Fordham University has always had an active alumni network. At any University event, you will find alumni either participating or in the audience, supporting their alma mater and current students. But this year, alumni have found a new and slightly more unconventional way of getting involved. With the help of Michael E. Latham, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham alumni in the scientific fields have come together to form an advisory science council.
The Fordham University Health Science 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 Latham and Donna Heald, Ph.D., associate dean for science education and director of the pre-health program at Fordham.
Robert D. Russo, M.D., FCRH ’69, who co-founded the council with Louis Del Guercio, M.D., FCRH ’49, led the effort to build an expanded program.
“We’re kind of off and running,” explained Russo, who started at Fordham as a communications, arts and advertising major before switching to chemistry. “I think Dean Latham was the one who said, ‘You can’t have good liberal arts without having good basic sciences.’ And we’ve kind of picked that motto up and have been running with it.”
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, according to Latham.
Both Russo and Latham believe that one of the greatest assets council members offer is the benefit of their own experience.
“In my opinion, there’s no question that the people we’re talking about can open doors,” said Latham. “They can help our students and they can also help me, as a dean, a great deal.
“It’s my job not just to educate students, but to educate them so that they’re prepared to go off after college and have thriving professional careers. These alumni can give me a lot of guidance and familiarity with a world of practice that is well outside of what I deal with usually.”
The goals of the council extend far beyond Fordham’s gates. Not only do these alumni want to help mentor students, but they plan to build new scientific partnerships and hope to strengthen those already in place with the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx Zoo and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Since the council’s first official meeting this past August, it has already started a new lecture series. Philip Pizzo, M.D., FCRH ’66, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, was the inaugural speaker.
The council has also helped health sciences students land several internships and apply for fellowships.
But the council is not just a story of practical knowledge. It’s a story of Fordham’s individual, if a bit untraditional, community.
It is yet another example of Fordham’s determination to care for the whole person.
“The Jesuit education is special in a number of ways,” said Del Guercio. “It’s something that you’re not likely to get at other universities, even Catholic universities.”
Russo echoes his co-chair. “If you were to ask me the chief attribute of the people that have shown interest in joining this council, it’s the love of Fordham,” Russo said. “It isn’t that they want to pay back in the sense of ‘That’s where I went and therefore I should.’ It’s a desire, I think, on their part, to make Fordham as good as they can, to help out as much as they can.”