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Learning Communities

2021-2022 LC Events 2020-2021 LC Events

In 2014, we began our learning communities’ program in which each of our classes were divided into smaller cohorts that had community-established identities. The purpose of the learning community model at Upstate is three-fold: to build strong community and pride among students; to offer the very best advising and career development for students; and, to facilitate a culture of professionalism and wellness. In the summer of 2020, we capitalized on our experiences and reinvigorated the initiative by introducing a new context in which students' academic and professional success is at the center of all efforts.

Learning communities are theme-based and are named to honor Upstate faculty and administrators of significant impact. Click on a name below to see biographical information.

Learning Community Namesake Bios:

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Medical Education: Weiskotten LC

The Weiskotten Learning Community is focused on medical education.  Members of this learning community will interact with senior education leaders on topics that directly impact the curriculum at our medical school and in the larger context of medical education.  Recently, the LC has offered programs touching on global health in medical education, international medical education and health systems, and the transition of USMLE Step 1 to Pass/Fail.  If students are interested in a career in academic medicine, Weiskotten may be a good fit.

Herman Gates Weiskotten M.D. graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1909. Dr. Weiskotten began his career as a resident pathologist at the Hospital of the Good Shepherd in Syracuse and quickly became an instructor and eventually a professor at the College of Medicine. In 1922, he was made acting dean and officially became dean in 1925. He served in this capacity until 1951 while also serving as director of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd from 1925-1941. Dr. Weiskotten was a renowned physician in the city, serving as Onondaga County necrotomist from 1913-1925 and as commissioner of health for the city from 1926-1928. Dr. Weiskotten was also very active in furthering medical education. He authored numerous articles on the subject, served as the chairman of the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association, and was awarded the Abraham Flexner Award for distinguished service in medical education (1958). Dr. Weiskotten stepped down as dean of the College of Medicine in 1951 after the school was transferred to the State University of New York.

Global Health: Feldman LC

The Feldman Learning Community has as it’s theme Global Health.  Partnering with our Institute for Global Health and Translational Sciences, this learning community allows students the opportunity to advocate for global wellness.  Here’s more information about our Institute:  https://www.upstateresearch.org/about/research-centers-and-institutes/institute-for-global-health-and-translational-sciences/

Harry A. Feldman M.D. was a member of the George Washington University School of Medicine class of 1939. He was a leader in the fields of infectious disease and preventive medicine and contributed to pioneering studies on pneumococcal meningitis, pneumococcal pneumonia, tuberculosis, leprosy, and malaria. He served in the medical corps during World War II, joining in October 1942. In 1949, he became associate professor of medicine and director of research of the Wieting-Johnson Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases at SUNY Upstate. In 1959 he was promoted to chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Feldman published more than 200 articles, contributed to more than a dozen textbooks, and was co-editor of Bacterial Infections of Humans, which focused on epidemiology and control measures and was regarded for its thoroughness and comprehensive perspective. Dr. Feldman retired from Upstate in 1985. After his death that same year, the American Epidemiological Society dedicated an annual lecture to Dr. Feldman and an award in his honor is given by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 

Urban and Rural Medicine: Loguen Fraser LC

The Loguen-Fraser Learning Community is focused on Urban and Rural Medicine.  Through this LC, students can participate in our “house calls for the homeless” program, learn more about addiction medicine, better understand the uniqueness of rural medicine and more.  This learning community often partners with our Center for Civic Engagement to provide service to our larger community.

Sarah Loguen Fraser M.D. was born in 1850 in Syracuse, NY as Marinda Sarah Loguen. Her parents, Caroline Storum and the Reverend Jermain Wesley Loguen, were lifelong abolitionists and the family home was a safe house on the Underground Railroad that harbored nearly 1,500 escaped slaves on route to asylum in Canada. Dr. Loguen Fraser graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1876, making her the fourth Black woman in the United States to earn a formal medical degree. Her medical practice focused heavily on pediatric and obstetric care, due to need and personal inclination, but also owing to restrictions on women physicians of the era. Dr. Loguen Fraser moved to the Dominican Republic with her husband Dr. Charles Fraser, a pharmacist and plantation owner, and was able to run a free clinic with the funds from her husband’s successful business. Dr. Loguen Fraser was educated during the propitious years following the end of slavery, before the abrupt end of the egalitarian movement that suffocated under constraints of Jim Crow racism. By the turn of the century, she found herself struggling financially and professionally. She continued to practice despite these obstacles and was honored by Howard University on the 50th anniversary of her graduation from medical school. She died of kidney disease at her daughter’s home in 1933.

Wellness and Well-being: Jacobsen LC

The Jacobsen Learning Community is all about wellness and well-being!  Members of this learning community will learn more about and help to spread messages about the importance of work/life balance, healthy living, and how such concept interact with and can inform the culture of medicine and students’ performance in medical school.

Ellen Cook Jacobsen M.D. was a 1950 graduate of the Syracuse University College of Medicine. In 1954, Dr. Jacobsen became the first female instructor in the Department of Medicine at SUNY Upstate. She established the Student Health Service at Upstate in 1955 and the first Employee Health Service a decade later. Dr. Jacobsen felt strongly that physicians should have formal training in counseling and she took a leave of absence from the faculty in 1968 to complete a residency in psychiatry. In 1971, she rejoined the faculty with appointments to both the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry. She was the only faculty member at that time to hold dual appointments. Dr. Jacobsen was uniquely suited to head the Liaison and Consultation Service for Psychiatry, which interfaced between that department and all other clinical services in University Hospital to improve patient care, a position she was appointed to in 1972. In 1990, Dr. Jacobsen retired from Upstate. She was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award by the Upstate Alumni Association in 1990; the Onondaga County Medical Society Community Service Award in 1991; the SUNY Upstate President’s Award for Distinguished Service in 1998; and was named to the SUNY Alumni Honor Roll in 1999. 

