CUIMC Well-Being Initiative 

Dear Colleagues,

Many pieces come together to make the Columbia University Irving Medical Center what it is: our tradition of academic excellence; demonstrated leadership in groundbreaking biomedical research; clinical care sought by patients the world over; and our home in one of the nation’s most diverse and dynamic neighborhoods. Yet these formidable assets would mean very little without the remarkable people at every level of this institution who are so deeply devoted to our missions.

I write to you today to discuss steps we are taking as part of a sustained, long-term commitment to enhance the well-being of our medical center community. Lou Baptista, MD, will be taking on an expanded role as the inaugural Chief Well-Being Officer of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, building on the leadership he has provided as Chief Well-Being Officer for ColumbiaDoctors and head of CopeColumbia, a successful collaboration between ColumbiaDoctors and the Department of Psychiatry. This expanded role will oversee the new CUIMC Well-Being Initiative, with the goal of CUIMC becoming a model for promoting the well-being of employees at academic medical centers around the country.

The decisions made to strengthen our workplace culture will affect all of us. They must be well-informed and grounded in data that capture the experiences of our CUIMC community. We appreciate that there’s no substitute for honest dialogue to identify the places where we must improve—dialogue that requires your engagement. As part of this effort, faculty and staff will receive a confidential survey early next month asking about your experience at CUIMC. I hope you will take the time to complete it. 

Armed with this information, Dr. Baptista and his team—working with me, our Deans, and senior leadership—will plan and implement the long-term initiatives needed to maximize well-being across our campus. While I know there is a lot more engagement and planning to come, there is little doubt these initiatives will focus on the determinants of workplace culture; institutionalizing opportunities for career advancement at all levels of our organization and across departments; and making real a feeling of belonging for everyone at the medical center—something that is inseparable from our core values of equity, inclusion, and diversity. To kick off this effort, Lou and I asked some of our colleagues across the medical center to share what well-being means to them. Not surprisingly, there’s no one answer, not even close. I hope you get a chance to watch this short video.

Last, I want to touch on something much on everyone’s mind, I know. There is widespread awareness of the pandemic’s toll on the well-being of health care workers who were on the front lines in the grueling, early days of COVID’s spread, and in the weeks and months that followed. This reality has been commented on extensively by many, from the Surgeon General of the United States to our friends and family members. I am sure though, based on my conversations with many of you, that the fatigue and psychological stress of COVID are receding and do not define us. Columbia University Irving Medical Center symbolizes a different narrative, a story of resilience, perseverance, and a stunning display of dedication and skill in the face of undeniable challenges. We stand on the other side of those difficult days and are stronger for having made the journey. As we look ahead to our future, we have a renewed appreciation for our mission and a determination to make this medical center the best it can be for each of us who contribute to the special endeavor that brings us together.

I want the Columbia University Irving Medical Center to be the place where the very best people in their fields choose to join, decide to stay, thrive while they are here, and make lasting contributions to the way we are collectively changing medicine and improving health. Thank you for joining me, Lou, and many others in the important work of strengthening the experience of well-being for all of us.

All my best,

Katrina Armstrong, MD 
Dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Columbia University