August 30, 2012

Campus to Campus

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This past year saw a substantial amount of media coverage regarding Cornell’s bid to build a tech campus in New York City, far away from its main campus in Ithaca, N.Y. With the success behind us and the campaign fervor now fully ebbed, a new spotlight was recently cast on Cornell’s already-established N.Y.C. campus — Weill Cornell Medical College.

For those of you who decided to tune into network television this summer, you may have noticed a new doctor show on T.V. Fortunately, this was anything but the well-worn doctor dramas of the past 15 years.  Through laughs, tears and occasional grimaces, millions tuned in to watch ABC’s newest medical documentary, N.Y. Med. Set in the busy hallways of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell’s main teaching affiliate, every foible and forte was featured for all to see, as students and faculty worked together to bring world-class medical care to the diverse patient population of New York. In a span of eight short weeks, millions of Americans became familiar with Cornell’s small, but equally important, other campus.

Despite the century-old existence of two separate Cornell University campuses, the relationship between both sites remains all but unknown to most, even within the Cornell community. In fact, when I was an undergrad up on the Hill, very few of my friends had even heard of the N.Y.C. campus, and none of them had ever been there, myself included.  Similarly, only about 10 percent of my current med school classmates have ever set foot on the Ithaca campus — the 10 percent who studied there as undergraduates.

As many med students can attest, this interesting geographical configuration leads to repeated clarifications with family and new friends alike. The confusion magnified when the name was changed to “Weill Cornell” a decade ago,to reflect Sandy Weill’s generous financial contribution to the college. In all fairness, it has taken me several years to fully understand the unique nature of WCMC and how it fits into the larger University structure. I can understand how current undergraduates might be a bit curious about their peers a couple hundred miles south.

Cornell University’s medical college was originally established in 1898 and composed of a pre-clinical curriculum in Ithaca (Stimson Hall) and a clinical hands-on component in New York City. Within a decade or so, the early coursework on the main campus was phased out and the N.Y.C. campus took over all responsibility for training future Cornell doctors. By 1927, Cornell had partnered with New York Hospital, its clinical affiliate, and soon the Upper East Side campus was made permanent. Today, Weill Cornell functions as a semi-autonomous unit, with its own Board of Overseers that is most analogous to the University’s Board of Trustees. Following a hospital merger between Cornell’s New York Hospital and Columbia’s Presbyterian (NewYork-Presbyterian) in 1998, the school’s prestige and prowess have continued to grow.

Despite cross-collaborations between faculty from both campuses, as well as coordinated administrative planning, the student bodies rarely interact. Except for the Cornell-operated bus service, there are few meaningful connections that are visible to students. Due to this fundamental disconnect, this column was created with the goal of bridging the gap between both locations while offering relevant — and free — health-related information for members of the main campus community. Of course, this is not a substitute for a medical opinion from a licensed professional. Regardless, the need for clear and concise summaries of complex medical issues is growing, and we would like to help satisfy this craving for greater transparency from the medical profession.

In the past few years, we have published articles on a broad range of topics ranging from global health initiatives to tips as a first-responder. We’ve informed readers on the dangers of combination O.T.C. medications as well as the myriad ways to get sick when kissing. This upcoming year should be just as informative and fun. It is our hope that these articles can prove useful on a personal level and also serve to initiate discourse on important contemporary health issues and related policy.

Starting today, a new article will be published every two weeks, each from a different member of the WCMC community. Of note, this conduit serves to connect both campuses, with information ideally travelling in both directions. So, please don’t hesitate to contact the writer if there are any comments or concerns. Good luck this semester and stay healthy!

David Roy ’08 is a post-MS3 medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College and an HHMI Advanced Medical Research Fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He also coordinates the What’s Up, Doc? column this semester. He may be reached at [email protected] What’s Up, Doc? appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: David Roy