Alumni News


Marianne Wolff’52, Alumni Editor, and Bonita Eaton Enochs, Editor

At this year’s alumni reunion, Henry Shinefield, emeritus clinical professor of pediatrics and dermatology at UCSF, gave a talk, “Worth the Wait: New Insights into the Mechanisms and Use of Bacterial Interference,” at the Alumni Day symposium.

James Malm’49, center, with Scott Roskind, left, and E. Robert Roskind

James Malm was honored this year when a patient’s family raised funds to establish the James R. Malm, MD, Professorship of Pediatric Cardiovascular Medicine and Surgery in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at VP&S. James, now 93, served as chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Columbia for more than 30 years. He performed two surgeries on Scott Roskind—one when Scott was a baby and another when he was age 9. The Roskind family, grateful for the care Scott received as a child, founded the Babies Heart Fund in 1986 with several families and in 2012 began soliciting gifts from family and friends to create the Malm professorship. In April, Scott and his father, Robert, traveled to Florida to present James with his professorship medallion. 

Marianne Wolff, professor emeritus of clinical surgical pathology & cell biology at VP&S, received the VP&S Distinguished Service Award in Basic Science at the 2018 graduation ceremony. 

P. Roy Vagelos delivered the graduation address to the Class of 2018 at VP&S in May. 

Marilyn Heins is a retired pediatrician and parenting expert who has written a parenting column for the Arizona Daily Star since 1989. She is CEO of, a website that since 1999 has offered information for parents, grandparents, and teachers about raising children in today’s world. She writes parenting tips for the website and answers questions about parenting. She recently started writing poetry, including one here.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book by Oliver Cobb. Ollie, a retired urologist, lives in Shoreline, Wash. His book is the culmination of a goal he set for his retirement: Learn Spanish. He notes that the cover includes a photo he took of his reflection in a photograph of Christine Keeler.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book by John Curran.The book includes, in part, some of his 1960s adventures while a medical student and psychiatric resident at Columbia. “Those years remain quite dear to me both because of the many friendships I developed while there as well as their lasting influence on my medical career.”

Peter Puchner, professor emeritus of clinical urology at VP&S, received the VP&S Distinguished Service Award in Clinical Science at the 2018 graduation ceremony. 

John N. Sheagren received the Clinical Teacher Award from the Michigan Infectious Disease Society at its 2018 annual meeting. Carol Kauffman, society president, presented the award to Dr. Sheagren “in recognition of exemplary teaching, implementation of innovative educational programs, and outstanding communication skills.” John is professor of medicine at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and a core faculty member of the Spectrum Health internal medicine residency training program in Grand Rapids.

Carmen Ortiz-Neu was honorary Dean’s Day chair at this year’s alumni reunion.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book by Avrum Bluming. 
Avrum is a hematologist, medical oncologist, and emeritus clinical professor of medicine at the University of Southern California. He has been studying the positive effects of hormone replacement therapy for more than 25 years and wants the book he co-wrote to provide the evidence that physicians and their patients need to make informed decisions about HRT.

At this year’s alumni reunion, William Lee received a gold medal for outstanding achievements in clinical medicine. He is professor of internal medicine and holder of the Meredith Mosle Chair in Liver Diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and has divided his career between clinical research and care of patients with all forms of hepatitis. He has been the principal investigator for four clinical networks funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. He has mentored generations of students, residents, and fellows and devoted a large amount of time to teaching and direct patient care in hospitals and clinics for private and public patients. Medals were presented at the reception and dinner dance held at the Chelsea Piers.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Estelle Bender was host of Alumni Day. She also chaired the 50-year anniversary class for the reunion. 

At this year’s alumni reunion, Virginia Utermohlen, associate professor emeritus in the nutritional sciences division at Cornell University, gave a talk, “Adventures of a Health Care Advisor,” during the Alumni Day symposium.

Gail Williams, professor of medicine at VP&S, received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award presented by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation at the 2018 VP&S graduation ceremony. 

