Weill Cornell Medicine honors students and staff for their exemplary efforts towards diversity and inclusion

Weill Cornell Medicine honored a dozen faculty, trainees, students and staff on April 25 for their outstanding service and leadership in promoting diversity at the academic medical establishment.

The annual Diversity Awards, held virtually this year, recognize exemplary contributions through research, clinical care, community service and advocacy to improve the health of populations who historically have had unequal access to care. They also recognize excellence in mentoring and fostering an inclusive, engaging and welcoming workplace. Launched in 2011 to reflect the institution’s commitment to diversity, encourage public service and mentorship, and build on existing initiatives to recruit and retain diverse students and faculty, the awards have since broadened in scope and grown in numbers to honor staff and excellence in mentoring. women.

Ultimately, achieving equity is the only way to achieve humanity in this world we live in. This celebration brings together our doctors, scientists, educators, administrators and community members. We are all committed to this cause of greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in academic medicine and health care. »

Dr. Augustine MK Choi, Stephen and Suzanne Doyen of Weill Cornell Medicine

The ceremony honored seven winners of the 2022 Pioneers in Diversity Awards, which honor members of the Weill Cornell Medicine community who have distinguished themselves as key contributors to a culture of diversity. Dr. Susana Morales, director of the Weill Cornell Medicine Diversity Center of Excellence; Dr. Joy Howell, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Student Life; Dr. Linnie Golightly, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion; Dr. Yazmin Carrasco, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion; and Fanesse George, Associate Director of Staff Diversity and Inclusion; awarded the prizes.

Dr. Maria Lame, Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine, received the Bruce Laine Ballard, MD Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The award recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated their commitment to improving student life and fostering a stimulating and supportive environment where students can thrive and succeed. Dr. Lame helped create and is associate director of the DiversifiED summer learning program, which exposes college students from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine (URiM) to the medical field. Dr. Lame has also created a buddy program for URiM medical students who visit Weill Cornell for emergency medicine sub-fellowships.

Third-year radiology resident Dr. Michelle Lee received the Louis Wade Sullivan, MD Award for Excellence in Public Health Promotion, which honors a resident or postdoctoral fellow who has been a strong advocate for the promotion of health and an advocate for public health, particularly for medically underserved populations. Dr. Lee is a writer and advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. A passionate advocate for social justice, Dr. Lee’s work in the fight against anti-Asian racism has been featured in two dozen media outlets and inspired many at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Weill Cornell Medicine alumni Dr. Dakotah Lane and Dr. Cristina Toledo-Cornell, who both graduated in 2013, received the Marie Metoyer, MD Award for Excellence in Community Service. The award recognizes faculty or alumni of Weill Cornell Medicine who have gone above and beyond to serve communities despite difficult conditions. Dr. Lane is the executive medical director of the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic in Washington; Dr. Toledo-Cornell is currently an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and former director of public health at the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic. Drs. Lane and Toledo-Cornell have developed a successful public health strategy to support the Lummi Nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They developed pandemic preparedness plans before the first positive case there, fostered clear communication with the community, and coordinated the expansion of the Phase 3 clinical trial of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to the Lummi Nation.

Weill Cornell medical students Chimsom Orakwue and Josue Barnes received the Ida Sophia Scudder, MD Award for Excellence in Public Service. The award recognizes physicians, doctoral students, MD-Ph.D. or medical assistant students who have made a significant contribution in the field of community service and the provision of care to the underserved.

Orakwue, a third-year student at Weill Cornell Medical College, co-founded a student-led initiative to match Spanish-speaking patients with medical students fluent in the language. Orakwue held many leadership positions during her time at Weill Cornell Medicine, including president of the Student National Medical Association and Students for Equal Opportunity in Medicine. She has also served as a board member and planning committee member for the student group Watering My Garden, which provides a safe, supportive and nurturing environment for women of color.

Barnes, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the physiology, biophysics and systems biology program at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, was recognized for his leadership and commitment to community service and social justice. Barnes is co-chair of the Tri-Institutional Minority Society, which aims to create meaningful change to promote diversity in the tri-institutional community. Through events and other opportunities, the society strives to increase the number of URiM students in biomedicine.

Daisy Torres-Baez won the Administrative Staff Award, which recognizes staff members who embody the spirit of cultural diversity and service. Torres-Baez, who earned a master’s degree in student affairs administration from Binghamton University and is pursuing a doctorate in higher education leadership, is the diversity programs coordinator for the Weill Cornell Medicine Diversity Center of Excellence. She was instrumental in the successful implementation of the Black and Latino Men in Medicine pipeline program and contributed to the LGBTQ+ mentorship cascade.

Dr. Rache Simmons presented the 2022 Jessica M and Natan Bibliowicz Award for Excellence in Mentoring Female Faculty to Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Lewis Atterbury Stimson Professor of Surgery. The award recognizes outstanding faculty who demonstrate a commitment to advancing the careers of women in clinical care, research or education. Dr. Michelassi’s efforts to mentor, coach, sponsor and promote women are remarkable, Dr. Simmons said, and have led to an increase in the number of female surgeons at all career levels and in leadership positions in his department. In 2016, the Association of Women Surgeons presented Dr. Michelassi with the Past Presidents Honorary Membership Award, which is given to non-members who support the goals and mission of the association.

Four Weill Cornell Medicine faculty and trainees received the Ritu Banga Healthcare Disparity Research Awards. Endowed by Ritu and Board Member Ajay Banga, the awards provide one-year research funding to researchers whose work aims to improve the health of underrepresented minorities and achieve health equity for people locally and globally. Winners include:

Faculty ($50,000 each)

  • Dr. Pinkal Desai, Assistant Professor of Medicine, “Understanding racial and ethnic disparities in premalignant states of myeloid malignancies.”
  • Dr. Lindsey Reif, Instructor of Clinical Epidemiology in Medicine, “MAISHA-Youth! Gender Equity and Empowerment to Prevent Violence Among Adolescents and Young Adults in Tanzania.”
  • Dr. Deirdre Sawinski, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Acting), “Gender and Race-Based Disparities in Access to Transplants Among Dialysis Patients in New York City.”

Fellows ($50,000)

  • Dr. Lily Yan, Global Health Researcher, “Reducing Disparities in Hypertension Treatment and Control Among Poor Adults in Haiti.”


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