Future Doctors Welcomed to WCMC-Q


Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's new six-year integrated medical program has officially begun.

A week-long orientation introduced students to the program, which combines premedical and medical education at the Qatar location. Students who successfully complete the six-year program are awarded Cornell University medical degrees.

"All of our students are driven by intellectual curiosity, but a new cohort really brings a breath of fresh air to the college. Their excitement and enthusiasm is palpable and their thirst for knowledge is truly inspiring," said Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCMC-Q. "They have a state-of-the-art facility at their disposal and an experienced world-class faculty to teach them.The 54 students — 30 percent of them Qatari — were joined by students in the Foundation Program, a one-year program intended as a bridge between high school and the six-year medical curriculum. The Foundation Program offers pre-college courses in the sciences and math as well as English as a second language, and helps participants develop the study skills, time management, critical thinking and knowledge application needed to succeed in medical school. Those who meet performance requirements will be promoted to the medical program.

"I have no doubt that our new students — Qatar's future doctors — will make us proud in the coming years."

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Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's new class entering the six-year integrated medical program. Photo credit: John Samples
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Sanford I. Weill Retires as Chair of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers After 20 Years of Transformative Leadership


Jessica M. Bibliowicz, Successful Business Executive, Named New Chair of the Board

NEW YORK (December 9, 2014) — After 20 years of bold and visionary leadership that has transformed Weill Cornell Medical College into a global healthcare enterprise, Sanford I. Weill will retire as chair of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers on Jan. 1. Jessica M. Bibliowicz, a successful entrepreneur in the financial services business for nearly three decades, who has served on the Board of Overseers for the past decade, will succeed Mr. Weill, the new chair emeritus.

Jessica M. Bibliowicz and Sanford I. Weill

Jessica M. Bibliowicz and Sanford I. Weill. All photos: John Abbott

The transition comes as the 116-year-old medical college embarks on a new chapter that builds upon the landmark successes Mr. Weill has realized in his two decades as chair. His enduring dedication to the institution that bears his name has resulted in an unprecedented expansion that is exemplified in Weill Cornell's excellence in medical education, biomedical research and clinical care. In collaboration with medical college leadership, Ms. Bibliowicz will help lead Weill Cornell as it continues to break new ground in New York and abroad by expanding its clinical enterprise and forging public-private partnerships that accelerate groundbreaking scientific discoveries for patients. Working closely with Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, Ms. Bibliowicz will help guide its transformation of medical education and drive dialogue on innovative healthcare delivery models that optimize the value and quality of patient care.

"When I joined the Board of Overseers more than 30 years ago, I was driven to try and make a difference in the world," Mr. Weill said. "It's truly humbling to see just how much of an impact Weill Cornell has had around the globe, and I believe we are poised to thrive far into the future. Weill Cornell Medical College is more to me than just an esteemed medical school — the people here are my extended family. I could think of no one better than Jessica to shepherd Weill Cornell into the next stage of its evolution."

"It's an honor and privilege to be able to support Weill Cornell Medical College's tremendous efforts to educate, innovate and heal," Ms. Bibliowicz said. "As a Cornell University alum, it's especially meaningful to me to try and help take this distinguished institution to the next level of excellence in New York and beyond. Our ever-changing healthcare landscape has sparked exciting opportunities to help shape national conversation, and I'm eager to work with Dr. Glimcher and the Board of Overseers as we strive to improve and prolong human health."

Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, Sanford I. Weill and Jessica M. Bibliowicz

In the three decades he has served on the Board of Overseers and in the two decades he has been chair, Mr. Weill has been much more than a governing force. His benevolence and unwavering resolve to ensure a healthier future has touched every program area at Weill Cornell, establishing the medical school as an innovator in basic, clinical and translational research, and forging a new paradigm for global engagement and medical education.

Under Mr. Weill's leadership, the medical college has built bridges nationally and abroad. Weill Cornell forged an affiliation with Houston Methodist in Texas and, with Cornell University, established a medical school in Doha, Qatar. Since its inception in 2002, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, which offers a Cornell University medical degree, has created 181 new doctors who have continued their graduate medical training in residencies and clinical research at outstanding institutions in the United States and Qatar. The Weill Cornell Qatar location has also established a world-class biomedical team and contributed to Qatar's goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. In addition, Weill Cornell in 2007 established a formal affiliation with Bugando Medical Centre and the Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania, named in recognition of the Weills' support. Weill Bugando has graduated an average of 100 new doctors every year for the past seven years in Mwanza, expanding Tanzania's core of providers who are empowered to deliver the best patient care, despite a resource-limited setting. This unique educational partnership has spurred new possibilities for cultural exchange, providing medical students at Weill Cornell in New York and residents at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital with the opportunity to spend a month or two in Mwanza practicing medicine the way it used to be, with limited modern technology. They return to New York with a greater sense of gratification that reaffirms their commitment to global health and a career in academic medicine.

