P&S News

News from around the
College of Physicians & Surgeons

  New Chairs for Biochemistry, Radiology
  Stephen Nicholas: New Assistant Dean for Admissions
  New VP for Development
  Department Name Changes
  Herbert Pardes Building at PI
  Wilma’s Studio Brings Art to the Waiting Room
  Teaching and Learning Center Opens in Hammer
  CUMC is Smoke-Free
  Katz Prizes to NHLBI Director, P&S Graduate
  Systems Biology Initiative
  Class of 2013 Uses Facebook for Early Networking
  New York’s Best Doctors
  Neurosurgery Softball Champs
  Podcasting Gets Infected with Viruses

New Chairs for Biochemistry, Radiology


Thomas Maniatis
Thomas Maniatis
Thomas P. Maniatis, Ph.D., one of the founders of molecular cloning, has been appointed chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. Dr. Maniatis has led the field of molecular and cellular biology since earning a Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from the University of Colorado.
    His body of scientific study has focused on the way human genes are switched on and off in cells. The methods he pioneered for understanding gene expression have had a profound impact on biology, from advancing basic knowledge to creating new therapies to treat human genetic diseases. His research accomplishments have been recognized by colleagues and associations, including election to some of the most prestigious organizations in the scientific world: National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
    Dr. Maniatis started his career at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow and returned there in the 1980s, becoming chairman of Harvard’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1985. In addition to a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical Research Council of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and a research position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he was on the faculty of California Institute of Technology before returning to Harvard, where he became the Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
    Dr. Maniatis is best known for developing a method for cloning messenger RNAs (cDNA cloning) and for creating the first human DNA library, which made it possible to isolate virtually any human gene. Using these technologies his laboratory was the first to isolate, or “clone,” a human gene and to use this gene to identify mutations that cause human genetic diseases. Dr. Maniatis focused on hemoglobin gene for much of this work and was able to pinpoint the mutations that cause the blood disease thalassemia.
    Most recently Dr. Maniatis has moved into the study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with the help of an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, which encourages creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas about biomedical research. Dr. Maniatis is using induced pluripotent stem cells in conjunction with the tools of molecular and cellular biology to gain insights into the causes of the disease.


Lawrence Schwartz
Lawrence Schwartz
Lawrence H. Schwartz, M.D., who is internationally recognized for the innovative application of new technology in imaging to improve both clinical care and drug discovery, has been appointed chair of the Department of Radiology and radiologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Schwartz was recruited from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he was vice chair for technology development in the Department of Radiology and director of MRI. He also was professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
    Dr. Schwartz received medical and undergraduate degrees, summa cum laude, from Boston University’s College of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences. After an internship in internal medicine, he completed his residency at New York Hospital, now NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he was chief resident. He completed a fellowship in cross- sectional imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
    Dr. Schwartz is renowned in the field of oncologic imaging as an authority on the development and validation of imaging biomarkers. His research has focused on new computational and functional techniques that utilize physiologic imaging and advanced image processing to assess and correlate imaging characteristics with molecular features of disease processes. He is a founding member of the Quantitative Imaging Biomarker Alliance, where he chairs the computed tomography study group. As a clinical radiologist, Dr. Schwartz is best known for advancing the use of ultrafast MRI sequences to characterize and stage tumors of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, he founded the Laboratory for Computational Image Analysis, which focuses on advanced image processing to quantitatively assess therapeutic efficacy in clinical care and drug discovery.
    Dr. Schwartz also has achieved international recognition in the field of medical informatics. He was the principal collaborator with IBM in the development of continuous speech voice recognition for radiology reporting and with GE in the development of one of the first enterprise-wide Picture Archiving and Communications Systems.
    Dr. Schwartz has been awarded multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. He collaborates extensively in multi-site clinical trials and is chairman of the Imaging Committee at Cancer and Leukemia Group B, a national oncology cooperative group. He works with the NIH on open source and shared data projects. Scientists worldwide may now use the imaging data as a shared resource from one of Dr. Schwartz’s recently completed studies. He serves on several national committees, including as Distinguished Science Advisor for the RSNA Research and Education fund; the Oncology Biomarker Qualification Initiative of NCI, CMS and FDA; and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. He is a Fellow of the International Cancer Imaging Society. He also serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Roentgenology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, and Journal of Interventional Oncology.

