Leaders from five renowned Bronx institutions formally announced their partnership at Fordham University on May 4, signing an agreement that ushers in a new model of scientific research, education, and community engagement.
Bound by similar goals and a shared commitment to their home borough, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Yeshiva University, the Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society, Fordham University, Montefiore Medical Center, and the New York Botanical Garden have officially joined forces to form the Bronx Science Consortium.
The new group will expand on the ongoing research and education collaborations between these north central Bronx organizations, each with deep historical ties to a region of the city that is often forgotten, said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, at the signing in the O’Hare Special Collections Room in the William D. Walsh Family Library at Rose Hill.
“This is going to allow the Bronx to be taken far more seriously than it has in the past, and that’s good for all of us, and it’s especially good for the people of the Bronx,” said Father McShane.
Administrators from the five organizations agreed that there is no dearth of scientific and medical issues that need attention in the area.
“We do live in the most health-challenged and economically challenged section of the country,” said Steven Safyer, M.D., Montefiore’s president and CEO. He expressed confidence that the new partnership could attract new funding sources and bring more resources to the borough’s problems. “We’re taking things into our own control,” he said.
The consortium will aim to conduct research that is interdisciplinary, utilizing the talents and input of faculty members, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, patients, clinicians, and others from each of the partner institutions.
Michael Balick, vice president for botanical science at the New York Botanical Garden, spoke on behalf of its CEO Gregory Long, who could not be at the signing. Balick described some of the Garden’s current work with consortium members, including a project with the Wildlife Conservation Society to harvest rattan from Southeast Asian forests and use it sustainably.
“The problems of the world today are really very complicated,” Balick said, stressing the need “to take off our disciplinary blinders and realize that these problems have many dimensions.”
Cross-institutional education will be a central component of the consortium’s work, providing students with the opportunity to take courses at partner institutions and enabling faculty to teach at other member institutions. A proposed Albert Einstein-Fordham master’s degree in biomedical sciences is laying the foundation for this type of collaboration.
Edward Burns, M.D., executive dean of Albert Einstein College Medicine and a Bronx native, said that the consortium mirrors the progression of New York City from its earlier melting-pot goals to something that is less homogenous, but that derives strength from the diverse assets of its constituents. “So I tip my hat, or my yarmulke, to all my colleagues,” he said.
Work on the Bronx Science Consortium began in fall 2011, under the leadership of Father McShane and Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., Fordham’s provost and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Freedman said that three working groups will be formed to continue the consortium’s work over the summer, and will reconvene at the beginning of the next academic year.