Alumni News

Marianne Wolff’52, Alumni News Editor | Peter Wortsman, Alumni News Writer | Additional class notes by Bonita Eaton Enochs, Editor

Stan Edelman received the French Foreign Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest award. He received the award for his service as a bombardier with the 8th Air Force and was qualified due to his World War II combat missions during the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Northern France.

William Reichel has built a career that combines ethics and gerontology. He is an Affiliated Scholar with the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center. He served for 13 years on the board of the American Geriatrics Society, including a term as president. He was recently named one of five Pioneers in Geriatric Medicine. See Alumni in Print to read about the 7th edition of “Reichel’s Care of the Elderly.”

Classmates of Warren Johnson, right, are, from left, John C.M., Brust Jr., Peter J. Puchner, Robert S., Waldbaum, and Nicholas A. Romas.

Warren Johnson received a Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Clinical Medicine at this year’s alumni reunion.

Geraldine and Alan Schechter were honored recently in the Washington, D.C., area. Geraldine, who is semiretired as chief of hematology at the Washington VA Hospital, was chosen as one of about 100 distinguished “Albanian-American Success Stories.” She was born in the United States shortly after her parents arrived from Albania. The Albanian Embassy honored the Albanian-Americans by including them in a coffee table book. Geraldine and Alan were invited to an official reception at the U.S. Capitol for Edi Rama, the Albanian prime minister, where several members of Congress were in attendance. “We suspect Geraldine is the first P&S graduate to be so honored,” writes Alan. Alan was feted during the summer when his former postdocs honored him at a symposium titled “Yellow Berets to Gray Hair: Training Physicians and Non-Physicians for Research Careers.” The symposium observed Alan’s 50-year career at the NIH (though the event fell almost exactly on his 51-year anniversary). Alan is chief of the molecular medicine branch in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. He has focused his research on developing treatments for genetic diseases of hemoglobin, including sickle cell disease.

Robert Baratta served as co-chair of the alumni reunion committee and of the 50th anniversary class for this year’s reunion.

Robert J. Lefkowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Duke, gave a talk, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm,” at Alumni Day during this year’s alumni reunion. He received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012.

Bernard M. Patten, professor of neurology at Rice University and retired chief of the neuromuscular disease division, vice chairman of neurology, and attending neurologist at Baylor College of Medicine, gave a talk at Alumni Day during this year’s alumni reunion. The title of his talk was “Ideas, Events, and Personalities Leading to L-DOPA Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.”

Henry M. Spotnitz gave a talk at Alumni Day during this year’s alumni reunion titled “Ultraviolet Disinfection—New Paradigms in Collaborative Research at CUMC.” Henry is vice chair for research and information systems and the George H. Humphreys II Professor of Surgery at P&S. He served as co-chair of the alumni reunion committee and of the 50th anniversary class for this year’s reunion.

Harold E. Varmus, who received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989, gave a talk, “Cancer, Then and Now,” at Alumni Day during this year’s alumni reunion. Harold is the Lewis Thomas University Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and associate member of the New York Genome Center. Harold also visited P&S to record a podcast for “This Week in Virology.” The July 31, 2016, podcast, titled “Harold Varmus: A Scientist for All Seasons,” is available at or on iTunes.           

Dennis Carson received a Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Medical Research at this year’s alumni reunion.

Ken Tomecki is vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology after spending a year as VP-elect. He also spent four years on the academy’s Board of Directors. Still in Cleveland after 30 years, Ken is staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic and former vice chairman of the Department of Dermatology. He is also on the Board of Directors of the American Dermatological Association and the International Society of Dermatology. “Wife Eileen still the best thing that ever happened, ditto son Peter, now an attorney in NYC, and his wife, Rose, a teacher in NYC,” writes Ken.

Leonard R. Krilov was named chair of pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital. He previously served as vice chair of pediatrics and will continue to serve as chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Winthrop.

Anne B. Curtis was one of six faculty members named SUNY Distinguished Professors, SUNY’s highest academic rank. She joined the University at Buffalo in 2010 as the inaugural Mary and Charles Bauer Professor, chair of the Department of Medicine, and president and CEO of UBMD Internal Medicine.

Drexel University has named Paul W. Brandt-Rauf dean of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems as of Feb. 1, 2017. He will join Drexel from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where he has been dean of the School of Public Health since 2008. During his tenure in Chicago, the school initiated an undergraduate major in public health and an online doctoral program for practicing professionals. The school’s enrollment increased significantly and several new research programs were launched, including a research mentorship program for junior faculty and pilot grants for the development of new initiatives. The school added three endowed professorships and its endowment tripled.

As P&S Alumni Association president, Brenda Aiken presided over the 35th alumni reunion in May before ending her two-year term.

