Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders Celebrated at Commencement


Dr. Alisa Dong’s mother would be so proud. A few years ago, she sat her daughter down and said, “What are you going to do with your life? You’ve gotta go back to school.”

Dr. Dong followed her mom’s advice, attending Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences to study cell and developmental biology. On June 1 she graduated, and now with her doctorate in hand, she’s working at a consulting firm, strategizing how best to get new drugs from the bench into clinical trials.

“I know that my mom would be so proud today, looking down on me and my sister and how well we’ve done,” Dr. Dong said of her late mother, a pink orchid lei draped around her neck as she stood outside Carnegie Hall after she accepted her diploma. “I know that she is really happy right now. I’m really happy. I will look back at this as one of the crowning achievements of my time.”

Dr. Dong was among 275 students – 100 fellow medical doctors from New York, 45 from Qatar, 55 Ph.D.s, 31 physician assistants and 44 with Master of Science degrees – who graduated from Weill Cornell Medicine on Thursday. Vibrant red and white bouquets lined the Perelman Stage as Cornell President Martha Pollack joined Deans Augustine M.K. Choi, Gary Koretzky and Javaid I. Sheikh in conferring degrees on students graduating from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar.

Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi addresses the Class of 2017 during commencement on June 1. All photos taken by Amelia Panico

With their education behind them, the graduates will now embark on their residencies, postdocs, fellowships and other phases of their careers. But that is only the beginning.

“Medicine is a lifetime commitment,” Dr. Choi said in his first commencement address as the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “As you go through your residency programs, you’ll discover that finding compassion and ways to truly care for your patients are not things you can learn overnight. It is a lifelong process. Continue to work at it every single day. It takes discipline, hard work and perseverance to be the best doctor you can be – and to identify how you can have the greatest impact on the health and wellbeing of others.”

And just as the new graduates have an obligation to deliver the finest care to their patients and solve critical medical problems, they too have a responsibility to communicate the importance of their work to the public, President Pollack said.

“No matter how you apply your skills and knowledge in your careers,” she said, “I urge you — urge you — to also use those abilities beyond your professional endeavors, and become advocates for scientific knowledge and rational thought in developing informed solutions for the problems we face as a society.”

Indeed, the graduates will strive to be thought leaders whose commitment to their fields will inspire future generations of scientists and physicians, said Dr. Koretzky, dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Sharline Madera, MD ’17, PhD ’15, gazes out at Carnegie Hall during Commencement on June 1.

“Our students bring much more to our community than their hard work in the research setting,” he said. “They see it as their responsibility to help the generation that follows them to appreciate and embrace the acquisition of knowledge as the foundation of decision-making.”

Graduates should savor opportunities to learn something new, to pursue excellence and tackle meaningful problems.

“Leaving Weill Cornell Medicine is bittersweet, but we are all enthusiastic to explore new possibilities and apply what we learned to solve new challenges,” said Dr. Seyedeh-Faranak Fattahi, the graduate school’s student commencement speaker, who is now running her own laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “I am sure that we will all make an impact no matter what we choose to do next. The skills we acquired here will allow us to continue to make a difference and make the world a better place.”

They should embrace collaboration—the kind that connects doctors and scientists from across the globe, said Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar student speaker Dr. Khalid Taha. Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar reflects that sensibility, uniting the Middle East with New York.

“It was and still is truly inspirational,” said Dr. Taha, the eldest of three siblings who are all studying medicine at the Qatar location, about the partnership with Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. The Class of 2017 is the 10th graduating class from Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar.

Finally, graduates must never forget the tremendous role they play as members of the scientific community. The responsibility is best epitomized for Dr. Sandeep Raj in the Hippocratic Oath, initiating him into an enduring legacy in medicine.

Dr. Jennifer Tsai crosses the stage with her son Landon to receive her doctorate in immunology and microbial pathogenesis.

“It was when I was reading out the oath that it felt particularly special,” said Dr. Raj, who will soon begin a residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Just knowing that generations of doctors before me have said it, and then saying the words myself in that moment with all my colleagues, it was very emotional.”

