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Power People

Celebrating the Individuals Who Make Weill Cornell Medicine Great

Portraits by John Abbott

At Weill Cornell Medicine, people are the heart and soul of our institution. Our faculty and staff — the physicians, scientists and administrators who work so hard every day to fulfill our mission to care, discover and teach — make us who we are.

Orli Etingin

Dr. Orli Etingin

Lisa and Sanford B. Ehrenkranz Professor in Women’s Health; Professor of Clinical Medicine and of Medicine in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology

“A lot of the work I do has to do with blood clotting problems in patients who are pregnant or recently postpartum, so there have been a lot of very gratifying moments when women who have had recurrent miscarriages were finally able to give birth successfully, or patients who had multiple complications were finally able to get through a pregnancy in a healthy way. I remember being in the delivery room 10 or 12 years ago with a patient who’d had multiple pregnancy losses, some of them in the much later phases, and watching her baby being born and being overwhelmed by that moment. We think about the science and the decision-making, but when we see that, it’s life changing. I had another patient who’d had about six miscarriages, and when I and her ob/gyn helped her get through a pregnancy safely, she had a son. Yesterday he came to me as a new patient; he’s 19 years old and I remember when he was born and being at their family celebration, the bris — that was pretty incredible. I took care of his grandparents and parents; he’s the third generation of this family I’ve had the privilege of taking care of. And that was just my life on a regular day. It’s pretty awe inspiring. It’s pretty good work.”

Makoto Ishii

Dr. Makoto Ishii ’08

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and of Neurology, Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute

“I grew up in America, so I didn’t see my grandmother as much as I would have liked. But when I was an MD-PhD student, I took two years off to live and work in Japan, and I got to know her a lot better. A few years after that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; she was always a strong-willed and independent woman, but she now requires 24-hour-a-day care. I was training to be a neurologist when she was diagnosed, and it really shaped the direction of my career. One of the key components was that I saw she lost a lot of weight right before she developed Alzheimer’s. That got me interested in how weight loss might play a role. As I delved deeper, I realized it has been described for decades, but nobody understood why it occurs. That drove me to try to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying it. Is it a cause or an effect? We think it’s both. We think it’s a metabolic change that occurs as part of the disease, and we hypothesize that it’s detrimental to brain function. Unfortunately, science doesn’t move fast, so you know the work you’re doing isn’t going to help someone today. You hope it will help in the future — but whether that’s six months or 10 years down the road, you don’t know. Hopefully, we can help someone else’s parents or grandparents. That’s what I keep my eye on.”

Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth Wilson-Anstey

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs

“My family is very committed to education. My grandfather had a school back home in Guyana, and after he passed away my dad took it over. So teaching is the family business. I came to this country in 1971, and it took me 18 years to finish my undergraduate degree; now I’m getting a doctorate in executive leadership. I’m writing my dissertation on the effectiveness of the Travelers summer research fellowship — the program at Weill Cornell Medicine I’ve been working with for 40 years — in preparing students from underrepresented backgrounds for careers in medicine. I meet students where they are and help them get where they want to go. They may be the first in their family to go to college, coming from communities where they don’t see physicians who look like them. I give them advice and let them know, ‘You can do it, and this is how.’ There have been over a thousand Travelers students. Looking at their accomplishments makes me feel that this program is making a difference. It’s having an impact on people’s lives. The fact that I play a small part gives me a very good feeling. I have stacks of cards and notes from them, thanking me. It makes me think, OK, you’re living your life’s purpose. This is what you were put on this earth to do.”

Estomih Mtui

Dr. Estomih Mtui

Professor of Anatomy in Radiology

“My dad was a medical assistant at the missionary hospital in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I would go there as a kid, and I was so intrigued by medicine; I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was three. In high school, I was really interested in biology. I went to the dean of the nearby medical school and asked if I could see a cadaver, because I wanted to correlate what I was seeing in frogs and rats with the human body. They thought I was crazy, but they took me to the dissection room, and it was so impressive. I still vividly remember my gross anatomy professor from when I was a medical student in Tanzania. He had so much energy, and he made the subject matter so interesting by emphasizing the correlations between anatomy and clinical care. Anatomy is the foundation for all the disciplines of medicine — and it can be intimidating. For me, the most gratifying part is helping students find and understand the anatomical structures; you look at their faces and see how thankful they are. I bumped into one student 15 years after I taught him, and he said, ‘All my success — being an attending in urology — I built on the anatomy you taught me.’ It was so rewarding. I want to make anatomy exciting for my students, so they’ll remember the material for the rest of their lives.”

Mark Souweidane and Caitlin Hoffman

Dr. Mark Souweidane

Professor of Neurological Surgery and of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics

Dr. Caitlin Hoffman

Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery

“Our love for children is what attracted us to the field of pediatric neurosurgery; with every procedure, we hope that we’re investing in the next several decades of their lives. Many people ask, ‘How do you guys work together?’ A lot of them view it as too insular. ‘What do you guys talk about at the dinner table? How do you have a life outside?’ But if anything, it’s balanced in sense of understanding. It’s hard for a spouse who’s not in pediatric neurosurgery to truly understand the level of commitment—that you’re going to interrupt dinner, leave in the  middle of your child’s recital, or get up three times in the middle of the night to go back to the hospital. We know what our calling demands. We have shared values and goals. We know what the expectations are and we fully support each other. When things aren’t perfect at work, when outcomes aren’t ideal, there’s that sense of understanding and empathy. Your own experience allows you to dig down deep and support each other. It makes it easier to be a parent, to be a spouse. You don’t have to come home and explain yourself. You just know.”