Project Medical Education Returns to CUIMC

September 8, 2022

This past August, after a two-year hiatus, Project Medical Education (PME) returned to Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC). Hosted by the Office of Government & Community Affairs, PME invites local residents, community leaders, policy makers, and others to spend the day on campus and learn about the day-to-day activities at CUIMC. The Columbia PME is part of a national effort led by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to educate elected officials and others about academic medicine.

CUIMC hosted similar programs every year since 2011, but this was the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that the program returned live to campus. In fact, this was the first in-person program, anywhere in the country since 2019. According to the AAMC, Columbia has now hosted more PMEs than any other medical school or teaching hospital in the country.

The 2022 PME included twenty-one guests, about half of whom were from Northern Manhattan. Also, among the group were federal and city health care policy experts as well as representatives from several health care organizations. The day started with a welcome from Dean Katrina Armstrong and quick overviews of research and finances at CUIMC. The programming began in earnest with talks by Dr. Lisa Mellman about medical education and the medical school curriculum and Dr. Rachel Gordon from whom the PME students learned a little bit about infectious diseases.

A panel of public health experts recount COVID-19 pandemic experiences at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Then it was off to the New York State Psychiatric Institute (PI) for a session on mental health. Linda Rosenfield welcomed the group and gave an overview of the PI. Dr. Milton Wainberg then discussed community mental health effort and he was followed by Dr. Yuval Neria and Matthew Ryba who gave a presentation on the Military Family Wellness Center and efforts to develop better treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions affecting veterans.

The Mailman School of Public Health was the site of an in-depth conversation about COVID-19. Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr led a discussion that included Anne Sperling from NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) and Drs. Robert Fulilove, Christopher Tedeschi, Deborah Theodore about the pandemic and the medical center’s response. They also discussed ways to prevent and prepare for the next pandemic and the recent Monkey Pox virus.

PME participant Eddie Cuesta, Director of Dominicanos USA, tries his hand at pipetting in the Passague Lab.

Several medical students and colleagues from NYP joined the group for lunch on Haven Plaza. After a group photo, everybody proceeded to the Black Building to learn about the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative and visit the lab of Dr. Emmanuelle Passegue. There, PME participants had an opportunity to try their hand at pipetting and observing zebra fish under a microscope. They also saw some of the latest technology being used in the lab’s core facilities.

Then it was off to the College of Dental Medicine to see the pre-clinical lab, learn about dental education, research and how the school serves the community. The final session of the day was at the School of Nursing where all PME participants learned how to do hands free CPR and underwent Naloxone training to learn how to assist someone suffering from an opioid overdose. The session also included several simulations and Brandon Vaughan from the AAMC participated in a birthing demonstration where he helped deliver a healthy baby mannequin.

The day was capped off with a reception and graduation ceremony. Ross Frommer, Vice President for Government & Community Affairs, congratulated everybody on completing the program and noted how wonderful it was to have PME back live. “PME is a wonderful opportunity for community residents and others to see first-hand what we do here at CUIMC each and every day. It is also a wonderful opportunity for relationship building among participants and faculty. I already know of one potential collaboration that has come out of this year’s program.”

Dean Armstrong noted, “It was great to welcome the 2022 PME participants onto campus. Although there have obviously been challenges over the past two and half years, I want our campus to be as open as possible and for everyone, especially our neighbors, to feel welcome here. The more we can educate each other, the more we can talk about important, and sometimes difficult issues, the better off we will all be. 

Dr. Passegue added, “It was wonderful to have PME tour our labs and technical facilities and learn about stem cell research at Columbia. Part of our responsibility as scientists is to educate and to help people understand stem cell research and regenerative medicine and to help them understand why it is so important.”

Erica Froyd, Senior Director for Advocacy and Engagement at the AAMC, said “Project Medical Education (PME) is an essential tool that helps AAMC member medical schools and teaching hospitals educate Congress and their staff, state and local officials, community members, and others about the academic medicine ecosystem and the process of medical education, including the benefits it provides, its complex funding mechanisms, and the importance of strong government support. We are grateful that our member institutions, like Columbia, are restarting the PME programs to emphasize the value of academic medicine to communities and patients nationwide.”

Participant feedback was positive. “Thank you, thank you for inviting me! I enjoyed this experience. I learned a great deal. Looking forward to supporting these efforts in the future,” said Tanya Bonner, a member of Manhattan Community Board 12.

“What amazed me most about the Washington Heights campus was the diversity and quality of the educational programs offered by the university. The scope and importance of the research that is being carried out in the various schools was astounding,” noted Eddie Cuesta, National Executive Director, Dominicanos USA, noted.

Gina Bolden-Rivera, Senior Vice President for Commercial Lending with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone added, “I was unsure what to expect. However, I am extremely pleased with my experience.”


All PME participants were required to wear masks throughout the day and to be vaccinated against COVID-19. There were no reported cases of COVID-19 stemming from the program.



Community Outreach