Weill Cornell Medicine honored more than two dozen faculty, trainees, students and staff April 26 for their outstanding service and leadership in promoting diversity at the academic medical institution.
The annual Diversity Awards honor exemplary contributions through research, clinical care, community service and advocacy to improve the health of populations that historically have had unequal access to care. They also recognize excellence in mentorship and fostering an inclusive, engaging and welcoming workplace. Initiated in 2011 to reflect the institution’s commitment to diversity, encourage public service and mentorship, and build on existing initiatives to recruit and retain diverse students and faculty, the awards have since broadened in scope and grown in number to honor staff and excellence in the mentorship of women.
This year’s Diversity Awards ceremony recognized the 2020 and 2021 honorees; Diversity Week was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many congratulations to the recipients of our 2020 and 2021 diversity and mentorship awards,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “These individuals are making exceptional efforts to enhance our culture at Weill Cornell Medicine, and we are very grateful and proud of them.”
Dr. Rache Simmons, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, presented the 2021 Jessica M. and Natan Bibliowicz Award for Excellence in Mentoring Women Faculty to Dr. Molly McNairy, the Bonne Johnson Sacerdote Clinical Scholar in Women’s Health, associate professor of medicine and a member of the Center for Global Health. The award recognizes outstanding faculty who demonstrate a commitment to advancing the careers of women in the areas of clinical care, research or education.
The ceremony honored five winners of the 2021 Pioneers in Diversity Awards, which recognize members of the Weill Cornell Medicine community who have distinguished themselves as key contributors to a culture of diversity. Dr. Linnie Golightly, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Joy Howell, assistant dean for diversity and student life, and Dr. Lisa Hudgins, associate professor of pediatrics in medicine, presented the awards.
Dr. Erica Phillips, an associate professor of clinical medicine, was honored with the inaugural Marie Metoyer Award (read more about Marie Metoyer here), which recognizes faculty or alumnus of Weill Cornell Medicine who has gone above and beyond to serve communities despite difficult conditions. Dr. Phillips, who is the associate director for community outreach and engagement of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center and co-associate director of the Community Engagement and Advocacy Core of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, has dedicated her career to health equity and community engagement research. Her achievements have included work with the New York Academy of Medicine implementing a venue intensive vaccination program that targeted hard-to-reach populations living within urban communities as a model for rapid vaccination during a pandemic, and numerous projects that leverage the naturally occurring social network through training lay health educators and community health workers to deliver community based interventions that counter key social determinants of health such as food insecurity, low literacy, and social isolation. Dr Phillips received a Crystal Award in 2019 by one of the many faith-based organizations that she has worked with over the past 20 years. The award recognizes the success of individuals who have distinctly been identified for their significant contributions to society, through their civic, community, religious and humanitarian endeavors.
Dr. Ben S. Huang, an instructor of neuroscience in psychiatry, was awarded the Bruce Laine Ballard, MD Award for Excellence in Mentorship. The award recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated a commitment to improving student life and fostering a nurturing and supportive environment where students are able to thrive and succeed. Dr. Huang helped establish the WCM Postdoc Anti-Discrimination Committee in the wake of last year’s demonstrations for racial justice. The committee is dedicating to combating various forms of discrimination through advocacy and education, and mounted a trilogy of film-facilitated discussions on systemic injustice. Dr. Huang also leads a WCM Social Justice & Anti-Racism Task Force working group that organizes monthly open-dialogue events aimed at fostering a culture of belonging for people of all backgrounds by providing safe spaces for sharing experiences.
Pediatrics resident Dr. Tatiana Ndjatou was recognized with the Louis Wade Sullivan, MD Award for Excellence in Public Health Advocacy, which honors a resident or postdoctoral fellow who has been an outspoken champion for health promotion and a public health advocate, especially for medically underserved populations. During her residency, Dr. Ndjatou has been an active member of the Pediatric Diversity Coalition and the Minority House Staff Council, through which she has discussed initiatives to increase diversity representation among residents and faculty. She also serves as the first nominated American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Pediatric Trainees Executive Coordinator of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and is an adviser for the Switch it Up Break it Down Program, which focuses on children residing in the Harlem community making healthy lifestyle choices.
Weill Cornell Medical College student Hector Mora ’21 received the Ida Sophia Scudder, MD Award for Excellence in Public Service. The award recognizes medical, doctoral, M.D.-Ph.D. or physician assistant students who have made significant contributions in the field of community service and providing care to the underserved. Mora is president of the Black and Latino Men in Medicine Initiative, which aims to create a network of administrators, physicians, scientists, trainees and students to raise awareness of the myriad issues involved in the precipitous decline of Black and Latino men in healthcare, medicine and science. Mora joined the initiative in his second year of medical school and helped expand its offerings. Through networking, program development and community engagement, the initiative seeks to support and provide mentorship for Black and Latino men interested in medicine and science.
Jane Torres-Lavoro won the Administrative Staff Award, which recognizes staff members who embody the spirit of cultural diversity and service. Torres-Lavoro is manager of special projects and education programs in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Torres-Lavoro helped spearhead the department’s DiversifiED Committee, which supports and celebrates diversity and was one of the first departmental forums that included all staff. Torres-Lavoro also helped establish panel discussions and book clubs for the department, as well as education programs for pre-medical students, residents, faculty and staff. She was also recently appointed to the Staff Equity and Inclusion Council through the Office of Institutional Equity.
Six Weill Cornell Medicine faculty and trainees were recognized with the Dean’s Diversity and Healthcare Disparity Research Awards. The awards provide one-year research funding to investigators whose work seeks to improve the health of underrepresented minorities and achieve health equity for people locally and globally. The winners, who presented posters of their research during the awards ceremony, include:
Faculty ($50,000 each)
- Dr. Sri Lekha Tummalapalli, assistant professor of population health sciences
- Dr. William Schpero, assistant professor of population health sciences
- Dr. Jonathan Villena-Vargos, assistant professor of clinical cardiothoracic surgery
- Dr. Vivian Bea, assistant professor of surgery
Fellows and postdoctoral associates ($50,000 each)
- Dr. Jamuna Krishnan, instructor in medicine
- Dr. Solange Bayard, fellow in surgery
More than 35 sessions are slated for Diversity Week, running from April 26 to May 1. For a complete listing of events, download the program or visit the Diversity Week webpage on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website. Download the Weill Cornell Medicine Annual Report on Diversity and Inclusion for a comprehensive summary of activities, initiatives and accomplishments in 2020.
“We are fortunate to come together this evening to celebrate our community and to reaffirm our unified commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Said Ibrahim, senior associate dean of diversity and inclusion. “And to honor those among us who champion this cause.”