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Weathering the Blackout of 2003

From the time the 2003 blackout began at 4:11 p.m. on Aug. 14 and ended on Aug. 15, university administrators and staff handled the emergency without any major incidents and kept much of the campus lit amid a darkened Washington Heights skyline. The July 1999 Washington Heights blackout did more damage, destroying refrigerated tissue samples and other research projects dependent on power.

The university's generators, which produce alternative emergency power, operated at full capacity. The Health Sciences Comprehensive Emergency Plan went into effect and top administrators gathered at an emergency management command center, set up in the P&S Alumni Auditorium, to assess the crisis.

The August blackout required additional diesel fuel capacity, which an oil company in Brooklyn was able to supply. The catch: Fuel tank trucks are not permitted to travel through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Jeannine Jennette, assistant director of security at Health Sciences, was able to get permission from the New York Police Department and a police escort for the tanker to travel through the tunnel to the campus.

Leading the emergency effort were Kevin Kirby, vice president of Health Sciences, and Robert Lemieux, associate vice president of facilities management. The facilities operations crew, headed by William Marchand, assistant vice president, and Albert Cali Jr., director, worked around the clock, making sure the generators ran at optimum capacity. "Everyone at operations knew exactly what had to be done," says Mr. Marchand. "They're truly a dedicated group of professionals who stepped to the plate and did a great job. All our planning and investments paid off." Added Mr. Cali: "When an emergency such as this hits, everyone at Health Sciences works together as a team seamlessly."

Also on the front lines during the latest blackout was Health Sciences security, which enacted additional patrols and assisted in emergency situations, and Environmental Health and Safety, headed by Kathleen Crowley, which assisted operations in checking hazardous areas and maintaining radiation safety.

Health Sciences Commemorates 9/11 Anniversary

Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean and director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health, speaks at the Health Sciences commemoration of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Speakers at the remembrance ceremony were Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president and dean; Dr. Letty Moss-Salentijn, associate dean, School of Dental and Oral Surgery; Dr. Richard Deckelbaum, director, Institute of Human Nutrition; Judy Honig, associate dean, School of Nursing; Dr. Janet Falk-Kessler, director, occupational therapy; Fred Loweff, assistant dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; P&S student Azzie Azarbayejani'05; Dr. Robert Kelly, senior vice president and chief operating officer, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia campus; Rev. Raymond Lawrence; Rabbi Mordecai Schnaidman; and Zead Ramadan, chairman, Community Board 12. Several speakers stressed the fact that in the post 9/11 world, Columbia, as a distinguished community full of caring individuals, could set an example of how people must treat each other with kindness and compassion.

Columbia Faculty Spend a Week Teaching in Europe

In August, a group of physicians from Columbia traveled to Salzburg, Austria, to teach at the Salzburg Medical Seminars, a week of intensive medical education for doctors from central and eastern Europe, central Asia and the former Soviet Union.

The seminars, sponsored by the Open Society Institute – an organization founded by philanthropist George Soros – the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, and the Austrian American Foundation, seek to introduce doctors to Western-style medicine and medical education methods.

Since the seminars began in 1994, more than 5,000 doctors from these regions have attended the seminars as fellows.

The Columbia group was part of a larger group of faculty from Cornell, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Duke, who have participated in previous seminars. The Columbia group – Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, Edgar M. Leifer Professor of Clinical Medicine; Dr. Karen Antman, Wu Professor of Medicine and director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center; Dr. Paul Lee, director of the hospitalist program in the hospital; and Dr. Jai Radhakrishnan, clinical professor of nephrology – was the first to teach adult internal medicine. Dr. Richard Polin, a neonatologist at P&S, had taught neonatal medicine in 2002.

Thirty-six doctors – ranging from residents to full professors to department chairs, and including internists, cardiologists, nephrologists, endocrinologists and oncologists – attended the seminars as fellows. The seminars emphasized cardiology, nephrology, oncology and general internal medicine, with particular attention on hospital medicine.

"This experience really was a two-way street," Dr. Tenenbaum says. "We were doing the teaching, but we learned some interesting things, too. For example, we learned that the autopsy rates in their hospitals are 100 percent, as opposed to 10 percent in America. That kind of rate provides a great deal of opportunity to learn about disease causes and processes." Another misconception that was shattered was about end-of-life care. "We thought limits existed in the availability of dialysis for extremely ill or older people, but we were surprised to learn that these countries don't impose limitations based on age or diagnosis."

A highlight of the week occurred when the medical residents morning case presentation in Milstein was beamed to Salzburg via closed-circuit TV. "Everyone loved this experience," Dr. Tenenbaum says. "It gave the doctors a chance to really experience how a case presentation was done in an American hospital. Many of them gave excellent case presentations of their own, so they really appreciated seeing how it's done here."

In the future, Dr. Tenenbaum envisions satellite symposia taking place in other cities in central and eastern Europe, central Asia and the former Soviet Union.

"With the creation of the European Union, there are far fewer restrictions on training across European countries, so we expect that many more doctors will be participating."

Largest Class Ever Begins Nursing School

Faculty congratulate new students during the School of Nursing's White Coat Ceremony in the P&S Auditorium Sept. 9. This year's class of 158 students is the largest in the school's history. Students were presented white coats with School of Nursing insignias to commemorate their "Entry to Practice" (ETP), the first phase of the school's master's degree program. Presenters included Dr. Mary Mundinger, dean; Sarah Cook, vice dean; and Lesly Curtis, director, ETP Program.

Higher Education Chairman Visits Columbia

Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, a Democrat from the Albany area and chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, came to Columbia Sept. 4 to meet with university leaders and see first hand the university's latest initiative in the area of biomedical research and biotechnology development. Mr. Canestrari toured Manhattanville with executive vice president Emily Lloyd and discussed the university's plans for campus development in this area, as well as student aid issues on both the graduate and undergraduate level. At the Health Sciences campus, Mr. Canestrari met with Dr. Gerald Fischbach and SDOS Dean Ira Lamster. Here, the assemblyman is flanked by dental student Narmatha Sinnarajah and Dr. Lamster, who took him on a tour of one of the school's dental clinics.

Gift for New Autism Center

Kids Foundation friends and supporters teed off at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in New Jersey July 18, netting $50,000 to benefit the new Columbia Developmental Neuropsychiatry Center for Autistic Spectrum Disorders. The new center is dedicated to comprehensive clinical care to help patients and families coping with autistic spectrum disorders and to advancing research and professional training in this area. Accepting the Kids Foundation award are, from left, Program coordinator Maureen McSwiggan-Hardin; co-directors Dr. Marc Patterson, professor of clinical neurology and pediatrics and Dr. Agnes Whitaker, clinical professor of psychiatry; and Dr. Debra Seltzer, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics.

Welcome Wagon Greets Class of 2007

Ricardo Morales, crime prevention specialist for Health Sciences Security, explains safety procedures to Bonnie McDermott, a Harvard graduate and incoming P&S student at Health Sciences' Welcome Wagon 2003 on Aug. 19 at Bard Hall. The event, sponsored by the Housing Office, offers all incoming students a chance to meet with representatives from Health Sciences departments and services as well as community vendors. Ms. McDermott was one of many students who stopped by the security booth to register for the chance to win a mountain bike given away at the Security Fair Sept. 17.