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he third building in the Columbia University Audubon Science and Technology Park—the Irving Cancer Research Center—was officially “topped out” at a Feb. 22 ceremony marking the completion of the first major phase of construction.

The building, named for New York City philanthropist and food distribution executive Herbert Irving, was designed by Davis Brody Bond and features nine floors of research space, underground parking, and clinical facilities. A comprehensive breast cancer screening facility will be housed in the approximately 300,000-square-foot structure, located on St. Nicholas Avenue between 166th and 167th streets.

The ceremony began with opening remarks from Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president and dean, who professed his thanks to all involved in getting the structure built ahead of schedule. He declared the Audubon park unique as New York City's only university-related research park, housing the city’s only biotechnology business incubator. With an expected six new patented inventions per year, $30 million per year in research grants, and 500 new jobs, the park will be essential to New York City’s economic rebuilding and development.

Dr. Fischbach was followed by Dr. Karen Antman, director of the Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wu Professor of Medicine at P&S. She too thanked those involved in the building’s construction and stressed its importance in the field of cancer research. Mr. Irving then told the audience how proud and excited he is to be a part of the development and “at the end of my maturity to have a dream and see it fulfilled.” Mr. Irving was presented with a framed, computer- rendered photograph of the completed Audubon Park, including the Irving Cancer Research Center. Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, concluded the program, praising Dr. Antman for her strength in clinical cancer research.

The event ended with the entire audience taking an elevator to the structure’s roof, where Mr. Irving, along with Drs. Fischbach, Antman, and Pardes, raised a flag. A tree was placed next to the flag to symbolize the official “topping out.”

Occupancy of the building is expected to start in Spring 2003.


Columbia University awarded the 2001 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in December to Dr. Avram Hershko, right, Distinguished Professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Dr. Alexander Varshavsky, Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology at California Institute of Technology. Both researchers were honored for their breakthrough work on the ubiquitin system, the mechanism by which the cell maintains a proper and healthy balance of proteins. Awarded annually since 1967, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize recognizes exceptional accomplishments in biological and biochemical research.



The School of Dental and Oral Surgery has teamed with Aetna to create interactive tools dentists can use to help their patients stop using tobacco products. The project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Addressing Tobacco in Managed Care program and will be completed with assistance from the Deschutes Research Institute. Dr. David A. Albert, assistant professor of clinical medicine at both SDOS and the Mailman School of Public Health, will be the project’s principal investigator.

The effort is in response to studies that have indicated that while advice from a health care provider can be the single most effective stimulus for an individual seeking preventive care, tobacco cessation counseling is not routinely offered in dental practices.

The aim of the endeavor is to develop and disseminate a comprehensive interactive CD-ROM and related materials on tobacco cessation to dentists who participate in the Aetna Dental Maintenance Organization and to evaluate the effectiveness of the materials in altering dental provider behaviors toward their role in tobacco cessation. This program has the potential to expand communication of tobacco cessation techniques to thousands of U.S. dentists.

The project has multiple components, including continuing education via CD-ROMs to provide education on tobacco control, identification of records of dental patients who smoke, implementation of patient quit dates, dissemination of tobacco cessation materials to patients, and health plan performance measures for cessation-related efforts.

The three-year project will evaluate the CD-ROM’s effectiveness as the primary source of continuing education on smoking cessation for the dental staff, which includes dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. The dentists will use the CD-ROM, along with updates via electronic mail, to stimulate tobacco cessation behaviors among their patients.


The Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and the Department of Neurology have received a pledge of $1.5 million from New York-based lawyer Gilbert Kerlin to establish the institute’s first named chair. Established in memory of Mr. Kerlin’s wife, the Sally Kerlin Professorship of Neurology will support one full-time faculty member affiliated with both the institute and the neurology department.

Mr. Kerlin’s gift will be earmarked for a clinical investigator who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The successful candidate and recipient of the funds will be nominated by institute co-directors Dr. Richard Mayeux and Dr. Michael Shelanski in collaboration with Dr. Timothy A. Pedley, chairman of neurology, and Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president and dean.

Mrs. Kerlin died of Alzheimer’s disease in December.


The 2001-02 academic year marks the 70th anniversary of the opening of Bard Hall, Columbia’s first residence hall for medical students. Financed by a $2 million gift from philanthropist Edward S. Harkness, Bard Hall opened in Fall 1931 with 235 rooms for students, 10 suites for instructors, several lounges, a dining room, cafeteria, gymnasium, swimming pool, and squash courts. Although originally designed as a dormitory for men only, Bard Hall opened its doors to women in 1932.

