Q&A: Meet the Campaign Faculty Co-Chairs: Dr. Orli Etingin, Dr. Timothy Dutta and Dr. John Leonard

Dr. Orli Etingin, Dr. Timothy Dutta and Dr. John Leonard

Faculty are the lifeblood of Weill Cornell Medicine – and their partnership has been a driving force behind the success of the We’re Changing Medicine campaign. For the three physicians who lead the Campaign Faculty Subcommittee, the co-chair role is a natural outgrowth of their years of leadership, dedication and involvement.  Dr. Timothy Dutta (M.D. ’99), Dr. Orli Etingin and Dr. John Leonard have spent their entire careers at Weill Cornell Medicine and share a deep sense of pride in the institution that set them on their paths as physicians.

The Campaign Faculty Subcommittee – whose members serve as front-line ambassadors for the campaign – comprises nearly 90 dedicated faculty across an array of missions and disciplines.

Dr. Dutta, a cardiologist – and former student of both Dr. Etingin and Dr. Leonard – has been at Weill Cornell Medicine since he began medical school in 1995; Dr. Etingin, an internist, has been with the institution since she started her residency in 1980; and Dr. Leonard, a hematologist-oncologist, has been with Weill Cornell Medicine since he began his residency in 1990.

The three faculty members sat down recently with Lucille M. Ferraro, Weill Cornell Medicine’s assistant vice provost for development, to speak about the importance of philanthropy and the ways in which they inspire others to give.

LF: The name of our campaign is We’re Changing Medicine. What does changing medicine mean to you?

OE:  We’re putting the bench much closer to the bedside. The science, the research, is literally at our fingertips. We’re also bringing Weill Cornell Medicine into the community, into other areas of New York, where people may not have been able to access this level of care before.

TD: The treatments we’re able to offer patients were just imagination when I was training. And there’s so much new talent at Weill Cornell Medicine – from the faculty to the students to the researchers. It’s fascinating to be part of this, and so gratifying.

JL: The themes of our mission are care, discover and teach, and we’ve always done them well. But we’re continuing to evolve. From delivery of care to developing new therapies and new ways of teaching, we’re changing medicine, and that’s what we’re focused on in this campaign.

LF: In your experience as physicians, how has philanthropy helped to advance research and patient care at Weill Cornell Medicine?

TD: Philanthropy enhances everything we do.

OE: It helps us with retention and recruitment of key faculty, and it enables us to fund up-and-coming scientists who have enormous potential. We use philanthropy very effectively for that.

JL: It also fills in gaps, because there’s not enough funding to fulfill all the important parts of our mission: in education, certainly in research, and in some aspects of clinical care. We’re committed to these areas and need to be able to fill in the gaps.

LF: What do you think inspires our donors to give?

TD: Patients know they’re getting the best possible care here. They value that, and they express their gratitude with philanthropy.

OE: They get twice the pleasure out of their gifts: first, by honoring their physicians and later, by watching our faculty members succeed.

JL: Our donors want to make a difference, and they trust that through their partnership with us, we will use what they provide in a smart way – in a way that will maximize its potential to have an impact.

LF: What sort of guidance do you give patients who want to learn how to support Weill Cornell Medicine, and how do you go about having that conversation?

JL: You get to know people, and that leads to, “What do you care about?”

OE: I like to offer a sort of a menu of options for giving. Some patients have an idea of an area they want to fund based on a personal experience, and others really don’t. So, we try to give them some parameters to help them choose what feels right to them.

TD: I always let them know how much philanthropy matters here, and how grateful we are, and how well organized we are as an institution, so that they know their dollars are being used wisely. We’re very good at making patients understand that.

LF: How does the care here differentiate us from other institutions?

TD: Everything we do here is on the cutting edge. And beyond that, we really take care of patients as individuals. They aren’t a cog in the wheel. They’re not just a number in a system. Patients know right away when a doctor really cares about them as a person.

OE: And they see that in every person they interact with. That’s partly because of the team approach here – the fact that everyone will help in a selfless way. The patients see that we’ll do anything for them and we really care about them, and so does everyone who comes in contact with them. I tell my patients that I’m so proud to be a doctor here because I feel that the work we do is superb, and we care.

JL: In any field, it’s so much more fun to work with good people – people who are both skilled and nice. And that just makes it so much more special here. We all appreciate that, and I think our patients appreciate it too.

LF: Why is it important for faculty to be involved in the campaign?

JL: It’s a way for faculty to help to get the resources and support to do the things that they’re devoting their lives to, the things that they think are important to the field, to their patients, to society.

OE: It totally widens the reach of the campaign to involve faculty at all levels.

TD: The issues that I think matter to all the faculty here matter to the campaign as well. And they can see that this is good work that we’re doing, that the fundraising dollars are going to good purposes. Just as the donors want to see that, it’s important that the faculty see that as well. We’re really fundraising for things that matter to all of us.

Dr. Timothy Dutta (M.D. ’99) is a clinical associate professor of medicine; Dr. Orli Etingin is the Lisa and Sanford B. Ehrenkranz Professor in Women’s Health and medical director of the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center; and Dr. John Leonard is interim chair of the Weill Department of Medicine, Senior Associate Dean of Innovation and Initiatives, the Richard T. Silver Distinguished Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology, and a professor of medicine.

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