Dr. Anil Rustgi, director of the HICCC (Credit: Barbara Alper)

The COVID-19 pandemic hit our city and our hospital with a relentless force. In the face of this challenge, however, we are continuously encouraged and inspired to see the overwhelming response of our Columbia and New-York Presbyterian communities. We have seen nothing short of heroism from our nurses, physicians, advanced practice providers, respiratory therapists, lab techs, phlebotomists, environmental health and safety workers, and countless other frontline healthcare staff working around the clock. Our patients have remained their and our steadfast priority, and every day, they put themselves directly in harms’ way to provide top care to anyone walking through our doors. We will never be able to say thank you enough to all of the first responders to this global crisis.

Our research community has also mounted a remarkable complementary response to the pandemic, reflecting the bandwidth of our academic community. Our members are involved in a variety of projects geared to discover new ways to treat or protect against the virus. These innovative projects cut across campuses, schools, disciplines, and programs, highlighting the importance of such scientific collaboration that the HICCC fosters. From developing an app to help track and predict new COVID-19 hotspots, to finding ways to rapidly test hundreds of potential therapies, to launching a biobank resource across CUIMC, to deploying a “crack team” of scientist volunteers across the medical center, our HICCC members are very much engaged in COVID-19 research efforts.

Our cancer center remains operational, albeit with a slightly different focus and energy. While our labs have shut down and we are all sheltering in place, our research continues. I have heard from many of you, and in my own lab, that you have started and have found value in many remote activities, such as journal clubs, virtual lab meetings, and even social events via Zoom. Here at the cancer center, we have launched new seminar series, partnered to provide new funding opportunities, and committed some of our shared resources to COVID-19 research efforts 

We don’t know yet exactly when we will be able to return to our lives or what our ‘post-COVID’ world will look like, but I am confident that we will – and already have – emerged stronger as a community. While we still grieve our losses, I look forward to a time when we can come together again – hopefully in person – and continue our mandate to address COVID-19 and our long-standing vision to end cancer everywhere.


Anil K. Rustgi, MD