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For Immediate Release
May 6, 2021

Experts, legislators consider UUP initiatives for SUNY hospitals, health care at virtual roundtable

The need to improve health care access at SUNY’s public teaching hospitals, erase racial inequities and widen SUNY’s pipeline of future doctors and health care providers formed the basis of a dynamic discussion at today’s roundtable panel on health care, hosted by United University Professions.

UUP President Fred Kowal moderated the discussion, held on National Nurses Day.

Panelists included state Sen. Rachel May, a member of the Senate Health Committee; Dr. Camille Clare, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, and an expert in women’s health; Cheryl Hamilton, SUNY executive director of opportunity programs; and Edline Jacquet, chief of staff for Sen. Zellnor Myrie.

Speakers also talked about ways to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the state’s public health care system to improve outcomes in Black maternal care and the diversification of health care providers. SUNY’s public teaching hospitals are SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University Hospital in Brooklyn; Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

“Today, we hope to shine a spotlight on these facilities and seek ways to make SUNY’s public academic medical centers health care leaders in New York,” Kowal said. “We touch the future in working with students and patients. The idea of coming up with innovative ideas in settings like this, I think it’s imperative.”

The roundtable took place barely a month after the approval of the final enacted state budget, in which SUNY hospitals again received no state funding despite the fact that they carried an overwhelming burden during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the panel also looked ahead, based on UUP’s strong plan for educating the health care professionals that New York will need in coming years, for improving access to primary care, and for opening more pathways into high-paying health care professions.

“We have a huge role to play in Central Brooklyn at SUNY Downstate,” said Clare. “We are committed to improving the care of patients in the community we serve.”

“Rural health care issues are very important and UUP and SUNY are right there working with us on a lot of these issues,” said May.

In its New York HEALS plan, UUP urges the state to expand SUNY Downstate’s mission to be the state’s center of maternal and child services. In addition, the union supports the Chisholm Chance Act—a bill sponsored by Myrie—which would create an administrative hub in Kings and Bronx counties to coordinate community-based organizations and community health workers to combat the maternal health crisis.

Jacquet talked about Black maternal health issues and the problems many women of color face during pregnancy. She said patients and health providers who are people of color often have a strong connection and are able to communicate with each other effectively. That’s why it’s important to attract more people of color to the medical field.

“You see that in the maternal health crisis over and over with all women, particularly with Black women,” she said. “You’re not listened to by medical professionals, who don’t care or maybe can’t relate to you.”

Hamilton talked about the importance of a medical program for disadvantaged students and pointed to SUNY’s new Empire Medical Scholars Program, a pilot summer program for 25 students at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. This program, as well as UUP’s proposed Medical Educational Opportunity Program, would attract and encourage more people of color to enter the medical field.

“The vast majority of students entering medical school are in the top two quintiles of income,” Hamilton said. “We recognize that our students face a myriad of barriers, including clinical exposure, resources and even the social capital to pursue a medical education. “Our goal is to introduce this pilot program, providing clinical exposure and then academic support and financial assistance to students as undergraduates, and continue that support as they enter medical school.”

Panelists also discussed health care for Native Americans in New York, focusing on issues on the Onondaga Nation Reservation just south of Nedrow in Onondaga County.

“The state has fallen short on this for a long time,” said May. “Legislators are going to different nations around the state, trying to understand what the issues and circumstances are. We have not come through for them as we should, although I’m hopeful that may improve.”

Go to to view a video of the roundtable.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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