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Sullivan Alliance board member Dr. Wayne Riley becomes 17th President of SUNY Downstate Medical Center

By Louis W. Sullivan, MD


Dr. Louis Sullivan speaking at SUNY Downstate Medical CenterNote from Robin Carle, The Sullivan Alliance’s COO and Executive Director: On September 15th, our esteemed board member Dr. Wayne Riley became the 17th President of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center. We are so delighted – for him and for his institution and the community! Dr. Sullivan was proud to be a featured speaker at the inauguration ceremony. We’ve included Dr. Sullivan’s inaugural event remarks in this month’s blog. Please join us in wishing Dr. Riley hearty congratulations!

“Chairman Carl McCall, members of the Board of Regents, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends of this historic medical center, I bring you greetings and I salute you for the new leadership you have chosen for this institution; Wayne J. Riley, MD.

I first met Wayne Riley in January 1993, when I returned to Morehouse School of Medicine as its President, following the completion of my tenure as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Administration of George H. W. Bush. Wayne was President of the senior class and was student body president as well. He met with me to welcome me back to the medical school and to discuss some student issues. At the conclusion of our meeting, I asked Wayne what were his career plans?

He stated that he would be going to a residency program in internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. I then asked what his long-term plans were. He hesitated, then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well Sir, I really want your job. I want to be president of a medical school.”

Dr. Louis Sullivan and Dr. Wayne RileyWell, Wayne, you have succeeded in reaching your goal – not once, but twice: First as president of Meharry Medical College, where you had an outstanding seven-year tenure of leadership, and now as the 17th president of Downstate Medical Center, one of the nation’s largest academic health science centers. Along the way you have also served as president of the American College of Physicians, and as Chairman of the Administrative Leadership Council of the National Academy of Medicine, in the National Academy of Sciences.

Signs of your leadership skills were apparent when you served as chief of staff to New Orleans Mayor Mark Morial prior to your entry to Morehouse School of Medicine.

I know that you will extend your leadership tradition here at Downstate, during this time of significant change, turbulence and uncertainty in the nation’s healthcare system and at this time of challenge to our nation’s core ideals of equality and opportunities for personal growth and development.

The Morehouse School of Medicine, your medical alma mater is proud of you and your equally-talented wife, Charlene Dewey, also an alumna of Morehouse School of Medicine. For, we know you are prepared to lead Downstate Medical Center to excellence in patient care, to outstanding training programs in medicine and public health, and to innovative research to improve our knowledge of human biology.

Congratulations to you and to SUNY Downstate Medical Center on the Partnership you have created, to improve the lives of our citizens – in Brooklyn and beyond.”

N.B. For those interested, we have made additional ceremony content available: Dr. Sullivan’s speech, Dr. Riley’s address, the event press release, the Processional and Invocation, and the national anthem by Chelsea Daniels.

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