CUNY Alumnus Dr. Samuel J. Daniel, M.D., President and CEO of North General Hospital, To Address CUNY “Salk Scholars” Bound for Medical Schools

Dr. Samuel J. Daniel, M.D., President and CEO of North General Hospital in Harlem, will be the keynote speaker at The City University of New York’s Jonas Salk awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 29th. Eight outstanding CUNY students will be awarded Salk Scholarships to study medicine. One other top student will be named an Honorary Salk Scholar. All will attend leading medical schools.

The scholarships were named for Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the discoverer of the polio vaccine, who graduated from City College in 1934. They carry a stipend of $4,000 each for medical school. When Dr. Salk turned down a ticker tape parade by New York City in honor of his discovery, he asked instead that the money be used for scholarships. The Salk Scholarship Program began in 1955. The program is now funded by the City University.

The event, which will be held at Baruch College’s Newman Conference Center at 151 East 25th Street, will start at 9:15 a.m.

Dr. Daniel, who grew up in Antigua¸ came to this country and graduated from CUNY’s Queens College and from Columbia University Medical School. A gastroenterologist, he worked at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and had a practice on Central Park West after he finished his training and before taking up his work at North General Hospital. He was cited by New York magazine as one of the 100 best doctors in New York in the year 2000.

“I never expected that I, as an immigrant, would be asked to speak to a class such as this, many of whom are immigrants, at a time when the status of immigrants is being questioned,” Dr. Daniel said. “This scholarship speaks exactly to what Jonas Salk, the son of immigrants, felt when he gave up a ticker tape parade for scholarships—that education was the way for immigrants to succeed in and contribute to this country.”

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Dr. Louise Mirrer, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, will present the awards, medical diagnostic kits and medical reference books to the winners. Other speakers will include CUNY Trustee Kathleen M. Pesile; Dr. Arnold Melman, Chairman, Department of Urology, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who will represent the Salk Scholars Society; Dr. Rosa Gil, University Dean for Health Sciences; and Dr. Catherine McEntee, Brooklyn College Preprofessional Advisor.

The students chosen this year as Salk Scholars, who came to CUNY from many parts of the world, are equally dedicated to medicine, scientific research and community service.

Salk Scholars are nominated by pre-med advisors at each college, based on the quality of research paper submitted, academic excellence, recommendations by professors and mentors, and volunteer work undertaken. The nominees must each have been accepted at a medical school. Each college may submit up to four nominations, which are then evaluated and ranked by an outside medical committee. This year’s committee was made up of former Salk Scholars now at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, including Dr. Melman; Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Director, Division of Infectious Diseases; Dr. Marvin Fried, Chairman, Department of Otolaryngology; and Dr. Stuart Greenstein, Transplant Department.

The students’ basic scientific research in faculty-led laboratories has included investigating the causes of and treatments for cancer, proton transport in electrolytes, the synthesis of new materials using discrete metal oxide clusters, radioactive ions, liver fatty acid-binding proteins, nanotechnological analysis of polyoxanions, and heme biosynthesis. Their outstanding work as undergraduates will lead to co-authorship of published scientific papers in many cases.

Biographies of Salk Scholarship Winners 2002

Marc J. Braunstein, Brooklyn

Brooklyn College
Interested in both clinical and bench research, Marc, who graduated a year ago, did a large part of his undergraduate basic science research in areas related to cancer as part of the Howard Hughes undergraduate research program in Professor Dan Eshel’s laboratory. He also served as the president of this department program for a year. A summer fellowship at SUNY Health Center included a project on cell changes. This past year, as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health, he participated in research devoted to the early diagnosis of acute renal failure resulting from chemotherapeutic toxicity. He is motivated both by a fascination with the mechanisms of uncontrolled cell division, as well as by his family’s personal struggles with the disease. His research paper was on the analysis of the correlation between a novel morphological feature in yeast and the budding cell pattern. A manuscript describing the results, co-authored by Marc, was published in BioTechniques, 2001. Among his many activities and honors, Marc served as Vice President of the American Medical Student Association and of the Golden Key Honor Society and as Secretary of Habitat for Humanity at Brooklyn College. He is the recipient of the Brooklyn College Presidential Scholarship, five Biology Scholarships, and an award from the Hospital for Special Surgery for 50 hours of volunteer service. He will attend SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s M.D./Ph.D program.

