Upstate graduate gives ‘best commencement performance’

Graduating Upstate medical student Dan Harris certainly didn’t disappoint with his address at the College of Medicine Commencement Sunday.

As the chosen student speaker for the Class of 2014, Dan — Dr. Harris — thanked one and all, discussed love and joy, and quoted poet Ogden Nash on happiness.

And then he broke out his trusty ukelele for a med school adaptation of Don McLean’s “American Pie” that, as you’ll see from the video above, will bring a smile to your face, a bounce to your step . . . and a tear to your eye.

Dr. Harris “delivered the best commencement performance I have witnessed,” said David Duggan, MD, Dean of the College of Medicine. “I highly recommend it to you, and be sure to watch it to the end.” (The musical portion begins at the 3:20 mark, but all 7:38 are worth watching.)

As a bonus, here is a link to a pair of 2011 performances by Dan Harris when he was a second-year medical student. In one, he plays the ukelele (with Upstate medical student Ken Angelino on fiddle); in the other he performs an a cappella number with fellow Class of 2014 members Justine Harris and Auyon Ghosh, and 2013 graduates Rhonda Diescher, Chas Hannum and Tony Rossettie.

Upstate’s four colleges held separate commencement exercises Sunday in the Onondaga County Civic Center, with a total of 541 degrees awarded. ”It was a very happy day,” Dr. Duggan said. “I want to thank all faculty for their contributions to our students’ success. We have a lot to be proud of.”

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Student researches homeless patients’ ED visits and admissions

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

Master of Public Health student Lauren Wetterhahn will speak at Upstate's College of Medicine Commencement.

As a student in our Master of Public Health program, Upstate’s Lauren Wetterhahn became interested in the inequitable allocation of health care resources — in particular as they apply to a specific population.

“Homeless patients are repeat users of the health care system, but with bad outcomes,” she said.

For the capstone project required for her MPH degree, Lauren tackled a “huge, huge data set” of statewide Emergency Department visits and hospital admissions to zero in on visits by the homeless population in Syracuse.

She worked with a de-identified list of 760 patients classified as homeless, and compared them to a random sample of non-homeless patients.

In Lauren’s study, which covered 2006 to 2011, patients classified as homeless tended to present for mental health issues and conditions related to drug and alcohol use. The homeless patients were less likely to be discharged from the Emergency Department the same day they arrived, and if they were admitted their hospital stays were often longer than those of patients who were not homeless.

Those lengthy stays are especially costly for hospitals, Lauren said, because of lump-sum government health insurance payments that don’t increase for longer stays.

Lauren said she was concerned by the reliability of the data she looked at because of significant fluctuations in the number of homeless patients seen year to year in her six-year study.

Lauren recommends a greater consistency in how hospitals “code” or categorize patients who are homeless or “unstably housed.”  She also would like to see Syracuse adopt more “Housing First” approaches to its homeless population, and a system of transitional placements for homeless patients after they are discharged from the hospital.

On Sunday, Lauren will speak at Upstate’s College of Medicine Commencement, representing the CNYMPH Class of 2014.

On Monday, she’ll report to work at her current position of research assistant in Upstate’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities, where she’s also editorial assistant for the Healing Muse literary and visual arts journal.

Lauren grew up in northern New York, where her father, Upstate alumnus Joseph Wetterhahn, MD, is a primary care physician.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and worked for a year in biotechnology research before coming to Upstate for her MPH degree.


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Respiratory Therapy student conducts smoking study in Ghana

SUNY Upstate medical mission Ghana

Upstate Respiratory Therapy student Adlin Noel, far right in front row, with the group that went on a medical mission to Ghana this year. Adlin was part of a team seeing patients in rural villages, and also conducted a study on villagers' knowledge of smoking and second-hand smoke risks.

Adlin Noel, a student in Upstate’s Respiratory Therapy program, followed up on a two-week medical mission trip to Nicaragua in 2013 with a 10-day trip to Ghana this year. Here are excerpts of his report on his trip with the Americans Serving Abroad Projects (ASAP) led by Lauri Rupracht, RN, of Upstate University Hospital.

