20 Years of Mt. Sinai Scholars

CWRU School of Medicine Dean Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD

Last week the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation celebrated twenty years of support for its Mt. Sinai Scholars program, which aids in the recruitment of junior faculty members to the basic sciences here at the School of Medicine. This visionary foundation’s marvelous investment – a total of $9M to date – has been matched by the School, with the resultant $18M helping to generate $80M in external grant support by the Scholars. Not too shabby!

Twenty years ago, as he was finishing a postdoc at Bell Labs and migrating to Cleveland, the very first Mt. Sinai Scholar, Ben Strowbridge of the Department of Neurosciences, spoke about what this support meant to him. The funds, he said, enabled him to acquire and sometimes build the instrumentation on which his discoveries are based. Since then Ben has published widely and in excellent journals, saw the graduation of his eleventh PhD student just this month, and most recently, been selected to serve on the Council of the National Institute of Communication Disorders and Deafness. Quite a return on investment!

I was pleased to catalog for the audience at the anniversary celebration some of the contributions of the other Scholars beyond their mighty feats of grant-getting. (Our newest scholars, named this year, are just getting started.) One alum directs an important training program, another runs the core that helps make high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy available to our investigators, two have founded a local company that attracted investor interest, and several will become primary users of the new Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope now being commissioned. Finally, a number have won teaching awards – some at the University level. Clearly, the Scholars have an enviable track record of science and service to the institution.  

It’s hard to put into words our gratitude to the Foundation, its brilliant president Mitch Balk, and its visionary board of directors. They have held fast to the principles underlying Mt. Sinai Hospital, which closed in 1996 and was a proud affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Today’s wonderful Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation evolved from that legendary hospital. Folks at Mt. Sinai Hospital believed in academic medicine and insisted that without basic research, medical practice would stagnate and wither. As a result of that strong culture of research, the institution produced seminal discoveries in such areas as blood pressure control, cardiac disease, and nutrition, and trained or nurtured such luminaries as Bob Haynie, Saul Genuth, Jeff Ponsky, Fred Rothstein, Matt Levy, and many more. Hospital alumni also founded what has become the SOM Department of Nutrition. With this heritage, it was only natural that the new Foundation would look to support the next generation of basic science investigators, who they hoped would work hand in hand with clinicians to conquer disease.  

Of course Mt. Sinai supports more than academic medicine, but that is a discussion for another day. Last week the evening and the spotlight belonged to the Scholars, a dozen of whom were in town for the festivities. It was a joy to watch them don and proudly wear the shiny new lab coats that Mt. Sinai conferred upon them and to talk with them, the board members, and members of the audience about their science. These representatives of a flagship program for the Foundation and for the School of Medicine did us proud! 

So, a deeply-felt thank you to Mt. Sinai for this fruitful partnership, and a warm, proud, “keep it up” to the Scholars themselves. We can’t wait for your next achievements!