Stephen Nicholas:
New Assistant Dean for Admissions

Stephen W. Nicholas, M.D., has been appointed to a new position, assistant dean for admissions, at P&S. Dr. Nicholas, professor of clinical pediatrics (P&S) and of clinical population and family health (Mailman), has been a member of the P&S Admissions Committee since 2001. In his new role, he will assist Andrew Frantz’55, the dean of admissions, and will learn about the admissions process.
    “Dr. Frantz is a legend and he and the Admissions Committee have been legendary in their success at attracting the most exceptional students — students who are going to do something special with their lives — to P&S,” says Dr. Nicholas. “I look forward to learning more about admissions by closely watching his example.”
    Among special projects Dr. Nicholas will undertake in his new role: ways to manage the wait-list process, a process to convert the admissions office into a paperless environment, and development of even closer relationships with undergraduate schools from which P&S draws students. He also will help establish the admissions process for students interested in the new Columbia-Bassett program. As of late September, P&S had already received approximately 100 applications for the 10 Bassett spots available for next year’s incoming class.
    A native of Wyoming, Dr. Nicholas received his M.D. degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He trained in pediatrics at Columbia and at Harlem Hospital Center, where he served as chief resident during a period when the country’s epicenter of maternal-child HIV infection was determined to be central Harlem. Dr. Nicholas completed a Robert Wood Johnson fellowship in general academic pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia before returning to Columbia in 1988.



We Need Your @
P&S Journal is going green. We are reducing the number of printed issues and increasing the number of digital communications. Articles and class news will be available online and by e-mail with greater frequency starting in 2010. Please be sure that we have your e-mail address so you can stay informed about P&S. To receive the digital communications, please send your preferred e-mail address to psjournal@columbia.edu.

New VP for Development
Amelia J. Alverson, former vice president of development at Stanford University Hospital and Clinics, has joined Columbia as vice president for development at Columbia University Medical Center. Ms. Alverson, who has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising, will help CUMC expand on its success in reaching and exceeding capital campaign goals.
    A member of the senior leadership team at Stanford since 2005, Ms. Alverson built a new Office of Hospital Development to raise money for capital and programmatic priorities, including a $500 million campaign for a new hospital to replace a facility constructed in 1959.
    Before joining Stanford, Ms. Alverson held positions at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and the University of Illinois. She received an MBA from the University of Toledo and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Central Florida.