And it’s exemplified in an encounter Dr. Mesha Shaw had just moments after accepting her white coat, which is shorter for medical students, four years ago. After snapping some photos with her friends, she stepped outside 1300 York Ave. and met an elderly woman walking down the street.

“She said, ‘I see your white jacket. Are you a doctor?’” Dr. Shaw recounted as the medical college student speaker. “I said, ‘No, not yet. But I’m studying to become one.’ She said, ‘That’s truly wonderful. I don’t know you, but I’m already proud of you. I know that becoming a physician is not going to be easy, but people in your profession are truly admirable, and you need more people like you.’ Then she thanked me, wished me luck and went on her way.

“I was really floored by that experience,” Dr. Shaw continued. “There I was, just leaving the White Coat Ceremony, thinking of everything that moment meant to me. I was instantly and powerfully reminded about what it means to a stranger. That woman, without ever knowing it, taught me my very first lesson of medical school: That physicians have a revered and honorable place in our society and, more importantly, that society is relying on us to take care of it. Let’s not take that for granted.”

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Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi Dr. Gary Koretzky Dr. Javaid Sheikh
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Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar Graduates its 10th Class

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Diabetes Prevention in Qatar Should Focus on Lifestyle Factors


Demographic and lifestyle factors are largely responsible for an alarming increase of diabetes in Qatar and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medical College and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

The study, published in the December issue of Qatar Medical Journal, found that a more “westernized” lifestyle, characterized by calorie-rich diets and reduced physical activity, has made people in the region more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and other associated chronic conditions. Investigators say the findings underscore a need to raise awareness of diabetes, promote physical activity and emphasize the risks associated with obesity.

"The Qatar National Health Strategy has identified diabetes as one of the high-priority diseases for preventive healthcare, and for good reason," said senior author Dr. Alvin I. Mushlin, the Nanette Laitman Distinguished Professor of Public Health and a professor of healthcare policy and research and of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. "In addition to its direct effect on health and quality of life, diabetes is a cause of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and associated heart attacks, strokes and earlier death."

Paradoxically, the increase of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases in this region is largely tied to major improvements in economic conditions, the investigators said. There have been remarkable improvements in the health infrastructure, a lengthening of life expectancy, an increasingly aging population, and a fast pace of urbanization.

To determine the risk factors that have led increased incidence of the disease, the investigators looked at patient records for more than 450 patients — including Qatari nationals and immigrants — with type 2 diabetes who had received care from Hamad Medical Corporation Hospital's outpatient adult diabetes clinics from 2006-2008. They compared these patients to nearly 350 other patients who received care from various outpatient and inpatient clinics at the hospital.

Since more than 80 percent of the population of Qatar consists of immigrants from countries throughout the Arab world, South Asia and other regions, the researchers also conducted a sub-analysis of only Qatari nationals to see if this group had a different risk factor profile than the population at large.

"In our study, Qatari nationality was the strongest risk factor for DM, followed by higher income, obesity, no college education and no vigorous or moderate exercise," said lead author Dr. Paul J. Christos, a lecturer in healthcare policy and research in the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

"While further evaluation of DM risk factors among the Qatari population (as opposed to the resident population) is important and of interest," said study co-author Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, an associate professor and principal investigator of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, "these findings highlight the need to focus short-term DM interventions on addressing demographic/lifestyle risk factors to achieve substantial and timely declines in DM levels."

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State of the Medical College: Weill Cornell Celebrates Momentous Year


It's been an exceptional year for Weill Cornell Medical College that unveiled an innovative curriculum, heralded the opening of the new Belfer Research Building and celebrated an expansion of its clinical footprint in metropolitan New York.

Standing in front of Uris Auditorium on Dec. 12 for her annual State of the Medical College address, Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell, lauded these and other triumphs that she said have bolstered Weill Cornell's position as a global healthcare leader dedicated to providing the best care to patients.

"These multiple transformations taking place in medical education, biomedical research and patient care will have an enormous impact on our medical school and will help set its course for years to come," she said.