Archives and Special Collections commemorates the anniversary with an exhibit in the Health Sciences Library. Included are a copy of Mr. Harkness’ letter announcing his donation, a promotional brochure from the 1950s, and several large-scale photographs showing Bard’s construction in 1930 and 1931.

The exhibit is on the library’s lobby level and is on display through April 5. For further information, contact Stephen Novak at (212) 305-7931 or sen13@columbia.edu.


Dr. Suzanne Bakken, professor of nursing and medical informatics, has been appointed to the Alumni Chair at the School of Nursing. The chair, funded by alumni donations, was initially introduced as a gift of $1 million presented in 1992; it has now grown to more than $2 million.



The Department of Surgery at P&S has established a new section devoted to colon and rectal surgery. The section falls under the Division of Surgical Specialties and will be headed by Dr. Richard L. Whelan. Dr. Whelan is a leading specialist in cancers of the colon and rectum and an innovator in minimal access surgery for colorectal cancers.


The Department of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) hosted about 30 FDNY firefighters and their top brass from the local fire houses (Division 7 & Battalion 13, Ladder 34 & 45, and Engine 67 & 84) on Saturday, Feb. 16, for a tour of the Health Sciences campus. The group, hosted by John Fink and Jack Murphy (Fire Safety), Dr. Muhammad Akram and Kathleen Crowley (EH&S), and Dr. Jake Kamen (Radiation Safety), toured a typical laboratory floor and discussed the possible hazards when responding to a fire. They were also shown laboratory signage and campus electrical and sprinkler systems.


hat is the role of a doctor as a citizen? How does a medical student become transformed into a physician? P&S faculty members Dr. David Hellerstein and Dr. Sayantani DasGupta addressed these questions when they read last month from their writing at the latest reading sponsored by the P&S narrative medicine program.

Both doctors have published fiction, essays, and memoirs about medicine and are now teaching writing to P&S students.

Dr. Hellerstein, associate professor of clinical psychiatry, read from his new novel, “Stone Babies,” a black comedy about practicing medicine in New York City. (The book does not reflect his experience at Columbia as he wrote it before joining the faculty in November 2000.) A psychopharmacologist specializing in mood and anxiety disorders, Dr. Hellerstein also is clinical director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

He also discussed the "city of the hospital” theme in his books and what role doctors should play as citizens. Hospitals are like small cities, with their own rules and systems, he said. Dr. Hellerstein feels doctors who write have a civic duty to honestly express the goings on inside these institutions to give patients a better understanding of the healthcare system. “The hospital of today has never been described before so physician-writers have a unique opportunity and responsibility to do so,” Dr. Hellerstein said.

His other books include a collection of essays called “Battles of Life and Death” and “A Family of Doctors,” a memoir. His work has appeared in such magazines as Esquire, Harper’s, North American Review, Fiction, and the New York Times Magazine.

Dr. DasGupta, a fellow in general pediatrics, read from her book about her experiences at Johns Hopkins Medical School, called “Her Own Medicine: A Woman’s Journey from Student to Doctor.” Her readings depicted the humor, aggravation, and compassion involved in becoming a doctor and making it through medical school. She also has written “The Demon Slayers and Other Stories: Bengali Folktales,” a folk tale collection.

Dr. DasGupta is teaching a new class on women’s illness narratives, in which Columbia medical students are given the opportunity to read patient accounts of their illnesses and write about their own experiences with illness. “To understand the patient voice, doctors often need to find their own,” Dr. DasGupta said. While medical school may not have much room for self-expression, she said, the narrative medicine program is a forum allowing such reflection.

—Matthew Dougherty

Dr. Irving Kupfermann

Dr. Irving Kupfermann, professor of physiology and cellular biophysics, professor of psychiatry in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, and research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, died Feb. 19. Dr. Kupfermann was a pioneer in studying the cellular basis of motivation and a leader in the study of feeding behavior.

Dr. Kupfermann received his undergraduate training at the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in biopsychology at the University of Chicago. In 1965 he joined the laboratory of Dr. Eric Kandel at Harvard with the aim of applying cellular methods to the study of behavior and learning. He set up his own laboratory in 1970, initially at NYU and later at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Over the past 30 years Dr. Kupfermann and his colleagues made several key discoveries and introduced and developed many concepts important to neuroscience.



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