John P. Bilezikian was one of approximately 100 Americans who received a 2018 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Medals are awarded annually to American citizens who exemplify a life dedicated to community service. “These are individuals who preserve and celebrate the history, traditions, and values of their ancestry while exemplifying the values of the American way of life and who are dedicated to creating a better world for us all,” said the Ellis Island Honors Society. John is the Dorothy and Daniel Silberberg Professor of Medicine and professor of pharmacology at VP&S. For Armenia, his ancestral homeland, John has delivered, over the past decade, instrumental capability and educational resources needed to diagnose osteoporosis, improve awareness, initiate cutting-edge clinical research, and be at the forefront of knowledge in the field. In October 2017, he founded the Osteoporosis Center of Armenia. He has received, among many honors, the Distinguished Physician and Distinguished Educator Awards of the Endocrine Society, the Frederic C. Bartter Award of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research for Excellence in Clinical Research, and the Gideon A. Rodan Excellence in Mentorship Award. He has received lifetime achievement and recognition awards from the California and Boston Armenian American Medical Societies and the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization. He received the Doctor Honoris Causa Award from the Carol Davila School of Medicine in Bucharest, Romania, and from the University of Pisa, in Pisa, Italy.

See Alumni in Print to read about a new book co-edited by James A. Reiffel. He is professor emeritus of medicine at VP&S.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Jeffrey A. Whitsett received a gold medal for outstanding achievements in medical research. He is the Kindervelt Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati, co-director of the Perinatal Institute, and chief of neonatology, perinatal, and pulmonary biology research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He has made major contributions in pulmonary medicine and biology in his studies of the surfactant proteins A, B, C, and D, cloning their genes and elucidating their roles in lung development and function. Medals were presented at the reception and dinner dance held at the Chelsea Piers.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book by Jane M. Orient. Jane was an ambulatory care physician and instructor in internal medicine at the University of Arizona for five years after completing her residency. She has been in private practice since 1981 and executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons since 1989.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Jay Lefkowitch gave a talk, “Orpheus and Aesclepius: The Story of Music and Medicine,” during the Dean’s Day Program. Jay is professor of pathology & cell biology at VP&S.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book by Bob Baker. Bob has 35 years of experience as a physician, author, and speaker whose passion in medicine centers on the patient. A professional magician and ventriloquist, he has appeared on “America’s Got Talent.” His business card says “The magic of medicine begins with the doctor/patient connection.”

Robert Lauer has a letter published in this issue, click here to view.

James Nepola, professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Iowa, received two awards this year. He received the inaugural Teacher of the Year award from the residents in his department. “It was one of the first times in my life when I was truly at a loss for words,” Jim says. He called it a testimonial to his teachers at VP&S and the New York Orthopedic Hospital. “All I am as a doctor comes from my training and experience at Columbia.” His second award was the Marion L. Huit Faculty Award, presented annually to honor outstanding work with students, exceptional scholarship, and dedicated service to the University of Iowa and Iowa City communities.

1980 PhD
Paulette Bernd, professor of pathology & cell biology at VP&S, received the Charles W. Bohmfalk Award at the 2018 VP&S graduation ceremony for teaching in the pre-clinical years.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Brenda Aiken received a gold medal for meritorious service to VP&S and its alumni association. Brenda, director of the medical service for Columbia University Student Health Services at the Morningside campus, was president of the VP&S Alumni Association from 2014-16. Medals were presented at the reception and dinner dance held at the Chelsea Piers.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Elaine Abrams, professor of epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health and of pediatrics at VP&S, received the Virginia Kneeland Frantz’22 Distinguished Women in Medicine Award. 

At this year’s alumni reunion, Adam J. Rovit, who has a pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus practice in Las Vegas and is former president of the Nevada Academy of Ophthalmology, gave a talk, “Treatment for Progressive (High) Myopia,” during the Alumni Day symposium.

