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Dean's Letter - December 2018

Dear Members of the WCM Community,

At a meeting of our Board of Overseers on September 26, followed by a community Town Hall meeting on October 1, I was pleased to present the working plan for our institutional vision for the next decade.  This working plan articulates key goals and objectives for Weill Cornell Medicine over the next five to ten years and encompasses our entire mission as an academic medical institution.  It seeks to sustain and expand our commitment to providing exemplary clinical care, conducting innovative biomedical research, and educating the next generation of physicians and scientists.  It will be the foundation for a new comprehensive fundraising campaign for Weill Cornell Medicine, which will be part of an overall Cornell University campaign and publicly announced at a later date.

The groundwork for this vision, or what we call Strategic Plan 4, was laid in early 2017, soon after I was appointed dean.  I held a series of departmental meetings with faculty, engaged the entire community in open Town Hall discussions, and formulated a vision statement informed by conversations with numerous stakeholders.  Five strategic planning workshops with senior administration and academic leadership were held in the second half of 2017 to launch the formal planning process.  At the beginning of this year, I charged the Strategic Plan 4 Steering Committee to think boldly and to develop an innovative and data-driven vision for our institution’s future.  More than 120 Overseers, faculty, students, and staff, organized in five planning groups and additional subcommittees, worked collaboratively to define WCM’s long-term academic and capital investment priorities. 

As we continue to refine our plans, I want to share with you the major goals that leverage our strengths and will focus our efforts in the coming years:

Accelerate development of new therapies.  Greater integration across our research enterprise and with partners will fuel therapeutic innovation in high-priority areas, including cancer, neuroscience, infectious disease, inflammation, cardiovascular biology, and metabolism.  To achieve our aim of doubling our research funding in the next decade, we plan to recruit 100 outstanding investigators in fields of greatest potential impact and to build our capacity and expertise in clinical research, an area with considerable room for growth.  Our efforts in clinical research will be coordinated with NewYork-Presbyterian at clinical sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens and will draw on our exceptionally diverse patient cohort.  Improvement of our research infrastructure, including optimization of existing lab space and strengthened core facilities, are other key objectives. 

Lead in the provision of innovative and patient-centered care.  New and expanded multidisciplinary clinical programs will improve the patient experience and support our clinical research initiatives.  We anticipate new comprehensive clinical programs in diabetes, brain health, women’s health, and cancer (lung, gynecologic, urologic, neurologic, pediatric) and seek to develop greater expertise in precision medicine, population health, and health disparities.  Strategic Plan 4 will ensure that patients throughout New York City will benefit from timely access to the highest quality of care provided by WCM physicians, as we expand primary care services in collaboration with our partner NewYork-Presbyterian and evolve NewYork-Presbyterian affiliate hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens into academic medical centers. 

Prepare the next generation of leaders in healthcare and biomedical science.  To continue to attract the best and brightest students, we will expand scholarship support and secure additional housing options for our student body.  Creation of an Institute for Educational Innovation will establish WCM as a center of excellence in the education and training of medical and graduate students.  The Institute will drive new educational initiatives and scholarship, foster the development of educational technologies, and house a Master Educators Academy to train faculty in best practices and innovative teaching skills.  We are also considering new and expanded combined degree programs that feature our premier MD curriculum and the academic resources at other Cornell University campuses, in order to optimally prepare students for a complex healthcare environment.

Foster a culture of mentorship and diversity.  Mentorship and diversity are essential to achieving excellence in research, clinical care, and education, and new and expanded programs in these areas will be integrated throughout Strategic Plan 4.  Initiatives introduced in the past two years, including the Mentoring Academy, Diversity Week, the Dean’s Diversity and Healthcare Disparity Research Awards, and the Dean’s Diversity Scholarships, will continue to be developed.  In the near term, we plan to roll out several new programs that will enhance the recruitment, development, and retention of a diverse body of faculty, trainees, and students.

Build new research, clinical, and educational spaces to achieve academic goals.  Following on the successful implementation of three previous strategic plans, Weill Cornell Medicine is poised for a period of unprecedented growth.  Additional space is needed across our mission: to enable a strategically essential expansion in our fundamental, translational, and especially clinical research programs; to meet the demands of our growing patient base; and to provide optimal housing for our student body.  This future increase in our campus footprint will be balanced with increased operational efficiency, allowing us to respond more nimbly to challenges in our unique competitive environment.

All of you will have a part to play as we implement Strategic Plan 4 and begin to shape the future of Weill Cornell Medicine.  We have a strong foundation in place and a clear direction ahead, and I look forward to working with all of you as we make our vision a reality.


Augustine M.K. Choi, MD

Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornel Medicine
Provost for Medical Affairs
Cornell University