Alumni Council Dinners
In a talk titled “From Bedside to Wall Street, Common Principles in Caring for Patients and Building a Business,” Marc Grodman’77, the guest speaker at the Sept. 22, 2011, council dinner, recounted the medical odyssey that led him from a medical residency at Mount Sinai, with a detour to the Kennedy School of Government, to founding BioReference Laboratories, the largest independent regional clinical facility of its kind in the Northeast and the fourth largest clinical laboratory in the country. He is currently chairman of the board, president, and CEO. “I always knew it would be a different kind of career,” Dr. Grodman said. “Yet no matter what field of endeavor a P&S graduate works and excels in, that person will always be a physician with the unique perspective that a P&S education provides.” Dr. Grodman, a member of the clinical faculty in the Department of Medicine at P&S, credits P&S with having inculcated in him a painstaking appreciation for detail and an attentiveness to the problem at hand. He also thanked one of his P&S mentors, Thomas Q. Morris’58, who was in the audience, for teaching him that “asking the right question is more important than getting the right answer.” Furthermore, P&S taught him never to be satisfied with an outcome, success, or failure, but to always find out why. “Analysis and lessons learned,” he stressed, “are the keys to sustainability” in any endeavor. These principles of clinical practice have proved equally applicable to running a successful medically related business. His company is, in his words, “incredibly physician-centric.” Its mission includes the diagnosis of leukemias and lymphomas as well as testing in other specialty areas in genetics and women’s health. A staunch supporter of his medical alma mater, Dr. Grodman and his wife, Pam, have established the Pam and Mark Grodman’77 Joint Degree Program Fund to fund student programs, including lectures and seminars, as a step toward creating a home for students interested in dual degrees, especially the joint MD/MBA at Columbia.
At the council dinner Nov. 17, 2011, guest speaker Joseph Haddad, M.D., advisory dean and the Lawrence Savetsky Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, presented a global perspective, speaking in his capacity as special assistant to the P&S dean for international affiliations. Dr. Haddad focused his remarks on international medicine, specifically the international health option for the fourth-year scholarly project in the new curriculum. He noted the growing number of medical students seeking an international experience. “They are,” he said, “driven by a desire to serve.” And he added that “learning to function in a low-tech, low-resource environment is really an eye-opener for them. They have to improvise, use common sense, and learn to think on their feet.” Dr. Haddad was inspired by his own early international experiences, including a month as a fellow in otolaryngology in Pohnpei, the capital of Micronesia, teaching in a medical officer training program. Conditions were a bit rough. “Planning an operation,” he recalled, “always included alerting the authorities that they should not cut the electric power to his facility while he was in the operating room.” Dr. Haddad is currently part of a team of surgeons who regularly travel to Honduras to perform cleft lip surgery and train local surgeons in repair techniques. Dr. Haddad encourages alumni and friends to pitch in by supporting travel grants for interested students, continuing a P&S tradition begun by the late Dr. Harold Brown, a popular professor of tropical medicine, who promoted learning through travel. A Class of 1953 Harold Brown Fellowship Fund provides financial assistance to students interested in pursuing such experiences. Dr. Haddad hopes alumni will pitch in to provide additional support to facilitate the travel of students engaged in international work toward their scholarly project, noting that “airfare is the major expense.” It would, he concluded, “be an ideal opportunity for a named scholarship.”
As per tradition, on Jan. 25, 2012, council dinner host and speaker Dean Lee Goldman (pictured here with Alumni Association President Donald Quest'70) delivered the annual State of the School address, stating that 2011-2012 was a stellar year for P&S. On the clinical side, “clinical practices at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and all affiliated teaching hospitals have enjoyed major increases in patient volumes.” Even in a time when overall NIH funding suffered a cut of 1 percent, the P&S research enterprise saw NIH funding increase by 6 percent. “It’s really a remarkable testimony to the caliber of the faculty here at this medical school,” he said. In education, medical school applications are up. “The Class of 2015 actually showed the highest yield rate among accepted applicants to P&S in 35 years.” He credited the people who helped revamp the curriculum, notably Ron Drusin’66, vice dean for education. The new curriculum “starts off right from the beginning with the students seeing patients…and includes a heavy emphasis on team-based learning in small groups.” Looking to the future, Dr. Goldman reported on the strategic planning process currently under way, with individual task forces devoted to clinical care, research, education, and campus life. Among other educational initiatives, he spoke about dual degree programs, discussions to reappraise and resurrect the dormant Doctor of Medical Science degree, and the Columbia-Bassett Program for students interested in primary care and rural medicine. “We’re looking at a whole new variety of ways that P&S can be creative in medical education while still preserving what’s really important about being here. And if you believe that mimicry is the highest form of flattery, look at the description of the curriculum at Yale, look at the description of the curriculum at NYU. Their curricula now look remarkably like ours.” The Dean concluded his remarks by affirming that “it is really a privilege for me to be the temporary steward, as all deans are, of a great educational enterprise.”