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Dean's Letter - December 2016

Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

As the year draws to a close, it is heartening to reflect on the advances at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) that will help make 2017 even better for people across the city and around the globe. Many of our advances are born from collaborations between departments, across campuses, and with partner institutions. Thus, we are particularly excited to begin working with Cornell University's President-elect Martha E. Pollack to find new areas of synergy within the Cornell community.

At WCM, our physicians are continuing to lead the way in offering the newest therapies and the best care to patients. In collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center, and the New York City Fire Department, we rolled out the first mobile stroke treatment unit on the East Coast, an emergency vehicle equipped with a portable computed tomography scanner, a highly specialized team of medical providers, and medications that are critical to treating stroke. We also opened two new practices in midtown, the Sean Parker Institute for the Voice, which works closely with our Center for the Performing Artist, and the Center for Comprehensive Spine Care, which combines expertise across four departments.

Interdisciplinary collaborations with scientists in Ithaca and at Cornell Tech are allowing Weill Cornell Medicine researchers to draw on a deeper pool of expertise and gain an understanding of cells, organs, and systems at a level never before possible. For instance, Dr. Claudia Fischbach-Teschl in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering and Dr. Lewis Cantley at WCM are working together to establish the interdisciplinary Center on the Physics of Cancer Metabolism with the goal of gaining an unprecedented understanding of the mechanisms of cancer survival and metastasis.

Weill Cornell is expanding its educational programs to address the needs of the next generation of healthcare leaders. In conjunction with Cornell's Johnson School of Management, WCM launched a two-year Executive MBA/MS Healthcare Leadership program, focused on health care throughout the United States, in particular health care systems that are experiencing vast changes in structure, payment, and regulatory requirements.

These remarkable advances are a testament to the dedication of the faculty, staff, and students at Weill Cornell Medicine and to the support of our Board of Overseers, partners, and friends who share our vision. While we continue to evolve as an institution, our mission to care, discover, and teach remains steadfast.

I would like to share with you several more recent highlights of our community's activities over the past few months:

  • Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and The Rockefeller University established a new drug discovery company called Bridge Medicines, in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., and healthcare investment firms Bay City Capital and Deerfield Management. The company is aimed at seamlessly moving research projects from early-stage work to clinical trials in patients, the last step in the drug discovery process.
  • Seven faculty members received awards from the Daedalus Fund for Innovation, an innovative Weill Cornell Medicine program that helps advance promising applied and translational research projects and emerging technologies that have commercial potential.
  • A significant foundational gift from Overseer Ellen and Trustee Gary Davis will launch the Ellen and Gary Davis Immune Monitoring Core, a critical research infrastructure that will serve as a repository for patient tumor samples, genomic sequencing, and bioinformatics.
  • Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Kaplitt is the first physician in New York to use a new procedure called MRI-guided ultrasound ablation to reduce essential tremor. The treatment is part of a clinical trial testing the use of this technology to eliminate the source of tremors in a completely non-invasive way.
  • Dr. Yoon Kang has been appointed to the newly created position of Associate Dean for Program Development and Operations of Medical Education. Her responsibilities are to oversee the development and implementation of curricular innovations and enhancements for our medical students.
  • Dr. Dana Zappetti, a pulmonary and critical care physician strongly committed to medical education, was appointed Associate Dean for Student Affairs.
  • Our faculty have published a number of groundbreaking research articles recently, including a study identifying the crucial switch that inactivates one X chromosome in every cell, ensuring healthy development in all female mammals.  Human embryonic stem cells have been used to determine the functional role of three genetic mutations implicated in type 2 diabetes, and another study showed that the risk of aortic dissection or rupture is elevated during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

I thank you all for a productive year and wish you the very best for the holidays and the New Year.


Augustine M.K. Choi, M.D.

Interim Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College
Interim Provost for Medical Affairs, Cornell University
Weill Chairman, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Department of Medicine