In recognition that building a healthier future also requires training an exceptional cadre of new doctors and scientists, Mr. Weill and his wife Joan in 1992 established the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Education Center, the heart of the medical college's education program, with their first gifts to Weill Cornell. The Weill Education Center comprises the Weill Auditorium and 20 classrooms and teaching laboratories outfitted with modern audio-visual, networking and wireless technology to provide the next generation of medical professionals with the best environment for learning.

Sanford I. Weill

In 2007, Weill Cornell opened the Weill Greenberg Center in New York City, the medical college's flagship and award-winning ambulatory care center, and in January opened the adjacent Belfer Research Building, a transformative 18-story, state-of-the-art facility that ensures that the medical college remains at the forefront of scientific discovery. Their proximity to each other ensures that breakthroughs made in the laboratory can be rapidly applied to patient care as improved treatments and therapies. Weill Cornell has successfully recruited some of the world's leading physicians and scientists to conduct this translational research. Last year, the Weills established the Weill Center for Metabolic Health, which strives to understand the basic biology and genetics of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and translate discoveries into next-generation therapeutic approaches. Weill Cornell is conducting a national search for a renowned scientist to lead these efforts.

A self-made man who exemplifies the philosophy of leading by example, Mr. Weill, Mrs. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation have generously given more than $550 million in gifts to support Weill Cornell Medical College. They include a groundbreaking $100 million gift in 1998 — at the time the largest in Cornell University's history — a second $100 million gift in 2002, a $250 million gift in 2007 and another $100 million gift in 2013 to establish the Weill Center for Metabolic Health, as well as the Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation Global Health Research Laboratories. In honor and appreciation of their unparalleled dedication and enduring commitment, the institution in 1998 was renamed Weill Cornell Medical College. With an additional gift of $50 million to Cornell University, the Weills' total giving tops $600 million.

The Weills' altruism inspired and galvanized Weill Cornell's numerous, loyal donors to support the medical college. In Mr. Weill's 20 years as chair, the medical college has raised $3 billion. Earlier this year, Weill Cornell celebrated the Weills' legacy by naming its department of medicine the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Department of Medicine.

"What Sandy has done for Weill Cornell, New York and the world is just breathtaking — it's a labor of love that will touch the lives of generations," Dr. Glimcher said. "His unwavering leadership, profound magnanimity and steadfast resolve to enhance medical education, advance discoveries and enrich clinical care is his lasting legacy. Jessica is an outstanding choice to assume Sandy's mantle and steer Weill Cornell into the future. I couldn't be more thrilled for what's to come."

"Sandy is a businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, visionary leader, chairman emeritus of Citigroup, Cornell alumnus and my good friend," said Cornell University President David Skorton. "As chair of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College, he has nurtured the college's growth, guided its progress and expanded its capacity for rigorous medical education, path-breaking research and superb clinical care — to the enormous benefit of our students, faculty, researchers and patients. I am delighted that Jessica Bibliowicz, who has provided exemplary leadership to the university and the medical college, has agreed to take on this new role as chair of the Board of Overseers."

"It is impossible to overstate the impact that Sandy has had on Weill Cornell Medical College, and on the whole of Cornell University, during his time as chair of the Board of Overseers," said Robert Harrison, chair of the Cornell University Board of Trustees. "He is someone who can not only articulate a strong and inspirational vision, but also bring people together to do what it takes to make the vision a reality. Although I will miss working with Sandy, I am very much looking forward to working with Jessica in her new role. She has been a very effective trustee and overseer for many years and clearly has the talent and energy to lead the Board of Overseers and the medical school to new heights."

