Messages from Leadership

An Update on CUIMC Antiracism Efforts

May 4, 2022

To our fellow members of the Columbia community:

In 2020, our nation was confronted by dual public health crises — COVID-19 and the systemic racism that the pandemic and widespread protests revealed. In March of that year, the COVID-19 pandemic began burning through communities across the country and highlighted disparities in the quality and accessibility of health care for people of color. The wide-reaching effects of systemic racism were underscored further during a summer of protest and discord, fueled by decades of brutality and ultimately ignited by the murder of George Floyd. COVID-19 and the pervasive abuse of Black communities and other citizens of color rapidly pushed systemic racism to the forefront of public health discourse. What quickly became apparent in those conversations was a painful truth: Racism is endemic to the United States, and it causes harmful and far-reaching effects on the physical and mental health and well-being of communities of color in this country.

The impact of racism is multidimensional, as populations of color have higher death rates, shorter life spans, and poorer outcomes in the face of common diseases — all steeped in generational inequality of care. Black, Latino, American Indian, and Alaska Native populations had higher risks for infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 across the board, while anti-Asian violence escalated to heights not previously observed. These events represented a major inflection point concerning the impact of race on health and well-being.

At Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), faculty, students, staff, and trainees grappled with these twin pandemics, which inspired individual and institutional introspection and elucidated the need for a more nuanced approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging throughout our medical center. Our community resolved that it is not enough to simply talk about diversity; our efforts must be refocused on eliminating racism wherever it exists, be it in healthcare disparities, prejudiced educational paradigms, or hidden biases among research and discovery efforts.

CUIMC Roadmap for Anti-Racism in Healthcare and Health Sciences

In July of 2020, the four CUIMC deans appointed a large, CUIMC-wide, broadly representative task force focused on outlining ways to eliminate racism from all aspects of our work. The CUIMC Task Force for Addressing Structural Racism was appointed to identify opportunities for reducing racism’s impact across six key domains:

  1. Faculty recruitment, retention, advancement, and leadership
  2. Education, training, and curricular change
  3. Health care disparities, social justice, and solutions research
  4. Clinical care
  5. Community and public service
  6. Civility and professionalism

The task force — led by Drs. Rafael A. Lantigua, Anne L. Taylor, and Olajide A. Williams — enlisted the help of more than 100 faculty, staff, and students. Members convened for a series of discussions, meetings, and focus group sessions throughout the summer and fall of 2020, and a report to the CUIMC community followed in November of that year.

The CUIMC Roadmap for Antiracism in Healthcare and Health Sciences includes actionable recommendations toward substantial, impactful, and durable progress. Implementation began in January 2021, and recommendations from the task force were adjudicated through an implementation committee of faculty, staff, and students from across our four schools. Additionally, each school has developed separate antiracism plans specific to their disciplines.

Our Shared Progress

The past year has shown promise, with abundant and multifaceted steps taken to address these six action areas. We write today with an update, highlighting numerous indicators of progress toward long-term diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the Columbia medical enterprise.

Special attention has been paid to the recruitment of diverse faculty at all ranks. From January 2021 to February 2022, 43% of all new faculty hires were diverse, including 15% from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine. We have expanded funding to enhance diversity goals, issuing requests for funding applications three times a year to promote competitive retention. Recruitment and development efforts also extend to leadership positions, with diverse hires made in four vice dean, associate dean, and assistant dean positions at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the School of Nursing.

Further emphasis has been placed on diverse faculty pipeline development through mentorship programs for trainees, increased support for graduate students, and faculty mentorship for medical students led by Clara Lapiner, assistant vice president of faculty professional development, diversity, and inclusion. Additional efforts include a CUIMC Leadership and Management Course for Diverse Faculty; facilitated peer-mentoring programs for diverse faculty, including women, LGBTQ+, Columbia Black Men in Medicine, and Latinx faculty; and sponsorship to attend AAMC Leadership Seminars for minority faculty and women faculty.

Last year also saw the appointment of a chief diversity officer for staff, Tonya Richards, who has collaborated with CUIMC Human Resources in launching employee resource groups that bring together faculty, researchers, and staff of shared race, gender, and identity affiliations and serve as invaluable professional support networks.