By Adlin Noel

Our 12-person team in Ghana included two nurse practitioners, a physician assistant, four registered nurses, an audiologist, a lawyer, a social worker, a dental hygienist and me, a respiratory therapy student.

We were able to provide medical care for about 800 patients by setting up different stations for: vital signs, patient history, general care, breast cancer screening, dental hygiene, hearing, cuts, worm infestation, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol testing.

During this trip, I was allowed to conduct a study on smoking. At Upstate, I have been fortunate to gain experience working with the research team in the Cardiopulmonary and Critical Care Laboratory in the Department of Surgery headed by Gary Nieman.  I have been assisting their research team in the investigation of the benefits of Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) for critically ill patients.

This experience has given me an excellent introduction to the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed for excellence in research. Beyond this, it has enhanced my interest to conduct research related to smoking and tobacco use.

The prevalence of smoking in Ghana is relatively low, but the country currently has no legislation to prevent smoking in public areas. Targeting this area may be an important preventive health measure to help the citizens avoid secondhand smoke exposure by restricting areas where smoking is allowed.

The study’s primary objective was to investigate how well-educated rural Ghanaians are about the detrimental effects of smoking. Prevalence of tobacco smoking and understanding of secondhand smoke was investigated as a secondary objective.

A questionnaire adapted and modified from the Global Tobacco Surveillance System was used with 240 subjects, 18 and older, living in four villages. Results have shown a significant lack of education and knowledge regarding the detrimental effects of smoking, highlighting the need for effective teaching and learning.

SUNY Upstate Ghana Adlin Noel

Upstate Respiratory Therapy student Adlin Noel with children in Ghana.

This experience has renewed my purpose as a future health professional to respond to the medical needs of those less fortunate. Although I was born in Haiti, I was glad to hear many in Ghana saying, “Welcome home, brother from another mother!” on my arrival to those villages with the understanding that my roots truly traced back to Africa.

I seek to continue my work through future research studies and personally assisting people in the poorest of countries so that they, too, may receive basic health care services.


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Two Upstate students receive Chancellor’s Excellence Award

Upstate’s Daniella Palermo and Tiffany Telarico Caza are among 274 State University of New York students honored with the 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

Daniella, a fourth-year medical student from the Bronx, and Tiffany, a Waterloo, NY, native in her final year of the MD/PhD program, received their awards this month at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and Upstate Interim President Gregory Eastwood, MD, presented the awards. In June, Daniella will begin her medical residency in psychiatry at Brown University and Tiffany will begin her medical residency in pathology at Upstate.

SUNY Chancellor award

Upstate MD/PhD student Tiffany Telarico Caza with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Upstate Interim President Gregory Eastwood, MD.

Tiffany said the MD/PhD program at Upstate has provided numerous opportunities to learn and grow as both a scientist and clinician.

“I am very grateful for the dedicated faculty who have helped me in my journey to becoming a physician-scientist,” Tiffany said. “My mentors Dr. Andras Perl and Dr. Steve Landas, especially, have been unbelievably supportive. I have had an incredibly positive experience here at Upstate and am excited to begin as a resident this summer.”

Daniella, who has served as president of the Latino Medical Student Association on campus, said it’s an honor to receive an award that recognizes students for their ability to successfully manage academic achievement, leadership and community outreach.

SUNY Upstate Chancellor Award

Fourth-year medical student Daniella Palermo with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Upstate Interim President Gregory Eastwood, MD.

“I am grateful for the continued support of countless individuals at SUNY Upstate, which allowed me to impact communities both within and outside the university,” Daniella said. “As a Latina medical student, it has truly been an honor to create initiatives addressing cultural education and advocacy all the while becoming my dream.”

Chancellor Zimpher said the students honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence “truly embody the power of SUNY.”

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997 to recognize students who have achieved national or international recognition in such fields as academics, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, leadership, entrepreneurship and career achievement.

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