Training the Next Generation of Physicians and Scientists

The Class of 2018 collectively has the highest ever undergraduate grade point average in the history of Weill Cornell, and their MCAT scores tied with a previous class for highest ever at the medical college and were fifth highest in the United States. Medical college officials selected these 101 students from nearly 6,400 applications — the highest number of applicants for an incoming class in 15 years.

The class is the first to learn under Weill Cornell's new curriculum, which transforms the paradigm of medical education by integrating basic science with clinical care so that students can immediately apply what they are learning in the classroom to patients. It focuses on a cross-disciplinary, thematic view of medicine. Dr. Glimcher said students are reporting high levels of satisfaction with it.

The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences is thriving under the leadership of Dean Dr. Gary Koretzky, Dr. Glimcher said. It has accepted the highest quality students this year, with most of them having published an article in a journal or having one under review before they matriculate. And the Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program — "one of the jewels in our crown," Dr. Glimcher said — accepted 18 students this year thanks to the perfect score it received in 2013 in its NIH Medical Scientist Training Program grant renewal.

Qatari citizens comprise 27 percent of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's incoming class, achieving the location's goal of helping to build a talented cadre of physicians for the country, Dr. Glimcher said. To strengthen this pipeline program, WCMC-Q is restructuring its curriculum to integrate its premedical and medical programs into a cohesive, six-year medical-education program.

Building a Robust Biomedical Research Program

More than 45 faculty programs have moved into the Belfer Research Building since it opened in January, and the built-out floors are now at 75 percent occupancy. Construction crews are currently building out three more of the shelled floors, with completion expected by late summer, Dr. Glimcher said. Hunter College and a dozen of its scientists will soon move into the fourth floor.

Since 2012, Weill Cornell has successfully recruited nearly 50 top-flight researchers to pursue groundbreaking translational research. Among them are immunologists focusing on gastrointestinal diseases who complement the medical college's GI clinicians.

"We have always been outstanding in clinical care for GI diseases — wonderful surgeons and GI physicians," Dr. Glimcher said. "We now have, I think, a scientific clinical enterprise in GI medicine that is the best in New York City."

Collectively, the recruits have successfully secured new research funding from the National Institutes of Health — despite steep cuts to its budget — helping Weill Cornell buck the national trend.

"We are a rare institution where the amount of NIH funding has actually grown rather than decreased," Dr. Glimcher said.

But Weill Cornell is not immune to the challenges facing all academic medical centers. In addition to seeking out NIH grants and lobbying New York State to provide biomedical research support, Weill Cornell has forged more than a dozen research alliances with the biopharmaceutical industry to advance promising early- stage applied and translational research into innovative therapeutics for patients. And the first projects selected for funding by the Daedalus Fund for Innovation were announced this fall to help Weill Cornell investigators make research that has commercial potential more appealing to industry partners.

"The most effective way to get discoveries that are made in the lab into new therapeutics for patients is to partner with industry," Dr. Glimcher said. "We can move these promising basic science projects ahead with greater speed and efficiency if we team up with the private sector."

Expanding Clinical Care

The Weill Cornell Physician Organization has had enormous growth, with a 37 percent increase in patient visits. This upward trajectory will likely continue as the organization expands its footprint in the metropolitan area to provide more New Yorkers with its exceptional clinical care. It has added more than 150 physicians to its ranks at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital and will open a new primary care practice on the Upper East Side. It also will establish new outpatient units at 156 William St. and 40 Worth St., as well as expand services offered by Weill Cornell Imaging at NewYork-Presbyterian.

"This is a rapidly growing organization, which I think is necessary because clinical care is at the heart of what we do and it is the economic engine by which we are able to carry out our missions in research and medical education," Dr. Glimcher said.

Leadership Transitions

After two decades of visionary leadership, the medical college announced earlier this month that Sanford I. Weill was retiring as chair of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers on Jan. 1. Jessica Bibliowicz, a successful entrepreneur in the financial services business, was announced as his successor.

"Sandy has given his heart and soul, passion and commitment, and I really can't think of any other person who has shaped a medical school over such a long period of time to the extent that he has," Dr. Glimcher said. "But we will be gaining another talented leader, and I am really thrilled that Jessica Bibliowicz will be lending her skills and expertise to us."