Belly Braimah, Bronx

Hunter College
Born in Ghana, Belly lived in Nigeria and Ethiopia before being sent to boarding school in Cairo, Egypt. In his native Fulani language, Belly means a helper, a meaning he decided to incorporate into the pursuit of his career goal. During his 12 years in Cairo he learned of the death of a number of family members of heart disease and he is comforted now by the thought of some day playing a significant role in helping families like his own. In his freshman year at Kingsborough Community College he strove for independence, improved his language skills and juggled full time study and part time work in a cleaning service. As a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Scholar at Hunter College, he worked with Professor Ann Henderson for two years, studying the effects of electromagnetic field on cancer cells and presented his research at a scientific conference in Germany last year. Although this is still a controversial topic, he learned how the communication among cells could be useful in medical approaches. He will publish at least one formal research paper in the coming months. As the Science Learning Coordinator of the MARC program last spring, he taught a science course to students in their freshman year. He is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and of Sigma XI, the scientific research society. He will attend the University Medical and Dental School of New Jersey/The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Shavon Dillon, Queens

The City College of New York
An interest in how the human body regulates its normal functioning is an important factor in Shavon’s pursuit of a career in medicine, but she also wants to be a positive role model for young children, particularly children of color. Fear for the life of her mother who suffered from high blood pressure and frequent nosebleeds and frustration at being unable to help her also spurred Shavon towards medicine as a career. During the summer of 2000 she “shadowed” an OB/GYN physician in Kings County Hospital to observe medical care and learned even more. Awarded a Howard Hughes Scholarship, Shavon worked with Professors C.S. Russell and Sharon Cosloy on an undergraduate research project in the area of heme biosynthesis in Escherichia coli to identify putative regulatory genes. The exciting result was identification of a gene believed to belong to a family of transcription regulator proteins, which appears to be the first evidence of a transcriptional regulator protein in bacterial heme biosynthesis. It is expected to lead to a publication in which Shavon will be one of the authors. She is a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, the Caduceus Society, served as treasurer of the Baskerville Chemical Society, and tutored calculus. Shavon is the recipient of a New York Coalition of 100 Black Women Scholarship. She will attend SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Jonathan Feig, Brooklyn

Brooklyn College
When Jonathan’s grandparents suffered strokes eight years ago, he developed an interest in medicine after seeing the commitment that physicians have towards their patients, an interest that was abetted by volunteering at NYU Downtown Hospital. At Brooklyn College he worked in Professor James Godde’s molecular biology laboratory on the development of a potential anti-cancer drug. As a result he was the primary author of an abstract in the June 2001 issue of the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics and presented his findings at the 12th Conversation in Biomolecular Stereodynamics in Albany. He used his summers for further medical research exploration including work at the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs Medical Center and at Rockefeller University, where he studied a suspected protein-DNA interaction that may be responsible for the onset of some leukemias. An opportunity to mentor a high school student on a research project led him to add academic medicine to his goals. He will attend New York University School of Medicine.

Choy Rae Ava Lewis, Brooklyn

Hunter College
Choy grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica where, she said, everyone lives with an extended family. Her household of 15 people included ten children. Her grandmother had a home remedy for every illness and often made her rounds from bed to bed when all the children got sick at the same time. No one ever went to the hospital but grandmother was a role model for a caring healer. Choy’s sixth grade teacher inspired her to aim for a path out of poverty and helped her win a scholarship to the top high school in Kingston, where she developed an intense interest in science, which in that school meant she was going to be a doctor. Immigrating to the U.S. when she graduated from high school at the age of 16, she enrolled in Medgar Evers College as a biology major the following fall. She volunteered at a dialysis center near her home and found it became an integral part of her life. Transferring to City College, she started working in a research lab in her third semester on a project involving the synthesis and characterization of organometallic complexes using nuclear magnetic resonance.

A year later she transferred to Hunter and with a MARC scholarship worked for three years in Professor Steve Greenbaum’s solid state NMR lab on projects that included the characterization of materials especially for electrochemical systems. Her research concerned the characterization of proton transport in both liquid and solid electrolytes, directly germane to new developments in fuel cell technology. Interested again in chemistry, she decided to do a double major, although she was only two semesters away from a biology degree. After a summer working with Professor Greenbaum’s collaborators at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, her research skills were so admirable, she was offered a co-op job and eventually a staff position that required taking a semester off from school but allowed her to help alleviate her family’s financial stress. Working with a group that developed and has stayed at the forefront of the direct methanol fuel cell technology, she used her biology background to take on the new challenge of building biofuel cells and now is looking forward to doing her Ph.D. in biological chemistry in a joint MD/Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School.

Kymora Scotland, Bronx

Hunter College
In her home country of Dominica, Kymora volunteered full time at the Princess Margaret Hospital, working mostly in the cancer ward where she noticed that friendly interactions between doctors and patients lifted the spirits of the patients and the doctors as well. Observing suffering, she wanted to help and decided to become a doctor, her goal when she came to this country three years ago. Living in New York and working and volunteering at the YWCA, she has met people of many different ethnicities and she has learned that a person’s background has much to do with attitudes and customs, something that is important for a doctor to understand. A chemistry major, she is a Minority Biomedical Research Support Program Scholar. Although she hadn’t always thought about doing research, she realized that it is scientific researchers who can come up with the new techniques and more effective medication needed to combat disease and its effects.

