Pascal James Imperato, MD, MPH&TM, MACP

Dr. Pascal James Imperato is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer of the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center. He is also Founding Dean, Dean Emeritus, and Distinguished Service Professor of the School of Public Health.

Prior to becoming Dean, he was Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health in the College of Medicine. He received his BS degree in biology, magna cum laude, from St. John’s College, where he was mentored by the distinguished biologist and parasitologist, Dr. C. William Lacaillade. He received his MD degree from the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, College of Medicine. Following his second year, he was a Research Fellow of the Health Research Council of the City of New York. He spent the summer in Downstate’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology studying Plasmodium berghei under the eminent parasitologist, Dr. Herbert Walton Cox. He then spent several months of his fourth year as a Smith, Kline, and French Foreign Fellow providing medical care at Kowak, a remote bush clinic in the North Mara District of Tanganyika Territory (now Tanzania). While there, he also conducted a study of malaria parasitemia in clinically healthy people. During this time and throughout his career, he came under the tutelage of Dr. Duncan W. Clark, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Community Health, and former Dean of the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

He completed his residency in internal medicine at Long Island College Hospital, where he was assigned to the Tropical Disease Clinic under Dr. William Gordon Mullin. He then served as a physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club. He was awarded the Glorney-Raisbeck Fellowship of the New York Academy of Medicine, and served his fellowship at the International Center for Medical Research and Training (ICMRT) located at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, and at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, from where he received his MPH&TM degree. While in Colombia, he worked with Dr. Paul David Pavy, III on his studies of ethnomedicine among healers along the Rio Raposo in the Pacific lowland rain forest. At Tulane, he was mentored in parasitology by Dr. Paul Chester Beaver, and in tropical medicine by Dr. Philip Edmund Clinton Manson-Bahr. An expert on leishmaniasis, Manson-Bahr encouraged him to study the disease in West Africa. Upon graduating from Tulane, he was awarded the Tropical Medicine Prize and the Faculty Award for the Best Master’s Thesis. He was also inducted into the Eta Chapter of the Delta Omega Society, the national honorary public health society.

Dr. Imperato was then recruited to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (then the Communicable Disease Center) by Dr. Alexander D. Langmuir, Director of the Epidemiology Branch, and Dr. Donald Ainsle Henderson, Head of the Smallpox Eradication Unit. On joining the CDC, he entered the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service as a Lieutenant Commander, and is currently a Captain in the Inactive Reserve. He served for six years as a medical epidemiologist with the Center in West Africa. Based in Mali, he directed mass immunization campaigns against smallpox, measles, yellow fever, cholera, and meningococcal meningitis. He also conducted research on these diseases as well as on leishmaniasis and histoplasmosis. He studied traditional African therapeutic systems in Mali and their interactions with allopathic medicine. His field studies of the art of the Bamana, Dogon, and Peul peoples of Mali are internationally valued in the field of African art scholarship. For his work in Africa, the US Department of State awarded him its Meritorious Honor Award and Medal, as did the U.S. Agency for International Development.

During his six-year tenure at the New York City Department of Health, he successively served as Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control and Principal Epidemiologist, First Deputy Commissioner of Health, Director of the department’s Residency Training Program in Public Health, and as Chair of the New York City Swine Influenza Immunization Task Force. Mayor Abraham D. Beame then appointed him as Commissioner of Health and Acting Health Services Administrator of New York City. He also simultaneously served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Chair of the New York City Board of Health, and chaired the Interagency Health Council and the Executive Committee of the Health Systems Agency. He later served in these positions under Mayor Edward I. Koch. His mentors at the New York City Department of Health were Dr. Lowell E. Bellin, who served as Commissioner of Health from 1974 to 1977, Dr. Aaron D. Chaves, Assistant Commissioner for Chronic and Communicable Diseases, Dr. Howard B. Shookhoff, Chief of the Division of Tropical Medicine, and Louis Neugeborn, Deputy Commissioner for Administration.

One of his major achievements while at the Department of Health was the creation of the Nurse Epidemiology Program. This program was initiated with the collaboration of the New York Hospital School of Nursing, and the Department of Public Health at Cornell University Medical College. Through this program, public health nurses were given a year-long course in epidemiology practice. They were then hired by the Department, and became field epidemiologists.

As Commissioner of Health, he recruited physicians from the National Health Service Corps to provide primary care and preventive services to people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

While at the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Imperato was Clinical Professor of Public Health at Cornell University Medical College and on the faculty of the School of Public Health at Columbia University. On leaving the New York City Department of Health, he became Professor and Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health in the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, where he succeeded one of his mentors, Dr. Duncan W. Clark, an internationally eminent leader in public health and preventive medicine. Dr. Imperato was later appointed Distinguished Service Professor.

To read more about Dr. Imperato’s work, visit SUNY Downstate School of Public Health.