About Jessica M. Bibliowicz

A Cornell University graduate in 1981 and after working 18 years in financial services, Ms. Bibliowicz became CEO of National Financial Partners in 1999, a financial services firm that specializes in benefits and wealth management. The company went public in 2003 and was sold to Madison Dearborn in 2013. Ms. Bibliowicz joined the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers in 2004. She is also a member of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and a member of the Cornell NYC Tech Campus Task Force. Currently, Ms. Bibliowicz is a senior advisor at Bridge Growth Partners and serves on the board of directors of Sotheby's(NYSE: BID); Realogy (NYSE: RLGY); and the Asia Pacific Fund (NYSE: APB). She is a board director/trustee of Prudential Insurance Funds and is also on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

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Jessica M. Bibliowicz Sanford I. Weill Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher
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WCMC-Q Unveils Six-Year Integrated Medical Education Program


Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) has announced a restructuring of its curriculum that will integrate its premedical and medical programs into one cohesive six-year medical education program.

Students will no longer have to go through a separate admission process to make the transition from the two-year premedical program to the four-year medical program. Instead, a single admission process will determine entrance to a six-year medical education program and students will progress through the curriculum according to advancement criteria, which include academic performance, professionalism and commitment to the profession of medicine.

Students who successfully complete the six-year program are awarded Cornell University medical degrees.

"This important innovation preserves the content, academic rigor and quality of our highly regarded premedical and medical programs," said Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCMC-Q, "while providing additional flexibility to our students and at the same time advancing their preparedness for the medical profession."

Pre-med students Aisha Al-Shahwani (left), and Aldana Shahbik (right) with Dr. Kuei Chiu Chen, Visiting Senior Lecturer in Biology.

One of the aims of the integrated program is to build upon and enhance WCMC-Q's already strong reputation for producing medical graduates who are able to gain acceptance to post-graduation residency training programs at elite hospitals all over the world. WCMC-Q graduates have matched to residency programs at top-level institutions, including Johns Hopkins Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Hamad Medical Corporation, among many others.

Students at WCMC-Q benefit from a wide network of academic and personal support mechanisms, which allow the college to offer a personalized education that meets the needs and interests of each individual.

"We believe these measures will result in an extremely high level of academic performance and a high retention rate of students through the six-year program," Dr. Sheikh said. "This is a very exciting time for WCMC-Q and we are looking forward to seeing our next intake of students flourish in the new six-year medical program."

Students who are applying now to the WCMC-Q premedical program will automatically be reviewed for admission to the new, integrated six-year curriculum. Additional details will be available soon on the WCMC-Q website.

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Fahad Al-Marri (left) and Faten Aqeel (center) conducting research.
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Cancer Research Breakthrough for WCMC-Q


Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar have made a major step towards understanding why certain cancers often recur after they have been treated with conventional therapies.

The research, published in Cell Death and Differentiation, a Nature publication, focused on the role of a protein, appropriately named "BAD protein," in the survival and renewal of some cancer cells. These cancer stem cells are able to resist even the most advanced anti-cancer drugs available.

"The problem with existing cancer treatments is that they can target and kill most of the cancer cells, but they are not able to target the cancer stem cells," said Dr. Lofti Chouchane, a professor of genetic medicine and immunology at WCMC-Q, who led the project.

"These cancer stem cells are only a small proportion of the total number of cancer cells, but they are very important because they are able to sustain tumor growth, which means the cancer comes back."

BAD stands for "Bcl2-Antagonist of cell Death," and Bcl-2 refers to the name of the gene that encodes the protein. The protein is known as an "antagonist of cell death" because in a different form it actually helps to kill cancer stem cells. When it undergoes a common molecular process called phosphorylation, however, its properties change and the protein helps the deadly cells to survive.

"We were able to show that the BAD protein not only plays a role in the survival of cancer stem cells, but that it is actually essential for their survival," Dr. Chouchane said. "This makes BAD an extremely attractive target for research for new, more effective cancer therapies."

Laboratory tests performed by the research team on cultivated melanoma, prostate and breast cancer cells showed a positive relationship between the levels of BAD protein and cancer stem cells. The study also found high expression levels of BAD protein in 83 percent of breast cancer tumor specimens taken from patients.

Additionally, the researchers discovered a positive correlation between BAD and prostate cancer progression, which suggests BAD plays a role in tumor advancement as well as tumor initiation. This means that future research could use BAD to develop a new way to monitor tumor progression as well as cancer therapies.

"This study represents an important milestone in our understanding of cancer eradication and promises new therapeutic avenues," said Dr. Khaled Machaca, associate dean for research at WCMC-Q. "It is very encouraging and rewarding to have such important findings as the fruits of a multi-institution collaboration among multiple entities within the Qatar Foundation family. This fits squarely within the vision of the QF leadership to encourage collaborative efforts among research-focused institutions in Qatar. Such a collaborative effort between WCMC-Q, QBRI and Sidra offers a shining example of how successful such collaborations can be."