Secretary of the Chemistry Club, she worked in Professor Lynn C. Francesconi’s research laboratory. Kymora’s work opened a new research area in the laboratory involving the synthesis of new materials using discrete metal oxide clusters (poloxometalates) and lanthanide ions as building blocks. Prior to this work, there had not been a report of a three dimensional structure in which poloxometalate clusters are regularly and covalently linked by lanthanide ions and other cations. Based on this work Professor Francesconi and Kymora were invited to submit a contribution to a special issue of the Journal of Cluster Chemistry. It will be published in the Pacifichem conference proceedings. Her research will result in publication in at least one other prestigious journal of the American Chemical Society. It is also providing the basis for Professor Francesconi’s grant renewal request to the National Science Foundation on the use of lanthanide polyoxometalates as building blocks for new materials. A number of other scientists from the U.S., as well as from other countries are interested in collaborating with Professor Francesconi on this project. Kymora will go into the MD/Ph.D. program at the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Nushrat Ullah, Queens

Hunter College
Nushrat’s inspiration for choosing a medical career was her mother’s debilitating headaches and arthritis. She promised that some day she would help her mother. Born here, she is the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. During her senior year in high school she volunteered in the geriatric ward of Western Queens Community Hospital and it was there that she realized that she wanted to serve the aging population as a geriatrician. At Hunter, despite the heavy course load of a combined Chemistry/English/Special Honors major with a mathematics minor, and domestic responsibilities, she volunteered at Lenox Hill Hospital’s physical therapy unit where she learned that it takes patience and understanding, as well as cures, to help patients. After graduating two years ago, having been a chemistry tutor as an undergraduate, she worked as a Master Tutor for Hunter’s Special Services Program, fulfilling her desire to help people.

Nushrat worked in Professor Lynn C. Francesconi’s lab on the synthesis of new poloxometalates containing rare earth metal ions (lanthanide ions). They provide analogs for actinide chemistry—actinide ions are both useful for medical radiotherapeutic procedures as well as detrimental when found in radioactive waste. Materials containing rare earth ions may lead to new luminescent materials that can be useful for sensors and displays. Nushrat’s work has contributed to both aspects of rare earth chemistry and provided an understanding of the balance controlling effects of poloxometalates on actinides—important because it can be used to stabilize oxidation states of actinide ions so that they can be easily removed from radioactive wastes. Some of her work led to seminal discoveries by Professor Francesconi’s group and collaborators at Argonne National Laboratory. This work was recently reported in Chemical and Engineering News, one of the most widely circulated chemical magazines or journals in the world. Some of Nushrat’s earlier work, a collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory was published in 1999 in J.C.S. Dalton Transactions. In addition to her scientific work, Nushrat is a poet and received the Golden Poet Award of 1995 and Hunter College’s Mary M. Fay Poetry Award. Among her many other honors are the Thomas Hunter Honors Program Presidential Scholarship. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the Golden Key National Honors Society. She will attend New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York.

Dmitry Volfson, Staten Island

College of Staten Island
Before Dmitry’s grandmother died as he stood beside her in a hospital room, she told him to remember that being a good doctor means providing the best possible care, learning to deal with disappointments if they are encountered, and being able to show compassion. As Dmitry volunteers in the emergency room of Maimonides Medical Center, translates for Russian-speaking patients and shadows doctors, he sees the truth in that advice. Dmitry came to this country from the former Soviet Union at the age of eleven.

A biochemistry major and an Honors student, Dmitry worked in Professor Ruth E. Stark’s laboratory with postdoctoral students and faculty on cutting-edge protein structure determination by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The research objective of his project is the development of molecular-level insights into the function of liver fatty acid-binding protein, which is thought to be involved in fatty acid trafficking, metabolic regulation and protection from cytotoxicity. Dmitry made numerous independent contributions to the project, drawing novel insights from the integration of structural and dynamic properties for the fatty acid binding protein. He won first prize in the Fall 2000 Dean’s Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium. In addition, he has worked as a Teaching Scholar-Assistant in high school advanced placement chemistry labs at the College of Staten Island. He will attend New York College of Osteopathic Medicine/ New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, N.Y.

Honorary Salk Scholar

Joseph Sclafani, Brooklyn

College of Staten Island
Joseph graduated cum laude from CSI a year ago, after winning Presidential Scholarships among his many awards. When he began college he chose a chemistry major because he knew he wanted to pursue a career in either medicine or scientific research. During his senior year he decided on medicine because it combines science and technology and provides an opportunity to make a real and personal difference in people’s lives. He has had an opportunity to explore both interests. As a research assistant to Professor James Batteas, whose research area is nanotechnology, he mastered the use of the Atomic Force Microscope and Scanning Tunneling Microscope for the study of the surfaces of materials, a relatively new field that seeks answers to scientific phenomena occurring on the atomic level. His project was on the structure of self-assembled monolayers of alkylsilanes and polyoxanions on surfaces. Alkylsilanes play an important role in the wetting properties of silicate surfaces and are used as friction modifiers in microelectromechanical systems devices. The polyoxanions are important inorganic catalysts. His work won him an award during the Dean’s Summer Research Poster presentations.

Last summer he began working as a volunteer in the minor trauma unit of the Emergency Room at Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn. He also had the opportunity to shadow the program director of the Emergency Room, gaining insight into the work of a physician and the skills needed to communicate with and reassure patients. Joseph will attend SUNY/Stony Brook School of Medicine.