Seven things you should know about Selim Suner ’86, ScM’87, MD’92

If the name seems familiar, it’s likely because Dr. Selim Suner has been frequently sought by newspapers and television stations in Rhode Island for his expertise on how local hospitals are handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr. S1uner is the Director for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Medicine at the Rhode Island Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine and also serves as Chairman of Rhode Island Hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Committee. Since taking on that role in 2005, he has always worried about what will come next, and it is his job to plan for what could happen, informed by facts on the ground. Currently, this includes serving as the medical director of the Lifespan Alternative Hospital at the Rhode Island Convention Center, a task which has required his attention almost 24/7 since its opening on December 1. 

2He earned his undergraduate and masters degrees in biomedical engineering, and was part of the first graduating class of the Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital Residency Program in Emergency Medicine.  He came to Providence in 1982 from Istanbul and stayed “because it’s Brown,” citing the intellectual curiosity of students in making it a pleasure to have learned, and continue to teach, here. 

3His favorite course as an undergraduate was Neuroscience 100, a laboratory class teaching the techniques of electrophysiology, led by Dr. John Donoghue. Suner continued working in the lab with Donoghue as a student, and was involved in the initial phases of Braingate, Brown’s research team that includes leading neurologists, neuroscientists, engineers, computer scientists, neurosurgeons, mathematicians, and other researchers – all focused on developing brain-computer interface technologies to restore the communication, mobility, and independence of people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss. 


He is a Professor of Emergency Medicine, Professor of Surgery, and Professor of Engineering at Brown. Although Suner is currently on a teaching sabbatical as he addresses the pandemic in the hospital, he normally co-teaches ENGN 2910G (Topics in Translational Research and Technologies) with Professor Anubhav Tripathi and is hopeful to get back into the classroom next year. 


Although a vaccine has recently arrived, he believes it is not coming in numbers great enough to make a significant impact on the immediate disease transmission.  Even though it will be beneficial for the higher risk populations like the elderly and healthcare workers, it will take six to nine months for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.


The Suner family loves to travel, usually taking two or three trips a year. One goal is to see a National Hockey League game in every NHL rink in the U.S. and Canada. “We had to stop that for now. It’s a bad year. But we’re strong, we’re perservering. We’ll get through this as family and as a community,” he said. 


His most important health advice for this winter? 
Wear a mask and social distance.