Office of the Dean > Dean's Letters

Dean's Letter - February 2013

Dear Weill Cornell Community:

Following one of our most successful years at Weill Cornell, I look forward to intensifying our efforts to lead the way in academic medicine in 2013. This year started on a high for me:

First came the news that the Discoveries that Make a Difference Campaign has reached our goal of $1.3 billion, thanks to the dedication of Sandy Weill, Tony Gotto, Bob Appel, and all the members of our Board and our Campaign Steering Committee. This accomplishment will enable us to complete the state-of-the-art Belfer Research Building and to begin to populate it with the most brilliant minds in biomedical research and translational medicine, shaping the future of healthcare for many generations to come.

Second was my long-awaited visit to GHESKIO (Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections) in Haiti. This wonderful initiative, founded and directed by alumnus Dr. Jean Pape (MD '75), a Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell, is a shining example of our global health program. My arrival coincided almost exactly with the third anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince in January 2010. Most of the damage from that disaster has now been cleaned up, although there are still tent cities of refugees surrounding the capital. The unemployment rate in the impoverished neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince surrounding GHESKIO is a staggering 80 percent. Nevertheless, there are signs of new construction in progress.

Dr. Pape has assembled an amazing team of health professionals that has been able to go far beyond its original mission of providing HIV/AIDS services and counseling in Haiti. In addition to this ongoing work, GHESKIO now treats substantial numbers of patients with tuberculosis, cervical cancer, and cholera. Currently, people in Haiti have a 15% chance of developing tuberculosis, often in a multidrug-resistant form. Cervical cancer, which is caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, is on the rise and has become the most frequent cause of cancer death in Haitian women. GHESKIO also provides maternal and child health care, reproductive health care, clean water and food, education, and vocational training to residents in surrounding areas.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has become a daunting challenge in Haiti. The second GHESKIO facility in northeast Port-au-Prince is currently dedicated to patients with this condition; each is housed in a special isolated tent. A new 35-bed tuberculosis hospital and outpatient clinic is also being built. Unfortunately, Haiti is not the only country affected by multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Some countries in Eastern Europe have been experiencing upward trends in this disease, and a number of cases have reached our shores. Recently, a talented group of researchers here at Weill Cornell began collaborating with clinicians and researchers in Haiti. In a wonderful example of a bench-to-bedside approach to medicine, drugs being developed here for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis will be tested in clinical trials in Haitian populations.

It was an eye-opening experience to witness firsthand the struggles and healthcare challenges that are so much a part of everyday life in Haiti. The work being done by GHESKIO both independently and in partnership with Weill Cornell is truly inspiring. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to visit Port-au-Prince and to talk with the doctors there about how they are making a difference in the lives of so many individuals in Haiti.

There have been numerous developments in medical education, clinical care, and biomedical research at Weill Cornell and our affiliates in the past several months. I would like to highlight two milestones that are especially significant:

— We are establishing a Center for Prostate Cancer at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, to be led by Dr. Ashutosh Tewari. This center is part of the newly expanded Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, directed by Dr. Lewis Cantley.

— We are taking the lead in translational research with the creation of the Institute for Precision Medicine, to be headed by pathologist and prostate cancer expert Dr. Mark Rubin. Like the Cancer Center and the newly named Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, the Institute for Precision Medicine will be an interdisciplinary research hub that marries the latest genetic technologies with basic and clinical research to speed the development of personalized treatments and therapies.

From New York to Haiti, Qatar to Houston, and at our other affiliated institutions around the world, Weill Cornell researchers and clinicians are embarking on collaborative endeavors that will bring advances made in the laboratory directly to the patients who need them most. My trip to Port-au-Prince reminded me anew of the enormous potential that translational research holds. I look forward with anticipation to seeing what discoveries and innovations in care might soon arise at Weill Cornell, following the completion of the most successful campaign in the history of the Medical College.

With warm regards,

Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D.
Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medical College
Provost for Medical Affairs
Cornell University

Posted February 15, 2013 10:42 AM | Permalink to this post