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Drs. Lofti Chouchane and Konduru Sastry
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Doctor of the Future Scholarship Gives Three Qatari Students the Chance to Test-Drive a Career in Medicine


At just 16, Fahad Saad Al Suwaidi knows he wants to pursue a career in medicine — a decision he made after losing a friend to bone cancer.

"My friend was the same age as me and didn't discover he had cancer until it was in a very late stage," said Al Suwaidi, a high school student at Nasser bin Abdullah al-Attiyah Secondary Independent School for Boys in Doha, Qatar. "I want to raise awareness in the community and in schools about the risks of illness so that we can improve the health of people in Qatar."

Earlier this month, Al Suwaidi and two fellow Qatari high school students, Mai Nasser Al Subaie and Noof Ali Al Mazrooei, traveled to New York City to explore their interest in medicine as the winners of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's annual Healing Hands essay contest. Their Doctor of the Future Scholarships gave them a chance of a lifetime: a two-week, fully funded expedition to Weill Cornell to learn about the medical profession from established physicians and scientists in the Department of Genetic Medicine.

"I heard about the award when representatives from Weill Cornell in Qatar came to my school and told my class about it," said Al Mazrooei, 14. "From that moment, I knew I had to apply because I'm really interested in genetic engineering and I'm considering pursuing a career in it "When I found out I won, I was so happy."

From July 7 through July 17, the students learned basic laboratory skills, including how to pipette, use florescent microscopy imaging, and how to culture cells and monitor cell growth. They got the chance to explore new research techniques, such as DNA restriction digests, a procedure that prepares DNA for analysis, and spent a lab session learning how to make cigarette smoke extract and why it's useful for research. They also experienced patient care, shadowing 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, while he conducted rounds.

Mai Nasser Al Subaie, Fahad Saad Al Suwaidi, Dr. Ronald Crystal and Noof Ali Al Mazrooei

From left: Mai Nasser Al Subaie,Fahad Saad Al Suwaidi, Dr. Ronald Crystal and Noof Ali Al Mazrooei

Now in its seventh year, the Healing Hands competition is dedicated to introducing young, aspiring doctors from Qatar to the profession, providing them with hands-on experience in medicine. The program also serves to acquaint the students with Weill Cornell, where they could be continuing their studies in a few years should they decide to pursue careers in medicine.

The essay theme for this year's competition was "Promoting Healthy Lives." The students were asked to describe the most significant lifestyle issue affecting the health and wellbeing of young people in their school or community, as well as outline an action plan to address that issue. A panel of experts from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar judged the essays and selected the three winners.

Al Mazrooei is most alarmed at the prevalence of obesity, which is as much a problem in Qatar as it is in the rest of the world. Inspired by author Malcolm Gladwell, she believes that making sports cool again will motivate children to participate in them.

"I wrote about obesity because a lot of kids in Qatar are overweight," Al Mazrooei said. "Students don't think exercise is cool so we need to change that."

While the contest winners cited different reasons for pursuing careers in medicine — ranging from family influences to being awed by seeing doctors in the movies — all three share a desire to improve the lives of others through careers in medicine.

"As a little girl, I would see my dad, a doctor, come home from work and I would think to myself that helping others is the most useful thing to do with your life," said Al Subaie, 16. "So I've decided that's what I want to do."

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Fahad Saad Al Suwaidi, Mai Nasser Al Subaie and Andrea Jalickee
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Emerging HIV Epidemics Among People Who Inject Drugs in the Middle East and North Africa


DOHA, QATAR (June 17, 2014) — HIV epidemics are emerging among people who inject drugs in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Though HIV infection levels were historically very low in the Middle East and North Africa, substantial levels of HIV transmission and emerging HIV epidemics have been documented among people who inject drugs in at least one-third of the countries of this region, according to findings published today in PLOS Medicine.

The HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs (PWID) are recent overall, starting largely around 2003 and continuing to grow in most countries. However, they vary across the region. In countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Oman, and Pakistan, on average between 10 and 15 percent of PWID are HIV-positive. The HIV epidemics in these countries appear to be growing; in Pakistan, for example, the fraction of PWID who are HIV-infected increased from 11 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2011. In Iran, the HIV epidemic among PWID has stabilized at about 15 percent. There are, however, other countries where limited HIV transmission was found among PWID, such as in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

"Not only have we found a pattern of new HIV epidemics among PWID in the region, but we found also indications that there could be hidden HIV epidemics among this marginalized population in several countries with still-limited data," said Ghina Mumtaz, lead author of the study and senior epidemiologist at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar. "For example in Libya, the first study among people who inject drugs was conducted only recently and unveiled alarmingly high levels of HIV infection, suggesting that the virus has been propagating, unnoticed, among this population for at least a decade. Eighty-seven percent of PWID in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, were infected with HIV, one of the highest levels reported among PWID globally."

