Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City

Dean Ralph A. O’Connell: New York Medical College
By Joan Baum, Ph.D.

Though not as well known perhaps as some other medical schools in the New York City area, the School of Medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla, in Westchester County, is hardly a well-kept secret. Most people are particularly aware of the 140 year-old private health sciences university through its teaching affiliation with St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center and with Metropolitan Hospital, two of the busiest medical complexes in the City, though some may also know of the College’s outreach with a foster care agency in the Bronx. It is St. Vincent’s, however, where New York Medical College students were recently most visible. At least 50 third-year students were working there on September 11th and saw the chaos in the streets, helped out where they could, and then realized with growing horror the next day what it meant when patients stopped arriving.

The difference between the bucolic Hudson Valley campus where students live and study and the heady urban scene, with its constant supply of emergency room patients felled by drugs and violence, is certainly appreciated by the Dean and Provost of New York Medical College, Dr. Ralph A. O’Connell, who is also Vice-Chairman, Emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Vincent’s. The Dean, a graduate of Cornell Medical College, is proud of New York Medical College’s unique position in the state: the only academic biomedical and pharmaceutical research institution between New York City and Albany. The College is also a resource for community physicians and faculty, a place of employment for area residents, contributing to the economy of the region, and, most of all, a competitive medical school educating physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals, who, reportedly, “score markedly higher than the national average in standardized tests.” Close to half the diverse student body are women, and graduates can be found in 98 medical centers across the country.

A typical class has 185 students, “rather large,” the Dean acknowledges, but for that reason even more challenging to deliver the best medical education with as much attention to individuals as possible. On average, he points out, doctors spend eight minutes with their patients. The Dean clearly wants his own graduates to spend more. He sets a model in this regard. Reflecting on the events of September 11th he notes that he was able to get downtown the next day, an “eerie experience,” and spoke to students who saw the second plane hit and who subsequently were witness to the desolation of families and friends who kept descending on the hospital, looking for names or bodies. And then, when the anthrax scares materialized, these same students faced surging crowds insisting on nasal swabs. Were the students traumatized? Did they waver about staying in medicine? There is no hesitation. The Dean is soft-spoken but swift and confident: “No.”

Dean O’Connell is proud of his curriculum, of the fact that New York Medical College had already incorporated new emphases demanded by a world facing bio-terrorism, and of the care with which the College is moving to respond to the extraordinary explosion of information, particularly in light of the genome project. His related priorities for students, he says, are medical research and getting students to learn how to explore what they need to know. “Take AIDS,” for example. “The Internet can access 100,000 sites, but which ones are of value?” When he speaks of graduating “well trained” students, Dean O’Connell means those who are not only up-to-date but those whose basic science skills are solidly in place; whose clinical work has taught them the value of getting to know their patients; and whose disposition to incorporate the training they receive in medical ethics courses represents real commitment. Ethics, in fact, infuses three years at New York Medical College, starting with courses in principles and moving on to case analyses, thus paralleling the principles/case history track in the sciences.

Dr. Ralph O’Connell became Dean of New York Medical College’s 1,600-member student body, he says, because he enjoys working on various and complex issues and talking with students and colleagues, though obviously all the conversations have obviously not prevented him from pursuing his own research, much of it in the areas of psychiatry, psychopharmacology and psychopathology. The Dean is also an active community member, serving as both an elected and appointed board member of schools, charities, councils and clubs, including the Archdiocese of New York, with which New York Medical College is affiliated, though not in a formal legal or fiscal way. #

Valhalla in Teutonic lore may be the resting place of the heroes, but clearly, for Dean O’Connell it is the birthplace of heroes to come.


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.