Dear Weill Cornell Medicine Community,
With the 2018-19 academic year off to a great start, I’d like to welcome all the medical and graduate students who recently began their studies here at Weill Cornell Medicine. This August we were joined by 106 medical students, including 14 enrolled in the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program, and 71 PhD students. 175 individuals began Master’s programs, which includes 37 who entered the Physician Assistants program in March. These students are characterized by their high achievement and diversity, and we are thrilled to have them continuing the legacy of academic excellence, collaboration, and service that characterizes our community.
As we move forward with classes and this year’s business, I want to update you on a couple of items. First, Weill Cornell Medicine closed out the fiscal year in June, which gave us an opportunity to take stock of progress made in 2018. One finding, which is particularly impressive in our competitive environment, was that sponsored research funding increased by 10% compared to the previous year. This includes an 8% increase in government funding for research, a 19% increase in private foundation grants, and a 17% increase in clinical trial support. Kudos to all our investigators who are submitting and winning grants, engaging in studies that will fuel therapeutic innovation, and mentoring colleagues in research.
We also had one of our strongest years in faculty recruitment. Four new department chairs were appointed in Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, and effective October 1, Obstetrics and Gynecology. And six renowned researchers joined Weill Cornell Medicine to head programs in aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, healthcare delivery, reproductive genomics, breast cancer, and HIV. We are excited to have these academic leaders on board and look forward to continuing to attract and retain top academic talent across departments.
Second, significant progress has been made on Strategic Plan 4 (SP4), with more than 120 Overseers, faculty, and staff coming together to define key priorities in research, patient care, education, mentorship & diversity, and institutional economics. Preliminary recommendations were made to the Board of Overseers in the spring and refined at a retreat in July. An SP4 working plan is being presented to the board this month and to the WCM community at a Town Hall meeting later on October 1. I look forward to sharing it with you as our vision for the future continues to crystallize.
Finally, I hope that all of you had some time over the summer to slow down, decompress, and return refreshed for the academic year. According to current estimates, burnout affects physicians at twice the rate of the general population, with serious consequences for ourselves and our patients. It’s crucial that all of us regularly take the time to step back, care for ourselves, and remember why we’re here – the reasons we chose to become a clinician or a scientist, or the path that led to us working at an academic medical center.
Clinician burnout is a complicated issue that has fortunately been receiving much needed attention around the country. Collectively, we need to commit to developing a stronger culture of well-being and to addressing the organizational and systemic challenges that tax us. Although there are no easy solutions, it’s important that we keep the conversation going here at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Mindfulness approaches, such as meditation and yoga, are one strategy for managing stress now used at many medical centers in the U.S. Programs take various forms, but generally emphasize techniques for focusing on being present in the moment. When we’re running around to classes or appointments or meetings, trying to complete a series of tasks and face down deadlines, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture. Regularly setting aside time to pay attention to one’s breathing, body, and state of mind can help to enhance mental health and overall well-being. Finding opportunities to connect with others and share experiences can also be extremely beneficial.
Information about mindfulness, as well as a wealth of wellness resources geared towards students, can be found at the “Well at Weill” page. And of course, WCM employees should be reminded that they and their dependents can receive confidential, complimentary counseling by calling 212-746-5890 or emailing EAPC@med.cornell.edu.
I’m confident that Weill Cornell Medicine has another great academic year ahead, and I’m truly thrilled and grateful to be working with all of you as it unfolds.
Augustine M.K. Choi, MD
Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medicine
Provost for Medical Affairs