After 13 years at Columbia, Associate Vice President and Medical Director Samuel Seward will leave for a position as chairman of the Department of Medicine at St. Luke's Hospital and Roosevelt Hospital next Friday.
As the University conducts an external search for Seward's replacement, Columbia University Medical Center Director of Student Health Services Melanie Bernitz will serve as interim AVP and medical director.
In his new position at St. Luke's Hospital and Roosevelt Hospital, Seward will oversee hospital-based and outpatient medicine services, as well as the education of approximately 400 trainees within the hospitals—a role which he said his tenure at Columbia has prepared him for.
"Recognizing each person as an individual, recognizing that their needs are individual, and recognizing that it takes a while to get to know people and what you have to do to be helpful to them—I've certainly learned all those things here," Seward said. "I love another opportunity to make a positive impact in health care."
Seward, who was responsible for health programming at Columbia's Morningside campus and the medical center campus, oversaw expansions to Sexual Violence Response, Counseling and Psychological Services, and abortion funding during his time at Columbia.
In an attempt to make medical services more accessible to students, Seward also implemented online appointment systems, opened medical offices in residence halls and Lerner Hall, and expanded staffing by approximately 40 percent during his tenure.
"I wanted all of our services and programs to feel student-sensitive," Seward said. "We've actually cut back on administration and we have more and more people working with students, and I think that's the right way to do this work."
Student leaders who worked with Seward said they appreciated his willingness to tackle health issues raised by students. In recent years, Seward worked with the Mental Health Task Force to increase CPS staffing and office locations.
"Dr. Seward was a passionate advocate for student health and a crucial ally in our student wellness efforts. The Mental Health Task Force will greatly miss working with him," task force member Ramis Wadood, CC '16, said.
Medical Services also received external recognition for its service to students in December when it was certified as a "Medical Home" by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. Seward called the certification, which followed a two-day inspection by the AAAHC, an accomplishment "representing about five years of work."
In the final months of Seward's tenure, however, Columbia Health became a central focus of criticism from the activist coalition Barnard Columbia Solidarity Network. In December, the coalition demanded that the University further expand SVR staff and keep a rape crisis center physically open for 24 hours a day.
Though Seward said there is more that Columbia Health can do to support students, he is confident Bernitz and the remaining health administrators can continue to increase communication with students and maintain a dialogue about wellness and healthfulness with the Columbia community.
"She's a great person, she's been at Columbia longer than I have, cares about students, and is super smart," Seward said. "We have excellent leadership, and I feel like I'm leaving the house in a great place."