Ron Cohen received a Gold Medal for Meritorious Service to the College of Physicians & Surgeons and its Alumni Association at this year’s alumni reunion.

David S. Younger is a board-certified neurologist in private medical practice. See Alumni in Print to read about his latest book, the third edition of “Motor Disorders.” David provided copies of the book for each member of the incoming P&S class. David received an MS degree in epidemiology this year from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Eran Y. Bellin, professor of clinical epidemiology & population health and professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has written a book described in this issue’s Alumni in Print. He has built a career analyzing electronic medical record data. He recalls meeting Raymond Gambino, MD, in his second-year pathology course at P&S and how he introduced students to the notions—then new to medicine—of sensitivity, specificity, and the impact of prevalence of disease on the meaning of a positive lab finding. “Amazingly creative and engaging, he was the quintessential teacher with a riddle. I was privileged to have known him,” says Eran.

John Markowitz, professor of clinical psychiatry at P&S and a research psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute, has written a new book, which is described in Alumni in Print. An expert in psychotherapy research, John has conducted several NIMH- and foundation-funded studies of interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, and medications. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and reviews.

Timothy Wang is the new president of the American Gastroenterological Association Institute. He is the Dorothy L. and Daniel H. Silberberg Professor of Medicine and chief of digestive and liver diseases in the Department of Medicine at P&S.

Pictured at a mini-reunion are Annabelle Santos Volgman, Maria Oquendo, Meriamne Singer, and Mark Sorensen. Also pictured are Keith Volgman and Dana Cazzulino.

Douglas Nordli Jr. has been named chief of pediatric neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and vice chair of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Dean Lee Goldman with 2016 Virginia Kneeland Frantz’22 Distinguished Women in Medicine Award recipient Maria Oquendo’84, P&S Alumni Association President Brenda Aiken’81, and 2016 Honorary Dean’s Day Chair Ron Drusin’66

Maria Oquendo, professor of psychiatry at P&S, received the Virginia Kneeland Frantz’22 Distinguished Women in Medicine Award at this year’s alumni reunion. Maria is now serving as president of the American Psychiatric Association.

CareMore Health System in California has named Sophia W. Chang the system’s first chief clinical innovation officer. She joined CareMore after serving as vice president of programs at the California Health Care Foundation.

Barron H. Lerner did a book signing for his book, “The Good Doctor: A Father, A Son and the Evolution of Medical Ethics,” at this year’s alumni reunion.

Laura Forese is executive vice president and chief operating officer for NewYork-Presbyterian, which includes the academic medical centers affiliated with Columbia and Weill Cornell as well as multiple community hospitals and physician groups in the NY metro region. She was recently named chair of the newly formed NIH Clinical Center Hospital Board.

Jesus Jaile-Marti, chief of neonatology at White Plains Hospital, was recognized as a 2016 Healthcare Hero by Westchester Magazine. He is known as a crusader for the smallest patients at the hospital, specifically babies born with life-threatening complications who require the most intensive assistance. Jesus has overseen the care of these newborns for more than two decades.

Paul Maddon was one of 10 Columbia graduates who were named Alumni Medalists at Columbia’s 2016 commencement. Alumni Medalists are honored for distinguished service of 10 years or more to the University, through the schools, alumni associations, regional clubs, and University-wide initiatives. Paul received both MD and PhD degrees from Columbia and also is a Columbia College graduate. A biotechnology entrepreneur and investor, he is vice chairman of Progenics Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company that develops and commercializes new medicines in the areas of gastroenterology, oncology, and infectious diseases. He founded Progenics in 1986 while an MD/PhD student and served as chairman, chief executive officer, and chief science officer until retiring in June 2012. Paul is also a Columbia University Trustee and a member of the CUMC Board of Advisors.

John C. McCabe, who received both MD and DDS degrees from Columbia and trained in oral and maxillofacial surgery at CUMC, is pictured on the next page in Kuwait. Jack, a colonel in the Dental Corps 3rd Medical Command deployed with the U.S. Army, has been in Qatar since February. The 3rd Medical Command oversees the Army’s health care assets in 11 countries in the Middle East. Jack is chief of professional services for the 3rd Medical Command, the first Dental Corps officer to serve as command surgeon. After earning his MD degree in 1990, he completed an internship in general surgery at Columbia then joined the faculty of the College of Dental Medicine. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1997 and was commissioned as a major in the Dental Corps. “That has been a very interesting and enjoyable second and parallel career for me,” he says. He and his family relocated in 2002 to Omaha, where he chaired oral and maxillofacial surgery at Creighton University. “In 2004 I was mobilized for 90 days to back fill at Evans Army Medical Center at Fort Carson, Colo. That was a period of intense combat engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. military. As one of two oral and maxillofacial surgeons stationed at Fort Carson, I provided reconstructive surgical care to soldiers with maxillofacial combat injuries who were evacuated out of theater for treatment. Amazingly, wounded soldiers would be flown from the Middle East or Ramstein, Germany, to Colorado Springs, Colo., to be reunited with family and to have definitive surgical care. It was an extremely rewarding experience, and I was fortunate to work with several excellent military physicians and dentists.” In 2006, Jack and his family moved to Connecticut, where he is in private practice. He has continued as a reserve Army officer and in 2014 was mobilized to Kuwait, where he performed numerous surgeries. His 2016 assignment in Qatar is Jack’s third activation. “It has been very fulfilling to be able to provide service members with needed health care that ranges from routine to mass casualty. This current assignment allows me to be much more involved in the administrative realm of military health care involving thousands of service members in many countries in the Middle East.” He was the first Dental Corps officer to qualify and serve as an instructor in advanced trauma life support. He has been appointed to represent the Army Reserve as the oral and maxillofacial surgery consultant to the Army’s Surgeon General.