Kimberly A. Yonkers, professor of psychiatry, epidemiology (chronic disease), and obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, has been named director of the Section of Psychological Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health of Yale New Haven Hospital. Interim director since last year, Kim was chosen following a national search. She is known for groundbreaking work on the treatment of mood disorders, particularly those that complicate the reproductive health of women, and for studies that target the important, under-recognized, and inadequately treated problem of depressed mothers who are also suffering with addiction. She is director of the Center for the Wellbeing of Women and Mothers at Yale. She also is editor of the journal Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice

Christopher Caldarone has joined Texas Children’s Heart Center as chief of congenital heart surgery. Chris, who will be professor of congenital heart surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, moved to Texas from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where he completed a fellowship in congenital heart surgery and most recently served as surgeon-in-chief. He completed his general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery residencies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School.

Joshua Hyman received an Arthur Huene Award this year at the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America annual meeting in Austin. Joshua, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at VP&S, received the award for his project, “Evaluating the role of patellar realignment in patients with cerebral palsy.” The Arthur H. Huene Memorial Award recognizes active POSNA members for excellence and promise in pediatric orthopedics.

Christina Johnson has been named CEO of Longmont United Hospital in Longmont, Colo. She has more than 20 years of clinical and operational experience. She earned an MBA from the University of Denver.

Craig Samitt has been named president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He previously served as executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Indianapolis-based Anthem insurance.

John Barrett has been named executive medical director of the Community Physician Group at University of Utah Health, an academic medical center in the Mountain West. In his new role, John leads a group of 205 primary care providers in 10 community clinics. The clinics play a significant role in the life of thousands of Utahns, with more than 300,000 patient visits each year. John joined the University of Utah in 2013, where he has served as the medical director of urgent care services and on-demand care. He has experience serving rural communities in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah and was twice awarded the U.S. Public Health Service Achievement Medal. He was named 2018 Utah Physician of the Year by the Utah Association of Physician Assistants for teaching and advocating throughout his career for advanced practice clinicians. 

At this year’s alumni reunion, Carol Chou, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, gave a talk, “From Orchestras to Osler: Music as a Life Force in an Internist’s Career,” during the Dean’s Day Program.

William Macaulay has been appointed chief of the Division of Adult Reconstructive Surgery in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health. Bill joined NYU Langone in January 2017 as medical director for International Patient Services. He oversaw an expansion of the health system’s program that matches international patients with top physicians in a wide variety of medical and surgical disciplines. He will continue in that role while chief.

David P. Ryan was one of three individuals who received honorary degrees in May 2018 from the College of the Holy Cross, his undergraduate alma mater. David, professor of medicine at Harvard, is chief of hematology and oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, clinical director at the Mass Gen Cancer Center, and an expert in the research and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. 

1992 PhD/1994 MD
See Alumni in Print to read about a book by Calvin Chou. Calvin is professor of clinical medicine at UCSF, director of the UCSF-VALOR program, and vice president for external education at the Academy of Communication in Healthcare.

Jonathan Chen has joined Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as chief of cardiothoracic surgery, co-director of the cardiac center, and the Mortimer J. Buckley Jr. MD Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery. Jonathan completed his general surgery residency and cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Columbia and joined the VP&S and Weill Cornell faculties, serving as chief of pediatric cardiovascular services and the David Wallace-Starr Foundation Professor at Weill Cornell and surgical director of the pediatric heart transplant program at Columbia until 2013. He joined CHOP from Seattle, where he was chief of congenital cardiac surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital and co-director of the heart center and professor of surgery at the University of Washington. He also held the Sam and Althea Stroum Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery.

Metacrine Inc., a biotechnology company developing therapies to benefit patients with liver and gastrointestinal diseases, has appointed Hubert C. Chen as chief medical officer. Hubert, a board-certified endocrinologist with expertise in both clinical medicine and basic science research, joined Metacrine after serving as chief medical and scientific officer at Pfenex Inc. His biotechnology career has spanned early to late stage clinical development in multiple disease areas. 

Kathie-Ann Joseph, associate professor of surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, chief of breast services at Bellevue Hospital, and co-director of the Bea Welters Breast Health Outreach and Navigation Program, completed her term as president of the VP&S Alumni Association at the 2018 alumni reunion. 

