Dr. Oliver Fein Wins Award for Excellence in Public Health

Weill Cornell Medical College News, Dec. 4, 2015

Dr. Oliver Fein, associate dean (affiliations) and a professor of clinical medicine and of clinical healthcare policy and research, has won the 2015 Award for Excellence from the American Public Health Association.

The award honors public health professionals who have made exceptional contributions to the field through innovative organizational work for the improvement of community health. Dr. Fein, who was recognized for lifetime achievements in healthcare advocacy and activism, received his award at the association's 143rd annual meeting on Nov. 3 in Chicago.

"It was wonderful, a really significant recognition by my peers," said Dr. Fein, who is a past vice president of the association and has also served on its executive board. "It really causes one to reflect on what one has done and on all those who made it possible to do the things that I did."

"For five decades, Dr. Fein's innovative work has embodied excellence and has improved community health," said Dr. Barry Levy '71, chair of the association's awards committee. "I am deeply honored to recognize Dr. Fein with the 2015 American Public Health Association Award for Excellence."

Dr. Fein has distinguished himself in the field of public health through a lifetime of advocacy for health reform and greater community access. In the 1980's, as director of general medicine outpatient services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, he helped open and staff five community health centers in the Washington Heights community. In 2009, as president of Physicians for a National Health Program, he was invited to the White House Health Care Summit, where he advocated for single-payer national health reform. In 2010, he helped a small group of medical students found the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights, the first student-run asylum clinic at a U.S. medical school. Volunteer clinicians assist survivors of torture and other physical abuses who have fled from countries across the globe due to persecution based upon race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. As of 2014, the center has trained more than 150 medical students and professionals at Weill Cornell Medicine on how to conduct medical evaluations and provide affidavits to survivors of human rights violations.

As associate dean (affiliations), Dr. Fein works to expand Weill Cornell Medicine's affiliations with institutions, both domestically and internationally, to facilitate more diverse learning opportunities for medical students. When Dr. Fein first joined the institution, his priority was to provide medical students with clinical experience off of the island of Manhattan. He established a relationship with what is now NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens, and in 2000 forged Weill Cornell Medicine's first public hospital affiliation since 1968 with Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. Dr. Fein then expanded his vision beyond New York City and helped establish the Office of Global Health Education, which oversees and coordinates the global health educational electives program for Weill Cornell Medical College students.

"The idea, for me, was to give students exposure to the variety of health care systems in the world and a sense of the diversity of experiences that people have with healthcare systems," Dr. Fein said. "Probably close to 50 percent of Weill Cornell graduates have an international medical educational experience by the time they graduate. That's pretty fabulous, I think."