Mark Stewart, MD, PhD, is Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Dr. Stewart received his MD and PhD degrees in 1991 from Downstate. His PhD and a postdoctoral fellowship were in neuroscience, and his current research is focused on the systemic consequences of epileptic seizure activity including sudden death. His lab has developed a unique animal model that has permitted arguably the most complete understanding of autonomic, cardiovascular, and respiratory pathophysiology during seizures and suggested the mechanism for sudden death in epilepsy. This work has led to the development of several technologies to prevent death or resuscitate patients, including a vagus nerve stimulation-based cardioverter/defibrillator that received funding from SUNY’s Technology Accelerator Fund. Dr. Stewart joined the Physiology faculty in 1994 and was promoted through the ranks in the Physiology Department and the Physiology & Pharmacology Department to tenured professor in 2008. He was appointed Dean of the School of Graduate Studies in 2009. He has played major roles in establishing an MD/PhD Program in Nanomedicine with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, a PhD Track in Developmental Neuroscience in partnership with the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities in Staten Island, and numerous other research training and pipeline programs with area universities, including the first major research training grant for CUNY Medgar Evers College and major training grants with CUNY Brooklyn College.
Lakia Maxwell, MSCH, received a Master’s in Community Health at Hofstra University in 2016. Ms. Maxwell joined The Brooklyn Health Disparities Center in 2014 and serves as Research Education Coordinator. In that capacity, Ms. Maxwell provides support for the Center’s Executive Team in submission of NIH and other grant proposals. She has developed and maintained web based and social media communications, brochures, pamphlets among many other products. Ms. Maxwell is engaged in program planning and designing, as well as, the implementation of research activities. She is also the Internship coordinator and mentor for the BHDC'S summer mentor program, which consists of both high school and college students. Through her learning experiences, as Board Member she is able to offer multiple skills including but not limited to Program Evaluation, Survey Design, Graphic Design, Logic Model Development, SMART Goal and Objective Development, as well as Budget and Timeline Development. She has also assisted with and has a passion for both Community Based Participatory Research and Community Engaged Research. Additionally, Ms. Maxwell served as a professor at SUNY Empire State College where she taught “Introduction To Community and Public Health.”
TheCommunity & Engagement 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
TheResearch 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 theResearch Publications page »
Rachel Atcheson, BS, is Deputy Borough Strategist for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. She currently work on plant-based nutrition initiatives such as launching Bellevue Hospital’s Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program and moving the needle to expand Meatless Mondays from the 15-school pilot to all NYC public schools. She is an At-Large Director of the SUNY Downstate Committee on Plant-Based Health and Nutrition. Rachel started as an intern with The Humane League and was promoted 3 times in three years to become Senior Campus Outreach Director. Rachel founded The Humane League’s campus outreach program and was responsible for its growth from 18 campuses to 52 campuses. Rachel then moved on to work in the New York City Mayor’s Office as the Animal Welfare Liaison, also the only position of its kind in the country. She is currently Deputy Strategist for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, working on
Marilyn Fraser, MD, 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 Health Sciences University 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. 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 CBPR and behavioral health intervention models. She has co-lead several NIH and CDC grants that have 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. Dr. Fraser has received various awards including the Health Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, the Innovator Award from the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center, and naming as one of the extraordinary women of Downstate. In 2013, Dr. Fraser received a prestigious Fulbright Research Specialist award to, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, develop and implement a climate change and public health internship program for secondary school students in Trinidad and Tobago. 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 at national and international scientific meetings and is co- author on multiple publications and a book chapter.
Moro Salifu, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, is Chair of the Department of Medicine, 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 master’s 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. As the Chair of Medicine, he directs research and training of faculty and house staff at Downstate. As well, he is Chief of the Division of Nephrology, and Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Downstate. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, he was Chair of the Faculty Redeployment Workgroup to ensure adequate staffing to address the rapidly expanding patient volume at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. He was also a member of the Telehealth Workgroup that rapidly implemented telehealth services in mid-March 2020. 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 interests are CKD disease progression, vascular biology and kidney transplant outcomes.
