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Dean's Letter - May 2018

Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

This year is the 120th anniversary of the founding of Weill Cornell Medicine. Throughout our rich and varied history, the art and science of medicine, the principles of scientific investigation, and the nuances of teaching have been passed down from one generation of physicians and scientists to another.

2018 also marks 20 years since Weill Cornell Medicine renamed itself in appreciation for the outstanding leadership of Joan and Sanford I. Weill. To commemorate this occasion, the inaugural Joan and Sanford I. Weill Exemplary Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Jean Pape, the Howard and Carol Holtzmann Professor in Clinical Medicine and the founder and director of GHESKIO in Haiti. A pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Dr. Pape is also part of a distinguished line of mentors and mentees at the Center for Global Health.

Mentorship, like diversity, has been a passion of mine throughout my career. There are many reasons to advocate for a stronger culture of mentorship, as I outlined in an earlier message to the community. These include a report from the National Institutes of Health indicating that the nation's supply of physicians engaged in research is dropping, early-career physician-scientists are struggling to find mentors, and the proportion of NIH-funded principal investigators over the age of 60 is increasing. I feel strongly that medical centers need to invest in the academic pipeline through mentorship, in order to facilitate the seamless transfer of knowledge across generations. This should occur not only between physician-scientists, but also between clinical researchers, clinicians, scientists, and educators.

A thriving culture of mentorship at Weill Cornell Medicine requires a combination of grassroots and top-down approaches. Trainees and faculty members have launched mentorship programs on their own, in order to address needs within departments and across the institution. In 2009, for example, Dr. Elizabeth Arleo, Associate Professor of Radiology, created the Mentorship Program for Women in Radiology while a fellow at our medical center. It initially paired first-year female radiology residents with more senior female residents and faculty; due to demand by male residents, it was subsequently expanded to all first-year radiology residents.

Initiatives including the Leadership in Academic Medicine Program (LAMP), led by Dr. Judy Tung, and the Healthcare Leadership Fellows program, sponsored by the Michael J. Wolk Heart Foundation, seek to develop cohorts of early-career faculty through workshops, training, and focused interactions with senior mentors. The Faculty Advancement and Research Mentorship (FARM) program was established in 2015 by Dr. Paraskevi Giannakakou, Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmacology in Medicine, and Dr. Joseph Scandura, Associate Professor of Medicine, to enhance grant writing skills and provide personalized support throughout the grant submission process. In the past three years, it has enjoyed a funding success rate of more than 60%, compared to the national average of 18% for NIH new investigators. In addition, it has generated more than $16.6 million in NIH funding, representing an impressive 276-fold return on investment.

Additional resources for faculty to grow and achieve academic success are housed within the Office of Faculty Development, which is led by Associate Dean Dr. Katherine Hajjar. Dr. Ruth Gotian recently joined this office as Assistant Dean for Mentoring. Among her responsibilities are the establishment of an institution-wide Mentoring Academy, which will take a proactive approach to mentoring and sponsorship through the creation of personal mentoring teams for all faculty researchers, clinicians, and educators. The Office of Faculty Development will expand its focus on clinician-educator faculty by developing a series of workshops, seminars, and e-Learning programs aimed at scholarship and career advancement. It will partner with a number of other entities, including the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the Office of the Research Dean, and the Clinical and Translational Science Center, which offers training and education programs for faculty, trainees, and students.

In addition, a number of departments provide formal and informal mentorship programs through research seminars, faculty development workshops, personal mentorship committees, seed grants, and awards to support early-career investigators in applying for NIH Career Development (K) awards. Within the Weill Department of Medicine, such efforts have led to a 217% increase in K award funding over the past 5 years.

Mentorship is critical in medicine and science, as it strengthens the pipeline of talent across our mission to care, discover, and teach. Like diversity, it is a core component of Weill Cornell Medicine's strategic planning process, and a subcommittee on mentorship is currently evaluating ways to build on existing initiatives and introduce new ones.

As a longtime proponent of mentorship, what inspires me more than anything else is the joy I feel at witnessing the success of a mentee. And as dean, I am committed to ensuring that Weill Cornell Medicine's talented students, trainees, faculty, and staff reach their full potential. Thank you for your ongoing efforts in mentorship and faculty development, and for working with me to achieve this goal.

Augustine M.K. Choi, MD

Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medicine

Provost for Medical Affairs
Cornell University