Newman, Plowright, Wolchok elected to National Academy of Medicine

Two faculty members from Weill Cornell Medicine and one from the College of Veterinary Medicine have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

The inductees, announced Oct. 9 in conjunction with NAM’s annual meeting, are:

  • Dr. Lisa Newman, chief of the section of breast surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center;
  • Dr. Raina Plowright, the Rudolf J. and Katharine L. Steffen Professor of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health, in the College of Veterinary Medicine; and
  • Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok, the Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian.

Each year, the academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Newman leads the multidisciplinary breast oncology programs at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. A researcher who has extensively investigated ethnicity-related breast cancer disparities for more than 20 years, Newman is the founding medical director for the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes, headquartered at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“I feel absolute and total elation,” said Newman, also a professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and a surgical breast oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “I am humbled as well because so many incredibly talented researchers who I have long admired are members of the National Academy of Medicine.”

Her work includes investigating the genetics of African ancestry and how that predisposes women to triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease. As part of this work, she also oversees an international breast cancer research and training program for physicians and facilities in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Antigua.

Newman received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She earned her medical degree and completed her general surgery residency training at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn. She joined Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in 2018.

Plowright, a Cornell Atkinson Scholar, specializes in the science of pandemic prevention, applying a One Health approach by bridging disease dynamics with effective public health practice and meaningful policy.

“I am deeply humbled to receive this recognition from my peers,” Plowright said. “My research involves large teams, so this acknowledgment also honors the collective effort of many exceptional people I have been privileged to work with. I am excited to participate in the National Academy of Medicine and am confident that my work on spillover prevention will help advance its mission to accelerate health equity and provide a healthier future for everyone.”

Plowright’s primary areas of inquiry include transmission of pathogens between species, links between land-use change and pathogen spillover, dynamics and drivers of viral pathogens in reservoir host populations, and implementation of science for the protection of ecosystem and human health.

Research published last year in Nature found that preserving and restoring natural habitats could prevent pathogens that originate in wildlife from spilling over into domesticated animals and humans.

Plowright received her bachelor’s in veterinary science from the University of Sydney, and her master’s (epidemiology) and Ph.D. (ecology) from the University of California, Davis. She is a 2022 inductee into the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Wolchok is a clinician-scientist and medical oncologist who specializes in melanoma. His research and innovations in immunotherapy have transformed the way patients are treated for the disease.

“I was incredibly thrilled and humbled by being invited to join the National Academy of Medicine,” said Wolchok, also a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It’s such a prestigious and widely respected honor. I’m most enthusiastic about the recognition that my appointment will bring to Weill Cornell Medicine, the Meyer Cancer Center and to the trainees here.”

At the Meyer Cancer Center, Wolchok leads an expansive, multidisciplinary research and clinical enterprise dedicated to translating groundbreaking discoveries on the underlying causes of cancer into cutting-edge treatment approaches and personalized therapies to improve patient outcomes.

Wolchok has dedicated most of his career to understanding how physicians can best use the immune system as a therapeutic option for cancer and why immune cells may or may not recognize cancers.

Wolchok received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, and his doctorate in microbiology from NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and medical degree from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where he also completed his residency in internal medicine. After a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, he joined its faculty – as well as Weill Cornell Medicine’s – and served there for more than 25 years, until his recruitment to Weill Cornell Medicine full time, as director of the Meyer Cancer Center in 2022.

KJ Bannan is a freelance writer for Weill Cornell Medicine; Olivia M. Hall is a freelance writer for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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