CUIMC Update - January 17, 2024

CUIMC Update is a weekly e-newsletter featuring medical center news and the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and trainees. Please send your news, honors, and awards to Grants are provided by the Sponsored Projects Administration office.


New Columbia Center Will Leverage AI to Enhance Patient Care
Computer scientist Despina Kontos, PhD, will lead the new Center for Innovation in Imaging Biomarkers and Integrated Diagnostics, dedicated to developing and integrating quantitative imaging and non-imaging biomarkers for disease prediction, particularly in cancer.

Bottled Water Can Contain Hundreds of Thousands of Nanoplastics
Using newly refined technology, researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health and others counted and identified nanoplastics, which are microplastics that have broken down even further, in bottled water. The study found that on average, a liter contained some 240,000 detectable plastic fragments—10 to 100 times greater than previous estimates.

How to Recognize the Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression in which people experience symptoms of depression in a seasonal pattern, most typically in fall or winter. Columbia psychologist Kimberly Kleinman, PsyD, discusses ways to identify SAD and how to know if it’s more than just the winter blues.

Are Headphones and Earbuds Making Your Ears Waxy?
Wearing headphones for many hours every day can make you more likely to accumulate ear wax, and it can also irritate the skin and cartilage of the outer ear canal. Columbia ENT doctor Susannah Hills, MD, shares what you should know about ear wax, including how to know if your ear canal has too much. 

Set Your Calendar for 2024
Now is a good time to make yourself aware of the university holiday schedule, which was recently adjusted so that students and employees across Columbia observe the same holidays. See the full list of university holidays, and note that President’s Day, Feb. 19, is no longer a recognized holiday for CUIMC.



Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Mailman School of Public Health

  • Darby Jack, PhD, Environmental Health Sciences
    $445,065 over three years from the Clean Air Fund for "Early life air pollution exposures and non-communicable disease risk in Ghana."
  • Rupak Shivakoti, PhD, Epidemiology
    $536,424 over four years for a subaward from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for "Decrease Emerging Resistant Infection through Surveillance and Control In Networks Globally."

Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

  • David Jonathan Brenner, PhD, Center for Radiological Research
    $300,000 over two years from the National Aeronautics & Space Administration for "Performance decrement and carcinogenesis: Consistent analysis of multiple radiobiological data sets to inform exposure limits and radiation shielding."
  • Angela Christiano, PhD, Dermatology
    $687,610 over three years from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases for "Influence of the Microbiome on the Natural History of Alopecia Areata."
  • Keith Diaz, PhD, Medicine
    $363,297 over two years for a subaward from the National Institute on Aging for "24-hour Activity Cycles to Optimize Cognitive Resilience to Alzheimer's Disease in African Americans."
  • Frances Levin, MD, and Diana Martinez, MD, Psychiatry
    $2,700,751 over five years from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for "Translational Clinical Research Fellowship on Substance Use Disorders."
  • Peter Quinn, PhD, Ophthalmology
    $1,228,898 over five years from the National Eye Institute for "Prime editing for Crumbs homologue 1 (CRB1) Inherited Retinal Dystrophies."
  • Yuichi Shimada, MD, Medicine
    $3,576,120 over five years from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for "Transcriptomics, pathobiology, and cardiac event in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy."


Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Social Media Snapshot

Columbia Medicine on Instagram: "A diagnosis of stage 4 #pancreaticcancer usually offers little hope. But, thanks for the innovative research at #ColumbiaMed’s Pancreas Center, patients like Jeff W. are thriving.

In the News Highlights

  • Morning Edition: 'Body Electric Challenge': Start the New Year Off With Movement Breaks
    Jan 9, 2024
    NPR (audio)
    So you might recall, a few months back, we invited you and your listeners to join our study with Columbia University Irving Medical Center to see if we could add prescribed doses of movement breaks into our lives. Over 20,000 people signed up, and for thousands of them, it made a huge difference in how they felt, both mentally and physically.
  • Overall Rates of Stroke Decreasing, but Racial Inequity Worsens for Black Americans, New Study Finds
    Jan 10, 2024
    ABC News Online
    Structural racism creates access barriers to treatment, financial and transportation barriers, and lived experiences of personal racism, all of which contribute to toxic stress, inflammation, and conditions like high blood pressure, according to Dr. Olajide Williams, professor of neurology at Columbia University. "These are searing, tragic, preventable inequities, really driven by structural racism," said Williams.
  • Is a Plant-Based Diet Really Healthier? Experts Weigh in on Nutrition for the New Year.
    Jan 5, 2024
    CBS News Online
    Focus on whole plant foods, Dr. Shilpa Ravella, transplant gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, previously told CBS News. "Whole plant foods are incredibly important for gut health because they provide fiber for our gut microbes, and fiber is the most important nutrient for those gut microbes," Ravella says.