Old Westbury, Downstate Medical mark a SUNY first

Eastbound and Down: Through a unique partnership, select SUNY Old Westbury students can now earn "accelerated" healthcare degrees from Brooklyn's SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Long Island hasn’t gained a new medical school, technically, though it has picked up a slew of new med students.

Billed as a first-of-its-kind agreement, SUNY College at Old Westbury and the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn have partnered on a slate of programs allowing students to “pursue graduate and accelerated degrees,” according to the state university system – essentially, providing Old Westbury students with Downstate Medical degrees.

The collaboration, announced this week by SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, will give as many as 23 Old Westbury students “priority enrollment consideration” at Downstate Medical each year, with a maximum of four students accepted into Downstate’s Bachelor of Science/Doctorate of Physical Therapy program.

Up to four more will be accepted into Downstate Medical’s physician’s assistant master’s degree program, and a maximum of 15 into Downstate’s accelerated bachelor’s in nursing program.

Calvin Butts III: “Critical” collaboration.

The idea is to efficiently expand the regional healthcare workforce, with a focus on faster, better training of physician assistants, physical therapists and nurses. Old Westbury students will be required to complete rigorous classes in biology, chemistry, psychology and other appropriate disciplines, and a slate of eligibility requirements – including faculty recommendations and undergraduate degrees for all PA and nursing programs – awaits applicants.

But those who make it in, and make in through, will be able to quickly “access important opportunities in the medical field,” according to SUNY Old Westbury President Calvin Butts III.

“Developing pathways like these for our students is of critical importance,” the president noted. “We believe having this relationship will provide an incentive to those students who have a true passion and inclination for these fields.

“The education provided by Downstate is excellent,” Butts added. “We look forward to seeing our students excel once they enter these programs.”

Kristina Johnson: New opportunities.

Downstate Medical President Wayne Riley trumpeted a “fitting partnership” between the two schools.

“Our nursing program is known for training tomorrow’s workforce, and we are excited that this collaboration with Old Westbury will enhance our collective commitment to educational excellence while preparing our nurses to meet the healthcare challenges of a changing population,” Riley said in a statement.

The partnership is also something of a litmus test, with further collaborations between the Brooklyn medical school and other SUNY campuses to follow, according to Johnson.

“At a time when our nation’s healthcare needs are becoming increasingly complex, these campuses are working together to build up our healthcare workforce and provide more opportunities to our students,” the SUNY chancellor said Friday. “I look forward to seeing more partnerships between Downstate Medical and our other campuses, and to SUNY’s growing role in strengthening the state’s healthcare system.”