Department Name Changes
Two P&S departments that have been reinvigorated by new leadership over the past year now have new names, approved by the faculty and by the Columbia University Trustees.
    The Department of Microbiology, which hosts the school’s oldest basic science doctoral program and which is rated No. 4 for faculty scholarly productivity by the Chronicle of Higher Education, is now the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The new name reflects the department’s broadening scientific emphasis on immunology, which includes cancer biology, infectious diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Immunologist and microbiologist Sankar Ghosh, Ph.D., the Silverstein and Hutt Family Professor of Microbiology, joined P&S as chair of microbiology and immunology in December 2008 after 17 years at Yale University School of Medicine.
    The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine will now be known as the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine. The new name reflects its expanded commitment to exploring new technologies and approaches in regenerative medicine, such as stem cells, to improve the treatment of patients with disabilities resulting from injury or disease. Joel Stein, M.D., the Simon Baruch Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, who was recruited last year from Harvard to chair the department, also oversees the new Stem Cell Initiative.
Herbert Pardes Building at PI
The New York State Office of Mental Health has named the New York State Psychiatric Institute building in honor of Herbert Pardes, M.D., president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and former vice president of the medical center and P&S dean. Dr. Pardes also is former director of the Psychiatric Institute and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry. The naming recognizes the contributions Dr. Pardes has made to mental health research, education, and clinical care, including his service as director of the National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Assistant Surgeon General during the Carter and Reagan administrations. The Herbert Pardes Building of the New York State Psychiatric Institute was dedicated in May 2009 and his portrait, customarily done for former P&S deans, was unveiled where it hangs in the new building. From left are Michael Hogan, Ph.D., commissioner of mental health for New York state; Dr. Pardes; and Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., chair of psychiatry at P&S and director of the Psychiatric Institute.
Wilma’s Studio Brings Art to the Waiting Room
By Meagan Scales
Gary Linkov’11 with Briana Santos
Gary Linkov’11 with Briana Santos
Brian DuBois carefully glues popsicle sticks in the shape of a star with glitter glue outlining each side. It is a typical scenario for a school’s art room, but this is taking place in the pediatric neurology clinic at Columbia. At age 13, Brian has spent much of his past two years in waiting rooms after being diagnosed with recurrent seizures.
    While Brian focuses on his project to give to his mother, other children, ages 2 to 18, work on their own creations. Wilma’s Studio is an innovative art program in pediatric clinics to bring creativity and diversion into the clinical environment. Long waiting times in the outpatient setting become productive and enjoyable as artists and educators set up tables filled with colorful paper, crayons, paints, rainbow pipe cleaners, and glue to the delight of children and their families.
    “We work with each child according to their age and ability,” says Barbara Marco, art director of Wilma’s Studio. “The children in the Department of Neurology have a wide variety of neurological and physical disabilities, and the many diverse projects allow each of them to have a unique experience.”
    Ms. Marco is one of the artists who began the program in 2004. She and two other artists, Annette Needle and Nitza Homer, work at the clinics weekly. The program has expanded from the pediatric neurology clinic to the pediatric oncology-hematology clinic at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.
    “Since the arrival to our clinic of these fine artists, the atmosphere of our clinic has changed from night to day,” says M. Richard Koenigsberger, M.D., clinical professor of neurology and pediatrics and director of the pediatric neurology clinic at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “The children love to learn and play as they await their turn to see the doctor. The mothers love to see their children entertained and, consequently, happy during what can be a long wait.”
    Wilma’s Studio was founded by Wilma Bulkin Siegel, M.D., a painter and retired oncologist formerly affiliated with Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein Medical College. Wilma’s Studio is part of the Arts in Medicine Project within the P&S Program in Narrative Medicine, directed by Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D.
    Wilma’s Studio is funded entirely by private donations. Current benefactors are Dr. Wilma Bulkin Siegel and Jesse Siegel, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, the Chloe Foundation/Jesse Forst, the Coles Family Foundation, Roz and Robert Perlmutter/Pearl Paint, Barry and Sally Mandel, and Ginny Dawes.
    Ms. Marco has inspired medical students to volunteer their time in the clinic working with children on art projects, and a formal medical student volunteer program allows students to work in Wilma’s Studio and learn the value of personal and creative time with these young patients. The students also benefit by seeing how art supports healing for the patients and their families. Edith Langner, M.D., directs the Arts in Medicine Project, which includes an innovative program using the visual arts in medical education and takes second-year medical students to MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Frick Collection.
    Students involved in Wilma’s Studio keep a weekly journal noting their interactions with patients and their families. Kristal Larsen’10 wrote about her experience: “All too often we are driven by what comes next — the next class, the next exam, the next application process, and next step in life — and it is so easy to lose yourself and your relationships but I have learned that you can grow so much and get so much more out of your experiences by enjoying the moment and really committing to the whole process. Working with these kids has taught me to be in the moment and enjoy the process without having a goal in mind or an end product that we are working toward.”
    As Brian’s mother, Tina Towns, puts it, “Sometimes we are here for two to four hours waiting to see the doctor. This program keeps the children occupied and gives them something fun to do while we wait.”

Teaching and Learning Center Opens in Hammer

the new Teaching and Learning Center

At a ribbon cutting ceremony in October for the new Teaching and Learning Center, students and faculty celebrated the opening of a new space that consolidates classroom space previously spread out across several medical center buildings. The opening of the center followed 14 months of renovations of the two lower levels of the Hammer Health Sciences Center.
    This center is the first space designed and built at CUMC according to the needs of integrated education, rather than the limitations of space. It will be the primary locus of learning for students from all four schools, a nerve-center designed to respond to the growing need for communication and crosspollination of ideas across the different schools.
    The center, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art “smart” classrooms equipped with modern technology to support teaching and learning, individual study carrels, small study lounges, and social space for students and faculty from all four schools. The new center approximately doubles the amount of space devoted to education. The 15 new classrooms and a renovated library reading room are also available as study space when not in use.
    The center is accessible through Hammer’s main entrance but also has its own entrance on Haven Avenue, making the center a new northwest gateway to the CUMC campus. Plans call for adding a bookstore, sidewalk seating, and street improvements to the area, essentially creating “Haven Square.”
    The three largest classrooms are designed to inspire interactive and collaborative learning, complete with group tables outfitted with a laptop for each student. All of the new center’s classrooms are outfitted with wireless Internet access and some have flat screen monitors to enhance learning and a writing tablet that allows instructors to annotate their presentations on screen. Each room has a teaching podium that includes a camera to display paper documents on the classroom’s monitors.