1995 PhD/1996 MD
Andrew Cheng has been named president and CEO of Akero Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing treatments for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and other serious metabolic diseases. Andrew joined Akero Therapeutics after nearly two decades at Gilead Sciences, where he most recently was chief medical officer and executive vice president. Akero’s new headquarters is San Francisco.

Benjamin Roye, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at VP&S, received an Arthur Huene Award this year at the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America annual meeting in Austin. Ben received the award for his project on adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, “Bracing for AIS: What makes the difference? Examining the reciprocity of quality and duration.” The Arthur H. Huene Memorial Award recognizes active POSNA members for excellence and promise in pediatric orthopedics. 

Magdalena Sobieszczyk, associate professor of medicine at VP&S, received the Charles W. Bohmfalk Award at the 2018 VP&S graduation ceremony for teaching in the clinical years. 

Anne Michels has joined USC Student Health at the University of Southern California as a full-time gynecologist. She also holds a faculty appointment at USC’s Keck Medicine. She will care for USC students on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses of USC. Anne completed residency training in OB/GYN at NewYork-Presbyterian in 2004, then obtained her California state license. Says the native New Yorker: “Looking for a change, we moved our family from New York City out to Los Angeles. I fell in love with the sunny weather and have made Southern California my home since.” She lives in the Pasadena area with her husband and three children. 

At this year’s alumni reunion, Brian Benson, chair of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery 
at Seton Hall’s Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, gave a talk, “Common Ear, Nose, and Throat Problems of Wind Instrumentalists: A View from Both Sides of the Podium,” at the Alumni Day symposium.

Alexandra Spessot has been named chief medical officer for Monarch, a nonprofit in North Carolina that provides services and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders throughout the state. As chief medical officer, Alex will ensure that all medical administrative processes for the organization’s behavioral health locations and telemedicine processes meet health care standards and provide a continuum of care to approximately 30,000 people. She will provide oversight and direction for nearly 50 medical providers at Monarch. She joined Monarch after serving as director of psychiatric emergency care at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Lisa F. Schneider, a plastic & reconstructive surgeon at the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in Jersey City, N.J., gave a talk, “The Magician’s Secret: Unlocking the Meaning of Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp,’” during the Dean’s Day Program.

Oluwaseun Akinbo has joined the medical staff of HaysMed in Hays, Kan. An orthopedic surgeon, Oluwaseun completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was the administrative chief resident during his final year of residency. He also served on the house-staff executive council and the orthopedic education committee. He completed a fellowship in hip and knee replacement surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. He focuses on primary and revising hip/knee replacement, fracture management, and general orthopedics.

See Alumni in Print to read about Daniela Lamas’ first book. Daniela is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and a pulmonary and critical care doctor at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. She completed internship and residency at Columbia before returning to Boston for a subspecialty fellowship. 

Thomas Lo assumed the presidency of the VP&S Alumni Association at this year’s alumni reunion weekend. He also prepared dessert for the Alumni Day luncheon in Bard Hall.

See Alumni in Print to read about the latest book by Jacob M. Appel. Jacob continues to write books of poetry and short stories and plays in his career as a physician, attorney, and bioethicist.

Charlene Ong, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University, received a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, given to outstanding junior faculty at BU to fund research and scholarly or creative work for three years.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Peter Liou gave a talk, “Taking Cues: How Music Prepared Me for a Career in Surgery,” during the Dean’s Day Program.

2014 and 2015
James Todaro’14 completed an ophthalmology residency while simultaneously launching a telehealth company and becoming a managing partner for a hedge fund. He now devotes all of his time as CEO of his company, MedX Protocol, and as managing partner of the hedge fund, Blocktown Capital, based in Michigan. James started investing in digital currency and blockchain technology in 2013 and now speaks on the subject at conferences. “I believe blockchain will radically disrupt current health care patterns and infrastructure,” he writes. Co-founder Moshe Praver’15 completed two years of neurosurgery residency at Northwestern before deciding to focus more time on the company.

At this year’s alumni reunion, Sarah Godfrey received a gold medal in recognition of interest in and devotion to VP&S and its alumni association. Medals were presented at the reception and dinner dance held at the Chelsea Piers.