education, she was afforded the opportunity to be exposed to various types of health care delivery systems, within the United States and abroad.  Her medical training has included work in the West Indies, Mexico and various US cities such as Kansas City, Washington, DC and New York City.  Dr. Fraser is a former scholar of the NHLBI funded Summer Institute Program to Increase Diversity (SIPID, now known as PRIDE) in cardiovascular disease; and, she has participated as a faculty member to train new scholars on the importance of community engagement in addressing health disparities. 


As Program Coordinator for the Institute’s award-winning Black Pearls and Different Fades of Health programs, Dr. Fraser was instrumental in developing the programs into behavioral health intervention models. She was a co-leader of an investigative team of researchers supported by several NIH and CDC grants that has developed training curricula for hair stylists and barbers to educate their clients about breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and HIV/AIDS risk reduction. She has served as the principal investigator (PI) for a New York University – Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) funded pilot study to train hair stylists to deliver CVD messages to their clients.  Dr. Fraser has served as the Co-PI of the team of investigators responsible for conducting the Institute’s ACCESS project to increase access to health and social services for formerly incarcerated individuals in Brooklyn, New York.


Dr. Fraser has leveraged her talents and assets in support of the collaborative work with the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, a partnership between the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, for which she serves as the Co-Director and a Principal Investigator.  Dr. Fraser is also the Director of the Community Engagement Core of the NIH funded Center.  In this capacity she uses her strengths in health disparities research training on behalf of minority youth and in CBPR methods in order to engage community organizations in health disparities research and related policy work.  She also serves as the co-investigator of the Center’s health disparities research projects to address HIV/AIDS and Obstructive Sleep Apnea in African American and Afro-Caribbean individuals.


Dr. Fraser has received various awards including the Health Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators and being named as one of the extraordinary women of Downstate.  In 2013, Dr. Fraser was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Research Specialist award to develop and implement a climate change and public health internship program for secondary school students in Trinidad and Tobago.   This program, conducted in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (St. Augustine’s campus), provided didactic training for students on climate change and health disparities and hands-on training at local non-governmental organizations, where students participated in research projects.  In recognition for her innovative community based strategies to address health disparities, Dr. Fraser received the Innovator Award from the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center at their 2014 Gala.  In 2015, Dr. Marilyn Fraser was selected to serve on the Collaboration/Engagement Domain Taskforce (DTF), a component of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium, one of National Institute of Health’s largest and most important initiatives. She has presented her work at scientific meetings, nationally and internationally, and is co-author on several publications and a book chapter. 

Marilyn A. Fraser, MD

Dr. Moro Salifu is Chair of the Department of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Nephrology and Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at SUNY Downstate. Dr. Salifu came to SUNY Downstate after medical school in Turkey to pursue residency training in internal medicine. After internship, Dr. Salifu rapidly excelled as resident in medicine, subsequently meriting him fellowships in kidney diseases, kidney transplantation and interventional nephrology, for which he graduated as a stellar scholar in all three subspecialties. While in residency and Fellowship training, Dr. Salifu won annual awards in the basic science category in the Department of Medicine for six consecutive years as well as four consecutive awards from the American College of Physicians. After fellowship training, Dr. Salifu was retained by SUNY Downstate as Assistant Professor in 2001. He rapidly rose through the ranks to Associate Professor and Professor within 7 years, a milestone that is credited to his outstanding original research contributions, clinical acumen and medical education. In about the same time, Dr. Salifu, earned two masters degrees in public health and healthcare business administration respectively. He has directed the nephrology fellowship training program since 2001 and in 2008 assumed the roles of Chief of Nephrology and Director of the Transplant Program, roles that were crucial to the restructuring of the kidney dialysis and transplant programs at Downstate. He is a recipient of many grants and has published extensively. He is a member and journal reviewer for many nephrology and transplant societies and has served in many local and national professional committees. He is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Salifu's research interest are CKD disease progression, vascular biology and kidney transplant outcomes. 

Moro O. Salifu, MD, MBA, MPH, FACP

The Administrative Core provides overall administrative and scientific oversight and coordination of research projects. Specifically, it provides the scientific leadership, organizational structure, and support staff necessary for center investigators to realize their scientific potential through multidisciplinary collaborations. It facilitates communication and fosters collaborations among core members and with community members in its catchment area. It ensures sound fiscal management and accountability of all activities of the Center. It also ensures that its goals are achieved, and that the proposed activities of each CORE function optimally and in a synergistic, interacting manner with each other 

Administrative Core

Brooklyn Health Disparities Center – Structural Integration, Function & Impact of the Cores