The Haven Avenue entrance
The Haven Avenue entrance to the new Teaching
and Learning Center

    In keeping with CUMC’s commitment to environmental stewardship, the Hammer renovation utilized green materials and repurposed old materials for new uses.
    The hallway floors are covered with terrazzo, a composite constructed from recycled stone and glass, while the classroom floors are topped with linoleum tiles based on renewable linseed oil. Both floor coverings are extremely durable and will last for decades, reducing the need for future renovation.
    The wood paneling in lobbies and study rooms is constructed from bamboo, a fast-growing grass noted for its greater ability to sequester carbon than traditional hardwoods. Old metal shelves from the original library stacks were reused in the construction of new, space-saving mobile bookshelves.

CUMC is Smoke-Free, Inside and Out
As of Aug. 10, 2009, CUMC is a completely smoke-free environment. The interior spaces of the medical center’s buildings are already smoke-free, but a revised CUMC smoking policy prohibits smoking on all CUMC property, both indoors and outdoors. The policy covers buildings, residences, entrances, grounds, gardens, courtyards, parking facilities, shuttle buses, and Public Safety vehicles.
This effort is being undertaken with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, which also went smoke-free on Aug. 10.
In announcing the new policy, CUMC also referred smokers to resources to help them quit smoking.

Katz Prizes to NHLBI Director, P&S Graduate

Columbia’s fourth annual Katz Prizes in Cardiovascular Research were given in October 2009 to a National Institutes of Health researcher and administrator and a young P&S investigator.
    The senior scientist award was given to Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the NIH. John P. Morrow, assistant professor of clinical medicine-cardiology at P&S, received the young investigator award. Lewis Katz, entrepreneur and philanthropist, created the senior and young investigator prizes in 2006 to recognize contributions in cardiovascular research.
    “Part of what makes these awards so special is that the awardees who receive them are judged by an independent panel of their peers, who are themselves some of the best minds and clinicians in the field of cardiology,” Lewis Katz says.
    “These clinician-scientists represent the vanguard in cardiovascular research,” says Allan Schwartz, M.D., chief of cardiology at P&S. “Dr. Nabel’s work in the molecular genetics of vascular diseases has led to a fundamental shift in the way cardiovascular disease can be prevented; Dr. Morrow’s efforts focus on the translational nature of cardiac electrophysiology and ventricular device research.”
    Dr. Nabel has championed the concept of “bench to bedside” by translating research discoveries for the clinical benefit of patients. Her current research interests focus on the molecular genetics of vascular diseases, including investigation of how cell cycle proteins regulate the growth of smooth muscle cells.
    Dr. Morrow, a 2000 P&S graduate, has received several awards for his research, which focuses on ion channel regulation and translational research in cardiac electrophysiology. He completed his residency and two fellowships (cardiology and clinical electrophysiology) at P&S. He was named a Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholar at P&S this year in support of his translational research into why heart function often improves in advanced-stage heart failure patients after the implantation of a left ventricular assist device.

Systems Biology Initiative
Andrea Califano, Ph.D., professor of biomedical informatics, was named founding director of a new Systems Biology Initiative, an endeavor formed in July to harness Columbia’s full potential in systems and computational biology.
    Dr. Califano, who joined P&S in 2003, directs the Center for the Multiscale Analysis of Genomic and Cellular Networks (MAGNet), one of seven NIH-funded National Centers for Biomedical Computing. He also is associate director for bioinformatics in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2) with Barry Honig, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry & molecular biophysics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
    The Systems Biology Initiative includes C2B2 and the Judith P. Sulzberger, M.D., Columbia Genome Center.
    Dr. Califano is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics and of the American Association for Cancer Research and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the New York Academy of Science, and the New York Academy of Medicine. He is also a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute.
    He holds a degree in theoretical physics from the University of Florence in Italy and received his postdoctoral training at the Università degli Studi of Florence and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Columbia he has developed integrative methodologies for the dissection of cancer phenotypes and pioneered a wide range of methodologies for the reverse engineering and biochemical validation of genome-wide regulatory networks in human cells and how they influence physiologic and pathologic phenotypes.
Class of 2013 Uses Facebook for Early Networking
As soon as first-year P&S student Stefan Flores’13 received his acceptance letter for P&S (his top choice) in March, he set up a Facebook page for his fellow incoming classmates. “My main goal was to get everyone consolidated into one group — to create a network to talk, address issues, and get to know each other,” says Mr. Flores.
    Membership to the page quickly swelled after Mr. Flores posted a link to it on studentdoctor.com. Rosemarie Scilipoti, student activities and P&S Club director, then linked it to the class of 2013 orientation Web site. Others found it on their own. “It initially had two to three members, then every day it started growing and growing,” says Mr. Flores. Today the group has 168 members. “Some second years also joined to answer questions — and to sell us stuff.”
    While use of the page has waned since the class listserv became available after classes started in August, the relationships that grew out of it have remained strong.
Profile: Class of 2013