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
Allen N. Lewis, Jr., PhD, CRC, is currently Dean and Professor of the School of Health Professions at the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, NY. He has over thirty-five years of experience as a clinician, administrator and educator. During the first half of his career, he worked in public mental health, substance abuse services and cancer epidemiology as a clinician and administrator with notable positions such as Chief of Staff/Executive Assistant for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health – the second largest state agency in Virginia as well as Statewide Program Evaluation Manager, and Director of the Virginia State Cancer Registry. His second career, as an academic, spans work at five institutions (Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Pittsburgh, Gallaudet University, James Madison University, and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University). He has been a division director in a university-based survey and evaluation research laboratory as well as chair of two academic departments. He is currently on the editorial board for the Journal of Neuroscience and Rehabilitation and is the former editor of the Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling. His research focuses on disability disparities and measuring outcomes of disability services. Dr. Lewis has published extensively (refereed journal articles, book chapters, a book, and other published works). He has conducted numerous invited and refereed international, national, regional, statewide, and local presentations. Dr. Lewis has experience as a principal investigator, co-investigator, and program evaluator for federally funded research of over 15 million dollars.
Training, & Education Core
Humberto Brown, MA, is Director of Health Disparities Initiatives, at Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. In this capacity he is assigned as a loaned executive to the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, an independent 501©3 organization that partners SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office on community based participatory research. Prior to his tenure at Downstate, Mr. Brown held positions in the psychiatric division of Harlem Hospital, where he helped create a cultural sensitivity and education program for psychiatric residents and other mental health workers. Since 1994, Mr. Brown has been part of a team that trains mental health workers and psycho-therapists to be aware of their own racial, ethnic and class identities and, thus, aware of the attitudes and assumptions informing their perceptions of Latin American and Caribbean peoples. At the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, he has consulted on the training of high school students to understand the role of culture in healing, and to acquire the human relations tools necessary for delivering health care to a multicultural clientele. Mr. Brown is the director of Arthur Ashe Institute’s seminar series on racial, ethnic and gender disparities in health. He was integrally involved in the Institute’s National Cancer Institute funded research study, Prostate Cancer Control with Community Barbers. As part of the research team, he conducts focus and advocacy training groups related to prostate health with African American and African Caribbean barbers and their customers. Representing Arthur Ashe Institute and SUNY Downstate Center, Mr. Brown also serves as Chairman of the Committee on Underrepresented Minorities in Medicine of the newly formed Community Coalition to Increase Diversity in the Health Care Professions, a 40-member coalition committed to offering a community grounded voice to this issue in New York City. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center.
Pamela D. Straker, PhD, MA, is Director of Operations for the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC) and Research Assistant Professor/Administrative Director, Department of Medicine/College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. 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. Her supervisory and training presentations address the areas of post- traumatic stress, health disparities, and cultural diversity in clinical settings. Dr. Straker holds a doctoral degree in School-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 provides administrative coordination, project management, development, instruction, and support for the Center and its researchers. As well, she oversees all Center HR, finances, facilities/space planning, and grants administration.
Tracey E. Wilson, PhD, is Distinguished Service Professor of the Department of Community Health Sciences in the SUNY Downstate School. Dr. Wilson is trained as a behavioral scientist, and has extensive experience in the design, management, and evaluation of applied interventions to promote public health and well-being and to reduce gender and racial/ethnic health disparities. Dr. Wilson is an actively funded research investigator with significant experience in the conduct of community-engaged and participatory research. Recently, she served as principal investigator of an NIH-funded cluster randomized trial of an HIV prevention program conducted in barbershops throughout Brooklyn
Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD, is the Dean of the School of Public Health at Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Demissie previously served as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at Rutgers University School of Public Health. He is a nationally-recognized academic public health leader and researcher in the fields of health disparities and minority health, perinatal health, and cancer. Prior to his current role at Rutgers, he served as Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health and as the Executive Director of the Rutgers Institute of the Elimination of Health Disparities. He was also co-Program Leader for the Population Science Program at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and a Senior Consultant in Perinatal Health for the Laboratory Center for Disease Control (LCDC) of Canada. [Kitaw Demissie Headshot]
Dr. Demissie earned his Doctor of Medicine from Addis Ababa University and his Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from McGill University. He was trained in Community Medicine at McGill, Health Services Research at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Molecular Prevention at National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Dr. Demissie began his work in public health in the 1980s and has implemented several public health programs. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications in highly impactful journals, including: Evidence Based Medicine, Chronic Diseases in Canada, American Journal of Epidemiology, Annals of Epidemiology, and Cancer Control, to name a few. His publications showcase his nationally-funded and recognized work. His recent work has focused on identifying the social and molecular causes of breast cancer disparities in African American women, many of whom have some of the worst disease outcomes.
