Dean's Letter – December 2017

Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

My first year as dean—technically my first 348 days—has been both intense and invigorating. Together we are successfully ensuring that the work of Weill Cornell Medicine—its commitment to compassionate care, academic scholarship, and teaching excellence—continues stronger than ever before. With an exceptionally knowledgeable and dedicated senior leadership team in place, we are moving forward across our mission, developing our next strategic plan, and readying ourselves to face the challenges that lie ahead.

As someone who relies heavily on data, I'm happy to share some of the numbers that underlie my confidence.

  • With a total of 1,320 medical faculty members in our Physician Organization, our clinical enterprise continues to grow at our York Avenue campus and locations throughout Lower Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. There are now 140 WCM faculty members based at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital, 52 at NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens, and 24 at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, which officially became a part of the NewYork-Presbyterian Regional Hospital Network a year ago. Total patient visits across our Physician Organization topped 1.5 million in 2017, fueling a 6% increase in clinical revenues this year.

  • Research funding rose to $239 million in FY 2017, an increase of 5% over the previous year. Even more impressively, sponsored research revenues have increased by 25% since the opening of the Belfer Research Building in 2014, reflecting early positive results following WCM's strategic investment in translational research. The biggest driver of this 3-year growth has been research alliances with the biopharmaceutical industry, which increased by 102%, followed by funding from clinical trials (45%) and private foundations (36%).

  • Chosen from 6,245 applicants, our entering class of 106 MD and MD-PhD students had median MCAT scores in the 96th-97th percentile and median GPAs of 3.84, among the highest in the country. Our 54 entering PhD students include 2 Fulbright Scholars and 21 individuals who have already been published in scientific journals; they were joined in the Graduate School by 166 new students enrolled in 7 master's programs, including the new Executive MBA/MS in Healthcare Leadership.

These figures indicate that Weill Cornell Medicine is thriving in New York City's competitive healthcare market, while successfully building its research base and attracting top students to campus.

Specific examples of progress include clinical innovations, such as telemedicine, which are enabling us to reach more patients and improve their experience, particularly when visiting the emergency room. Prestigious research grants in areas including prostate cancer and brain tumors illustrate how our faculty members are propelling academic medicine forward. And this month we are submitting our institutional self-study report to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education as part of our reaccreditation process--a herculean effort that has involved many individuals throughout our community and led to significant enhancements of the educational experience for our students.

Weill Cornell Medicine is in a strong place, poised to advance our position as one of the leading institutions in academic medicine nationwide. Strategic Plan 4 is still in the early stages of development, but it will address programs across the scope of our mission and seek to maximize the academic success of students, trainees, and faculty. It will ensure that resources, including space, funds, people, and technology, are being used in the most effective and efficient way possible, in order to intensify the impact of our institution on academic medicine and on society.

Diversity and mentorship are two priorities that will be addressed in Strategic Plan 4. The diversity of our student body has traditionally been high, with 16% of this year's entering medical class and 20% of incoming PhD students coming from underrepresented backgrounds. Our faculty includes 7% who are members of groups underrepresented in medicine and 43% who are female. Weill Cornell Medicine exceeds national norms for diversity at medical schools, which according to the Association of American Medical Colleges have an average of 6% underrepresented faculty and 39% women.

However, Weill Cornell Medicine--located in one of the most diverse cities in the world--can do better and become a real leader in this area. The patients who come to us for care and the communities we serve need physicians, scientists, and educators with varied backgrounds, disparate perspectives, and multiple abilities. Events like Diversity Week, scheduled for April 23-27, 2018, will celebrate and foster greater awareness of diversity and healthcare disparities throughout our institution.

Mentorship is key to ensuring that all early-career faculty and trainees, especially those who are female and members of underrepresented minorities, progress through the academic ranks to achieve their full potential. One way to gauge how well we are doing in this area is to consider research grants from the National Institutes of Health that are specifically designed for career development of exceptional early-career faculty and trainees. Over the past four years, for example, the number of Career Development Awards received by WCM trainees and faculty has increased from 36 to 47. As we work to strengthen our portfolio of mentoring initiatives and resources, our goal will be to improve even more on metrics like this.

In the national arena, 2017 has brought a rapidly changing political environment, combined with heartrending natural disasters and senseless acts of violence, that have affected many of us deeply and kept us focused on the news. Yet developments around the country have also reminded us of the people and the values that we hold most dear, as well as of our own capacity to make an impact. As the holiday season approaches, I wish you and your families and friends all the best for the coming year. I look forward to working with all of you—Overseers, faculty, staff, trainees, students, and partners—as we continue to move the needle forward at Weill Cornell Medicine in 2018.


Augustine M.K. Choi, M.D.

Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medicine

Provost for Medical Affairs
Cornell University