The study estimated that there are about 626,000 people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa. This translates into 24 people who inject drugs for every 1,000 adults in this part of the world. These individuals are typically involved in several types of behavior that expose them to HIV infection, such as sharing of needles or syringes, a behavior reported by 18 to 28 percent of injecting drug users during their last injection across these countries.

"The levels of HIV infection among people who inject drugs tell only half of the story. We also see high levels of risky practices that will likely expose this population to further HIV transmission in the coming years," said Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, principal investigator of the study and associate professor of public health in the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar. "We found that nearly half of people who inject drugs are infected with hepatitis C virus, another infection of concern that is also transmitted though sharing of needles and syringes."

"Since the HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa are still overall in an early phase, there is a window of opportunity to prevent these epidemics from further growth. This will also limit the potential for HIV transmission to be bridged to other population groups," Mumtaz said.

Although the region overall lags behind in responding to the emerging HIV epidemics among PWID, several countries have made significant progress in building and expanding harm-reduction programs and integrating them within the socio-cultural fabric of the region. These programs refer to policies and strategies aimed at reducing the harmful consequences of injecting drug use, including needle- and syringe-exchange programs and opioid-substitution therapies.

"It is of priority that countries in the region expand HIV surveillance systems among PWID to detect and monitor these budding and growing HIV epidemics. About half of the countries of the region still lack sufficient data to assess the levels of HIV infection among this population, and we continue to discover these epidemics several years after their onset. We need to be ahead of the epidemic to prevent a public health burden that this region is largely not prepared to handle," Dr. Abu-Raddad said.

About Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar 

Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar is a partnership between Cornell University and Qatar Foundation. It offers pre-medical and medical courses leading to the Cornell University M.D. degree with teaching by Cornell and Weill Cornell faculty and by physicians at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Aspetar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital who hold Weill Cornell appointments. Through its biomedical research program, WCMC-Q is building a sustainable research community in Qatar while advancing basic science and clinical research. Through its medical college, WCMC-Q seeks to provide the finest education possible for medical students, to improve health care both now and for future generations, and to provide high quality health care to the Qatari population.

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Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad and Ghina Mumtaz
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Graduation Ceremony Honors Qatar's Newest Doctors


Qatar has officially added 34 new doctors to its ranks.

The medical students in Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's Class of 2014 received their Cornell University medical degrees on May 7 in front of an audience of proud family members, friends and WCMC-Q faculty who had come to cheer them on.

"This is a proud day not only for you and your families but also for all of us at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar," said Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCMC-Q. "It is a great honor that we can gather to celebrate your hard work and ultimately your success. I have no doubt that the determination you have shown in completing the first phase of your medical studies will stand you in great stead for the rest of your lives."

The 17 women and 17 men — who together represent 13 countries — will now go on to their residencies at hospitals in the United States and Qatar, or take up research positions as the next generation of physicians and scientists. Four of the students are from Qatar.

"From now on, we are responsible not only for the lives of others, but for the changing shape and nature of medicine itself," said student speaker Dr. Mouhamed Yazan Abou-Ismail. "From now on, we can no longer blame misfortunes on the system; we have become part of it and must work hard to make that system better. And with every step, we must remain true to our profession, generate new knowledge, and pass it on to the younger generations who will fill the seats we once filled.

"As of today, my friends, the torch has finally been passed on to us, and I am ever so certain that it has been placed in the right hands."

Graduates of WCMC-Q receive their qualification from Cornell University, the first and only U.S. institution to offer its M.D. degree overseas, and recite the Hippocratic Oath.

"Every member of the graduating class has worked with great diligence to realize his or her potential and reach this important milestone in their lives," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. "Each graduate has displayed the virtues of integrity, civic responsibility and the highest levels of academic achievement that Cornell stands for, not only in the way they have approached their studies, but also through their contributions to the life of the college.

"These young men and women have also made a wonderful contribution to the ongoing mission of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to establish a culture of excellence in the practice of medicine in the Middle East, and for that they have the gratitude of every member of the Cornell family," she added.