In promoting antiracist dialogue, the medical center also launched a CUIMC Antiracist Educator Institute, the Bold Conversations on Race for Healing & Reshaping our Medical Center Community Series in partnership with CopeColumbia, and Conversations with Historians, a collaboration with Columbia’s Department of History to explore the historical roots of racism. These programs involved strong collaborations among CUIMC HR; the Office of Faculty Professional Development, Diversity and Inclusion; The Office of Innovation in Health Professions Education; and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

With an eye on further improving our professional climate and culture, the new CUIMC Office of Professionalism is now fully staffed, led by Associate Dean of Professionalism Dena Goffman, MD, Assistant Vice President for Academic Appointments and Professionalism Dionida Ryce, and Director of Compliance and Training Spencer Bennett. The office’s mission is to promote values and behaviors aligned with organizational climate and a culture of respect, support, and positive career growth. The office maintains liaisons within CUIMC HR, our partners at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Vice Dean for Education Offices to bolster professionalism in learning and working environments.

The CUIMC Office of Professionalism has established a code of values, CUIMC CARES, that defines principles and behaviors for creating a culture that encourages civility, acceptance of differences, respect for all, ethical behavior, and a supportive environment within our community.

In addressing health care disparities, social justice, and solutions research, CUIMC has launched the Columbia Science and Health Equity Lecture Series to convene scholars in fields relevant to health equity and solutions to health inequities. Efforts have also been made toward the organization of a network of training programs relevant to health equity to attract students and trainees. Our ultimate goal in this arena is to create a foundation for a planned Institute for the Study of Healthcare Disparities and Solutions.

In the realm of clinical care, CUIMC has engaged in a collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian to integrate clinical care into a single payer-agnostic system, promoting a more patient-centered approach to our work. We have also made strides in increasing the diversity of our health care providers, with particular attention to clinical leadership. Efforts include collaborating with our Academy of Clinical Excellence to provide support and mentorship across clinician demographic groups.

Perhaps our most immediate impact in addressing health care disparities has been in our surrounding communities, led by Drs. Rafael Lantigua and Olajide Williams. As part of our longstanding relationships with community partners, CUIMC has increased the number of Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian community health workers now serving in Washington Heights, West Harlem, Inwood, and South Bronx. Multiple outreach efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic addressed vaccine hesitancy, access, and distribution. COVID-19 vaccination efforts included pop-up clinics in underserved communities and large-scale efforts in partnership with NYP at the Armory.

The Community Health Workers Town Hall Series leveraged community partnerships to educate and inform on issues ranging from vaccine hesitancy, post-COVID syndrome, and mental health impacts of the pandemic. CUIMC also provided community physicians continuing medical education and support. We have also identified space to establish the CUIMC Community Center, which will provide a physical location for community outreach efforts and strengthen our existing relationships with community-based partners.

Our goals have been generously funded in part by donations from various benefactors. CUIMC has received more than $20 million in private support towards antiracist initiatives. These donors have empowered student support, recruitment of physicians from groups under-represented in medicine, community health worker programs, COVID-19 vaccine outreach and education, and improvements in clinical trials diversity. We are so grateful to our donors for their support of this work.

Remarkably, the programs and milestones described here represent only a fraction of the work happening throughout our four schools. For more updates, resources, and contacts, we invite you to visit Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CUIMC.

Our shared work toward creating a truly antiracist medical institution is ongoing. We welcome your feedback, advocacy, and support to make our goals a reality and ensure that CUIMC can remain at the forefront of equitable medical education, research, and care. We want you to know that your voices are heard and valued, and we welcome continued partnerships throughout the entire Columbia University community. We look forward to sharing more updates with you as progress continues.


Katrina Armstrong, MD
Chief Executive Officer, Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Anne Taylor, MD
Senior Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Career Development, Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

A Message from Katrina Armstrong

March 3, 2022

Dear Colleagues, 

My first few days here have been filled with warm welcomes and productive discussions about the challenges that we can transform into opportunities to advance health and science. 

As I said in my remarks at Monday’s welcome assembly, I could not be more honored and humbled to be joining the Columbia community at this important time. It is an important time because the pandemic showed how we can meet challenges through great medicine and science. It is also an important time because we all agree that we need to do more than advance health care and science: We need to ensure those advances benefit everyone. By bringing an equity lens to all that we do, our science, clinical care, education, and community health programs can lead in eliminating the disparities in health and health care that have grown so dramatically over the last decades.

Many efforts have been underway since CUIMC began discussions in 2020 on strategies to eliminate racism, sexism, and inequity. One example I learned about this week is the VP&S Department of Neurology’s plan to create a resident and faculty practice that combines outpatient care in the Neurological Institute for adults and the Harkness Pavilion for children. This practice will see patients with all types of insurance, bringing residents and faculty together to ensure equal care for all patients and the optimal training environment for students, residents, and fellows. The leadership of the Department of Neurology, including the Chair, Richard Mayeux, MD, and Chief of Staff, Jide Williams, MD, have long advocated for such a clinic, and they and the department are to be commended for developing a plan that enables Columbia and NYP to move forward in this effort together.