Clinical Quality: Numann LC

The Numann Learning Community explores clinical quality and what that means for health systems, patient care and outcomes.  Its focus to date has been on leadership and how everyone in healthcare has an obligation to ensure clinical quality.  The Dean of our medical school serves as an advisor to this LC!

Patricia J. Numann MD, a 1965 alumna, completed her general surgery residency at Upstate Medical University in 1970. She became the first woman surgeon at Upstate University Hospital and the first woman to join the surgical faculty of the medical school. Dr. Numann held various administrative roles, including: Associate Dean for the College of Medicine, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, and Medical Director for University Hospital. She was made the Lloyd S. Rogers Professor of Surgery and SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in 2000. She is also a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor. Dr. Numann's scientific and clinical interests are in the area of thyroid and parathyroid disease and breast disease. She founded The Breast and Endocrine Center at Upstate, which now bears her name. She has served as Vice President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and President of the Association for Surgical Education. She was the second woman to become President of the American College of Surgeons and the first woman to chair the American Board of Surgery. She was one of the founding members of the Association for Surgical Education and founded the Association for Women Surgeons. She was the first woman elected to the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs. In 2006, Dr. Numann received the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal from the American Medical Women’s Association and was the first woman to receive The American College of Surgeon’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, she received the International Society of Surgeons’ highest honor, the ISS Prize. She has been elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, The Royal College of Surgeons of Thailand and the Association of Surgeons of India. In 2017, Dr. Numann was awarded the Lila A. Wallis Women’s Health Award from the American Medical Women’s Association and she was named an “Icon of Surgery" by the American College of Surgeons.

Ethics, Law and Activism: Threatte LC

The Threatte Learning Community’s theme is ethics, law, and activism.  Recent programs/discussions among members of this LC have centered on health care disparities, the impact of skin color and ethnicity on clinical diagnoses and research, and combatting anti-vaccine efforts.  Additionally, students have had the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and how to advocate for important issues.

Gregory A. Threatte M.D. is a 1973 graduate of the SUNY Upstate College of Medicine. Dr. Threatte was a post-doctoral fellow in Experimental Hematology at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley CA and assistant professor of Pathology at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He returned to his alma mater in 1986 as associate professor of Pathology, director of Clinical Chemistry, and deputy to the president for Minority Affairs. In his role with Minority Affairs he was concerned with increasing application and matriculation rates as well as graduation rates for minority students. He became chairman of the Department of Pathology in 2003. Dr. Threatte retired in 2012 and is currently professor emeritus of Pathology at Upstate. He is also trustee emeritus for Colgate University and is a trustee for The Commonwealth Medical College. 

Health Advocacy: Blackwell LC

The Blackwell Learning Community has health advocacy at its core.  Participants in this LC may learn about and experience advocacy in a number of ways.  Recently, activities and involvement have included education on what it means to be an advocate “in action”, how to use research to address public health concerns like firearm injuries, participating in point of care health monitoring in local neighborhoods, and vaccine outreach.

Elizabeth Blackwell graduated top of her class on January 21, 1849, after eighteen months of study. Blackwell faced discrimination from fellow students, faculty and the local community, which shunned her as an unnatural woman. She eventually earned the grudging respect of professors and classmates, but felt her continued training would be better done in Europe. She worked at hospitals in London and Paris, where she was routinely relegated to midwifery or nursing. She did manage to complete enough training to work as a surgeon. It was during her studies at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London that her lifelong friendship and collaboration with Florence Nightingale began. Dr. Blackwell relocated to New York City in 1851 where she faced continuous prejudice as a female physician; it was nearly impossible for her to practice in hospitals and clinics. In 1857, she opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Emily. During the Civil War the Blackwell sisters trained nurses for Union Hospitals, working closely with Nightingale to provide care to the sick and wounded. In 1868, Dr. Blackwell opened the Women’s Medical College in New York City.


Here are the highlights of our learning community program:

  • Students choose their community
  • Each LC has about 100 students from across all years of the curriculum (~25 from each class)
  • Each LC has a number of clinical faculty leads with expertise/experience in the theme area
  • Each LC has basic science and clinical advisors
  • Student leaders are identified in each community to assist the leads with programming/events
  • Applicable student organizations and elective courses are tied to LCs
  • Each LC hosts a number of themed events throughout the academic year
  • Academic small groups are organized by learning community
  • Interactions with BSci, Clinical, and Specialty Advisors are scheduled as part of the curriculum

Communities meet regularly throughout the academic year in both social and educational contexts.  There are targeted, class specific sessions that serve to complement advising and career development and enhance comprehension of such things as professionalism, cultural competence and team work. Such meetings also focus on things like summer opportunities, what to expect in year two and year three, review of CVs and personal statements, ERAS and the Match, interview preparation and Rank Order Lists.

One of the things that leads to the success of learning communities is their identity. Such identities are tied to the roots of the institution.  The strategy of advising and career development provides opportunities for students to have interactions with several types of individuals who have no direct influence on their assessment or advancement decisions, including clinical advisors, basic science advisors and student advisors. Students are able to connect to the advisors with whom they feel most comfortable. Advisors in each Learning Community represent various disciplines.