CUNY Alumna Dr. Laurie C. Zephyrin, Recent White House Fellow, To Address ‘Salk Scholars’

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has announced that eight outstanding City University of New York pre-medical students have been awarded Jonas E. Salk Scholarships to study medicine. The winners were recognized for their research on DNA and dysfunctions leading to cancer; the understanding of disease processes; molecular mechanisms of memory; cancer metastasis; ophthalmology; the development of new cancer drugs; health care inequities; and the relationship between terrorism and posttraumatic stress.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Laurie C. Zephyrin M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. A 1997 cum laude graduate of City College’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, she received her M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine in 1999, and an M.P.H./M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 2006.

Dr. Zephyrin completed her training at Harvard’s Integrated Residency Training Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital-Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Zephyrin was named by President Bush to serve as a White House Fellow for 2005 – 06. The White House Fellows Program, one of the nation’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service, offers exceptional young men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government. The most famous of all Fellows is former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is a 1958 alumnus of City College.

The Salk Scholarships will be awarded on May 15, 2007, in a ceremony starting at 9:30 AM, at Baruch College’s William and Anita Newman Conference Center, 151 East 25 Street.

The Salk Scholarships are the legacy of Dr. Jonas E. Salk, who developed the polio vaccine in 1955. A 1934 graduate of City College, Dr. Salk turned down a ticker tape parade in honor of his discovery and asked instead that the money be used for scholarships. The city provided initial funding for the Salk Scholarships in 1955. The endowment now provides a stipend of $8,000 per scholar to help defray the cost of medical school.

Chancellor Goldstein stated: “This year’s Salk Scholarship winners continue the tradition of academic achievement, research excellence and public service exemplified by Dr. Jonas E. Salk, one of CUNY’s most illustrious graduates.”

The Salk Scholars are selected by distinguished physicians, all Salk Scholar alumni, based on the quality of their research, academic excellence and recommendations by professors and mentors.

In 2005, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Salk polio vaccine, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and CUNY announced a partnership to create summer internship opportunities for Salk Scholars at the Institute. This summer, Salk Scholar Jewel Liao, whose special medical interest is ophthalmology, will intern at the Salk Institute Vision Center Laboratory in La Jolla, California.

The 2007 Salk Scholarship winners are:
Natalya Berezovskaya of The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, who will attend Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She attends Hunter College and resides in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Carliann Costanzo of the College of Staten Island, who will enter Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She lives in Staten Island.
Liliya Gershengoren of The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, who will study at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She attends Brooklyn College and resides in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Israel Gonzalez of City College, who will study at Howard University School of Medicine. He lives in Manhattan.
Angela Hopkinson of York College, who will attend the University of Michigan Medical School. She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Jewel Liao of The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, who will enter SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She attends Brooklyn College and resides in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Becky Naoulou of Brooklyn College, who will attend New York University School of Medicine. She lives in Midwood, Brooklyn.
Emma Wallace of Medgar Evers College, who will enter SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She resides in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Following is a complete list of the 2007 Salk Scholars:

Biographies of 2007 Salk Scholarship Winners

Natalya Berezovskaya
The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
Attends Hunter College
Stony Brook University School of Medicine
At age seven, Natalya immigrated to the U.S. with her family in order to escape anti-Semitism and the collapse of the former Soviet Union. She attended Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented and Midwood High School, graduating from Midwood as Valedictorian before proceeding to the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY. Natalya attends Hunter College. Her volunteer experiences, including service at Coney Island Hospital and in Bellevue Hospital’s Emergency Department, have shaped her interest in health care for the disadvantaged. She hopes to treat underprivileged patients and influence policy dealing with health disparities and healthcare access. Natalya enjoys research and has focused on investigating the interactions between DNA damage repair, DNA transcription and mRNA processing in the hope of determining dysfunctions that lead to cancer. A biochemistry major, Natalya will attend Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