In response to the “CUIMC Roadmap for Anti-Racism in Healthcare and Health Sciences,” remarkable progress has been made on many fronts: Senior Vice President Anne Taylor, MD, reports that since January 2021, we have hired 265 new CUIMC faculty; 15% are underrepresented in medicine (URiM). At the leadership level, we have recruited two vice deans, an associate dean, and an assistant dean who are URiM. We have developed new pipeline programs, opened an Office of Professionalism, and identified space to establish the CUIMC Community Center to expand our community service. 

Every school and most departments at CUIMC have appointed diversity officers to implement programs to address racism, sexism, and other inequities in hiring, advancement, student recruitment, patient care, and curricula. Programs are underway to develop a body of scholarship in health care disparities and social justice and to encourage greater community service. I am committed to working with you to advance these programs to ensure that CUIMC stands for equity, inclusion, and excellence.

In observance of Women’s History Month, I want to note the role gender equity has in our overall goal of an inclusive workplace. This week I had the privilege of attending the CUIMC Women in Science Symposium, which celebrates the role women scientists have played in scientific advances, contributions that often go uncredited. This series created by Dr. Taylor and her team promotes the work of women scientists across the four CUIMC schools. At this week’s event, Katalin Karikó, PhD, gave remarks about overcoming adversity in science. She was at Columbia this week to receive, along with Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the 2021 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for their pioneering work on messenger RNA vaccines for COVID-19.

As I shared in my remarks on Monday, I believe that academic health centers like ours have both an opportunity and a responsibility to deliver on our values—the power of science to make the world a better place, the fundamental role of empathy and compassion not just in our roles as healers but in our work together, and the pursuit of equity and justice grounded in listening to the communities we serve.

We are all here to improve human health. We will reach our goals by investing in research and education, creating new approaches to treatment and prevention that will improve health, and training the young people who will be our community’s leaders in the future. We also have an opportunity to create a new paradigm where our advances raise the health of everyone, where we reach all patients and communities in need. We all understand that this is a complex and challenging endeavor, but this medical center has a history of bringing diverse and committed talent to the most challenging problems that exist, as the pandemic illustrated. We are a medical center that comes to work every day in service to our patients and our communities, and we support each other in that important and difficult work.

In closing, I welcome your input as we work together on our common goals. 

All my best, 


Katrina Armstrong, MD 

Chief Executive Officer, Columbia University Irving Medical Center 

Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons 

Juneteenth: A Day of Reflection

June 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues, 

Juneteenth marks the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States until 1865. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had outlawed slavery two years earlier, but enforcement of the proclamation generally relied upon the advance of Union troops. Texas, as the most remote of the states that allowed slavery, did not end slavery until a Union Army general proclaimed freedom from slavery on June 19, 1865, a date that has since been celebrated as Juneteenth. The first celebrations of the day started in 1866. 

Our message last year on the occasion of Columbia University’s first official Juneteenth holiday reflected concern about a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color and a recognition of structural racism further highlighted by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement. It also reflected our aspirations to be agents of change, to assume a leadership role in building the kind of medical center that not only talks about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but lives it every day while educating the next generation of health care professionals, caring for patients, seeking new treatments and scientific discoveries, and being a good neighbor.  The name of Bard Hall was changed, with our gratitude to Dr. Ray Givens. 

Although we have made progress over the past year, much remains to be done. Last summer and fall, a large CUIMC-wide task force spent hundreds of hours developing recommendations about how we teach, conduct research, care for patients, and interact with our neighborhood and city. Hundreds more hours have been put in to begin implementing these recommendations. This work will continue over the remainder of this year and in the years ahead, and we will continue to provide updates on our progress. 

We invite everyone in the CUIMC community to observe the Juneteenth holiday as a time of reflection and resolve. Each of us must contribute in our own way to help our nation move toward a more equitable society.  

