Alumni News


Marianne Wolff’52, Alumni Editor, and Bonita Eaton Enochs, Editor

P. Roy Vagelos received two awards recently. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award 2018 at the first Xiong’An International Health Forum in Hebei, China. The award was given by the Shenzhen World Health Foundation in recognition of his contributions to solving major health problems in China and Africa while serving as chair and CEO of Merck & Co. Merck, which developed the technology to produce the hepatitis B vaccine, received no profit from the sale of the technology to China, where hepatitis B was a major public health threat. The second award, the National Equal Justice Award, was presented to Roy and his wife, Diana, at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s annual awards dinner. The awards dinner celebrates individuals who are driven by the same principles of equality and justice that guide the Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s work.

Sylvia and Richard Cruess received the 2018 Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The award is AAMC’s most prestigious honor. It was established in 1958 to recognize extraordinary individual contributions to medical schools and to the medical education community as a whole. They were honored during a ceremony in November at AAMC’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas. They were cited for changing medicine’s understanding of professionalism and the role of the physician in the 21st century. Sylvia, an endocrinologist, served as director of the Metabolic Day Centre and as vice president (medical) of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. She is professor of medicine at McGill and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Richard, an orthopedic surgeon, held multiple leadership positions at McGill, including as chairman of the Division of Orthopedic Surgery and dean of the Faculty of Medicine for 14 years. He has been named a Companion of the Order of Canada and an officer of l’Ordre national du Québec and is professor of orthopedic surgery at McGill. 

See Alumni in Print to read about a book of short stories written by George M. Burnell. George, a retired psychiatrist, lives in Palm Desert, California.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book written by Lawrence W. Norton. Larry, emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, worked in a mission hospital in India for five years before returning to Denver for a career in academic surgery and a devotion to his pastime, sailing. In addition to his new book, which describes sailing, he wrote a trilogy of books that trace his surgical training, his work in India, and his years of teaching in medical schools in America and abroad.

Kenneth A. Forde was named one of four 2018 Icons in Surgery by the American College of Surgeons. A presentation honoring his life and accomplishments was delivered at the 2018 ACS clinical congress in October.

See Alumni in Print to read about a collection of poems by Norbert Hirschhorn. Norbert, now retired, joined the Public Health Service after graduation from medical school. He was assigned to a cholera research lab in East Pakistan, where he conducted research on cholera and other diarrheal diseases and demonstrated the proof of concept of oral rehydration therapy, a life-saving treatment for adults and children suffering fluid loss from cholera and other infectious diarrheal illnesses. More recently he conducted research on tobacco control and examined once-secret, now publicly available tobacco industry documents. In retirement he lives in London and devotes himself to writing and publishing poetry and literary book reviews.

The American Gastroenterological Association has given its 2019 Distinguished Achievement Award in Basic Science to Harry B. Greenberg. He was recognized for work that contributed to the development of rotavirus vaccines and increased physicians’ understanding of viral pathogenesis, particularly rotavirus, norovirus, and hepatitis. Harry is associate dean for research at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he is professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology and a member of Bio-X, the Maternal & Child Health Research Institute, and the Stanford Cancer Institute. The recognition awards were presented during Digestive Disease Week, May 18-21, 2019, in San Diego. 

See Alumni in Print to read about a book written by Edward Tabor. Ed is vice president for North American regulatory affairs for Fresenius Kabi, a manufacturer of parenteral nutrition products and other injectable pharmaceuticals.

Valerie W. Rusch is the 2018-19 president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. A thoracic surgeon, Valerie is vice chair for clinical research in surgery, the Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers, and attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She also is professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine. She received the 2018 American College of Surgeons Distinguished Service Award at the group’s October clinical congress.

1980 MD/1978 PhD
Ruth S. Weinstock received a national award from the American College of Physicians during a scientific conference in Philadelphia in April. Ruth was awarded the Samuel Eichold II Memorial Award for Contributions in Diabetes. Her research over the past 25 years has focused on the study of new approaches to prevent and manage diabetes mellitus and its complications. She is a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism in the Department of Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. She also is medical director of the clinical research unit and medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center, which she helped establish at Upstate to serve more than 20 counties in upstate New York.

Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health and rights agency, presented the annual Bonni Curran Memorial Lecture to open the 12th annual Family of Woman Film Festival in Sun Valley, Idaho, in February.