Carliann Costanzo
College of Staten Island
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Carliann, who has never forgotten the stern way an oncologist delivered the news that her grandmother had only a few months to live, looks forward to practicing medicine “with my mind and with my heart.” Pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D. will help her do exactly that. Carliann’s passion lies in the areas of cancer and cancer research. She began volunteering with the American Cancer Society in high school and has worked as a counselor for the past three summers at Camp Adventure, a week-long program for children with cancer and their siblings. She is also a founder of the student organization “Colleges Against Cancer.” Carliann participated in the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Summer Undergraduate Research Program on a project to delineate the functional relationship between glycogen synthase kinase 3B and the transcriptional factor Twist, which has recently been shown to play an important role in cancer metastasis. A double major in Biochemistry and Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, Carliann will attend Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Liliya Gershengoren
The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
Attends Brooklyn College (B.A.-M.D. Program)
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Learning of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, and wanting to help other patients manage such news, is what propelled Liliya into the field of medicine. She became fascinated with the human mind and behavior and plans to pursue a specialty in psychiatry. Her recent research has focused on how individuals cope with terrorism and posttraumatic stress. She has also co-founded a student journal, Public Health Review. A psychology major in the combined B.A.-M.D. Program at Brooklyn College and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Liliya will complete her medical studies at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Israel Gonzalez
City College
Howard University School of Medicine
Growing up on the Lower East Side, Israel understood from an early age the challenges that face an economically, educationally and medically disadvantaged population. In addition to his research interests in biology, Israel possesses a passion for the study of health care inequities. He hopes to use his Spanish language skills to address the health needs of the non-English speaking Hispanic community. Graduating as a biology major from City College, Israel will attend Howard University School of Medicine.

Angela Hopkinson
York College
University of Michigan Medical School
Limited academic and professional choices in her native Guyana kept Angela from fully pursuing her longstanding interests in understanding disease processes. At York College, Angela was recruited to Dr. Louis Levinger’s lab where she has worked since 2004 and where she currently serves as a research technician. Her research experiences have included participation in a student exchange program that placed her in a Japanese laboratory and presentations at several scientific gatherings. Her oral and poster presentations have garnered awards at the RNA Society of North Carolina and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. Angela has also served as co-author on two papers that have been accepted for publication. After graduating from York College with a degree in biotechnology, Angela will pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Jewel Liao
The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
Attends Brooklyn College (B.A.-M.D. Program)
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Jewel’s interest in medicine was fueled while in high school, when her father experienced a medical emergency. She became determined to pursue a medical career so that others need not endure the desperation and uncertainty that her family experienced at that time. Her special medical interest is ophthalmology; her motto is, “Our eyes are the windows through which we embrace the future.” Two consecutive summer internships at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, plus participation in two clinical research projects, have solidified this. Jewel plans a career in ophthalmology in a teaching hospital so that she may continue to combine her clinical and research interests long term. This summer, she will intern at the Salk Institute Vision Center Laboratory in La Jolla, California. A biology major in the combined B.A. – M.D. Program at Brooklyn College, Jewel will continue her medical education at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Becky Naoulou
Brooklyn College
New York University School of Medicine
As an immigrant to the U.S., Becky has faced numerous challenges, including learning a new language and acclimating to a culture very different from the one where she spent her early years. Becky is drawn to a medical career for many reasons. She believes it offers her unparalleled intellectual challenges; opportunities to help those in need; and a chance to inspire changes in her community, where women are underrepresented as medical professionals. Becky’s research interests deal with developing new ruthenium drugs for the treatment and potential cure of some types of cancer. Becky majored in biology at Brooklyn College, and will enroll in New York University School of Medicine.

Emma Wallace
Medgar Evers College
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Emma entered a summer research program with the hope of diversifying her experiences. Little did she know how profoundly the work would change her life. Having lost her beloved grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease, Emma found that her research on the molecular mechanisms of memory struck a deeply personal note. She has continued this work beyond the summer program in neurosciences. As a single mother, Emma frequently conducted her research late into the evening after completing classes and her parental responsibilities. Her hard work paid off when her team’s discovery was recognized by Science as one of the top ten breakthrough papers for 2006. The paper reported that a single molecule, the persistent kinase PKMzeta, is an essential molecular mechanism of long-term memory storage. Emma majored in Biology at Medgar Evers College, and will attend medical school at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university. CUNY is comprised of twenty three institutions: eleven senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law at Queens College, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. The University serves more than 226,000 degree-credit students and 230,000 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 280 high schools throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York. The University has launched an on-line baccalaureate degree through the School of Professional Studies, and a new Teacher Academy offering free tuition for highly motivated mathematics and science majors who seek teaching careers in the city.

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