Messages from Leadership


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