Dr. Demissie is also an internationally-recognized investigator in molecular epidemiology, cancer disparities, cancer prevention and control, and population sciences with a diverse funding portfolio, including NIH/NCI, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Kamen Foundation, among others. He has served on numerous national and international grant review panels including the NIH Obstetric Maternal-Fetal Biology Panel, ACS Cancer Control and Prevention Health Services and Health Policy study section, Standing Panel for Improving Methods for Conducting Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCORI), as well as the CDC and other national and international panels. He was also a member of the Canadian National Perinatal Surveillance Program Advisory Committee and the co-Chair of the Data, Research and Evaluation Committee, and the Governance Committee of the Regional Health Equity Council for Region II of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With a strong commitment to the success of young scientists, Dr. Demissie has mentored more than 100 physician and non-physician scientists including several career development (K01 and KO7) awardees, many of whom now serve as public health leaders at academic and other institutions. He has received several Excellence in Teaching recognitions, including membership in the Stuart D. Cook, M.D. Master Educators' Guild.
Betty L. Jung, RN, BSN, is a Teaching and Research Care Nurse, Patient and Community Health Educator at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Center for Community Health Promotion and Wellness in Brooklyn, New York. Ms. Jung has served an underserved urban community, 84% of whom are immigrants in Brooklyn since 1981 at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, University Hospital of Brooklyn. Ms. Jung is a graduate of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, College of Nursing where she received her BSN degree in 1981. Her career immediately began after graduation as a medical-surgical nurse. For almost 9 years she gained clinical and patient and family education experience on the medical-surgical and cardiothoracic step-down units. MS. Jung’s has committed much of her time and energy in strengthening and expanding the Center’s community health education programs. Today through her efforts and commitment, many schools and colleges recognize the Center’s reputation as having a comprehensive and sustainable culturally sensitive community health programs that is uniquely operated by 2 nurses for them to send their students majoring in the health care field to gain community health experience at the graduate level as an MPH and DrPH candidate intern, and to be able to offer undergraduate students field experience in community health prior to graduation to complete a well-rounded education. Ms. Jung is co-author of an IRB approved nursing research study on “Effectiveness of Cardiac Risk Assessment Screening Among Returnees at One Year” and is the recipient of many awards from the New York State Assembly, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and faith based organization for outstanding community health service. In 2009, she received the State University of New York Chancellor Award for Excellence in recognition of outstanding and sustained service and significant contribution to institutional quality at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Clinton D. Brown, MD, is the former Director of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, and the Contact PI on that Center’s first federally funded P20 grant. Dr. Brown currently is the Presiding Officer for the Executive Committee (College of Medicine), Deputy Chief, Renal Division, Department of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine. He received his B.S. degree from Queens College and degree in medicine, from Tufts University School of Medicine. His training is in nephrology and clinical lipidology. He is a fellow in: The American Society of Nephrology, The American Heart Association, and The National Lipid Association. He has authored over 100 articles, book chapters and abstracts. His research interest is atherosclerosis.
For more than thirty years Dr. Brown has trained and mentored students from SUNY Downstate Medical School, nearby high schools, and colleges, as well as, students from and graduates of medical schools from abroad. For his distinguished work and dedication, Dr. Brown has received awards from SUNY Downstate, the National Institute of Health, and the Brooklyn community.
Mohammed Boutjdir, PhD, is the Director of the NIH sponsored TRANSPORT training and mentoring program (2018-2023) for underrepresented junior faculty at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. He is also the Director of the NHLBI sponsored Program to Increase Diversity among Individual Engaged in Cardiovascular Health Related Research (PRIDE-CVD) Summer Institute (2010-2023) and the Director of the initial Summer Institute Program to Increase Diversity (SIPID) (2006-2010) at Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Boutjdir is also the former Director of the Training and Mentoring Core of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center and is part of the AHA International Mentorship Program since its inception. Dr. Boutjdir has extensive leadership both administrative and scientific experiences and has successfully directed and managed all aspects of these training and mentoring programs at Downstate. He is a Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology/Physiology and Pharmacology at Downstate and as such has extensive experience in training and mentoring both MDs and PhDs, in the conduct of cardiovascular research. To date, more than 96 clinical and basic science mentees have trained with Dr. Boutjdir and several of them are currently working in prestigious academic departments across the nation. Dr. Boutjdir's major research interests are in cardiovascular health disparities and in channelopathies in the cardiovascular system, sudden cardiac death and antiarrhythmic therapy. He has published more than 130 articles in peer reviewed high impact journals and served as Chair and reviewer in several national review committees such as NIH, AHA, Veterans Affairs and March of Dimes and several European and Canadian funding agencies. He is also a reviewer in a number of important journals such as Circulation, Circulation Research, Journal of American College of Cardiology and the American Journal of Cardiology and serves on several executive boards, thesis committees and editorial boards.
