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Devon John, M.D., Interim Chairman, Department of Surgery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Message From the Chairman

Welcome to the website of the Department of Surgery at Downstate Medical Center of the State University of New York.

Our surgical training program includes integrated rotations at five hospitals: University Hospital, Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn Veteran Administration Hospital and the Richmond University Medical Center and more recently Coney Island Hospital.

Our Department has an large faculty whose interests span the areas of teaching, clinical work and research. They are committed to providing excellent care to all patients.

Downstate is the seventh largest medical school in the U.S. While a part of the State University system for more than 40 years, the institution can trace its roots to the founding of the Teaching Division of the Long Island College Hospital by a small group of Brooklyn physicians over 120 years ago.

Their purpose was to 'bring the patients in the hospital under the direct care of the instructors of the college". This was the first time that a hospital and medical school were combined under one roof in the United States.

In 1930, the Teaching Division of the Long Island College Hospital was incorporated independently as the Long Island College of Medicine.In 1950 the trustees of the State University of New York chose it to be the core for the development of a state health science center in the New York Metropolitan area. Downstate was born.

The Department of Surgery is proud of its heritage and accomplishments.
The first Chairman of the SUNY Department was Dr. Clarence Dennis, an outstanding surgical educator and innovator who contributed to the development of the cardio-pulmonary bypass machine. Under his leadership, the first open heart operation in New York was performed by the Downstate Surgery Faculty at the Kings County Hospital.

The second Chairman, Dr. Samuel Kountz, was instrumental in the development of the field of transplantation. He established our transplant program which has been one of the busiest in the country. The third Chairman, Dr. Bernard Jaffe, was an innovative researcher in the area of gastrointestinal surgery. Under his direction, the Department gained national prominence as a first rate surgical training program.

The fourth Chairman, Dr. Richard Wait, established the division of Vascular Surgery and brought the Department into the 21st century.

The fifth chairman was Dr. Michael Zenilman, whose clinical interests were in geriatric and pancreatic surgery. He had continued the tradition of research with advances in molecular biology of pancreatic regeneration in pancreatitis and neoplasia.

The sixth chairman was Dr. Antonio E. Alfonso who recently resigned and is still an active member of the department. He is a distinguished teaching professor whose interests in head and neck and breast surgery have been a mainstay in trainee education.


The SUNY Brooklyn program has trained a large number of academic surgeons, who hold leadership positions in programs all over the country. This is due to the tradition of basic and clinical research at Downstate.

Devon G. John, M.D.
Interim Chairman, Department of Surgery
SUNY Downstate Medical Center