Dr. David Skorton, president of Cornell University, addressed the audience through a recorded video message and spoke of Cornell's pride in the new graduates and in Qatar Foundation, a non-profit that Cornell partnered with to establish WCMC-Q in 2001.

"I offer my congratulations to the graduates, to their families and all faculty and staff at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar," he said. "Cornell University is honored to be a partner of this path-breaking endeavor which the whole world is watching with admiration."

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Weill Cornell Names Its Department of Medicine for Joan and Sanford I. Weill


Joan and Sanford I. Weill

Weill Cornell Medical College has named its department of medicine the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Department of Medicine in honor of the couple's longstanding dedication to the medical college. The naming is in recognition of the Weills' recent $100 million gift — which also established the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Center for Metabolic Health — and their historic $250 million gift to the Discoveries that Make a Difference campaign.

"This is a tremendous moment for Weill Cornell and for its largest department — a moment that will allow us to continue delivering innovative treatments and cures to patients in New York City and throughout the world — and we are grateful to Joan and Sandy for making this possible," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell.

Over the last 15 years, Mr. and Mrs. Weill and their family foundation have gifted more than $600 million to Weill Cornell. In 1998, they donated $100 million, after which medical college leaders renamed the institution Weill Cornell Medical College.

The Weill Department of Medicine's mission is to offer and enhance comprehensive patient care programs, shape the next generation of physicians and scientists through modern curriculum, residency programs and fellowships in subspecialty areas of medicine, recruit the top physicians in the world, and fuel research synergies within and between departments. It is led by Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the department's newly endowed Weill Chairman. Weill Cornell is one of only a few medical schools to have a named department of medicine.

"We are honored and deeply humbled to have our name associated with this excellent department," said Mr. Weill, who joined the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers in 1982 and became its chairman in 1995. "The Weill Department of Medicine spans nearly all disciplines and disease areas, with faculty conducting cutting-edge research and outstanding clinical care. It is the embodiment of our vision for collaborative, translational medicine."

the Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences in Tanzania

Joan and Sanford I. Weill celebrate the inauguration of the Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania, in 2007.

The largest department at the medical college, the Weill Department of Medicine comprises more than 1,700 faculty members, clinicians and research scientists in 21 divisions, programs and centers that span the disciplines, from cardiology and global health to hematology/medical oncology and nephrology and hypertension. Faculty are also collaborators on the medical college's myriad multidisciplinary translational research centers and institutes, using their expertise to rapidly translate research breakthroughs made at the lab bench into advanced treatments and therapies for patients in the clinic.

"Our renowned faculty in the Weill Department of Medicine are at the front lines of teaching, basic and clinical research, and patient care — making a difference every day," Dr. Choi said. "We are immensely thankful to Joan and Sandy Weill for their generous contributions and devoted support over the years to shape the future of medicine."

Using cross-disciplinary expertise and cutting-edge technology, researchers in the Weill Center for Metabolic Health will strive to understand the basic biology and genetics of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and translate these discoveries into novel therapeutic approaches. Weill Cornell is conducting a national search for a top-tier scientist to lead these efforts. In addition to the center, the medical college also established the Sanford I. Weill Professorship of Metabolic Research.

Under Mr. Weill's leadership, Weill Cornell built the Weill Greenberg Center, its award-winning ambulatory care center, and nearly doubled its research space with the new Belfer Research Building, which opened last month. The medical college has also recruited numerous leading physicians and scientists to investigate new treatments and therapies and apply them rapidly in the clinic, while building bridges nationally and abroad. Weill Cornell forged an affiliation with Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas and, with Cornell University, established a medical school in Doha, Qatar. Cornell is the only such institution to offer its M.D. degree outside of the country. In addition, Weill Cornell established a formal affiliation with Bugando Medical Centre and the Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania, named in recognition of the support of Joan and Sandy Weill.

For this commitment to global health, the medical college has also named the Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation Global Health Research Laboratories. The new program is designed to expand and enrich Weill Cornell's global health offerings and recruit new scientists who will find new therapies and treatments for the world's most intractable health care challenges.

"Etched in the very fabric that binds Weill Cornell Medical College are Joan and Sandy, magnanimous and visionary, hopeful and humble," Dr. Glimcher said. "From medical education to biomedical research, clinical care to global health, the central current flowing through each prong of the medical college's mission is their dream for a healthier future. This dream is what we strive to realize in everything we do."

