Meet Upstate Medical University's Next Leader and Her Agenda for Patient Care and Research

Oct 6, 2015

Upstate Medical University staff and students get to meet the next president during Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena's visit Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

  Upstate Medical University’s next president is spending a few days meeting with hospital and medical school staff a few months before she takes over.  Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena was named to the post back in September.


Doctor Danielle Laraque-Arena wants to bring people together to work on both community health issues and advanced medical challenges.  A pediatrician by trade, she can’t ignore poverty statistics that show some Syracuse neighborhoods with some of the highest poverty in the nation.

“If we have 1 in 4 of our children in poverty, that means a lack of educational opportunity; that means poor health status, that means the beginning of the antecedents of poor adult health, including mental health.  So is it that we can pool what we have to address those pressing issues, and that’s not a political message.”

Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena is a pediatrician by training, along with leadership posts at other health institutions, most recently in Brooklyn.

  She knows one of her roles will be to lobby for education and health funding, since the SUNY medical school and hospital are state-supported.    But she says preventive and ambulatory care to keep more people out of hospitals is a goal of both state Medicaid changes and the Affordable Care Act.  In addition to getting more into the community for care, Laraque-Arena envisions more team-building in med-school classrooms. 

“We teach physicians in one way.  We teach nurses.  We tech other health professionals.  I think we’re going to have to evolve  to another model.  If we think that team-based care is the most effective care because it improves communication and reduces medical errors, well I think we need to train our students differently.”

She’d even like to see doctors work differently, suggesting brainstorming sessions between researches and clinical doctors. 

“Clinicians need to know the basic science because they need to know how to apply it.  I would also flip that and say that the basic scientists need to be in the clinical realm to understand what are the relevant b basic science questions that need to be asked to move the agenda forward in improving care”

Medical research advances…and the care that results from them would both benefit, she says, with more people around the table – who don’t usually sit together. 


Laraque-Arena also acknowledges the milestone of being named the first woman and African American to run Upstate…but she also keeps it in perspective.

“I think the fact that the institution is open to a diversity of opinions is always a good thing.  So I think that’s good; it should be made a note of.  It also should be made a note of because there is still work to be done with respect to leadership by women, by diverse individuals.  So yes, it is notable and it is good and I’m happy about it, but then we move on to the work that needs to be done.” 

Laraque-Arena takes over January 14th from Interim President Gregory Eastwood.  He’s run the hospital and medical school since David Smith resigned over questions about outside payment agreements with a hospital vendor. 

Laraque-Arena is currently chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center.  She’s also professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University.  Upstate officials say Laraque-Arena is considered a national expert on injury prevention, child abuse, and adolescent risk behaviors.  She’s also worked on delivery of  care in underserved communities.