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Dean's Letter - December 2012

Dear Weill Cornell Community,

This letter is a special one for me in that it marks the end of my first year as Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. I want to start by thanking you for your guidance and support as I have crafted my vision for Weill Cornell and begun to execute my strategy to take our great institution to new heights. I'm pleased to say that with your help, and the help of so many others, we have made substantial progress in 2012, and I believe we are well-positioned to accelerate our efforts in 2013. At Weill Cornell, we have an institution with first-rate clinical care, medical education and a unique opportunity to strengthen biomedical research — in effect, to bend the curve in academic medicine.

Here are some of these steps forward in our tripartite mission in 2012:

This year's incoming medical class had the highest mean grade point average in Weill Cornell history.

We recruited Dr. Lewis Cantley, one of the world's leading cancer researchers, as director of the newly-established Cancer Center at Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

We established the Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI), to be led by Dr. Costantino Iadecola, which will focus on neurodegenerative diseases. Both the Cancer Center and the BMRI will be structured as interdisciplinary research hubs, fostering collaboration between basic and translational scientists and clinicians to more efficiently and effectively spark research discoveries from bench to bedside and bedside to bench.

We have sought out new creative and educational partnerships with other universities and medical colleges.

We have begun to revise the curriculum to integrate preclinical and clinical courses throughout all four years of instruction.

We continue to embrace new technology, such as the continued implementation of iPads, to augment instruction.

We have made faculty mentorship and development a priority, establishing the Office of Faculty Development, led by Dr. Barbara Hempstead as associate dean of faculty development. Additional appointments this year include Dr. Rache Simmons and Dr. Carla Boutin-Foster as assistant deans of diversity, Dr. Michael Stewart as vice dean, Dr. John Leonard as associate dean of clinical research and Dr. Mary Simmerling as assistant dean of research integrity.

We have achieved much more, of course, and I am grateful for the efforts of all the remarkable people who are making it happen.

As I have said before, we must create a new paradigm in translational research. That paradigm, I believe, is to think about our community as having no boundaries, recognizing that patients are not simply a collection of diseases, and that having one disease alters the risk of having another. There is so much in common between molecular and cellular mechanisms across different diseases, and these commonalities can be leveraged to identify new targets and create new therapies.

We have identified six research areas of focus: neurobiology, cancer, cardiovascular biology/metabolic syndrome, precision medicine and stem cell biology. Medical breakthroughs in these areas will be the product of unprecedented collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, including the Cancer Center, BMRI and a new Joint Clinical Trials Office, providing patients with quicker access to new drugs and therapies.

Discoveries made by researchers in the lab are being applied by clinicians at the patient's bedside to an even greater extent as Weill Cornell expands its clinical footprint. The Iris Cantor Men's Health Center on East 61st Street opened in July, and the Weill Cornell Physician Organization opened an additional office on Broadway last month.

Despite our many accomplishments, we fully recognize that it is a challenging time to be in medicine. Markets are more competitive, new paradigms for care delivery are being developed and academic medical centers must attract and retain faculty, which requires resources. And yet government funding for biomedical research is declining. There's no question this is a difficult environment in which to thrive as an academic medical center.

But a challenging environment also provides opportunities. I have said that we want to be at the vanguard of solving the most complex problems in health care today. Among our leadership efforts is the establishment of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy, led by Dr. Rainu Kaushal, who will work to improve health and health care through the use of informatics and technology.

Our efforts in medical education, biomedical research and clinical care are also in partnership with Weill Cornell's collaborations with Cornell University and The Methodist Hospital in Houston. I have been impressed by the quality and vitality of these partnerships and look forward to their continued growth. And we continue our global initiatives at Weill Bugando in Tanzania, Gheskio in Haiti, Brazil, Vellore and in Qatar, where we celebrated 10 years of training doctors this year.

In closing, I want to recognize the contributions of several people and thank them for their commitment to Weill Cornell:

Dr. David Hajjar, the outgoing dean of the graduate school, who has overseen the graduate school's growth in both size and reputation over this last decade.

Dr. Andrew Schafer, who is stepping down as chair of the Department of Medicine.

Dr. John Savarese, who is ending his tenure as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.

As I look ahead to 2013 and beyond, I truly believe that our vision for Weill Cornell as one of the world's best academic medical centers is within sight. Part of my confidence is rooted in the fact that academic medical centers are the jewel in medicine's crown — we treat patients, we discover cures and we are significant contributors to the economies of our cities. The bigger driver of my confidence comes from my experience at Weill Cornell during my first year. Every day I have been here, I have discovered that the Weill Cornell community is truly remarkable in its ability to enrich the lives of all its members. It is because of this that I feel privileged, honored and delighted to be a part of it.

I wish you, your families and your loved ones good health and even greater happiness this holiday season, and I look forward to working with you in an exciting and fruitful new year.

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

Posted December 21, 2012 10:12 AM | Permalink to this post