Students at Fordham College at Rose Hill who are pursuing careers in the health sciences have gained a new advocate in the Health Sciences Advisory Council.
The council was created to strengthen the academic, advisory and extracurricular programs that prepare Fordham students for careers in medicine. It will work in close collaboration with the dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill and the director of the pre-health program.
The council will be headed by co-chairs Louis Del Guercio, M.D., FCRH ’49, and Robert D. Russo, M.D., FCRH ’69.
Del Guercio, a retired thoracic surgeon, and Russo, a radiologist and head of Robert D. Russo, M.D., and Associates Radiology, will recruit other members from the 1,200 Fordham alumni with careers in health research, the pharmaceutical industry, government and education.
Del Guercio graduated from Yale School of Medicine after earning a degree in pre-med. He credits Fordham with teaching him the fundamental principles of inquiry essential to success in the sciences. He said he wants to give back, and recruit others who benefitted as he did.
“The physicians and health professionals have really not been approached as a group. Alumni have been approached as a broad group, but by targeting people in the health groups, we feel this might be a better way of achieving success,” he said.
Russo focused on the need for new facilities, noting that with an 80 percent acceptance rate into medical school for its pre-med students, Fordham has done an excellent job with its current facilities. For that, he credited Donna Heald, associate dean for science education and director of pre-health professions advising.
“Lou and I are hoping to raise enough money to get them better facilities, better labs and better research equipment, to attract top-notch teachers and drive the health sciences at Rose Hill further,” he said.
Russo started at Fordham as a communications, arts and advertising major before switching to chemistry and then earning his medical degree from Tulane University. He credits Fordham with giving him what he called “building blocks”—how to study, how to present and how to analyze and reflect on data.
“To attract graduate researchers, you have to have good facilities, because everybody in the world wants scientists,” he said. “Fordham students have the talent, so they should also have the equipment.”
In addition to fundraising, the council is expected to be a source of mentors for students interested in everything from emergency medicine to public health, said Michael A. Latham, interim dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill.
“Our students know what it’s like to go to school; they’ve been in school since they were five years old,” Latham said. “But they’re entering a profession and a field that’s rapidly changing, and it’s one that many of them won’t have had as a much experience with. So professional guidance is really valuable.”
Latham said that Del Guercio’s background in general medicine and medical education make him a valuable part of the council, as undergraduate research is an important part of students’ education. Russo’s company, with centers in Fairfield, Bridgeport and Stratford, Conn., gives him a unique perspective on the business side of medicine.
Also taking a leadership position at Fordham is John D. Driscoll, M.D., who assumed the role of chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies.
Driscoll, the recently retired Reuben S. Carpentier Professor of Pediatrics and director of the pediatric service at Babies & Children’s Hospital at Columbia University, called the position an opportunity to fulfill a longstanding personal desire to be engaged in Catholic education.
He said he was excited by the appointment in May of Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D., as director of the center, as well as the students there, who he called the future of the American Catholic Church.
“I have been totally impressed with the students I’ve had the chance to meet over my two years on the board, and I really believe that they are part of the answer,” Driscoll said. “If every Catholic university had a program like the Curran Center, the future of the church would be extraordinarily hopeful in a time of turmoil.”
The Curran Center will benefit from Driscoll’s passion for faith and education, his wisdom and integrity, and his experience as a distinguished physician and Columbia Medical School educator, said Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D., professor of Christian ethics and director of the center.
Two major events will highlight the Curran Center’s schedule next year:
“LOST? Twenty-Somethings and the Church,” a two-day conference co-sponsored by Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture will take place on Jan. 28 and 29 at the Lincoln Center campus.
In April, the Curran Center will celebrate the publication of the first volume in “Catholic Practice in North America,” a new series from Fordham University Press co-edited by center associate directors Angela O’Donnell and John C. Seitz, Ph.D.
“We look forward to working closely with Dr. Driscoll and the Board of Advisors to develop strategies for building on all that the Curran Center accomplished under the leadership of its founding director, Mark Massa, S.J., and for securing the center’s vibrant future,” Firer Hinze said.
She continued, “We will continue to advance informed, vigorous reflection on all facets of Catholicism in the United States, past and present,” as part of a three-pronged approach:
• by nurturing the center’s thriving honors concentration for advanced undergraduates;
• through creatively targeted programming—lectures, seminars, cultural events—for Fordham and wider communities; and
• by becoming an even stronger presence nationally, engaging the academy, religious communities, and diverse publics by way of conferences, research, and publications addressing pressing topics in church and society.