Cornell University also named Elizabeth Garrett, provost at the University of Southern California, as Cornell's next president, effective July 1. She will succeed President David J. Skorton, who will become the next secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

"Dr. Skorton is an absolutely marvelous president of Cornell University," Dr. Glimcher said. "I think he will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents of any American university. But we are fortunate to have Beth Garrett join us. She's an extremely talented leader who has done wonderful things at USC and we look forward to integrating her into the medical college here."

This new triumvirate in medical college and university leadership is notable not just for the wealth of expertise they each bring, she added.

"It's not so bad to have three leaders who have two X chromosomes," Dr. Glimcher quipped. "That's got to be pretty unique."

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Research Reveals Early Warning of Heart Attacks for Diabetic Arabs and South Asians


A non-invasive test that can provide an early warning of heart attacks in Caucasian diabetics is just as effective for Arab and South Asian diabetic populations, say researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

The AGE Reader, a device first developed in the Netherlands by DiagnOptics in 1996 and approved for commercial use a decade later, is designed to provide patients with major chronic diseases with an immediate cardiovascular risk prediction by analyzing the concentration of a specific protein in their bodies. But while its application had been validated among Caucasian populations in the United States and Europe, it was unclear if it could predict vascular risks in people with darker skin with similar accuracy.

In a new study, researchers from Weill Cornell in Qatar say that the device can, in fact, successfully predict vascular risk among diabetic Arabs and South Asians by taking the difference in skin color into consideration.

"The manufacturers of the machine at first believed that the ethnicity of the person being tested would be inconsequential to the results delivered," said Dr. Dennis Mook-Kanamori, a research associate at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. "We showed, however, that a person's ethnicity did affect the results — but that the machine could be recalibrated to provide an accurate indication of potential future cardiovascular problems whatever a person's ethnicity."

Here's how the AGE Reader works: A patient rests his or her arm on the device, which shines an ultraviolet light on the person's skin. The skin's glow can then be used to determine the body's concentration of advanced glycation end products, miniscule fragments of degrading, sugar-containing proteins that accumulate in the body over a lifetime. The higher the concentration of these fragments, the more likely a patient is to have heart problems later in life.

Diabetics are at particular risk for a higher concentration due to spikes in their blood sugar levels. Researchers say the test is akin to using cholesterol levels to predict people's risk of cardiovascular problems.

To investigate the efficacy of the AGE Reader among darker-skinned populations, lead investigator Dr. Karsten Suhre, professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell in Qatar, in conjunction with Hamad Medical Corporation's dermatology department, tested the device on 200 Arabs, 99 South Asians, 37 Filipinos and 14 people from other countries. Approximately half of the subjects were men and half were women, and none were Caucasian.

"To our knowledge, this was the largest study performed so far that uses the AGE Reader in South Asians, Filipinos and Arabs," Dr. Suhre said.

The researchers discovered that skin auto-fluorescence differs among ethnicities, and therefore the existing statistical reference curve used to analyze protein particles in Caucasian patients would have to be modified to take skin color into account. The researchers add that larger studies in specific ethnicities are required to create the modified statistical reference values.

With type 2 diabetes increasing in prevalence in Qatar and the Gulf States, these researchers say it's more important than ever to identify techniques for early detection and prevention of complications from the disease.

"For diabetics in particular, this is an important tool," Dr. Mook-Kanamori said. "By applying the AGE Reader test, doctors can give their patients an early warning of potential heart problems and take action to reduce those problems."

The research was conducted as a side study to Dr. Suhre's main focus, which involves searching for biomarkers — telltale molecules present in samples of blood, urine or saliva that are associated with the metabolic processes known to cause diabetes — in order to develop additional early-detection tests for the disease.

