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Dear Friends:

Welcome to the Columbia University Medical Center's Office of Government & Community Affairs (GCA) web site.  Government & Community Affairs represents the interests of Columbia University Medical Center before the federal, state, and city governments.  This office also develops and implements programs with the communities surrounding Columbia University Medical Center and serves as the primary liaison between the Medical Center and the external community. 

GCA coordinates information on services and programs available at the Medical Center campus.  The office responds to and engages community stakeholders, local residents and community based providers as they seek to learn more about the various medical center programs, services, events and activities.  We work with various elected officials, medical associations and other organizations to advocate and educate policy makers on areas ofinterest of our faculty and staff.

If you have any need or desire to work with elected officials or community based organizations, I strongly encourage you to contact us to see if we may be of assistance.



Ross A. Frommer

Vice President and Associate Dean


Stopping Stigma

Posted by: Erik Cuello in Health, Local, News January 27, 2016

Story and photos by Erik Cuello

“There’s just not enough specialists,” said Dr. Moira Rynn.

Embarrassment, guilt, suspicion.

Too often, these sentiments inhibit many from seeking assistance when struggling with emotional difficulties or grappling with mental illness.

Cultural taboos can compound the matter.

“Stigma, lack of available resources, depression itself, distrust in government,” explained Dr. Sidney Hankerson, in addressing undiagnosed psychiatric issues in minority communities. “These are some of the reasons why Latinos and African-Americans have the lowest rates of depression treatment in the United States.”

Hankerson, a psychiatrist who teaches at Columbia University and tends to patients at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, shared his insights beside fellow mental health professionals at a forum held at the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) on Wed., Jan. 20th.

“There’s just not enough specialists,” said Dr. Moira Rynn.

The discussion, open to all community residents, centered on the latest mental health research being conducted by CUMC faculty members.

Dr. Edmund Griffin, Research Scientist in Neurobiology Brain and Behavior at Columbia University, discussed his work studying how glutamates, considered a key compound in cellular metabolism, might come to serve as an effective inhibitor to addiction.

“This introduces a new class of medications that we could use to treat addiction,” he remarked.

The forum was held at the Russ Berrie Pavilion.

Dr. Moira Rynn’s presentation on adolescent mental health illustrated how anxiety, depression, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and self-injury often manifest themselves with early warning signs, and how they can specifically impact youths.

“Children with psychiatric disorders are at greater risk of school failure or developing secondary medical illnesses,” said Rynn, who serves as Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

She added that about 20% of children in the U.S. ages 8-17 have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.

“This really affects them as they grow up, in terms of getting married, going to college, or any other goals they would want to achieve.”

Dr. Sidney Hankerson’s research has included work in churches.

It is why such initiatives, argued Rynn, as The CUMC Promise Project and the Washington Heights Youth Anxiety Center, in which mental health specialists evaluate children with learning disabilities and make educational recommendations, are critical.

It is estimated, she added, that there is currently a need for 40,000 adolescence psychiatrists nationally – yet there are only 10,000 currently practicing.

“There’s just not enough specialists out there to meet the needs of all children,” said Rynn.

To underscore the importance of communication, attendees were asked to imagine disclosing personal information to each other.

“Imagine that the admission you had to make was that you were suffering from depression,” said Hankerson, prompting many to respond that they felt awkward, insecure and shy in doing so.

This initiative is aimed at youth.

Hankerson noted that his studies have revealed that more African-Americans were more inclined to discuss their mental health with a clergy member than with a mental health professional. In his work with three churches, one of which is located in Harlem, nearly 23% of the men surveyed, together with 18% of women, were suffering from depression.

“If a pastor on Sunday morning talked about his or her experience with a mental health professional, it would truly have a transformative effect,” argued Hankerson.

During a Q-and-A session, Maria Luna asked for an instance in which data specifically drawn from the local community could be compared to national averages.

“While we’re still collecting data at the local level, we do see Latinas nationally are trending higher in terms of self-injury,” replied Rynn.

Attendees engaged each other.

Attendee Max Javier wondered how best to identify and aid young people who might present mental health needs.

Rynn said it was important to create and sustain a supportive network.

“You’ve got to get the right information from the parents, the teachers, coaches and others,” she replied.

Hankerson agreed that creating a broader community dialogue and maintaining vigilance was key.

“You can all be a part of that transformation.”

For more information, please visit www.cumc.columbia.edu.

Hochul in the Heights

Posted by: Erik Cuello in Education, Health, Local, News January 13, 2016

New York's Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul chats with CUMC Dr. Angela Christiano (left) and other researchers.

New York’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul paid a visit to Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in Washington Heights on Thurs., Jan. 7th.

Hochul said she wanted to see the product of some of the state’s funding for biomedical research.

During a tour of the medical center’s CUMC’s Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, Hochul met with Dr. Angela M. Christiano, a professor in the Departments of Dermatology and of Genetics and Development at CUMC, who has been recognized for her work with alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

In 2014, Christiano and other CUMC researchers identified the immune cells responsible for destroying hair follicles in people with alopecia areata and tested an FDA-approved drug that led to complete hair regrowth in a small number of patients.

Hochul speaks with Assemblymember Guillermo Linares (left)

Much of Christiano’s research has involved studying mice with the disease.

Hochul also viewed the future site of CUMC’s new School of Nursing, currently under construction, and chatted with Assemblymember Guillermo Linares.

In August 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $17.2 million in state awards to 26 academic medical institutions, including CUMC, for the training of new clinical researchers working on cutting-edge biomedical research.

— Gregg McQueen



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Last updated 2/4/2016

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