Anil K. Rustgi, MD
Interim Executive Vice President and  
Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine

Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH
Dean, Mailman School of Public Health
Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent 
Dean, College of Dental Medicine
Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Lorraine Frazier, RN, PhD
Dean, School of Nursing
Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

CUIMC-Wide Committee to Address Structural Racism

July 15, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

As a follow-up to our June 18th email entitled CUIMC's Commitment to Equity, we are writing now to address our next steps building upon multiple discussions with faculty, students and staff leaders. As individuals and participants in groups engaged in science, population health, medicine/clinical care, education/training, and community programs, we must confront the issues of structural racism and implement durable antiracist solutions. We need to articulate a thoughtful and deliberate set of priorities that cross all our domains of activities. These need to be matched by expeditious implementation so that we can witness and experience rapid progress. Moreover, implementation also requires constant feedback and self-evaluation so we do not lose sight of our aspirations, commitments and values.

In order to achieve our goals, and building upon the past reports from the Dean’s Advisory Committee’s recommendations as well as actions taken in other schools, we are convening a CUIMC-wide committee that will address issues related to the following and in which we will work very closely with our partners at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Steven Corwin:

  1. Recruitment, retention and promotion of a diverse workforce
  2. Education, training and curricular changes to promote equity (with student representation)
  3. Community programs and relations
  4. Health and health care equity, disparities, and social justice research
  5. Clinical practice
  6. Civility and professionalism

The composition of this overarching committee, to be co-chaired by Dr. Olajide Williams and Dr. Rafael Lantigua, will include faculty from all four health science schools. All members will be announced in the near future. Working groups will be formed to address each area above. There will be coordination of the working group co-chairs as well as specific representatives of each school to review recommendations emerging from the working groups. In addition, there will be input from established groups such as the Academy of Community and Public Service that have extensive connections and work within our community. Complementary school-specific and/or group-specific committees of students, faculty and staff will be convened to work on issues specific to each, and will have the opportunity to share thoughts on cross-cutting issues.

While this describes our initiatives for our faculty and trainees at all levels, we also plan to have similar approaches for issues that specifically touch our staff.

We look forward to utilizing the collective wisdom of our faculty, students and staff to ensure that CUIMC is an institution where the most diverse workforce can be maximally successful. We anticipate a report by September to be submitted to the Deans.

Thank you for your attention and commitment.

Anil K. Rustgi, MD
Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the 
Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine

Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH
Dean, Mailman School of Public Health

Lorraine Frazier, RN, PhD
Dean, School of Nursing

Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent 
Dean, College of Dental Medicine

Anne L. Taylor, MD
Senior Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Career Development at CUIMC
Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, VP&S

CUIMC's Commitment to Equity

June 18, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

Recognizing that we are at a critical moment in history, where longstanding and pervasive structural racism has been escalated to an epidemic of violence against Black Americans and others of color, Columbia University Irving Medical Center (Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Mailman School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and College of Dental Medicine) recognizes the need to be a leader in developing and implementing needed solutions. There is no question that structural racism has been embedded for 400 years in our society and has shaped negative aspects of our country. There is no question that there has been and continues to be resulting harm to the health and well-being of Black Americans and other people of color. Furthermore, this structural racism harms the fabric of our national cohesion, both present and future. While CUIMC has been dedicated to building a fully diverse and inclusive community, there is a need to intensify commitments and accelerate transformation in the face of this epidemic. 

Recent statements by Dean Lee Goldman and vigils on June 8 and separately on June 10 are intended to catalyze a process of honest recognition of the dimensions and costs of structural racism with solutions that result in substantive and enduring change. We are simultaneously committed to identifying and accomplishing the transformative actions needed to move purposefully to become an organization that is truly antiracist, diverse, multicultural, and fully inclusive. These actions will involve all of our constituencies, with implementation beginning this summer and building and sustaining over time. We seek to build a model of restorative justice and true inclusion that our faculty, students, staff, and other members of our community can proudly build from, whether they stay at Columbia or go elsewhere in the world.  

To begin this process, members of Columbia University Irving Medical Center will be convened by the four deans into broadly representative working groups that will be established in the next two weeks, building upon what we have done to date. Their charge will be to review the current status and recommend needed changes in our communications and culture especially in, recruitment and support of our faculty, staff, and community; curricular content; student, faculty, and staff diversity and success; community partnership programs; research in health disparities, social injustice, and racism; and clinical programs. 

Details will follow and we will ensure that this process will move forward rapidly. Please be assured that the leadership of all four CUIMC schools is highly committed to this work and to being fully diverse, inclusive, and antiracist institutions in which all will thrive. Let us use the Columbia University Juneteenth holiday as a time of reflection and resolve to begin a new chapter.

- Dean Lee Goldman, Interim Dean Designate Anil Rustgi, Dean Linda Fried, Dean Christian Stohler, Dean Lorraine Frazier