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Three Qatari High School Students Seize Opportunity to Explore Future Careers

Kholoud Essa Abu-Holayqah, Naima Abdulrahman Alobaidli, Salah Majid Mahmoud and Dr. Ronald Crystal

From left to right: Kholoud Essa Abu-Holayqah, Naima Abdulrahman Alobaidli, Salah Majid Mahmoud and Dr. Ronald Crystal. All photos: Amelia Panico

At 16 years old, Kholoud Essa Abu-Holayqah may be young, but she knows in her bones that she's meant to be a doctor.

"I enjoy learning about the human body," said Abu-Holayqah, a high school student at Al Bayan Education Complex for Girls in Doha, Qatar. "It's the portal to understanding the world."

This month, Abu-Holayqah and two other Qatari high school students, Naima Abdulrahman Alobaidli and Salah Majid Mahmoud, embarked on their own journey of exploration as the winners of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's annual Healing Hands essay contest. Their prize: a two-week, all-expenses paid trip to Weill Cornell Medical College in New York to learn the ins and outs of the medical profession.

Their trip, from July 1 through July 13, opened for them a new portal — what it's like to conduct biomedical research and treat patients — under the tutelage of Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of genetic medicine, the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine, professor of genetic medicine and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell.

"This experience is valuable to me because I get to know whether I want to be a doctor or not through this," said Alobaidli, 15, a student at the Debakey High School for Health Professionals at Qatar in Doha. "I get to experience what people are doing, how they are working and what life is going to be like as a doctor. This is the key to me. This determines whether I want to be a doctor or not or whether I want to pursue this career or not because I get to see how [medical professionals] interact with each other and what they do. And I also get to meet important people like Dr. Ronald Crystal and I get to see what it's like from his point of view and how he treats his patients. This is advice for me if I want to be a doctor."

Qatari high school students

Three Qatari high school students present a summary of their New York experience

Celebrating the midpoint of their trip on July 5, the students shared what they had learned during their time in New York. They learned basic laboratory skills, including pipetting and aseptic techniques. They cultured cells and monitored cell growth. They joined Dr. Crystal during his rounds with patients and observed a bronchoscopy.

"The families should be really proud of these students," said Dr. Crystal. "They are really great."

The Healing Hands competition, now in its sixth year, is dedicated to introducing young would-be doctors to the profession, providing them key insights into what being a physician is like. In the process, the competition also introduces these students to Weill Cornell Medical College, both in Qatar and New York, which could serve as their home for four years should they choose to pursue a career in medicine.

This year's essay theme was "Caring Without Borders." The students were asked to write about how they would ensure the health of victims of an imagined humanitarian crisis. They essays were judged and the winners chosen by a panel of experts from Weill Cornell in Qatar.

Qatari students share research and skills learned during two-week experience at Weill Cornell Medical College

The winners share results of their research and skills learned during their two-week experience at Weill Cornell Medical College

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for these three winners," said Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. "To be so young yet to be welcomed into a professional research laboratory is an experience they will never forget. Under the care of Dr. Crystal, they will learn exactly what the research process involves, the care and precision needed and the dedication of the researchers. It will be an unforgettable intellectual journey for them."

Dr. Sheikh couldn't have been more right.

"This experience is very important to me because it teaches me a lot of knowledge, which I can take back and expand through various different fields," said Mahmoud, 15, a student at Qatar Academy in Doha. "This lab is very kind and generous to me, and everything I've learned here is really going to help me in the future."

Abu-Holayqah and Alobaidli were each exposed to the medical profession early in life by the doctors in their families — Abu-Holayqah through her aunt and Alobaidli through her mother. Inspired by their ability to heal their patients when they were sick and provide continuity of care, they decided to investigate the field to see if it's something they'd like to do for the rest of their lives.

"I enjoy helping people. That is what makes me happy," said Alobaidli, who attends a high school dedicated to health care education. "The way I can help people is to be a doctor."

Mahmoud's story is a bit different. Inspired by science through his studies, he started investigating ways he could contribute to the field. With Qatar facing a physician shortage, training as a doctor would be a matter of national pride.

Armed with the knowledge gained during their trip, the students plan to continue their training through volunteer work at local hospitals in Qatar.

"If I wanted to be a doctor, it would be to serve my country," he said.