Ron Cohen wrote that the company he founded and leads, Acorda Therapeutics, received an “early Christmas present” when he received news shortly before Christmas 2018 that the FDA had approved the company’s drug for people with Parkinson’s disease who suffer from “off” periods. “Off” episodes or periods are defined as the return of Parkinson’s symptoms that result from low levels of dopamine between doses of oral carbidopa/levodopa, the standard oral baseline Parkinson’s treatment. The drug’s approval was effective Jan. 5, 2019.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book written by Velma Scantlebury. The first African-American transplant surgeon in the United States, she helped to launch a living kidney donor program at Pitt. She is now at Christiana Care in Wilmington, Delaware, where she is associate chief of transplant surgery. She has performed more than 2,000 transplants.

Tim Wang received the 2019 William Beaumont Prize in Gastroenterology from the American Gastroenterological Association. The prize recognizes the contributions he has made to the understanding and practice of modern gastroenterology and digestive science, specifically his identification of the mechanisms and cellular origins of Barrett’s esophagus and gastroesophageal cancer. Former president of the AGA Institute, Tim is chief of the division of digestive and liver diseases and the Dorothy L. and Daniel H. Silberberg Professor of Medicine at VP&S. The 2019 recognition awards were presented in San Diego in May during Digestive Disease Week.

After years of clinical experience, Paul Spector formed Pantheon and Meaningful Fitness and has spent the past 15 years focusing on preventive health, behavioral change, motivation, aging, meaningful goal-setting, and how to apply scientific advances to maximize both physical and psychological peak fitness. Paul works with private clients and corporations in New York City and Hudson. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, where he reports on the often confusing and contradictory news on health. He has written on a wide range of topics including the effect of sedentary behavior on health and cognition, diet and depression, blood sugar levels and brain function, anti-aging techniques, cancer detection, and new research on muscle. 

Susana Morales received a 2018 Hispanic Health Leadership Award in November from the National Hispanic Health Foundation. She was one of four individuals honored for contributions toward improving the health of Hispanic communities. Susana is associate professor of clinical medicine and vice chair for diversity for the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Diversity Center of Excellence of the Cornell Center for Health Equity.

Anne Armstrong-Coben was appointed interim senior associate dean for admissions at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in August 2018. 

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-authored by Marc Eisenberg. Marc is associate professor of medicine at VP&S and an attending physician in cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

1995 MD/PhD
Steven Artandi has been appointed director of the Stanford Cancer Institute. He is professor of medicine and of biochemistry at Stanford’s School of Medicine. Steven, who holds the Jerome and Daisy Low Gilbert Professorship, is an oncologist and cancer biologist whose research focuses on the role played by the enzyme telomerase in cancer, aging, and stem cell biology.

See Alumni in Print to read about the latest book written by Jennifer Ashton. Jennifer is chief medical correspondent for ABC News and an ob/gyn with a private practice in New Jersey. She also is board-certified in obesity medicine and has an MS degree in nutrition from Columbia. 

See Alumni in Print to read about a book written by Andrew Bomback. Andy is associate professor of medicine at VP&S and a writer.

Brian Su was one of three individuals elected in November to the board of the Marin Healthcare District in California. He will serve a four-year term on the board, which is charged with promoting the health and welfare of the district’s communities. He is serving as secretary of the board. Brian is a spine surgeon at California Orthopedics and Spine and medical director of spine surgery at Marin General Hospital. After graduating from VP&S, Brian completed an orthopedic surgery residency at Columbia and a spine surgery fellowship at the Rothman Institute, Thomas Jefferson University. Brian and his wife, Thomasina, have lived in Marin since 2009. 

Hani Sbitany was featured in a New York Times article about a surgical technique for breast reconstruction. He helped research and develop the technique to help women after they have a mastectomy for breast cancer. The article was featured in the Sept. 17, 2018, issue of the New York Times. Hani is associate professor of surgery in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.

Aaron S. Lord has been appointed chief of neurology at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn. He was previously chief of neurocritical care at NYU School of Medicine and medical director of the neurosciences intensive care and step down units at NYU Langone’s Tisch Hospital in Manhattan. He also is an assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at NYU.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-authored by Christopher Kelly. Chris is a senior clinical fellow in cardiology at Columbia, where he completed his internship and residency and served as chief resident. He received an MS degree in biostatistics in 2018 from the Mailman School of Public Health.

House Staff Alumni
Clifton K. Meador, a medicine resident under Robert Loeb from 1955 to 1957, has published a revised edition of his book, “A Little Book of Doctors’ Rules III for Oslerian Clinicians.” The first edition was published in 1992. The 375 rules included in the book are intended to help physicians uncover the cause of hidden symptoms when first contact doesn’t reveal a patient’s diagnosis. “Many diseases and causes of symptoms cannot be ‘seen’ but must be ‘heard’ from the patient’s story and life history,” Clifton says. He is professor of medicine emeritus at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine