Alumni News


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

The 2019 Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons was presented to Henry Buchwald. This prestigious award honors pioneering living surgeons and was given to Henry in recognition of his five decades of work, particularly in the field of metabolic surgery. At the event, Henry was described as “a true surgeon-scientist who, through creativity and perseverance, has made seminal contributions to science and society.”

Ludwig Gutmann, professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, received the American Academy of Neurology Award for Creative Expression of Human Values in Neurology for a short story published in the journal Neurology.

See Alumni in Print to read about a two-volume set co-written by Paul Mosher. Paul is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Albany, New York.

Walter Franck, professor emeritus of clinical medicine, received the VP&S Distinguished Service Award in Clinical Science at the 2019 graduation ceremony. The award is the highest clinical honor presented by VP&S. Walt worked for 42 years at Bassett Medical Center as a rheumatologist, physician leader, researcher, and teacher. For 28 of those years, he served as Bassett’s physician-in-chief, and he also co-directed the Columbia-Bassett Medical Program and was a senior associate dean at Columbia.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Story Musgrave gave a talk, “From Farm Kid to Rocket Man and Way Beyond: Excellence, Exploration, and Evolution,” during the Dean’s Day Program. Story is a retired NASA astronaut—the only one to fly aboard all five space shuttles—and current professor of design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-edited by Robert Lisak, the Parker Webber Chair in Neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Previously, he was vice chair of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, chair of neurology at Wayne State University, neurologist-in-chief of the Detroit Medical Center, and chief of neurology at Harper University Hospital. 

Ron Drusin stepped down from his role as vice dean for education at VP&S at the end of December 2019. See a profile of his career at Columbia.

Harold Varmus was featured speaker in September at an event for students who spent the summer conducting research through the VP&S Program for Education in Global and Population Health. Harold, the Lewis Thomas University Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, recalled his time during medical school in an apprenticeship at a missionary hospital in India, where medical staff treated patients with leprosy, advanced tuberculosis, and other diseases infrequently observed in New York City. His experience was part of his inspiration for making a gift to VP&S to establish the Varmus Global Scholars Fund to provide stipends for a few students to conduct novel global health research projects at international sites for eight weeks to one year.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Gail Williams served as the honorary chair of the Dean’s Day Program. 

At the 2019 alumni reunion, John P. Bilezikian received the medal for Outstanding Achievements in Medical Research. John is the Dorothy L. and Daniel H. Silberberg Professor of Medicine and professor of pharmacology at VP&S, vice chair of the Department of Medicine for international education and research, chief emeritus of the Division of Endocrinology, and director emeritus of the Metabolic Bone Diseases Program at CUIMC. He is known worldwide for landmark research that has defined primary hyperparathyroidism. His research, now in its 35th year of continuous NIH funding, is the longest and most successful of its kind and has provided novel insights into natural history, mechanisms of bone loss, and pathogenesis that have led to international standards for diagnosis and management. He is also a pioneer in studies of hypoparathyroidism and osteoporosis. John’s international work led to the establishment of the Osteoporosis Center of Armenia, a Eurasian hub, which features outreach, diagnosis, care, and research.

Charlotte Cunningham-Rundles, the David S. Gottesman Professor of Immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and director of the immunodeficiency clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital, received the Virginia Kneeland Frantz’22 Distinguished Women in Medicine Award during the 2019 alumni reunion. Charlotte is also program director of allergy immunology fellowship training at Mount Sinai. 

Anne Moore gave a talk, “Breast Cancer: 50 Years of Progress,” during the Dean’s Day Program at the 2019 alumni reunion. She also served as chair of the 50th anniversary class and delivered welcoming remarks on Alumni Day. Anne is the medical director of the Weill Cornell Breast Center and professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, James A. Reiffel, professor emeritus of medicine at VP&S, gave a talk, “Beneath the Surface Lies a Silent Killer: the High Incidence of ‘Subclinical’ or ‘Silent’ Atrial Fibrillation and its Risks,” during the Alumni Day Program. 

Michael Parry, the Thomas J. Bradsell Chair of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Health, received a United Hospital Fund’s 2019 Excellence in Health Care Award for Quality Improvement Champions. The award recognizes Michael’s dedication to patient care and his leadership in hospital epidemiology and infection prevention at both the local and national level.

Donald Quest is the new assistant dean for admissions at VP&S after being interim assistant dean. 

Ken Tomecki has been elected president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the largest dermatology organization in the world with more than 20,000 physicians. He becomes president-elect in March 2020, at the next AAD annual meeting, then president in March 2021. Ken was a member of the AAD board for four years and AAD vice president in 2016-2017. He is vice president of the International Society of Dermatology and just completed a term as vice president of the American Dermatological Association. He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the International Journal of Dermatology. His workday destination is still the Cleveland Clinic, his home for more than three decades.  

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Allan Schwartz received the award for Outstanding Achievements in Clinical Medicine. At Columbia, Allan is the Harold Ames Hatch Professor of Medicine, the Seymour Milstein Professor of Cardiology (in Medicine), and vice chair of the Department of Medicine. He also is chief of the cardiology division and physician-in-chief of the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center. Under his leadership, the cardiology division has attained international prominence as one of the leading centers for cardiac research, innovation, patient care, and education.

Michael M. Krinsky has practiced neurology in Connecticut since 1979. He trained in internal medicine at St. Luke’s Hospital and neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was chief resident. He held teaching appointments at Mount Sinai as preceptor in the Department of Neurology and as an instructor in human medicine. He also served on the faculty at the University of Connecticut. He held several positions at the Hartford Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, was a consultant to state agencies, and was instrumental in establishing the Evoked Potential Testing laboratories at Mount Sinai, Manchester Memorial, and Rockville General hospitals. He also established the EMG laboratory at Rockville General. He served as president of the medical staff at the Hebrew Home and Hospital in Hartford and established its neurology and movement disorders clinic. He was president of the Hartford County Medical Association, councilor of the Tolland County Medical Association, and president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, David P. Roye received the award for meritorious service to VP&S and its alumni association. David has dedicated his professional life to improving life for children in the United States and abroad. He is chief of the pediatric orthopedic service at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NYP and the St. Giles Professor of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at VP&S. In 2013, he presided over the official opening of the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center, dedicated to providing comprehensive care to cerebral palsy patients transitioning to adulthood.

See Alumni in Print to read about a new book by William C. Meyers. Bill is an authority on core health, and he established the Vincera Institute, which is dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of core injuries, as well as research and education.

Valerie Rusch became president of the American College of Surgeons, the world’s largest surgical organization, in October. The college sets standards for surgical practice and education, representing 80,000 surgeons from all specialties. As the college’s 100th president, Valerie is only the fourth woman to hold the position. She is currently vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

The New York Academy of Medicine gave its Stephen Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health to Mary T. Bassett. NY Academy of Medicine awards honor individuals for distinguished contributions in health policy, public health, clinical practice, and biomedical research. Mary, director of Harvard’s François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, was recognized for her work as New York City Health Commissioner. As commissioner, she transformed public health in New York by addressing structural biases to help close persistent racial gaps in health and by starting multiple initiatives on social determinants of health, the opioid crisis, mental health, and health equity. Mary also is the FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Daniel McCrimons, clinical assistant professor at California Northstate University College of Medicine, gave a talk, “A Plea for the Preservation of all Physicians to Become Care-Giving Student Doctors: A Long and Gratifying Experience,” during the Alumni Day Program.

Jerry Sebag delivered the inaugural Robert Machemer Lecture to the European Society of Ophthalmology in June. Presented at an international biennial congress representing 44 national societies, Jerry’s keynote lecture addressed the unmet needs of patients suffering from vitreous eye floaters that degrade contrast sensitivity function and negatively impact quality of life. 

Nancy Anderson has been named director of the maternal child health systems program in the Department of Midwifery at Bastyr University in Washington state. The master of arts in maternal-child health systems offers experienced midwives and other qualified maternal-child health professionals the opportunity to become influential leaders in education, research, policymaking, program management, and advocacy to improve the health of women and children. Nancy, a board-certified pediatrician with an MPH in maternal-child health from the University of Washington, spent five years working in Mozambique and 12 years working for the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington state. She taught public health at Evergreen State College and was adjunct faculty at Bastyr before joining the faculty full time in 2016.  

Oheneba Boachie-Adjei received a 2019 Black Star GUBA Award for exceptional contributions to medicine. The Black Star GUBA awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and businesses with ties to Ghana. Oheneba returned to Ghana after a long career in the United States to be CEO, surgeon-in-chief, and medical director of the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine Orthopedic Hospital. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hospital for Special Surgery in June 2013 and in 2015 was featured on CNN’s African Voices documentary as the “Ghanaian doctor transforming spine surgery in Ghana.”

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-written by Brian A. Fallon. Brian is a physician and psychiatrist with an interest in anxiety and in the neuropsychiatric manifestations of infectious diseases. He is currently director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia.

Steve Auerbach retired after reaching the maximum 30 years of active duty service as medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Public Health Service, including stints with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, in Micronesia, and in his home of New York City with the regional office of the Health Resources and Services Administration. His work involved community health centers, health care for the homeless, national health services corps, health professional shortage areas, and more. He looks forward in retirement to becoming even more active on the executive board of Physicians for a National Health Program in New York City and other single-payer and health, social, and economic justice work. He lives in New York City with his wife and their two children “when they are home.”

Anne Armstrong-Coben is the new senior associate dean for admissions at VP&S. Read about her appointment in this issue.

Richard Braunstein has been appointed senior vice president/executive director of Northwell Health’s ophthalmology service line and is the Arlene and Arthur Levine Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He serves as president of the Northwell Health Eye Institute.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Laurence Huang, chief of the HIV/AIDS Chest Clinic at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, gave a talk, “AIDS: From Washington Heights to Kampala, Uganda,” during the Alumni Day Program. Laurence is also professor of medicine at UCSF.

Donald M. Thea, a Boston University professor, received the 2019 Horace Mann Award from Antioch College. The award is presented to alumni of Antioch who have had a “profound effect on the present or future human condition.” Donald was recognized in particular for his research on the transmission of HIV from mothers to children, as well as for his work investigating malaria and childhood pneumonia.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Susan Vaughan, associate professor of psychiatry at CUMC, gave a talk, “Dreaming of a Neuroscience-based Psychoanalysis: 30 Years at Columbia,” during the Alumni Day Program. 

The U.S. Ski Team awarded James Watkins its J. Leland Sosman Award. The award was presented during the chairman’s awards dinner as part of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Congress in Park City, Utah. The nomination read in part: “Jamie has traveled with us for several years now and has been a great ambassador for our program. He often travels to the lesser known locations that have minimal medical support and is able to provide a high level of medical expertise and give our staff and athletes a high level of confidence when they are training or competing. He is also a resource for many different medical scenarios and is able to connect us with experts in a variety of specialties.” Despite receiving chemotherapy for lymphoma at the time, Jamie traveled to South Korea as a doctor for the U.S. team during the 2018 Winter Olympics. He has worked with the team for eight years, beginning shortly after the Vancouver Olympics when he joined the men’s speed team in Chile. Jamie writes that even though he graduated in 1991, he spent most of his time in the Class of 1989.

1991 PSY
At the 2019 alumni reunion, Lisa Mellman became an honorary alumnus. Lisa is senior associate dean for student affairs and the Samuel Rudin Professor of Psychiatry at CUMC. Lisa has received several awards for clinical excellence, teaching, and psychoanalysis and is a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a past president of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training. She is profiled in this issue. 

Jess Ting is featured in a documentary that premiered at Lincoln Center as part of the New York Film Festival. The film goes behind the scenes at Mount Sinai, where Jess led the hospital’s first genital reassignment surgery for a transgender person. Since then, Mount Sinai has established a Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, and Jess’s team has performed more than 1,000 transgender surgeries. The documentary follows a diverse group of patients as they go through the emotional and physical journey of surgical transitioning.

Kathleen van Leeuwen founded the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Fetal Care Center, Arizona’s only program offering advanced fetal diagnosis and newborn medical and surgical intervention. She also is director of the reproductive anomalies and differences of sex development clinic at Phoenix Children’s. 

Carlos Jose Rodriguez has joined Montefiore Health System and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as vice chair for academic affairs, director of cardiovascular research, and director of cardiovascular epidemiology. As a national leader in the study of cardiovascular risk factors for minorities, Carlos has focused his research on heart disease, heart failure, and other cardiovascular health disparities. He also earned an MPH degree from Columbia. 

Delphine Taylor was appointed co-chair of the subcommittee that oversees the fundamentals curriculum at VP&S. She directs the “Foundations of Clinical Medicine” seminars course.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-written by Jacqueline Worth. Jacqueline’s practice, Village Obstetrics, delivers babies at Mount Sinai Hospital.


Matt Iseman, cohost of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” and stand-up comic, was a co-grand marshal of the Indianapolis 500 race on May 26, giving the traditional “drivers to your cars” command during a pre-race ceremony. He also is hosting “Live Rescue,” a documentary series on the A&E network.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book written by Shannon Sovndal. Shannon is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and is currently the medical director for Med Evac (Rotor Wing Service) and multiple fire departments in Colorado. Previously, he was a team physician for the Garmin-Sharp professional cycling team.

Salila Kurra was appointed co-chair of the subcommittee that oversees the fundamentals curriculum at VP&S. Salila is one of six VP&S advisory deans and directs the endocrine section of the “Body in Health and Disease” course.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Thomas E. Lo, president of the VP&S Alumni Association, delivered welcoming remarks on Dean’s Day and at the VP&S Alumni Gala.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book of short stories by Jacob M. Appel. Jacob is a physician, attorney, bioethicist, and social critic based in New York City. He taught for many years at Brown University and currently teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

2012/13 PhD
Nsikan Akpan was science producer on a “PBS NewsHour” series that received a George Foster Peabody Award. The five-part series, titled “The Plastic Problem,” investigated the damage being done by single-use plastic.

Suneel Kamath recently completed a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Northwestern University, and he has joined the Cleveland Clinic as a gastrointestinal oncologist. Suneel also recently published a paper in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Care Network that examines nonprofit funding for cancer research. The paper finds that despite ample funding for oncology, many of the deadliest and most common cancers—such as gastrointestinal cancer, gynecological cancer, and lung cancer—are comparatively underfunded.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-written by Bianca Calderon-Brown. Bianca is a pediatrician in the Bronx and a member of the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

See Alumni in Print to read about a book co-written by Jennifer Sotsky. Jennifer is a physician with a specialty in narrative medicine and a resident at CUIMC.

At the 2019 alumni reunion, Kyle Bolo received the award given to a graduate in recognition of interest in and devotion to VP&S and its alumni association.

House Staff Alumni
James C. Chan, who completed a research fellowship in pediatric nephrology at Columbia from 1968 to 1970, has edited a multiauthored volume, “Clinical Disorders of the Kidney.” James is currently a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University. Columbia pediatric nephrologist Natalie Uy, MD, and Catherine Kavanagh, MD, a postdoc clinical fellow in pediatric nephrology at VP&S, are among the authors. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the literature on kidney disorders.