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New Medical Ethics Professorship Honors Renowned Faculty Member

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Dr. Joseph J. Fins

Joseph J. Fins, M.D., F.A.C.P., an internationally renowned medical ethicist and pioneer in the field of neuroethics and disorders of consciousness, was named the first recipient of a newly established professorship — The E. William Davis, Jr., M.D. Professor of Medical Ethics — at a reception at the Griffis Faculty Club, April 26.

The professorship was created in honor of Dr. E. William Davis Jr., who was instrumental to the founding of the Hospital's Ethics Committee in 1994 when Dr. Fins was named as its founding chair. Dr. Davis served as Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College and is currently Vice President for Medical Affairs Emeritus at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"It is truly a singular honor having a professorship named in honor Dr. Davis, a person who is especially beloved at the medical center for his dignified manner and discernment," Dr. Fins said. "Words cannot express how deeply touched I am to carry Dr. Davis' forward in the work I do and the service I perform. I know I will forever be inspired when I think of our relationship and this very high honor. I'm especially delighted to hold a professorship that bridges the hospital and the medical college in the service of our patients."

Dr. Fins' career has, in many ways, mirrored that of Dr. Davis. Both attended Wesleyan University as undergraduates, both received their medical degrees from Cornell University Medical College, and both completed their residencies at New York Hospital. Each went on to practice medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center for the span of their careers.

Dr. Fins' distinguished career has been punctuated by major accomplishments and accolades. He has won more than 20 competitive grants, such as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, a Soros Open Society Institute Project on Death in America Faculty Scholars Award, and a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Visiting Fellowship. He was appointed by President Clinton to The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and currently serves on The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law by gubernatorial appointment. In 2010, Dr. Fins was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in medicine.

Dr. Fins serves as Chief, Division of Medical Ethics; tenured Professor of Medicine, Professor of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is also the Director of Medical Ethics and Attending Physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as President-Elect of the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities and a Fellow of the Hastings Center and The New York Academy of Medicine. He is former Governor of the American College of Physicians and Trustee of Wesleyan University. (Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth acknowledges Dr. Fins' new appointment in a article titled "Why Liberal Arts Matter.")

"Starting out as a practicing internist, and with Dr. Davis as a mentor, Joe's career has bridged medicine and humanity," said Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "As the Chief of our Division of Medical Ethics, and the founding Chair of the Hospital's Ethics Committee, Joe has served as our counsel and our conscience."

Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said, "As physicians, we understand the need sometimes to approach difficult decisions removed from our emotions so that we can render the best care for our patients and counsel their families. We must never, however, disconnect ourselves and our decisions from our humanity. Joe Fins has built a career here on researching, practicing and helping us all practice an irreplaceable level of humanity as we guide our patients and their families down difficult paths."

Both Dr. Davis and Dr. Fins were joined by more than 100 colleagues, friends and family for the celebration. Each thanked the many donors who made the professorship possible and expressed their gratitude to Drs. Gotto and Pardes for their support of this important professorship.

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