The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has announced the establishment of the Irwin R. Merkatz, MD Leadership Endowment for the Advancement of Women's Health in the 21st Century. This fund is in honor of Dr. Merkatz's long, illustrious and continuing tenure as Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health. The goal of the endowment is to create one or more endowed chairs and to raise funds to support important research in women's and perinatal health. The first named endowed chair, announced in November 2006, is Dr. Irwin R. Merkatz, who is The Chella and Moise Safra Professor and University Chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health.
Accomplishments in the First 25 Years
In 2006, Dr. Merkatz celebrated the completion of his 25th year as Chairman of our Department. Since beginning his tenure, he has directed and presided over the Department's unprecedented growth and numerous accomplishments. His visionary leadership and dedication to the education of physicians has led to the success of its large residency, and to the development of graduate programs for all the approved fellowships in the advanced subspecialties of women's health, and graduate programs in reproductive genetics and minimally invasive surgery. His most recent innovation, the formation of the Department's Division of Equity in Women's Health and Perinatal Medicine or DEWPoint Program reflects his tireless quest to eliminate racial and gender disparities in health outcomes. His goal is to create a generation of culturally sensitive, scientifically accomplished young obstetrician gynecologists, who in turn will advance women's health in the communities they serve.
Commitment to Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Merkatz's longstanding vision is to provide comprehensive women's health care to the diverse population of women residing in the Bronx and neighboring communities. As Chairman, Dr. Merkatz's first major departmental program (a PROPP for the Bronx- Program to Reduce Obstetrical Problems and Prematurity) targeted preterm birth, the leading cause of obstetrical loss and disability, and an area where he remains dedicated to making a difference. Subsequently, many other programs have emerged, targeting various chapters in the life cycle of women's health.
Dr. Merkatz's infectious love of obstetrics and gynecology as a discipline, lately manifested by his endless supply of "I Love Ob/Gyn" buttons given to medical students and visiting scholars at Grand Rounds, has been responsible for the recruitment of like-minded faculty who contribute to the great success of the Department. The senior faculty have been stable and loyal to the high standards he has established. Their collective academic success has been recognized throughout the country. National leadership positions among current faculty have been attained by so many that it is impossible to list them all here. Prior senior faculty have gone on to leadership positions in women's health and obstetrics and gynecology throughout the greater New York area and beyond.
Dr. Merkatz works tirelessly to provide and maintain an environment in which residents, fellows, junior faculty and faculty mentors can thrive in their pursuit of new knowledge. Modeled after his own research pursuits in high-risk obstetrics and prenatal screening, Dr. Merkatz has integrated basic science and translational research into the department's clinical culture and weekly educational Grand Rounds. The result has been the creation of effective multidisciplinary approaches to solving the complex issues of women's and perinatal diseases. The successful funding of grant awards to this faculty most recently in areas of preconceptional health, smoking cessation in pregnancy, HPV vaccine development, diabetes in pregnancy, sexual dysfunction, genetics and genomics of prenatal screening, as well as a myriad of menopause studies attests to the breadth of innovative programs fostered by Dr. Merkatz. Most importantly, his joy and enthusiasm from the achievements of his faculty create a spirit that radiates both within and beyond the department.
Women's Health as Public Health
As University Chairman, Dr. Merkatz has helped to integrate the faculty's clinical excellence with the public health needs of local, regional, national and international communities of women. The advanced education of numerous faculty in schools or programs of public health, policy, and clinical trials have lead to identifiable leadership opportunities for individual tracks of advancement. Dr. Merkatz himself is internationally known for his research of key perinatal issues including regionalization, prenatal screening, preconception care, uniform perinatal record keeping, and management of important high-risk pregnancy conditions including diabetes and preterm labor. His contribution to the treatise on the content of prenatal care (Caring for Our Future: The Content of Prenatal Care) has provided a roadmap for present and future generations of obstetricians, midwives, and other obstetrical providers to follow. His landmark discovery of the relationship between low alpha-fetoprotein and Down Syndrome has revolutionized prenatal screening. As reflected by his current role on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the National March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, his advice is sought in most perinatal policy arenas. The recently published recommendations for a national research agenda on preterm birth significantly reflected his forward-looking thinking and conceptualization in this area. No matter the challenge, Dr. Merkatz's optimism for the future of the Department and of the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology is engaging and contagious. He has built and continues to build a huge Department that serves women and families with dignity and compassion. Dr. Merkatz plans to further expand and enhance these resources with the additional support provided by the Irwin R. Merkatz MD Leadership Endowment for the Advancement of Women's Health in the 21st Century.
In 2006 there were several celebratory events in Dr. Merkatz's honor, culminating with a gala dinner on November 9, 2006 at the United Nations. The gala immediately preceded our annual Autumn in New York weekend November 10-12, 2006, which focused on "Women's Health: A Global Perspective." Congratulations to Dr. Merkatz on the establishment of this endowment fund. A senior faculty level Departmental Endowment Committee, co-chaired by Dr. Brian Cohen and Dr. Nadine Katz has been established in the Department to coordinate endowment activities, in conjunction with an AECOM External Advisory Development Committee. Please feel free to contact either of the co-chairs if you would like information on how you may become involved. The departmental newsletter CONCEPTIONS will keep everyone updated on the progress of this exciting, ambitious and important endowment program.