Dr. Monika Safford, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity and the John J. Kuiper Professor of Medicine, has been named the 2023 recipient of the Jessica M. and Natan Bibliowicz Award for Excellence in Mentoring Women Faculty.
The Bibliowicz Award recognizes outstanding men and women faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine who demonstrate commitment to advancing the academic careers of women in the areas of clinical care, research, or education.The individual must have an established record of providing strong mentorship, as well as fostering a nurturing and supportive environment for all faculty.
She received the award on April 25 during Weill Cornell Medicine’s fifth annual Diversity Week.
“Mentoring is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career,” Dr. Safford said, who attributes communication and honesty as key components of a successful mentoring relationship.
A unique aspect of Dr. Safford’s approach to mentorship is her relationship with mentees from different specialty areas, agreed longtime mentees Drs. Jamuna Krishnan and Kerri Ilene Aronson, who both specialize in pulmonary critical care medicine.
“[Dr. Safford] takes the role [of mentoring] very seriously,” Dr. Aronson said. “She takes a ‘whole person’ approach that is immersive.” The inevitable challenges and roadblocks that go with research are normalized as part of the process.
Added Dr. Krishnan: “We’re reminded that it’s the first time we’re doing something like this.” When she reached out to Dr. Safford to be her mentor, Dr. Safford immediately set up regular 30-minute weekly meetings to touch base. A key part of having an effective mentoring relationship as a mentee, Dr. Krishnan added, was being transparent and accountable. “
Through her mentoring relationship, Dr. Aronson said she felt empowered to make bolder choices in her career – seeing herself in a leadership capacity in a way she might not have without Dr. Safford’s impact. Both Dr. Krishnan and Dr. Aronson remarked that Dr. Safford was a phenomenal problem solver, able to cut through roadblocks in creative and innovative ways.
Another longtime mentee, Dr. Madeline Sterling, an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, lauds Dr. Safford for “visionary and supportive of big ideas.” “She has this great ability to see the trajectory [of an initiative or person’s work], and encourages you to think not just about the one study, but the bigger, overall picture.”
Dr. Sterling has been recognized for her extensive research on the working conditions of home health aides and caregivers. Last year, Dr. Sterling was awarded the 2022 Clinical Scientist Development Award by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. During the study, Dr. Sterling has continued to be mentored by Dr. Safford.
In essence, “Dr. Safford is extraordinarily generous with her time and resources,” noted Dr. Lisa Kern, Associate Professor of Medicine and Population Health Sciences and Associate Director for Research in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “And she can hone in [on a research challenge] with enormous precision, reliably coming up with solutions that work.”