About Us

Columbia University Irving Medical Center's Office of Government & Community Affairs (GCA) represents the interests of the medical center before the federal, state, and city governments. This office also develops and implements programs with the communities surrounding Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and serves as the primary liaison between the medical center and the external community.

GCA coordinates information on services and programs available at the medical center campus. The office responds to and engages community stakeholders, local residents and community-based providers as they seek to learn more about the various medical center programs, services, events, and activities. We work with various elected officials, medical associations, and other organizations to advocate and educate policymakers on areas of interest of our faculty and staff. We also work with our affiliates NewYork-Presbyterian and New York State Psychiatric Institute, as well as our colleagues at Columbia's Morningside campus Office of Government & Community Affairs, to further our mission.

If you have any need or desire to work with elected officials or community-based organizations, I strongly encourage you to contact us to see if we may be of assistance.

Our Staff

  • Ross A. Frommer

    • Vice President and Associate Dean

    Ross A. Frommer is Vice President for Government and Community Affairs and Associate Dean at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He represents the Medical Center on legislative and executive branch matters at the federal, state, and local levels, and assists with the development and implementation of programs with the surrounding communities of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.  He is also a Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Nursing.

    Prior to coming to Columbia University, Ross spent five years working for former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) as State Director in the New York City office and as the Regional Director of the upstate office in Oneonta, New York. In that position, he was in charge of all constituent outreach and managed the state staff.

    Before joining Senator Moynihan's staff, Ross held several legislative and government positions. These include Legislative Assistant and Counsel to Congressman James Scheuer (D-NY), Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Legislative Counsel to the New York State Office of Federal Affairs, and Legislative Director of the Northeast/Midwest Senate Coalition.

    In addition to his work in government, Ross was the New York Political Director for the Bradley Presidential Campaign in 2000. He was also a Disaster Assistance Employee with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a member of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Academy Selection Panel.

    Ross is an attorney and practiced as a litigator with the Brooklyn, New York firm of Cullen and Dykman. He is admitted to practice in New York State, the District of Columbia, and before the Federal Courts. Ross is a past Chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges Government Relations Representatives Steering Committee and was Vice President for Membership and a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. He has also taught politics at the St. John’s University School of Continuing Education and has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University, Fordham University, Upstate Medical University, New York University, and the State University of New York College at Delhi.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Democracy Prep New York Charter School Network.

    Ross, a native New Yorker, graduated from Tufts University and holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. He is married to Connie Dong. They currently live in New York City.

  • Sandra Harris

    • Associate Vice President for Government and Community Affairs

    Sandra Harris is the Associate Vice President of Government and Community Affairs at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. In her role, she is responsible for maintaining community and institutional relations, developing partnerships and promoting university and community programs that impact the health and well-being of the northern Manhattan community.

    Prior to her role at the Office of Government and Community Affairs, Sandra served as executive director of the Northern Manhattan Community Voices Collaborative, a national initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine as the lead partner. Under her leadership, Community Voices strengthened partnerships between community organizations and neighboring institutions to increase and promote access to quality health care services. She helped secure funding to establish health outreach projects targeting the uninsured and health education programs focused on asthma, nutrition and exercise, and mental health services.

    Sandra’s work in the northern Manhattan community began 23 years ago as a constituent services liaison with then State Senator Franz Leichter. During her tenure there she developed a keen understanding of the needs of her community that led her to change her career path from housing-tenant advocacy to strengthening mental health services and developing policies that impact the mental, health and social well being of the residents of northern Manhattan. This career change led her to work for the largest Dominican non-profit organization in the country, Alianza Dominicana.

    Sandra has a Masters degree in Social Work from Hunter College and Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Human Services- Metropolitan College of New York. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, member of American Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers and the NJ Mental Health Counselor’s Association.

  • Rafael Lantigua, MD

    • Director, Office of Community Service Programs; Associate Dean for Community Service; Professor of Medicine

    Rafael Lantigua, M.D. is the Director, Office of Community Service Programs; Associate Dean for Community Service and Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Since coming to Columbia in 1980, he has a distinguished record of working to improve the health of aging minorities. He was the driving force behind CALME, the Columbia Center for the Active Life of Minority Elders, which supported research to reduce health disparities affecting minority elders and established an important bridge between Columbia researchers and the neighboring community. Dr. Lantigua also helped start the Columbia Center for the Health of Urban Minorities to shift community based-research from studies for the community to studies with the community. Dr. Lantigua earned his Medical Degree at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

  • Natalia J. Arias-Abreu

    • Administrative Manager

    Natalia J. Arias-Abreu is the Administrative Manager for the Office of Government and Community Affairs and CUIMC Events. In her role, Natalia oversees the administrative operations across Government and Community Affairs and CUIMC Events. Her activities include and are not limited to the department's daily operations, budget and finance, human resources, technology, event planning, and special projects to ensure efficient, high-functioning departments. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Lehman College.

  • Carolyn Hirsch

    • Program/Research Associate, Office of Government and Community Affairs, Office of Community Service Programs

    Carolyn Hirsch is the Program/Research Associate for the Office of Government and Community Affairs and Office for Community Service Programs. As a member of the GCA and OCSP teams, Carolyn assists with government research and coordinates service-learning and community health programs including CPR and life-saving skills trainings; Seniors AIM High at The Armory; high school educational programs; and more. Carolyn graduated from the University of Chicago in 2020 and was awarded honors for her thesis on public health solutions in Lima, Perú.

  • Scarlet Bueno

    • Program Coordinator

    Scarlet Bueno is the Program Coordinator for the Office of Government and Community Affairs. She oversees all Haven Plaza programming, The Summer Youth Employment Program, Medical Center Neighborhood Fund, America Reads, and other ongoing initiatives that service residents of the Washington Heights and Inwood community. Scarlet earned her BA in Communication and Media from Montclair State University and has a background in design and photography. Prior to joining the GCA team, she worked in operations for a creative digital agency. Scarlet is driven by art and community, and she takes pride in creating positive accessible spaces where people feel inspired and welcomed.