The Cornell Board of Trustees and Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows have approved the appointment of physician-scientist Dr. Francis Lee, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, as interim dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and interim provost for medical affairs of Cornell University, effective Jan. 1.
Lee, who is also psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, will succeed Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, who announced in June his intent to return to his research and not seek an additional term. Cornell formed a search committee last summer to select a new dean and provost of medical affairs. The committee is co-chaired by President Martha E. Pollack and Jessica M. Bibliowicz ’81, chairman of the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows.
“Dr. Lee’s experience as a physician, scientist and leader will ensure that Weill Cornell Medicine continues on a strong path forward as we conclude our search for a permanent dean,” Pollack said. “I’m deeply grateful to him for agreeing to serve as interim dean, and to Dr. Choi for his steadfast leadership over the past six years."
Lee joined Weill Cornell Medicine’s faculty in 2002 and in 2018 was named department chair and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He leads a department of nearly 600 faculty – one of the largest academic psychiatric programs in the country – and oversees robust inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services provided at Weill Cornell Medicine’s physician practices and on two NewYork-Presbyterian campuses. The Department of Psychiatry also boasts nationally recognized training programs and a diverse portfolio of research institutes. During his time as chair, the department helped spearhead the first-ever National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health and Well-Being in 2019, and most recently provided mental health services and support for Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lee is an accomplished neurobiologist and psychiatrist studying the molecular basis of mood and anxiety disorders, with the goal of understanding why many of them emerge during the transition from childhood to adolescence. By combining basic and translational approaches, Lee’s discoveries have led to the development of advanced biologically targeted psychiatric diagnostic tools and treatments. He has published nearly 100 original studies in peer-reviewed journals, plus nearly 30 reviews and four book chapters.
Lee earned his bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Princeton University and his medical degree and a doctorate from the University of Michigan, followed by psychiatry residency training at the Payne Whitney Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He completed postdoctoral training in molecular neuroscience at the Skirball Institute, New York University and the University of California, San Francisco. He currently holds professor appointments at Weill Cornell Medicine in psychiatry, pharmacology and neuroscience. He is also an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians and the National Academy of Medicine.
“Dr. Lee has been a vital part of our Weill Cornell Medicine community for more than two decades, providing outstanding leadership that has enhanced the Department of Psychiatry’s already stellar reputation for excellence,” Bibliowicz said. “I know Dr. Lee will do an excellent job leading Weill Cornell Medicine while the search committee completes its work to appoint and install a new dean.
“I am also profoundly appreciative to Dr. Choi for his exceptional service as dean,” she added. “Weill Cornell Medicine is positioned to shape the future of medicine – from bringing the most advanced and accessible care to patients to fostering a community that prizes inclusivity and mentorship – thanks to Dr. Choi’s bold vision.”
“I am deeply honored and thrilled to be able to serve Weill Cornell Medicine in this interim capacity and give back to an institution from which I’ve benefitted so much,” Lee said. “Throughout my time here I have always felt a sense of belonging, that people here have my interests at heart. It’s gratifying to me that I can continue fostering our culture of belonging during this transition period. I am also excited to help guide and enhance the many initiatives Dean Choi and his leadership team established to advance our mission to care, discover and teach.”
Dan Dickinson is director of digital strategy for Weill Cornell Medicine.