October Dean's Letter

Dear Members of the Weill Cornell Medicine Community,

I may be biased – but Weill Cornell Medicine’s students are among the best.  They enter medical or graduate school with an array of accomplishments already under their belts, then they train with world-class physicians and scientists at an institution ranked in the top ten by U.S. News & World Report.  In their spare time, medical students lead initiatives that are improving healthcare for underserved groups in New York City, such as uninsured patients, the LGBTQ+ community, and people seeking asylum in the US.  Graduate students are making scientific discoveries and launching careers as researchers, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, and much more.

It’s no surprise that more Weill Cornell MDs go on to careers in academia than any other medical school in the country, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.  This is one of my favorite statistics, and what it illustrates – regardless of the specific career path that any individual student ultimately takes – is that Weill Cornell Medicine graduates push the envelope.  They actively contribute to medical and scientific knowledge.  They pass on their expertise to others.  And they define the fields and specialties in which they work.  It’s in their DNA.

And as an institution, Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to optimizing the student experience for these outstanding individuals.  Just a few weeks ago, we were thrilled to announce a new program that will provide debt-free education to all medical students with demonstrated financial need.  A lead gift from The Starr Foundation, directed by Weill Cornell Medicine Overseer Maurice R. Greenberg, in partnership with gifts from Joan and Board of Overseers Chairman Emeritus Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation have made this longstanding goal possible.  This program, which starts with the 2019-20 academic year, will ensure that current and future generations of students are able to pursue medical education without the often overwhelming burden of debt.  It’s an incredible, historic initiative that, thanks to the generosity of our donors, will open doors for individuals who could not otherwise attend Weill Cornell Medicine and increase the socioeconomic diversity of the student body.

An academic culture that promotes wellness is essential to a positive and intellectually engaging student experience—and likely leads to healthier and happier clinicians and scientists down the road.  In addition to alleviating debt, we are actively exploring ways to reduce burnout, provide greater mental health support, and foster resilience among our students.  A recent opinion piece in STAT News captures some of my thinking on steps that medical schools can take to improve the learning environment and student well-being. 

Weill Cornell Medicine further advanced the dialogue by hosting the first-ever National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health and Well-Being in mid-September.  More than 350 attendees from 120 institutions around the country, plus representatives from Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar, Hong Kong, and Australia, gathered to discuss innovative strategies to better support students psychologically.

Our dedication to enhancing the student experience is also reflected in new physical spaces.  October 7 marked the official opening of the Feil Family Student Center, a beautiful facility that increases the space devoted to student education, extracurricular activities, and recreation by nearly 75 percent.  It complements other modern and harmonious spaces, such as the Lasdon Student Area, which is designed entirely for relaxation and well-being, and the recently renovated Weill Education Center.

Like many immigrants, my family came to the United States – nearly fifty years ago now –  because of the educational opportunities available in this country.  It is immensely inspiring, as well as so very humbling, to lead Weill Cornell Medicine as it breaks new ground in providing the very best living and learning experience possible for our students.  Thank you to all of you for your efforts to ensure that our students can thrive and, as graduates of Weill Cornell Medicine, have the greatest impact on medicine, healthcare, and biomedical science.

Sincerely,

Augustine M.K. Choi, MD

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