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Dean's Letter - March 2018

Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

People often ask me, "What fuels your passion for diversity?" The reasons originate on a personal level, as they surmise, then quickly extend to the social.

For example, as I described in a recent editorial in AAMCNews, my own experience as an immigrant to the United States is closely tied to my belief in the importance of diversity. Many immigrants, including my family, were drawn to this country because of the educational opportunities available here. A sizeable number go on to medical or scientific professions, helping to provide culturally sensitive care to patients and making important contributions to education and biomedical research.

Restrictive immigration policies and rhetoric pose a significant threat to medicine and healthcare, and they are at odds with our nation's rich history of diversity. With the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program still unclear, it's essential to reiterate Cornell University's firm commitment to supporting its DACA students, which includes those enrolled at Weill Cornell Medicine, as articulated by President Martha Pollack in a September 5, 2017 statement.

Fostering diversity in all its forms-regardless of whether or not one identifies personally as a member of a particular group-is about more than social justice; it's also essential to ensuring that faculty, trainees, students, and staff are functioning optimally to achieve excellence. Diversity and gender equity in the workforce enable us to develop new solutions to complex problems in medicine and healthcare. Assisting all members of our community to advance in their careers and reach their full potential is critical to our mission.

Weill Cornell Medicine has many diversity initiatives that support women and individuals from diverse, underrepresented, and disadvantaged backgrounds in science and medicine. The Travelers Summer Research Fellowship Program, for example, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and gives 25 premedical students interested in aiding underserved communities the opportunity to engage in laboratory or clinical research, while learning about topics in cardiovascular physiology. Other programs target high school students, scientists-in-training, residents, and faculty in order to build a strong pipeline of talent at our institution and beyond.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion operates in conjunction with the Diversity Council to coordinate the many different initiatives that strive to achieve greater equity and inclusiveness. These include programs geared to the needs of women in medicine and science, men in medicine and science, the LGBT community, and the Tri-Institutional scientific community, among others. Groups such as the LGBT Steering Committee have launched innovations like the Safe Zone Ally training course, designed to increase awareness of the issues faced by LGBT persons in both clinical and non-clinical contexts.

Recent measures to enhance the culture of inclusion include a new Office of Student Diversity, the appointment of new deans for faculty and student diversity, an expansion of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the opening of a second dedicated childcare facility for faculty, staff, and students. Starting in 2018, full-tuition Dean's Diversity Scholarships will be awarded to two accepted medical students annually in order to enhance the diversity of the student body.

Weill Cornell Medicine's first-ever Diversity Week, scheduled for April 23-28, will showcase cutting-edge scholarship and engagement in this crucial field of study. Dr. Hannah Valantine, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity at the National Institutes of Health, will deliver a keynote address at 12pm in Uris Auditorium on April 23. The week will include a series of departmental grand rounds on diversity, an awards ceremony and reception, and focused conferences and seminars. Additional details will be available at

Weill Cornell Medicine has a lot to be proud of when it comes to diversity. Yet I know we can do more. That's why diversity is a core component of our institution's strategic planning process, which is quickly gaining momentum. At the beginning of the year, four planning groups were formed to address programs related to education, patient care, research, and mentorship & diversity; a fifth planning group on economics will focus on financial resources and space. These groups, which incorporate faculty, board members, and staff, will generate strategic analyses and recommendations to guide our planning for the next 5-10 years.

Our goal is to become a national leader in advancing diversity and inclusion within academic medicine. Achieving excellence in this arena will strengthen and give depth to our ongoing efforts in patient care, research, and education. I look forward to continuing to work with you in this endeavor.


Augustine M.K. Choi, MD

Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medicine

Provost for Medical Affairs
Cornell University