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Members of the Weill Cornell Medicine community attended the Diversity Awards on April 23. The ceremony honored five Pioneers in Diversity Award winners, pictured here with faculty and Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi.

Weill Cornell Medicine community honored at diversity awards

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Jennifer Gundersen

Drs. Augustine M.K. Choi, Linnie Golightly and Rache Simmons with Dr. Mary Charlson as she accepts the Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D. Award for Excellence in Mentoring Women.

Weill Cornell Medicine honored 18 faculty, trainees, students and staff April 23 for their outstanding service and leadership in promoting diversity at the academic medical institution.

The Diversity Awards recognize exemplary contributions – through research, clinical care, community service and advocacy – to improving the health of populations that historically have had unequal access to care. They also commend excellence in mentorship and fostering an inclusive, engaging and welcoming workplace.

“We in academic medicine are the ones to really lead this change,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine, during a ceremony that capped the first day of the institution’s inaugural Diversity Week. “We have a responsibility to engage in social justice and champion diversity. It’s the right thing to do.”

Weill Cornell Medicine awarded Dr. Mary Charlson, the William T. Foley Distinguished Professor of Medicine, with the Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D. Award for Excellence in Mentoring Women. The award, now in its third year, recognizes outstanding faculty members who demonstrate a commitment to advancing the careers of women in the areas of clinical care, research or education. Charlson was honored for her efforts in advancing the professional development of numerous faculty members during more than two decades of service at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Charlson thanked her mentees, “who are making a real difference in health care and social justice in the world,” she said. “Keep up the great job.”

The ceremony honored five winners of the Pioneers in Diversity Awards, which recognize members of the Weill Cornell Medicine community who have distinguished themselves as key contributors to a culture of diversity.

  • Weill Cornell Medical College student Eric Kutscher ’18 and Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. student Rolake Alabi ’18 received the Ida Sophia Scudder, M.D. Award for Excellence in Public Service. The award recognizes medical, doctoral, M.D.-Ph.D. or physician assistant students who have made significant contributions in community service and providing care to the underserved. Kutscher was praised for his work developing two elective courses for the medical school curriculum that address diversity and inclusion and for his service as class president. Alabi founded a program that seeks to inspire New York City children and teens from underrepresented groups in medicine to pursue careers in the field, and has participated in multiple community service and education outreach initiatives.
  • Sharon Brooks, curriculum assistant, won the Administrative Staff Award, which recognizes staff members who embody the spirit of cultural diversity and service. Brooks was recognized for her commitment to Weill Cornell Medical College students, ensuring that they smoothly transition into and are successful at medical school.
  • Dr. Anthony Ogedegbe, an assistant professor of clinical medicine, was awarded the Bruce Laine Ballard, M.D. Award for Excellence in Mentorship. The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to improving student life and fostering a nurturing and supportive environment where students are able to thrive and succeed. Ogedegbe, who medical students consistently vote as one of their most beloved teachers, was recognized for his commitment to education and training, most notably as it relates to honing students’ bedside diagnostic skills.
  • Dr. Maurice Hinson, internal medicine resident at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine, was recognized with the Louis Wade Sullivan, M.D. Award for Excellence in Public Health Advocacy. Hinson established the Black and Latino Men in Medicine Initiative, which fosters the advancement of black and Latino male faculty members, trainees and students at Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and established mentorship and pipeline programs during his undergraduate and medical studies.

A dozen Weill Cornell Medicine faculty, trainees and students were recognized with inaugural Dean’s Diversity and Healthcare Disparity Research Awards. The awards provide four levels of one-year research funding to investigators whose work seeks to improve the health of underrepresented minorities and achieve health equity for people locally and globally. The winners, who presented posters of their research during the awards ceremony, include:

  • Faculty ($50,000 each)
    • Dr. Erica Phillips Caesar, associate professor of clinical medicine; Dr. Jennifer Downs, the Friedman Family Research Scholar in Pediatric Infectious Diseases, an associate professor of medicine and of medicine in microbiology and immunology; Dr. Laura Pinheiro, assistant professor of health services research in medicine; and Dr. Jessica Ancker, assistant professor of healthcare policy and research.
  • Fellows and postdoctoral associates ($25,000 each)
    • Dr. Elizabeth Luth, postdoctoral associate in medicine; Dr. Mavee Witherspoon, research associate in medicine; and Dr. Fontasha Powell, postdoctoral fellow in quantitative connectomics in computational neuroscience.
  • Residents ($10,000 each)
    • Dr. Peter Kennel, internal medicine resident at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine; Dr. Robert White, anesthesiology resident at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine; and Dr. Lauren Kelly, internal medicine resident at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine.
  • Medical/graduate students ($5,000 each to be used for a scholarly project or graduate research project):
    • Yoshiko Toyoda, third-year Weill Cornell Medical College student and Rachel Umans, third-year Weill Cornell Medical College student.

In addition, Choi announced the establishment of Dean’s Diversity Scholarships. To advance diversity among the student body, Weill Cornell Medicine will annually award full-tuition scholarships to two accepted medical students who have financial need and are from groups underrepresented in medicine. The first scholarships will be awarded to incoming first-year students in the Class of 2022; accepted students have until May 1 to commit to matriculating.

“Two is not enough,” Dr. Choi said, “but it’s a start.”

Alyssa Sunkin-Strube is newsroom manager for Weill Cornell Medicine.