Dr. David A. Brenner joined Columbia as chairman of the Department of Medicine on March 1. Previously, he was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 10 years, where he was chief of gastroenterology and director of the Digestive Disease Center. He is also editor-in-chief of the journal Gastroenterology. In addition to his administrative role, he continues to do research on the molecular biology of liver diseases and conditions such as liver fibrosis a common pathway for liver disorders and see patients with gastrointestinal diseases.
First, I met with as many people as I could, including the division chiefs, to assess their needs. I met with many different groups in research, teaching, and patient care these areas represent the three missions of the department. It is a challenge to keep all three reinforcing each other, especially since we have 400 full-time faculty members and 900 affiliated faculty.
An early goal is to recruit and provide resources to build up the divisions. We are recruiting leaders for the two divisions gastroenterology and rheumatology that lack chiefs. We recently appointed a new director for the residency training program, Dr. Nick Fiebach, who was the associate director of the residency program at Johns Hopkins.
Columbia's internal medicine residency program has been and continues to be one of the premier residency programs in the nation. We have phenomenal patients who come from various areas, including the local community, other parts of New York City, and the surrounding suburbs. The patients usually present in the emergency room without a diagnosis making them the most challenging, exciting patients in medicine. By comparison, most of the patients at UNC were transferred from an outside doctor, already having received a diagnosis, and required some type of specialized care. Columbia is a great learning environment for residents because they get to observe and participate in diagnoses. The housestaff have more opportunity to learn from their patients.
Another example is in gastroenterology, where specialists just recently started using antibodies as a type of therapy. Once gastroenterologists get used to using that therapy, we can try to block targets with other antibodies. In the past we would have waited until a new drug was available, which can take years.
I would also like to form clinical trial support cores where we can do both patient care and clinical trials. To assist researchers with clinical trials, we would hire a biostatistician as well as people to handle data entry. The goal is to make it easier to do creative research, ask harder questions, and get answers.
There is also room to expand on the multidisciplinary approach to patient care. This approach is already in place here at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. But we can do something more specialized on a smaller scale in areas such as prostate cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. When I was at UNC, we had success with a joint medical and surgical clinic to treat inflammatory bowel disease and esophagus and liver problems. Patients appreciate it because they can see multiple physicians and get several tests done at one time. Physicians can benefit from their colleagues' knowledge as well as conduct clinical research.