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Awards and Honors Across Weill Cornell Medicine - Week of Nov. 20 - Dec. 4

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Drs. Matthew Greenblatt and Dylan Gee receive the 2015 NIH Director's Early Independence Award

Dr. Matthew Greenblatt, an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Dr. Dylan Gee, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry, have won 2015 NIH Director's Early Independence Awards.

The Early Independence Award supports exemplary early-career investigators across the biomedical sciences who have recently completed their doctorate or medical residency. The prestigious award provides winners with as much as $1.25 million over five years to lead their own laboratories and conduct independent research as principal investigators without the need for traditional post-doctoral training. Drs. Greenblatt and Gee are two of 16 scientists from around the country to be selected for the honor, which is part of the NIH's High-Risk, High-Reward program. This is the first time Weill Cornell Medicine has had a winner — let alone two.

Dr. Matthew Greenblatt

"It's a wonderful award that gives me freedom to pursue important and potentially high-risk questions in my field," Dr. Greenblatt said. "Everyone who pursues a career in research dreams about being able to open and sustain your own lab. This award really made me feel like this dream has been realized, and will help me keep my focus on science over the next few years."

Dr. Greenblatt recently completed his doctorate working with mentor Dr. Laurie Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Greenblatt seeks to find new ways to offset the deterioration of bone density — and the resulting fractures — that occur in patients who have osteoporosis. These fractures kill as many women as breast cancer, Dr. Greenblatt said, making it a pressing issue for our aging population.

Drs. Glimcher and Greenblatt had previously found a molecular pathway called Schnurri-3 that can potentially be targeted for the treatment of osteoporosis. Dr. Greenblatt will use the award to explore this molecular pathway further to determine how exactly it blocks the function of bone-building cells, and how it can be targeted in future treatments.

Dr. Dylan Gee

Dr. Gee's project will examine the biological state of the developing brain to optimize treatments for anxiety disorders, particularly during adolescence. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders, affecting one in 10 youth. While there are effective treatments available, they may not be optimized for everyone, Dr. Gee said. This is particularly true for adolescents, who are undergoing dynamic changes in neurodevelopment. The award will enable Dr. Gee to build off the work she did with mentors Drs. BJ Casey and Francis Lee at the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology and investigate alternative neural circuits that may contribute to precision medicine and more effective pediatric treatments.

"I'm thrilled and incredibly honored to receive this award, and also very grateful to the many mentors who have helped me get to this place," Dr. Gee said. "This award is a major step in launching my independent career, my own lab. It really helps to propel that process and accelerate the pace of innovative research that I conduct. I hope this maximizes the impact I will be able to have on alleviating the burden of mental health disorders in youth, especially at this early stage of my career."

Dr. Oliver Fein Wins Award for Excellence in Public Health

Dr. Oliver Fein, associate dean (affiliations) and a professor of clinical medicine and of clinical healthcare policy and research, has won the 2015 Award for Excellence from the American Public Health Association.

Dr. Oliver Fein

The award honors public health professionals who have made exceptional contributions to the field through innovative organizational work for the improvement of community health. Dr. Fein, who was recognized for lifetime achievements in healthcare advocacy and activism, received his award at the association's 143rd annual meeting on Nov. 3 in Chicago.

"It was wonderful, a really significant recognition by my peers," said Dr. Fein, who is a past vice president of the association and has also served on its executive board. "It really causes one to reflect on what one has done and on all those who made it possible to do the things that I did."

"For five decades, Dr. Fein's innovative work has embodied excellence and has improved community health," said Dr. Barry Levy '71, chair of the association's awards committee. "I am deeply honored to recognize Dr. Fein with the 2015 American Public Health Association Award for Excellence."

Dr. Fein has distinguished himself in the field of public health through a lifetime of advocacy for health reform and greater community access. In the 1980's, as director of general medicine outpatient services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, he helped open and staff five community health centers in the Washington Heights community. In 2009, as president of Physicians for a National Health Program, he was invited to the White House Health Care Summit, where he advocated for single-payer national health reform. In 2010, he helped a small group of medical students found the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights, the first student-run asylum clinic at a U.S. medical school. Volunteer clinicians assist survivors of torture and other physical abuses who have fled from countries across the globe due to persecution based upon race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. As of 2014, the center has trained more than 150 medical students and professionals at Weill Cornell Medicine on how to conduct medical evaluations and provide affidavits to survivors of human rights violations.

As associate dean (affiliations), Dr. Fein works to expand Weill Cornell Medicine's affiliations with institutions, both domestically and internationally, to facilitate more diverse learning opportunities for medical students. When Dr. Fein first joined the institution, his priority was to provide medical students with clinical experience off of the island of Manhattan. He established a relationship with what is now NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens, and in 2000 forged Weill Cornell Medicine's first public hospital affiliation since 1968 with Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. Dr. Fein then expanded his vision beyond New York City and helped establish the Office of Global Health Education, which oversees and coordinates the global health educational electives program for Weill Cornell Medical College students.

"The idea, for me, was to give students exposure to the variety of health care systems in the world and a sense of the diversity of experiences that people have with healthcare systems," Dr. Fein said. "Probably close to 50 percent of Weill Cornell graduates have an international medical educational experience by the time they graduate. That's pretty fabulous, I think."

Additional Awards and Honors

Dr. Arash Salemi, an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, was in July named vice president of the New York Society for Thoracic Surgery Council for the 2015-2016 academic year. The society's members are attending physicians, as well as physicians training in or non-physicians who are studying physiology, pathology and treatment of diseases affecting the thorax.

Dr. Steve Markowitz, a professor of medicine, was appointed associate editor of the Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology in July. The journal is an international publication devoted to fostering research in and the development of interventional techniques and therapies for the management of cardiac arrhythmias.

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