On Thursday, April 2, 2009, the Einstein family celebrated the achievements of three Einstein-based undergraduate health professional development programs, also known as "pipeline" programs, targeting minority students of high school and college age. More than 160 Einstein students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members gathered for a superb dinner at Villa Barone Manor to honor the Summer Undergraduate Mentorship Program (SUMP) of the Hispanic Center of Excellence, the Maternal and Child Health Summer Mentorship Program (MCH) of the Department of Family and Social Medicine, and the Einstein Enrichment Program (EEP) of the Office of Diversity Enhancement. Collectively, the three programs provide summer programming for more than 60 high-performing local high school and college students from the Bronx and throughout New York City.
This year's celebration, the second such event, was organized by Dr. John Paul Sï¿½nchez, a member of the Class of 2006 who has taken an activist role in organizing coalition-building activities for the minority community at Einstein.
Wilfredo Valentin, Evelyn Cantillo, Dr. Noe Romo,
Dr. Christopher Phang, Dr. Chinazo Cunningham,
Machael LazoCore Gala Committee members included Dr. Elizabeth Lee-Rey, Hope Spano, and Dr. Maria Marzan of SUMP; Carol Whittaker of MCH; and Nilda I. Soto and Camen Baez of EEP.
The program started with Dr. Sï¿½nchez making welcoming and opening remarks, followed by Dr. Ruth Gottesman, chair of Einstein's Board of Overseers. Dr. Gottesman, who joined the faculty of Einstein in 1968 — the very same year Einstein established the King-Kennedy Program to encourage minority students to apply to medical school — said that, "the strong attendance at this dinner demonstrates that persistence and commitment pay off, and the confluence of a dedicated faculty and talented students provides a model for schools everywhere."
Next, pipeline program directors Dr. Elizabeth Natal, instructor in family and social medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Lee-Rey, assistant professor of family and social medicine, and Ms. Soto each spoke about their respective programs. Dr. Natal commented on how MCH, launched in 2002, gives students a deep understanding of the health field through intensive work on a specific health-related project. Dr. Lee-Rey gave the audience an overview of SUMP, operated by the nationally-recognized Hispanic Center of Excellence, from which 14 "alumni" recently applied to medical schools. Ms. Soto, who also is assistant dean for diversity enhancement at Einstein, spoke about the EEP, which since 1986 has enrolled students from throughout the Bronx and prepared them to enroll in colleges while harnessing their interest in healthcare careers.
As a part of the celebration, six individuals were recognized for their outstanding mentorship of others in the area of health professional career development. Ms. Soto presented the first of two Faculty Mentorship Recognition Awards to Dr. Christopher Phang, assistant professor of pediatrics at Jacobi Medical Center for 10 years. He was recognized for his continued efforts in mentoring Einstein medical students who rotate through his department and high school students enrolled in EEP.
Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, associate professor of medicine and of family and social medicine at Einstein and an attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center, was presented the other Faculty Mentorship Recognition Award of the evening by Dr. Julia H. Arnsten, chief of the division of general internal medicine. Dr. Cunningham has been deeply engaged in local community-based health programs to improve access to comprehensive health care services for HIV-positive individuals living in single room occupancy hotels. She was honored for her ongoing efforts to imbue her spirit of community service among those who come under her mentorship.
Dr. Michael Reichgott, associate dean for clinical affairs and graduate medical education, had the honor of presenting Dr. Noï¿½ Romo with the Resident Mentorship Recognition Award. Dr. Romo, a first-year pediatric resident at Jacobi and member of the Einstein Class of 2008, is considered the unofficial "poet laureate" by his colleagues, for his ability to express in words a wisdom that belies his years. A native of East Los Angeles, at Einstein he has found a medical community and hospital 3,000 miles from home that closely align with his career objectives and desire to "give back" through community service.
Evelyn Cantillo, M.P.H., a third-year medical student at Einstein was presented the Medical Student Mentorship Recognition Award. Ms. Cantillo's extraordinary rï¿½sumï¿½ and record of achievement, described by Dr. Nadine T. Katz, associate dean for students, wowed the audience. A graduate of Cornell, Ms. Cantillo has volunteered with EEP and SUMP. She also is past chapter president of the Student National Medical Association at Einstein.
Dr. Melvin Stone, Jr., associate professor of clinical surgery and trauma surgeon at Jacobi, presented the Pipeline Alumnus Mentorship Recognition Award to Wilfredo Valentin. Mr. Valentin, a junior pre-med student at Lehman College, participated in SUMP. He was honored for his extensive work with SUMP and with the Mentoring in Medicine initiative established by Einstein
back row: Drs. Stephen Factor, Stephen Lazar,
Robert Marion, Christine Walsh, Nereida Correa,
William Caspe front row: Drs. Nadine Katz,
Mary Kelly, Ruth Gottesman and Noreen Kerriganfaculty member Dr. Lynne Holden. Growing up in the Bronx, Mr. Valentin's interest in medicine was influenced by services he received at North Central Bronx Hospital, from a well-known orthopedist. He plans to pursue the medical discipline himself.
The final award of the evening, the Bronx Community Mentorship Recognition Award was presented to Michael Lazo by Dr. Hal Strelnick, professor of family and social medicine and director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence. Throughout Mr. Lazo's college years at Fordham University, where he has served as president of the Minority Association for Pre-Health Students (MAPS), he has done great things to assist fellow students considering careers in medicine and public service. A member of this year's graduating class, Mr. Lazo will be pursuing a graduate degree in public policy this fall.
Several academic departments sponsored tables, including medicine, pediatrics, and family and social medicine, as well as obstetrics and gynecology at NCB/Jacobi and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Others, such as emergency medicine and the Einstein Admissions Committee, sent faculty and residents or committee members to the event.
Members of the Einstein community were joined at the gala by several new friends who also expressed their financial support. These included Sanofi-Aventis, via the company's recently-launched Community Health Partnership. Led by Henry Cruz, the company served as a sponsor of the Pipeline Alumnus Award and donated $3,500 towards the fundraising goals. The United States Navy and Ob/Gyn 2000 PC (through Einstein alumna Dr. Nellie Correa) also sponsored tables. (In all, $10,000 was raised at the gala, which will support the pipeline programs being honored.)
The dinner's focus on important minority outreach programs at Einstein and individuals who exemplify those programs' core values dovetailed with overarching efforts to promote diversity throughout Einstein. Earlier this year, Dr. Leticia Mï¿½rquez-Magnaï¿½a, professor of biology at San Francisco State University, delivered the "Valuing Diversity in Science" lecture, sponsored by Einstein's Graduate Division. She spoke about the continuing issues of Black and Latino students remaining underrepresented as doctoral candidates, particularly in the sciences. In her view diversity should not be viewed as a cost to institutions, but should be seen as a "value-added" opportunity, providing innovation, relevant scientific investigations, and value through innovation. In addressing the audience gathered in the LeFrak Auditorium at Einstein's Price Center/Block Research Pavilion, Dr. Mï¿½rquez-Magnaï¿½a raised the question, "Minorities are frequently celebrated, but are they really valued?"
The evening's activities at the gala addressed Dr. Mï¿½rquez-Magnaï¿½a's concern, by celebrating minorities at and connected to Einstein, while also demonstrating that individuals and efforts to further opportunities for minorities to excel in science and medicine are, indeed, valued at Einstein.
No good recognition event wraps up without plenty of serious dancing, and this one was no exception as the evening drew to a close.
Posted on: Monday, April 27, 2009