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New York Medical College Student Receives Prestigious U.S. Public Health Award

Honoree recognized for continually leading innovative projects that have significant public health implications.

Date: May 18, 2020
Ebrahim Afshinnekoo, SOM Class of 2020
Ebrahim Afshinnekoo, SOM Class of 2020
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Jennifer Riekert, M.B.A.
Vice President of Communications and Strategic Initiatives
New York Medical College
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Valhalla, New York – Ebrahim Afshinnekoo, a member of the New York Medical College (NYMC) School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2021, has received the prestigious 2020 Excellence in Public Health Award by the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) in recognition of his commitment and work to improve health disparities and for exemplifying the USPHS’ mission to protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the U.S.

The award was presented by Lieutenant Colin Smith, medical officer in the Commission Core of the USPHS, during the NYMC SOM virtual hooding and awards ceremony on Sunday, May 17, 2020.

“Ebrahim’s groundbreaking work will play a major role in the future of public health and we are extremely proud to count him among our students at NYMC. This honor is very well deserved,” says Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of medicine and pharmacology.

Throughout his undergraduate and medical school years, Mr. Afshinnekoo has continually led innovative projects that have significant public health implications.

Most recently, he was clinical research associate on a project to test New York City (NYC) hospitals and urban environments for the prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other viruses and to address the limitations in patient testing by designing and optimizing a rapid LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 as well as a large-scale RNA sequencing platform for host and viral profiling. Mr. Afshinnekoo is now establishing a collaboration to run the LAMP assay at with samples collected at the NYMC Family Health Center and local hospitals. Mr. Afshinnekoo’s study has received IRB approval.

His research work began with the PathoMap study, a project to collect DNA from the NYC subway system to study the urban microbiome and create a molecular portrait of NYC. The study, which he coordinated and analyzed, led to two first-author publications in Cell Systems, which was heralded as a “breakthrough” by the editors for its scope and depth of analysis, and was featured on the cover of the journal, the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and more than r 300 other media outlets worldwide.

Mr. Afshinnekoo  is a co-founder of the International MetaSUB Consortium, a non-profit, research consortium dedicated to building a genetic profile of cities around the globe to improve their design and functionality, and positively impact health. Since its founding in 2015, the consortium has grown to include more than  100 cities. He currently serves as clinical director, overseeing the clinical applications of their research, including swabbing hospitals, ambulances, as well as mapping and monitoring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes.

“One of the reasons we founded the consortium was to be prepared for an event such as the COVID-19 pandemic, so that we could utilize next-generation sequencing technology to catalog and characterize urban microbiomes and aid public health officials and clinicians with surveillance and tracing,” says Mr. Afshinnekoo. “So when COVID-19 hit, we galvanized our resources to collect samples and try to adjust our protocols (which had been DNA-based sampling and analysis) to include RNA in order to detect SARS-CoV-2.” 

His research has led him beyond the laboratory, to work on science and technology development for Onegevity Health, a health intelligence company that utilizes artificial intelligence, advanced sequencing technology and multi-omics approaches towards precision wellness to improve and customize health recommendations. He is also working on Lab100 at Onegevity, a first-of-its-kind health clinic that uses advanced medical diagnostics, digital applications and data science to provide patients with the most comprehensive health report currently available, with the goal of particularly serving high risk individuals and underrepresented communities who can use the added support of the clinic’s screening metrics to empower them to lead healthier lifestyles.

“Given the large burden of morbidity and premature deaths from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, Ebrahim’s work will directly contribute to people living longer healthier lives with less burden of preventable disease, particularly in high-risk, underserved communities,” says Mill Etienne, M.D., MPH, FAAN, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of neurology and medicine.

New York Medical College
Founded in 1860, New York Medical College is one of the oldest and largest health sciences colleges in the country with nearly 1,500 students and 330 residents and clinical fellows, more than 2,600 faculty members and 23,200 living alumni. The College, which joined the Touro College and University System in 2011, is located in Westchester County, New York, and offers degrees from the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences, the School of Health Sciences and Practice, a School of Dental Medicine and a School of Nursing. NYMC provides a wide variety of clinical training opportunities for students, residents, and practitioners.