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Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Discovers Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Popular Diabetes Drug


Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar have discovered how a diabetes drug that has been widely prescribed for more than 50 years protects patients' circulatory systems from damage caused by high blood sugar.

Metformin, the hypoglycemic drug prescribed to most patients with type 2 diabetes, interacts with a family of enzymes that has regulatory control over a wide range of critical cellular functions. The interaction between metformin and the enzymes, called sirtuins, protects patients from irreversible damage to the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells caused by high blood sugars, an effect known as glucose toxicity.

The study was published online last month in the British Journal of Pharmacology by Weill Cornell-Qatar's Dr. Chris Triggle, professor of pharmacology; Dr. Hong Ding, assistant research professor of pharmacology; and postdoctoral fellow and lead author Dr. Gnanapragasam Arunachalam.

"Our publication not only enhances our knowledge of how treatment with metformin reduces cardiovascular risk in patients with type 2 diabetes, but also provides a potential target for new therapeutic entities that can mimic metformin's action on sirtuin1," a protein in the sirtuin family, said Dr. Triggle, who is the lead principal investigator of a Qatar Foundation-sponsored National Priorities Research Program project exploring the effects of diabetes on the vascular system.

Metformin was first introduced in 1958 to treat type 2 diabetes. It has fewer serious side effects than other diabetes medications, significantly less risk of causing low blood sugar than other drugs, and is associated with weight loss rather than weight gain. (Obesity is associated with the disease.)

Researchers have generally assumed that the beneficial effects of metformin are linked to its ability to prevent the liver from creating glucose from foods other than carbohydrates, which means less glucose in the blood and ultimately less deterioration of the vascular system. However, previous clinical studies of the drug suggested to Dr. Triggle and his team that a different mechanism was at work.

Using mouse cells cultivated in the laboratory, they confirmed that metformin has a direct effect on vascular function through interaction with a protein called sirtuin1, which is encoded by the SIRT1 gene known to play a role in aging. The study was also unusual in that it assessed the effects of the drug at therapeutic clinical concentrations.

"We realized some years ago that the reported and generally accepted mechanisms of metformin did not really fit with the pharmacokinetic profile — the way the drug interacts with the body," Dr. Triggle said. "Our study proves that metformin does indeed have a direct protective action on the vasculature."

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State of the Medical College: Weill Cornell Rises to Health Care Challenges


Academic medical centers face an uncertain future, especially as federal research funds continue to shrink, but Weill Cornell Medical College is poised not only to thrive, but to lead the way in providing excellent education, research and clinical care.

In Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher's annual State of the Medical College address — her second as the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College — she said that Weill Cornell is positioned for a prosperous future by evolving with the ever-changing health care environment.

Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher; State of the Medical College address

Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher delivers annual State of the Medical College address on Dec. 4. Photo credit: Ira Fox

Standing in front of a crowded Uris Auditorium on Dec. 4, Dr. Glimcher reviewed the medical college's accomplishments over the past year and shared her goals for 2014 — among them, establishing a new medical school curriculum, strengthening the biomedical research enterprise, and expanding Weill Cornell's footprint in clinical care.

"I think that we have made some significant progress," Dr. Glimcher said. "I think we are already on our way to putting many of these agendas into action here at Weill Cornell — thanks to the help and commitment and passion of all of you."

While Weill Cornell is in the black, it's not immune to the challenges facing all academic medical centers, she said. Research funding from the National Institutes of Health has plummeted 20 percent over the past decade, with the $1.7 billion in cuts enacted this spring through sequestration inflicting even greater pain on scientists who can no longer obtain research grants. It's clear, Dr. Glimcher said, that the academic medical centers can no longer rely solely on traditional funding streams for their work.

To counteract Washington belt-tightening, Dr. Glimcher said the medical college will continue to seek philanthropy and build public-private partnerships to spur advances in each facet of Weill Cornell's mission.

"We need more resources because we have big plans in medical education, in research and in clinical expansion," she said.

Reimagining Medical School Curriculum

To prepare the next generation of physicians and scientists, Weill Cornell faculty have spent the last few years rewriting the medical school curriculum, which was last updated in 1996. Leadership will pilot the new educational blueprint — which will accelerate students' access to the clinic by a semester — in January with full roll-out next fall.

"Our curriculum has trained our students well, but needed to be reinvigorated and altered to fit the very rapidly changing health care environment and very rapidly changing research environment," Dr. Glimcher said.

