Elliott Strimbu

A Scientist, a Symphony, and a Chance to Give Back to the Neighborhood

December 18, 2019

When C. Elliott Strimbu, PhD, learned about CUIMC’s Neighborhood Fund from his mentor Elizabeth Olson, PhD, he decided to get involved. Strimbu is an associate research scientist in the Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery and works in Olson’s lab to study how the cells of the inner ear process sounds mechanically. He lives near 112th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, yet often ventures to other parts of the city. 

“I’ve lived uptown for three years now and wanted to learn more about what’s going on in the community,” said Strimbu. 

He signed up to conduct a site visit for the Neighborhood Fund in spring 2019. The CUIMC Office of Government and Community Affairs (GCA) coordinates site visits to evaluate local organizations that apply for Neighborhood Fund grants. Input from employees who volunteer to do site visits is used to determine the viability of an organization’s project. 

Strimbu evaluated the Scandia Symphony, which plays an annual summer concert series in Fort Tryon Park. To prepare, he attended an introductory meeting run by GCA and later shadowed another person on a site visit. During his site visit, Strimbu met with the symphony’s principal violinist to discuss the musicians’ goals and plans. He also reviewed the symphony’s grant proposal and budget and incorporated all of his feedback into an evaluation form submitted to GCA.  

Ross Frommer, vice president for government and community affairs at CUIMC, notes: “The Medical Center Neighborhood Fund relies upon dedicated volunteers like Dr. Strimbu. Each year, roughly 25 volunteers from CUIMC, NYP, and NYSPI conduct site visits at all the organizations who apply for a grant. Their feedback guides the steering committee as it makes decisions on how to award the funds we raise.”

Scandia Symphony was among the organizations chosen this year to receive a grant from the Neighborhood Fund, which dispersed $57,210 in 2019 to support community organizations active in the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods. Established in 1987, the Fund draws on voluntary donations made by employees of CUIMC, NewYork-Presbyterian, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

As for Strimbu, he’s looking forward to participating again next year and has tips for those new to the process. “Pick something you’re interested in or a hobby close to your own,” he says. “I’m not a musician but I appreciate classical music. Anybody interested in volunteering should give this a go. You’ll see how local organizations are making a difference.”

Sandra Harris, associate vice president for government and community affairs at CUIMC, adds, “Making a gift to the Medical Center Neighborhood Fund is also a great way to support local organizations who do such great work in the community.”

For more information about the Neighborhood Fund, including how to get involved and how to contribute, email gca@cumc.columbia.edu.