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Awards and Honors Across Weill Cornell Medicine

White House Fellowship Exposes Dr. Robert Accordino to Government Service

Dr. Robert Accordino has focused much of his career on the mental health of children with developmental disabilities. Now, thanks to a White House fellowship, he will have the opportunity to positively affect the mental health of men and women in the American military and their families.

A graduate of the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine General Psychiatry Residency, Dr. Accordino began his one-year assignment as a White House Fellow on Aug. 22. As the White House Fellow to the Secretary of Defense, Dr. Accordino is working on wellness projects concerning military personnel and their families, including the implementation of mental health parity and value-based payment initiatives as well as using technology to improve mental health delivery.

Dr. Robert Accordino looks on as former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning speaks at the symposium. Photo credit: John Martinez

“The White House Fellowship is an extraordinary gift and an amazing opportunity to grow — to be able to learn from and witness leadership at the highest levels of the federal government,” said Dr. Accordino, who founded the United States nonprofit organization Music for Autism, which develops concerts for people with autism and their families. “I am passionate about improving the integration of mental health care with primary care, and lessening the barriers that patients experience in accessing affordable mental health care.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson founded the year-long fellowship in 1964 to give promising young Americans in various disciplines the opportunity to work alongside top federal government officials and inspire lifelong community service. The 16 fellows selected for the 2016-17 class — which also includes Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Internal Medicine Residency graduate Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb — hail from fields such as astrophysics, community planning and development, education, engineering, finance, law, medicine, and the military. In addition to year-long service projects, the fellows will participate in an educational program through which they'll meet with current and former top government leaders to discuss their respective experiences and leadership roles including the president of the United States. They also take part in monthly community service projects in greater Washington, D.C.

As the capstone of his work in technology and mental health, Dr. Accordino developed and chaired the Secretary of the Army Symposium on Suicide Prevention and Social Media, which took place Jan. 18 at the Pentagon. Symposium presenters included the Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva; United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health Tom Insel and leaders from Apple, Facebook, Google, SnapChat, LinkedIn and Twitter. National media covered the symposium, and Dr. Accordino will develop a white paper based on recommendations from break-out discussions and submit it as a white paper to top DoD leadership.

He hopes his experience working with patients at the clinical level will inform his contributions to health policy over the year. He also hopes to learn how to translate micro-level patient care to systems-level change.

“In the future, I look forward to continuing to care for patients and also contributing to shape and improve the systems in which we take care of people,” Dr. Accordino said. “The White House Fellowship will be a unique learning experience to allow for this sort of systems-level work to occur, with the hope of having an effect on many more patients, even those I do not directly see in the clinic.”

Dr. Accordino said Dr. David Rubin, Dr. John Walkup, Dr. Susan Samuels, Dr. Justin Mohatt, Dr. Julie Penzner, Dr. Lisa Sombrotto, Dr. Phil Wilner, Dr. Carolyn Douglas and Dr. Barbara Milrod are among Weill Cornell Medicine faculty who were instrumental in his development as a fellowship candidate.

Additional Awards and Honors

Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, the E. William Davis, Jr., MD Professor of Medical Ethics and a professor of medicine, of medicine in psychiatry, of healthcare policy and research, and of medical ethics in neurology, received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities at its annual meeting on Oct. 7 in Washington, D.C. The ASBH Distinguished Service Award is given to a society member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in advancing its goals.

Dr. Zachary Grinspan, the Nanette Laitman Clinical Scholar in Healthcare Policy and Research/Community Health, and an assistant professor of healthcare policy and research and of pediatrics, in October won a Pediatric Epilepsy Research Foundation grant award for his project “Comparative Effectiveness Research for Infantile Spasms.” The foundation provides grant funding to outstanding child neurologists for meritorious clinical, translational, basic, comparative-effectiveness and implementation research related to neurologic conditions in infants, children and adolescents.

Dr. Renuka Gupta, an assistant professor of medicine, on Oct. 28 was named a fellow in hospital medicine by the Society of Hospital Medicine. Fellows have at least five years of experience as practicing hospitalists and demonstrate leadership, teamwork and quality improvement. The society promotes exceptional care for hospitalized patients.

Dr. James Lo, an assistant professor of medicine,in November received a Gilead Sciences Research Scholars Program in Cardiovascular Disease award. The program supports innovative scientific research that will advance knowledge in the field of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Lo will be funded up to $130,000 over a two-year period.


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