Harlem Hospital Leader a Role Model
for Salk Scholars
Appearing as keynote speaker for the annual
Jonas Salk Scholarship awards ceremony on May 29, Dr.
Samuel J. Daniel, President and CEO of North General Hospital
in Harlem, made clear his pleasure in observing a perfect coincidence.
That I, an immigrant, am speaking to youa class
made up of many immigrant scholarsis what I consider the
American dream. . . . Never in my wildest dream did I ever believe
I would one day be invited to speak to a class at CUNY, much
less to Jonas Salk Scholars.
Trustee Kathleen Pesile, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, and
many other CUNY leaders were on hand to honor eight Salk Scholars:
Marc Braunstein (Brooklyn College), Ghana native Belly Braimah
(Hunter), Shavon Dillon (Queens), Jonathan Feig (Brooklyn),
Jamaican native Choy Rae Ava Lewis (Hunter), Dominican native
Kymora Scotland (Hunter), daughter of Bangladeshi parents
Nushrat Ullah (Queens), and Russian native Dmitry Volfson
(CSI). Joseph Sclafani of CSI was also fêted as an Honorary
The Salk Scholarships, which carry an annual stipend of $4,000,
are named for the discoverer of the polio vaccine, a City
College alumnus. Begun in 1955, they are now funded by the
|After delivering his keynote speech
for the 2002 Salk Scholars, Dr. Samuel Daniel received
a Certificate of Appreciation from Chancellor Matthew
Dr. Daniel, who grew up in Antigua and eventually graduated
from Queens College, felt it was important to dwell on his
own academic struggles and eventual triumph not only because
they are similar to the experience of so many City University
graduates (and Salk Scholars), but also because today questions
are being raised regarding the patriotism of immigrants, and
whether we should limit immigrants entering this country.
After his acceptance into Queens College in 1970, Daniel traveled
from the South Bronx to Flushing every day of the week, even
spending weekends studying on campus because the streets of
the South Bronx were so noisy.
When his lack of high school chemistry stymied his desire
to major in the field, Daniel says he was not to be
dissuaded in pursuing my goal. He helped form the Science
Organization for Minority Students, tutored other minorities
in chemistry and math both on campus and in the Upward Bound
Program and went on to obtain his Bachelors in chemistry.
Thanks to the encouragement of a Dr. Marion in the Pre-Med
Department and my best letter of recommendation from the chair
of the Chemistry Department, I went on to be accepted to Columbia
University College of Physicians and Surgeons. As an
immigrant (there were only 8 in my class of 150), Daniel recalls,
I felt very intimidated rubbing shoulders with graduates
of Harvard, Yale, MIT, and so forth. Nor were subtle
forms of racism absent in his interactions with the Colleges
faculty: This was the reality of the College of Physicians
and Surgeons at the time.
|2002 Salk Scholars, from left, Shavon
Dillon, Dmitry Volfson, Jonathan Feig, Nushrat Ullah,
Marc Braunstein, Kymora Scotland, and Belly Braimah (not
pictured, Choy Rae Ava Lewis).
And Daniel had to summon even more courage when, in his second
year, he was struck by thrombophlebitis and pulmonary embolism
that required hospitalization. I could not afford to
be fall back because of a mere illness, since I was paying
my tuition with grants and loans. So he convinced the
Dean of Student Affairs to allow him to participate in classes
through taped lectures and take proctored exams while confined
Daniel graduated on schedule in 1978 in internal medicine and
gastroenterology, then practiced on Central Park South and also
taught at Columbia. A desire to serve the community brought
him to Harlem and North General, a non-profit teaching hospital,
in 1992, and he arrived in its top position in 2001. The year
before he was cited in New York as one of the 100 best
doctors in the city.
Addressing the eight outstanding CUNY students, whose University-funded
Salk Scholarships will underwrite their study of medicine,
Daniel promised no bed of roses. On your entry into
todays world, you will meet new challenges, especially
that of managed care and how to do more with less as health
care costs continue to skyrocket. Their generation will
have to invent how to maintain our leading position
in biotechnology while at the same time holding down the cost
of medical education and health care.
Daniel concluded, however, on an optimistic note: You
have all individually overcome challenges in your life, so
I am sure you will prevail. And he added, This
is exactly what I believe Jonas Salk wanted to address when
he was offered a ticker-tape parade and suggested this scholarship
instead. He saw that, for all people, education is the path
to personal and professional success.