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Kholoud Essa Abu-Holayqah, Naima Abdulrahman Alobaidli, Salah Majid Mahmoud and Dr. Ronald Crystal All photos: Amelia Panico
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Awards and Honors Across Weill Cornell Medical College - Week of July 5 - July 12


The Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, led by Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Biomathematics Research Core, associate professor of public health and assistant professor of public health at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, received the Best Research Team of the Year 2013 award from the Qatar National Research Fund. The award is given annually for the most productive research project among those funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, the grant-funding arm of Qatar Foundation and the leading organization for funding research projects in Qatar. Fund leaders announced the winner of the award during its fifth annual form May 14.

A 2012 paper co-authored by Dr. Tara F. Bishop, the Nanette Laitman Clinical Scholar in Public Health - Clinical Evaluation, assistant professor of public health and assistant professor of medicine, was one of three seminal articles in medical professionalism to win the Professionalism Article Prize from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation on May 7. The article, "Overuse of Health Care Services in the United States," was published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Ethel Cesarman, assistant director of the Molecular Hematopathology Laboratory and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, co-organized the 16th International Workshop on Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus and Related Agents, which occurred from June 30 to July 3 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Researchers working on all aspects of Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus and related viruses attended the workshop to present their work and interact with colleagues. Scientific sessions with platform and poster presentations covered topics ranging from basic virology to epidemiology to clinical advances.

Dr. Marshall Glesby, director of the Cornell Clinical Trials Unit, associate chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, professor of medicine and professor of public health, and Dr. Tim Wilkin, associate professor of medicine and investigator for the Cornell Clinical Trials Unit, jointly received the CTSC Award for Teaching Excellence for their course, "Clinical Trials Design and Analysis." The award is given in recognition of instructors who have made a difference in clinical and translational research education. This honor is based on student feedback provided in annual course evaluations.

Dr. Marcus Reidenberg, chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, professor of pharmacology, professor of medicine and professor of public health, has been elected to the United States Pharmacopeial Convention's Therapeutic Information and Formulary Support Expert Committee. In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requested the USP to develop the Medicare Model Guidelines under the Medicare Modernization Act. Among its various activities, the committee will develop revised guidelines for drug benefits for Medicare and guidelines for other drug benefit programs. The USP is a scientific nonprofit that sets standards, enforceable in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, for the identity, quality and purity of medicines, as well as food ingredients and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide.

Dr. Renat Shaykhiev, assistant professor of genetic medicine, co-chaired the scientific symposium "The Multifunctional Basal Cell: More than a Progenitor" at the 2013 American Thoracic Society International Conference May 17-22 in Philadelphia, Pa. The annual conference brings together a multi-disciplinary group connected by expertise in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The society is the leading medical association dedicated to advancing clinical and scientific understanding of pulmonary diseases, critical illnesses and sleep-related breathing disorders.

Dr. Stacy K. Ugras, a resident in the Department of Surgery, was selected as the Breast Cancer Alliance fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for 2013-2014, an honor reserved for a top candidate.

In May, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar faculty received awards in recognition of their dedication to students. The following are winners of the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards

Pre-Medical Program Awards

Foundation Program - Dr. Renee Richer

1st Year Pre-Medical Program - Dr. Daniel Renzi

1st Year Pre-Medical Program - Dr. James Roach

English Writing Pre-Medical Program - Mr. Ian Miller

2nd Year Pre-Medical Program - Dr. Moncef Ladjimi

2nd Year Pre-Medical Program - Dr. Kevin Smith

Medical Program Awards

Molecules, Genes and Cells - Dr. Khaled Machaca

Human Structure and Function - Dr. Rachel Koshi

Host Defenses - Dr. Ali Sultan

Brain and Mind - Dr. Naim Haddad

Basis of Disease - Dr. Thurayya Arayssi

Basis of Disease - Dr. Gerardo Guiter

Medicine, Patients and Society I - Dr. Ziyad Mahfoud

Medicine, Patients and Society II - Dr. Naim Haddad

Clinical Clerkship - Dr. Badreldeen Ahmed

Clinical Clerkship - Dr. Hassen Al-Amin

Clinical Clerkship - Dr. Thurayya Arayssi

Clinical Clerkship - Dr. Bakr Nour

1st Year Visiting Faculty - Dr. Estomih Mtui

2nd Year Visiting Faculty - Dr. Robert Kim

2nd Year Visiting Faculty - Dr. Estomih Mtui

More than two dozen of Weill Cornell's faculty received Excellence in Teaching Awards June 19

