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Dean's Letter - March 2017

Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

The past six weeks since being named dean of this great institution have been exhilarating. I have been meeting extensively with Overseers, senior administration, faculty, staff, students, and partners and learning even more about the many different ways we are working collaboratively to advance Weill Cornell Medicine's mission. I am continually struck by the passion and commitment of members of our community working across fields and departments, and I thank all of you for your support, your feedback, and your enthusiasm in helping Weill Cornell Medicine attain even greater heights of excellence.

Progress continues across our mission to care, discover, and teach. Weill Cornell Medicine began 2017 with an array of new programs and increased capabilities it did not have previously. These include clinical services launched with partner NewYork-Presbyterian, including robotic heart surgery, specialized ambulances for stroke patients, and telemedicine to help patients connect more easily with our physicians. Our research enterprise--spanning basic science, translational, and clinical efforts--is stronger due to increased grant writing support and several new initiatives designed to assist our investigators in bringing drug candidates to clinical trial and then to the marketplace. In the educational realm, students and trainees will benefit from new, joint programs with partner institutions in fields including bioethics, rural medicine, and healthcare leadership.

In just the past few months, we've also had several key advances I'd like to highlight:

  • Thanks to an extremely generous gift of $12.5 million from the Feil family, including Vice Chair Overseer Jeffrey Feil, our students will have additional new space for study and relaxation. The Feil Family Student Center, which will increase our dedicated student space by nearly 75 percent, will support our medical school curriculum with state-of-the-art technology and significantly enhance the learning experience for both medical and graduate students. Construction on the facility will begin in June.
  • The Dean's Entrepreneurship Lab, or eLab, was officially rolled out in January and provides a full suite of specialized resources in biomedical entrepreneurship to our faculty, postdocs, and students to assist them in translating their discoveries into new products to improve patient care. The eLab joins programs, including the Daedalus Fund for Innovation, Office of Biopharma Alliances and Research Collaborations, and Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, that are helping to generate a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurship at Weill Cornell Medicine. The eLab launch was marked by a highly successful Startup Symposium co-hosted with Cornell University.
  • Season 2 of the We Are Weill Cornell Medicine multimedia campaign, featuring profiles of our dedicated faculty and staff, kicked off this winter. The campaign, which celebrates our community and its achievements through stories, photos, and videos, has been very popular on campus and has reached an additional audience through social media and advertising. Engage with the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram using the hashtag #WeAreWCM.
  • Dr. Fernando J. Martinez, the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine, was named Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. In this role, he plans to initiate or expand programs that aim to understand the biological basis of advanced lung diseases, and then personalize treatments and improve care for people living with these conditions.
  • Dr. Henry W. Murray, MD '72, the Arthur R. Ashe Professor of Medicine, has been appointed to the newly created position of Student Ombudsperson. The Student Ombudsperson Office offers a safe and confidential environment where all students at Weill Cornell Medicine may discuss problems or issues that interfere with work, study, or student life and that may involve a classmate, staff member, or instructor.
  • Our faculty have published a number of groundbreaking studies over the past months, including a new method of creating blood vessel cells to repair injured tissues, a study that provides insights into why the brain is so reliant on sugar to function, and results from a cross-campus collaboration showing that stiffening of the environment surrounding a metastatic tumor plays a key role in the blood vessel makeup of the tumor.

Many more developments have occurred and are detailed in the full report. As we move into the warmer months and the end of the academic year, I anticipate a further intensification of efforts. I look forward to sharing additional updates and more details about the strategic vision that we are collectively shaping for Weill Cornell Medicine.


Augustine M.K. Choi, M.D.

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