This reform will enhance Weill Cornell's education program, which continues to attract the best and brightest students, Dr. Glimcher said. The diverse Class of 2017 — 19 percent of its students are from groups underrepresented in medicine — has the highest mean Medical College Admission Test score ever recorded at the medical college, and boasts 18 M.D.-Ph.D. students. At Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, nine of the 41 students in this year's entering class have successfully completed the medical college's pre-pre-med and pre-med programs.

The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, led by new Dean Dr. Gary Koretzky, accepted 56 students from 653 applicants. Some 13 percent are from groups underrepresented in medicine. In the Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. program, ranked first among M.D.-Ph.D. programs nationally for diversity, 24 percent of students enrolled in the program come from groups underrepresented in medicine. Last winter the program received a perfect score in its NIH Medical Scientist Training Program renewal grant application.

Expanding Weill Cornell's Biomedical Enterprise

Much of the medical college's successes are entwined with the prowess of its faculty, Dr. Glimcher said. Over the past two years, Weill Cornell has added 32 leading scientists to its ranks — among them nine senior recruits — who together will advance basic, clinical and translational research along with clinical care at the medical college.

She highlighted the backgrounds of three new leaders at Weill Cornell — Dr. Koretzky, who is also senior associate dean for research, Dr. Augustine Choi, chairman of the Department of Medicine, and Dr. Hugh Hemmings, chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology.

Weill Cornell is fortunate to already have a first-rate biomedical enterprise, Dr. Glimcher said, which will be enriched with the opening of the Belfer Research Building next month and efforts to recruit more of the world's leading lights — all possible due to the generosity of Weill Cornell benefactors.

To advance its mission of bringing the most advanced care to patients, Weill Cornell has established nearly a dozen interdisciplinary centers and institutes — some in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital — that transform the paradigm for high-impact biomedical research. These hubs — the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Institute for Precision Medicine among them — are charged with fostering collaboration between basic and translational scientists and clinicians to accelerate the application of groundbreaking discoveries made in the lab to innovative therapies for patients.

But drug development cannot be done in a vacuum. It is crucial to get the private sector involved to help ensure that findings in academic labs are translated into treatments, Dr. Glimcher said.

"Academe is very good at biology and target discovery and proof of principle," she said. "We're not so great in medicinal chemistry and that's where pharma is very strong."

To that end, Weill Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University joined forces with pharmaceutical company Takeda this fall in forming the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, which is tasked with expediting early-stage drug discovery into innovative treatments and therapies. The Tri-I TDI has just selected Dr. Michael Foley as director, and Takeda's scientists will arrive in March.

As the Tri-I TDI embarks on its work, Larry Schlossman, managing director of BioPharma Alliances and Research Collaborations at Weill Cornell, continues to develop partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and the medical college.

Providing Top-Notch Clinical Care

These initiatives would be for naught were they not infused with Weill Cornell's primary mission: "to keep the patient at the center of everything we do," Dr. Glimcher said. Discoveries made by basic scientists are increasingly being applied by physicians as Weill Cornell expands its clinical presence.

In March, the medical college and the Weill Cornell Physician Organization opened a new, comprehensive medical practice on Manhattan's West Side, offering imaging, primary care and high-demand specialty services to children and adults — all under one roof. And in July, when New York Downtown Hospital merged with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to become NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan; the 140 physicians on staff became credentialed members of the Weill Cornell faculty, as well as members of the physician organization. Both practices create a bridge between Weill Cornell's world-class physicians on the Upper East Side with areas in Manhattan that previously had limited access to the high-quality patient care that the academic medical center provides.

"I think Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are known for providing absolutely outstanding clinical care, both here and abroad," Dr. Glimcher said.

These efforts in clinical care, medical education and biomedical research continue to occur in partnership with Cornell University, CUNY Hunter College and Houston Methodist. And Weill Cornell's global initiatives in places like Weill Bugando in Tanzania, Gheskio in Haiti and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar remain strong, Dean Glimcher said.

"I think the experiment in Qatar started by Dean [Antonio M.] Gotto has really proven itself to be a success in terms of the quality of young people we are training to be physicians," she said.

The strength of Weill Cornell's mission is what sets Weill Cornell apart, Dr. Glimcher said, and is what will keep the medical college thriving.

"I want to thank all of you, faculty, staff, administration, students for your commitment to and passion for this really wonderful institution," she said. "It's been a great privilege to work with all of you over the last year, and I think the best is yet to come."

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