BHDC Executive Committee Members
Michael A. Joseph, PhD, MPH, serves as Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Joseph graduated from Brooklyn College (BS, Health Sciences), Yale University School of Public Health (MPH, Chronic Disease Epidemiology) and the University of Michigan School of Public Health (PhD, Epidemiologic Science). He completed postdoctoral training in Cancer Epidemiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY. He has previously served as Adjunct Assistant Medical Professor in the Community Health and Social Medicine Department, where he taught Fundamentals of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education (City College of New York). He also previously served as Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Community Medicine, University of Zimbabwe Medical School (Harare, Zimbabwe) where he taught biostatistics and epidemiology. He is also a founding member of the Black Young Professionals' Public Health Network, Inc., an organization that aims to foster educational and networking opportunities for students of color in the field of public health. Dr. Joseph is presently Junior Principal Investigator of a CDC-funded grant, HIV/AIDS Risk Reduction Interventions for African American Heterosexual Men (Dr. Tracey Wilson, PI). This project seeks to utilize barbershops as a behavioral setting to develop an HIV prevention intervention program targeting high-risk sexual behaviors among heterosexually-active men of African descent. Dr. Joseph's interests include HIV/AIDS in the black community, cancer and social epidemiology, and international public health capacity development.
Carla Boutin-Foster, MD, MSc, is Associate Dean of the Office of Diversity Education and Research at Downstate. In this capacity, Dr. Boutin-Foster oversees pipeline programs designed to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in biomedicine and biomedical research. She was PI and director of an NIMHD P60 Center of Excellence in Disparities Research and Community Engagement at Weill Cornell. She was an investigator on a program project grant funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to identify attributes in the doctor-patient relationship that are most associated with health behavior modification in patients with coronary artery disease. She was the recipient of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the role of social support in outcomes of patients with coronary artery disease. She was the recipient of a KO1 from the NHLBI to evaluate the impact of depressive symptoms, social support, and stress on health behavior modification in Latino patients with coronary artery disease. She is also co-investigator on an NHLBI program project to test the impact of a culturally-tailored educational program on medication adherence in African-Americans with hypertension. Dr. Boutin- Foster has expertise in community-based participatory research, qualitative research, randomized trial design, survey development, and culturally-tailoring interventions. She has published several peer-reviewed articles on her work. She has mentored junior faculty locally and internationally as part of the T32 Clinical Epidemiology Program at Weill Cornell. Her fellows have come from Nigeria, Tanzania, and Haiti.
Kathleen Powderly, CNM, PhD, Director of the John Conley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Powderly joined the Downstate faculty in 1989, shortly after the Division of Humanities in Medicine was founded. Dr. Powderly holds faculty appointments in the College of Medicine (Obstetrics/Gynecology) and in the College of Nursing. She is a nurse-midwife by background, a clinical ethicist, and the ethics consultant to University Hospital of Brooklyn, Kings County Hospital Center and University Hospital of Brooklyn at LICH. Dr. Powderly is Vice-Chairman of the Ethics Committee at UHB/KCHC and has served as a Vice-Chair of the Ethics Council of the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation. She is also a member of the Institutional Review Board of Public Health Solutions, a member of the Ethics Committee of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, a member of the Ethics Committee of the SUNY University Faculty Senate and a member of the Clinical Ethics Consultation Affairs standing committee of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. Dr. Powderly is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and has been an Adjunct Associate at the Hastings Center. In addition to other committee activities at Downstate, Dr. Powderly has served as the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Faculty and Professional Staff of the College of Medicine since 2006, and as a sub-committee chair coordinating historical symposia and content for Downstate’s sesquicentennial celebration. She has been Principal Investigator for grants from the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Historic Publications and Records Administration.