Juliet Aizer, M.D. - Medicine, Patients and Society II

Jessica Ancker, Ph.D. - Public Health Clerkship

Zoltan Antal, M.D. - Pediatrics Clerkship

Lily Belfi, M.D. - Introductory Clerkship

Evelyn Chu, M.D. - Primary Care Clerkship

Susanna Cunningham-Rundles, Ph.D. - Advanced Biomedical Science

Jeremy Dittman, Ph.D. - Molecules, Genes and Cells

Rosalinda Guce, M.D. - Human Structure and Function

Erica Jones, M.D. - Medicine Clerkship

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Qatari High School Essay Winners Spend Two Weeks Immersed in the Weill Cornell Physician-Scientist Experience


Standing before the faculty of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, three Qatari high school students outlined all they had accomplished over the last two weeks: differentiating cell types, culturing cell lines, performing a DNA restriction digest and transfecting cells with a reporter gene — among a half-dozen other scientific and laboratory techniques.

David Havlicek and Hessa Khalid Al-Hail

Weill Cornell researcher David Havlicek with scholarship winner Hessa Khalid Al-Hail. Photo credit: Amelia Panico

The three students — Hessa Khalid Al-Hail, Ali Mohsen Hajji and Hamad Nasser Al Naimi — were this year's winners of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's Doctors of the Future Scholarship. Each year, scholarship winners are given a fully funded, two-week trip to the lab of Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine. There, they learned about laboratory procedures and the scientific method from physician-researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Students are awarded the Doctors of the Future Scholarships based on an annual essay competition open to all high school students throughout Qatar. This year's essay topic was on the history and future of medicine in the country. Separately, each of the students wrote about the changing face of health care in Qatar, from the practice of traditional herbal medicine through the introduction of modern technology in the last 25 years and, finally, to the future of medicine in the next 50 years as planned by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development as well as serving as a member of the Weill Cornell Medical College Board of Overseers.

"The Sheikha's influence is huge in medicine, she has a whole vision for 2030," said Hajji, who attends Qatar Academy in Doha and learned about the Doctors of the Future Scholarship program from his brother, a previous scholarship winner.

scholarship winners Ali Mohsen Hajji and Hamad Nasser Al Naimi

Two of the scholarship winners, Ali Mohsen Hajji, back, Hamad Nasser Al Naimi, front. Photo credit: Amelia Panico

During the course of their two-week visit, the students toured three labs and two patient care units, including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's medical intensive care unit.

In the labs, students worked with two main cells lines, A549 and 293HEK. One of the primary experiments was the introduction of a reporter gene into a cell line and then testing and identifying the expression of the newly introduced gene.

"We had embryonic kidney cells and we transfected these cells with a gene that codes for GFP (green fluorescent protein). And we added also a PEI (polyethyleneimine), which helps DNA get into cells, and then we viewed the cells under green laser," said Al-Hail, who attends high school at the Al-Bayan Educational Complex for Girls in Doha.

"You all did a great job and we thank you so much for joining us," Dr. Crystal, the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine, professor of medicine and professor of genetic medicine, told the students at the end of their two-week trip. "I hope it was a good experience for everybody; it was our pleasure to host you."

All three students said they plan to become physicians. As they prepared to return to Qatar, each said they would continue working towards enrollment at a top medical college, and they were grateful for the time they had learning about the profession from investigators and physicians at Weill Cornell.

"We really enjoyed working with each of you," Hajji said.

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Qatar's Doctors of the Future Scholarship, along with Dr. Ronald Crystal: Hamad Nasser Al Naimi, Ali Mohsen Hajji and Hessa Khalid Al-Hail
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