P&S Journal: Winter 1995, Vol.15, No.1
Columbia-Presbyterian and Its Community: A Changing Relationship
Recent changes within Washington Heights complement and enhance initiatives that originate within the Medical Center. Several new public schools have been built in the past few years, not only improving the educational setting, but also providing a broader base for the Medical Center's programs for students in those schools. Police headquarters for the 33rd precinct (a new precinct created in October 1994 to augment the 34th precinct's coverage of Washington Heights) have been established near the Audubon Park, increasing police presence and extending security in the neighborhood.
The population of the city's homeless shelter for men in the Armory on 168th Street has been reduced, by court mandate, from about 1,500 to a maximum of 200 who live in stabilized conditions and have access to psychiatric counseling and programmatic support. The Armory's Olympic-size running track has been restored and is used regularly by local track teams and other athletes.
These changes, though promising, do not solve many of the problems characteristic of America's inner cities. The efforts being fostered by the Medical Center are aimed at addressing some of those conditions and helping neighborhood residents improve their overall quality of life through programs of assistance and outreach and applying Medical Center resources to immediate needs.
The Medical Center thrives because it is needed and because of the excellence and responsiveness it offers to meet the needs of its community. Indeed, the local population, diverse in so many respects, gives students a more thorough clinical experience than they would receive in a prosperous neighborhood. Applications for entry into the medical school, as well as the other health sciences schools at the Medical Center, are growing each year, by record numbers in some cases.
The neighborhood also provides rich opportunities to understand the acute health needs of the inner city and to identify treatments. One example is the 10-year epidemiologic study of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias studied by Dr. Richard Mayeux, the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Professor in Neurology, Psychiatry, and Public Health. Dr. Mayeux's study is one of the first to examine these disorders in an urban, racially mixed, and economically varied population rather than a middle-class Caucasian population and, in part because of that difference, is yielding valuable results.