The American Board of Radiology has appointed Sanjeev Bhalla to its Board of Trustees. He is professor of radiology at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis. He completed residency and fellowship at the institute in 2000. He has published numerous articles on the interface between body and emergency imaging. He is assistant program director at the institute, which has the largest radiology residency in the nation.

At this year’s alumni reunion weekend, Kathie-Ann Joseph started her two-year term as president of the P&S Alumni Association. A former faculty member at P&S, Kathie-Ann is now associate professor of surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. She also is chief of breast surgery at Bellevue Hospital and co-director of the Bea W. Welters Breast Health and Navigation and Outreach Program at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Devinder Singh, an internationally recognized plastic and reconstructive surgeon and award-winning cosmetic surgeon, received the 2016 President’s Award for his dedication to the physicians and patients of Maryland as chair of the Maryland Board of Physicians. He is the founding chief and medical director of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

Drew A. Helmer is an internist and primary care physician who has devoted his career to helping veterans. He has compiled what he has learned about sexual health for veterans in a book described in this issue’s Alumni in Print. Drew is director of the New Jersey War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, funded by the VA, and associate professor of medicine at Rutgers University. He previously worked at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and was the lead clinician for post-deployment health in Houston and for the South Central Veterans Integrated Service Network. Throughout his career, Drew has conducted research focused on issues important to veterans, including chronic pain, exposure concerns, sexual health, depression, and suicidal ideation.

Matt Iseman has completed his seventh season as a host of the NBC competition series, “American Ninja Warrior.” Before that, Matt appeared on the E! network, the Game Show Network, and the Style Network. He received a Daytime Emmy for a Style Network show, “The 5 Messiest Homes in the Country,” which earned the network its highest ratings ever. He continues acting and stand-up comedy. He made his movie debut in “Transformers 2.” In January 2017, Matt will appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” seeking to be “hired” by the new boss, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jennifer Ashton was named ABC News chief women’s health correspondent, reporting to “Good Morning America” several times a week. She also maintains a busy private practice in gynecology and was recently board-certified in obesity medicine. She completed a master’s degree program in nutrition at Columbia and in May gave the commencement address at Quinnipiac University School of Health Sciences, where she was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, for her work in communicating medical information in the media and efforts in promoting women’s health issues. Her third book, “Eat This Not That When You’re Expecting,” is described in this issue’s Alumni in Print.

Valerie A. Jones was featured on the cover of the May 2016 issue of The Message, the monthly newsmagazine of the Spokane County Medical Society, and the cover of the Summer 2016 issue of Providence Health Care’s magazine. Val is medical director of admissions at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane. Board-certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Val also is an award-winning writer, health journalist, and physician educator who has appeared on “ABC News” and “CNN Headline News.” She is a member of the National Press Club, a podcast host for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, a regular speaker at medical conferences, and a pioneer in using social media to advance medical knowledge. Follow her on Twitter—@drval—or on her blog,

Erich Anderer has become chief of neurosurgery at NYU Lutheran, the NYU Langone Health System’s central hub in Brooklyn.

2007 PhD
Philip Payne has been named the inaugural director of the Institute for Informatics at the Washington University School of Medicine, where he also holds an appointment as a professor of medicine. He is a graduate of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at P&S and an elected fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics. He previously served as professor and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University, where he led a campuswide initiative to establish an Institute for Translational Data Analytics.

Jacob M. Appel holds graduate degrees from Brown University, P&S, Harvard Law School, New York University, and Albany Medical College. He has written more than 200 short stories and has won several writing competitions. See Alumni in Print to read about his latest collection of short stories.

Gold medalist Mili Mehta’16, second from right, with her family

At this year’s alumni reunion weekend, Mili Mehta received the gold medal given to a graduate in recognition of interest in and devotion to the College of Physicians & Surgeons and its Alumni Association.