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A Profile of James Dunford, MD '76 Recipient of the 2017 James O. Page/JEMS Leadership Award

James Dunford, MD'76

By Lauren Crosby, NREMT

It would be easy to trip over the seemingly endless supply of plaques and awards possessed by James Dunford, MD, if they weren't so meticulously tucked away out of sight. The fact that the awards are hidden behind his well-organized desk isn't because their owner trivializes them. It's merely a testament to the disarming humility of this emergency physician.

Dunford isn't in it for the praise. He's on a tireless quest to fix a broken system. But talent like his can't hide behind a desk, which is why it's no surprise that he's the 2017 James O. Page/JEMS Leadership Award recipient.

Dunford passionately believes in helping some of society's most vulnerable patients who often pose the biggest financial burden on the healthcare system and subsequently drain taxpayer dollars.

Succinctly put, Dunford observed that "100% of what comes into the hospital is broken, and 90% of it didn't have to be."

It's from this belief that he's been instrumental in implementing several key projects for his city, including San Diego Project Heart Beat, the Resource Access Program (RAP), Project 25, and countless medical trials in coordination with such impressive medical institutions as National Institutes of Health (NIH), Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC), and the American Heart Association (AHA).

When asked why he chose medicine as a profession, Dunford responds like so many other gifted yet unassuming innovators who seem to stumble into their brilliance: He delivers a casual shrug and smile, saying it never really crossed his mind.

Early Life

Having lived in six different cities by the age of 15, Dunford developed resilience early on and quickly realized he wanted to surround himself with intelligent, like-minded individuals in his education.

The first to graduate from college in his family, he actually credits a friend for pushing him toward medicine. At the time, Dunford imagined applying his altruistic nature and academic curiosity to helping the planet through science. His friend challenged him to use his talents to save people and to leave the algae to others, and after receiving his first acceptance letter to medical school, Dunford began to recognize his ability to build a career in medicine.

He enrolled in Columbia University's medical school and distinctly remembers the moment in anatomy lab, when, after working on a cadaver for six weeks, its face was finally revealed-a sweet old woman with a pink bow in her hair. This planted the seed for his strong connection with his patients.

But it was one of the first weekends he put his white coat on that resonated most. He was observing in the ED when an elderly male trauma patient from a motor vehicle crash was rolled in. Asked to hold a catheter, he watched in horror as blood gushed from the patient's bladder, which had been ruptured by a severe pelvic fracture. After 15 seconds, he thought he might faint and excused himself.

At that moment, he recalled a story his dad, a pilot in World War II, once told him. After witnessing a dozen fellow pilots die in a plane accident when their parachutes didn't open in time, Dunford's dad and other pilots were immediately ordered up in the air before they could let the fear of the situation cripple them. So Dunford decided to jump back in the saddle with his trauma patient.

He thought to himself, "Now I've got to decide whether I'm going to be a subjective college kid who's going to faint at the sight of blood or if I'm going to become the guy who fixes problems like this. The sooner I can get to that strategy, the better off I'll be."

Read the full article below.

A Pioneering Doctor Reflects on a Career in Pediatrics that Spans Generations

Dr. Sylvia Griffiths

By Gary Shapiro

Each Thursday at 9:30 a.m., Dr. Sylvia Preston Griffiths arrives at the pediatric cardiology outpatient clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. She dons a long white coat with her full name embroidered on it in blue and places her stethoscope in her pocket.

Proceeding to a consultation room, she and a senior staff pediatric cardiologist listen as a medical fellow—a doctor completing specialty training—presents the case history of a child with a heart murmur or possible cardiac problem. She then reviews the young patient’s electrocardiogram and echocardiogram and offers comments.

Griffiths is now in her seventh decade of teaching at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and still practices medicine. At 92, she is a professor emerita of clinical pediatrics and a special lecturer in pediatrics who has witnessed the history of pediatric cardiology unfold. She is the author of more than 150 scientific articles on topics that include congenital malformations of the heart and the results of their surgical repair.

“Over my professional career, I have derived great personal pleasure working with students and physicians at Columbia,” Griffiths said. In 1996, her colleagues and former students established the Sylvia P. Griffiths M.D. Lectureship and Teaching Day, held annually at the Medical Center to honor her outstanding humanistic qualities and her dedication to teaching.

“Gratitude is the one word to describe this,” Griffiths said of the event, adding that it is a joy to see former fellows who return to visit. The day includes a lecture by an eminent figure in a field related to pediatric cardiology. Her first mentor in pediatric cardiology, Yale faculty member Dr. Ruth C. Whittemore, gave the inaugural lecture, which Griffiths called “a great honor.”

Griffiths grew up on Claremont Avenue, and recalls attending Riverside Church and Easter Sunday sunrise services on the steps of Low Library. She wanted to be a nurse like her mother. But her father, an Oxford-educated writer and historian, told her: “If you are interested in medicine, you should be a physician.” She attended Hunter College High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1944 and an M.D. from Yale University School of Medicine in 1948.

“I elected to specialize in pediatrics because of my pleasure in working with children and the influence of outstanding faculty at Yale,” she said. Her early interest in pediatric cardiology was prompted by an elective course on the heart that she took as a first-year medical student studying human anatomy.

