In keeping with the spirit of the season, it is with gratitude that I write my first newsletter as the Director of the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program. These first few months of my Directorship have truly been a whirlwind, as I have navigated meeting our students in COVID-safe settings, participated in my first white coat ceremony, sampled the delicious (and potent) House libations, and interviewed all of the incredible applicants hoping to join the Tri-I in 2022. All this while making sure the program hums steadily along. None of this would have been possible without the formidable teamwork of Catharine Boothroyd, Ben Levitt, Hanna Silvast, and Renee Horton and the advice and counsel of the Executive Committee members representing the three institutions.
If you had asked me in 1988 when I matriculated as an MD-PhD student at the Cornell University Medical College (as it was called then) that I would eventually inherit the reins from Olaf Andersen, I would have had quite a laugh. And yet, the futures for which Olaf and the Tri-I MSTP prepared us made this a natural conclusion. Following an internal medicine residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I returned to New York to complete a fellowship in Hematology-Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I remained as faculty on the Bone Marrow Transplantation service and where my laboratory research has focused on natural killer cells and their role in cancer immunology. Throughout my training and career, the message that physician-scientists can make broad and meaningful impacts on human health has rung true. Laboratory efforts started in my lab have led to cell therapy trials and novel donor selection algorithms for transplant patients.
As Director of the Tri-I MSTP, it is now my honor to help nurture the future leaders of biomedical research. This is an exciting time in research in so many fields: computational biology, gene editing, and immunotherapy, to name a few. At the same time, there are glaring challenges facing MSTP students, including increasing time to degree, rising age at first R01 funding, and continued lack of diversity among physician-scientists. I am committed to tackling these challenges, while preparing our students to be critical thinkers, effective communicators, and leaders of change. I am open to new ideas and encourage dialogue with students, alumni, faculty, and administrators alike.
Please enjoy this newsletter with exciting news about 2021: our graduates, incoming MSTP students, and the first ever Olaf Andersen awardees!