Number of applications


Number interviewed


Number enrolled


U.S. residents


Foreign residents


New York state residents


Number of states represented


Other countries represented


Number of U.S. colleges represented


Number of women

73 (47%)

Sons of physicians


Daughters of physicians


Children of alumni


Children of faculty


Underrepresented minorities

27 (18%)

New York’s Best Doctors 2009
Of the 1,108 physicians and surgeons named to New York magazine’s list of the Best Doctors 2009, 20 percent are affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center. Doctors on the list include 142 faculty members, 90 who graduated from P&S, and 89 physicians who completed their residencies at Columbia/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Current P&S faculty represent 13 percent of all doctors listed.
The list of Columbia-affiliated physicians and surgeons can be found at www.cumc.columbia.edu/news/journal/2009-best-doctors/.
Neurosurgery Softball Champs Again

softball team

Columbia neurosurgeons claimed their third championship when 20 of the nation’s top medical institutions played in Central Park in June for the sixth annual neurosurgery charity softball tournament (www.ColumbiaKidsNeuro.org). The event, hosted each year by Columbia University, benefits pediatric brain tumor research. Columbia defeated Emory in the finals; Harvard and Penn neurosurgery departments tied for third place.

Podcasting Gets Infected with Viruses
(the kind that make you sick)

ipod with red crossBy Susan Conova
Tired of swine flu hype on cable television? Want to know the real facts behind the latest headlines? Or are you just fascinated by nanomachines that can commandeer a cell and reprogram it to produce millions of progeny in less than a day?
    Then tune into This Week in Virology (TWiV), a podcast hosted by two Columbia scientists, virologist Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., and microbiologist Dickson Despommier, Ph.D.
    In each episode Drs. Racaniello and Despommier bring a critical eye to the latest news reports, explain the most recent discoveries about viruses, and, in between, sprinkle the conversation with basics about viruses and some witty (dare we say infectious?) banter.
    “Being casual is key,” Dr. Racaniello says. “People are turned off by formal lectures and learn more from unscripted conversation.” Dr. Racaniello modeled TWiV on one of iTunes’ most popular podcasts, Diggnation, hosted by two, sometimes inebriated, hosts. “We’re just two people sitting down and talking, except we don’t have the beer.”
    The idea for TWiV came to Dr. Racaniello after he started listening to podcasts during his long commute to work. “I’d been thinking for years about how to teach virology outside the classroom, and podcasting seemed like the perfect solution,” he says.
    A week after Dr. Despommier joined the project in September 2008, the two scientists recorded their first episode on West Nile virus in Dr. Racaniello’s office. (And if you’re wondering what happened to West Nile virus last summer, Dr. Despommier in a recent episode speculated that the mild weather has kept more birds around, so the virus’s vector — mosquitoes — are feasting on them instead of us.)
    But no matter. Even without a West Nile virus outbreak, the news on other viruses never ends. Episodes cover everything from why some HIV-infected people never develop AIDS to how some viruses may contribute to obesity. TWiV’s 4,000 weekly listeners range from high school students to doctors as far away as the Philippines.
    “Viruses are amazing, and lots of people are fascinated by them. They can infect nearly every form of life on earth and reproduce so quickly and in such quantities that they evolve within hours,” Dr. Racaniello says. “They can kill us, or they can help us.”
    And then there’s H1N1 (aka “swine flu”), which has dominated the podcast since April.
    “There are tons of blogs and podcasts out there talking about the flu,” Dr. Racaniello says, “but the people talking aren’t virologists and they just spread rumors and hearsay.”
    Even mainstream journalists often take the wrong tack, in Dr. Racaniello’s view. “There’s rarely any science in these stories,” he says. “That’s what we try to fill in.”

This Week in Virology can be found in iTunes or by going to www.twiv.tv. Dr. Racaniello’s blog, www.virology.ws, contains more information about viruses, including introductory “Influenza 101” and “Virology 101” sections.


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