Griffiths left Yale in the mid-1950s to come to Columbia. Together, she and Dr. Sidney Blumenthal, a pediatrician in New York City, established the division of pediatric cardiology at the Medical Center, under Dr. Rustin McIntosh, who was then chairman of the department of pediatrics.

In 1960, when the American Board of Pediatrics created the subspecialty of pediatric cardiology—the discipline’s first— Griffiths was named one of its 50 founders.

At Columbia, she directed the pediatric cardiac clinic from 1972 to 1990, becoming professor of clinical pediatrics in 1977. Columbia’s pediatric cardiology division, under the directorship of Dr. Julie A. Vincent, is “the top of the heap and remains so,” Griffiths said. Columbia also has one of the leading fellowship training programs in the nation, she added.

In the 1960s, open-heart surgery to repair congenital cardiac malformations was seldom possible on patients younger than 5 or 6. Happily, Griffiths said, “that age has gone down to the first day of life, and there will be further developments in fetal heart surgery.”

In addition to continuing her work at Columbia once a week, Griffiths remains “a life-long learner.” She takes courses at Columbia and at Hunter College in subjects such as art history and opera. A devoted listener to WQXR radio, she especially enjoys Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

Griffiths recalls many decades of conversation about music and science with her late husband, Dr. Raymond B. Griffiths, who until his retirement in 1983 was executive editor of The Journal of Cell Biology, published by Rockefeller University Press. Their daughter, Wendy Griffiths, a composer, is on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in New York.

As she helps to train fellows, Griffiths in turn gains knowledge from the young physicians. She describes learning about advances in genetics, including the identification of chromosomal abnormalities and how they relate to clinical syndromes. Staying active, Griffiths said, “keeps me abreast of a field that I love.”

When Griffiths graduated from Yale medical school, only seven women were among the 57 students in her class. “We did enjoy a sense of being pioneers,” Griffiths said, “but as time went on, that receded.” She added: “Women in medical schools are no longer a handful. We’re now a big armful.”

DocTalks: The Future of Personalized Cancer Care and Research


On Tuesday, June 20, P&S friends and supporters attended DocTalks, a special program exploring the state of cancer care today and possibilities for the future. Hosted by Dean Lee Goldman and moderated by Stephen G. Emerson, director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, the animated discussion featured leading Columbia scientists and clinicians including: Cory Abate-Shen, PhD, Charles G. Drake, MD, PhD, Emmanuelle Passegue, PhD, and Gary K. Schwartz, MD.

Attendees enjoyed a festive reception at the Harold Pratt House and also had the opportunity to sign up for Velocity: Columbia's Ride to End Cancer.

Alumni Gala Reception and Dance

P&S Alumni Gala Reception and Dance
On May 12, P&S alumni, graduating students, and their guests enjoyed an evening of music, dance, and a special program in honor of the 250th Anniversary at the P&S Alumni Gala Reception.

Outstanding Alumni Honored at Reunion Gala

Honorees at P&S Alumni Gala

At the P&S Alumni Gala Reception, outstanding members of the alumni community were recognized for contributions in medical research, clinical medicine, and support of the Alumni Association.

Pictured above:
Ryan England, '17 - Gold Medalist
Daniel Von Hoff, '73 - Gold Medalist
Kenneth A. Forde, '59 - Presenter
Kathie-Ann Joseph, '95 - President of the Alumni Association
George M. Lazarus, '71 - Gold Medalist
Suzanne Oparil, '65 - Gold Medalist
Dean Lee Goldman
Yvonne S. Thornton, '73 - Virginia Kneeland Frantz '22 Awardee

P&S Graduation 2017

P&S graduation collage

P&S students and alumni celebrate graduation with family and friends.

A Family of P&S Alumni

A family of P&S alumni

A family with four generations of P&S alumni gather to march at graduation. Pictured left to right are: Joshua Rosenthal'17 with his parents Margaret Fisher'83 and Jonathan Rosenthal’83, and his grandfather George Fisher’48. Joshua's grandmother Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher'48 (wife of George) and great-grandfather Stuart Banyar Blakely (class of 1908) are deceased and also P&S graduates. 

P&S Alumni March at Graduation

P&S alumni representatives
In honor of the 250th Anniversary, and for the first time in history, a group of P&S alumni representing many class years gathered to march at the P&S graduation on Wednesday, May 17. Leading the march were Dr. Yvonne Thornton, P&S '73 and Dr. Roy Vagelos, P&S '54.

P&S Students at Yankee Game

P&S Students at Yankee Game

Having fun at the the Yankees vs. Orioles game during the P&S 250thcelebration at Yankee Stadium. From left to right, P&S students: Pranav Nanda, Janelle Lambert, Akyl Hughes, Timothy Dyster, Katherine Xu, and Andrew Yaeh.

P&S 250 at Yankee Stadium

P&S 250 at Yankee Stadium

On April 28, P&S celebrated its 250th anniversary with the New York Yankees during a nail-biting game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. P&S was recognized in honor of its 250th anniversary with an on-field ceremony before the game. These images were highlighted as the "Photo of the Week" by CU168. See more photos.