Alumni Profiles

Summer 2024

From tackling health disparities to advancing neurointerventional radiology, these alumni are making an impact.

Dr. Meera Mani

Improving Health Care

Dr. Meera Mani

Partner, Town Hall Ventures

Dr. Meera Mani (M.D. ’09, Ph.D. ’08) has always been driven to make health care better for people who need it most.

“When someone doesn’t get something that they need and fully deserve for no apparently good reason, it really sticks in my craw,” says Dr. Mani, a partner at Town Hall Ventures, a New York firm that invests in mission-driven health-care companies, including those in the primary care, oncology, neurocognitive care and behavioral health spaces — many using new technologies to serve those who are uninsured or on Medicaid.

“We invest in entrepreneurs who are championing innovative clinical and health-care delivery models, and where we believe that they can translate those ideas into high-growth businesses,” says Dr. Mani, who previously was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, where she led its Medicaid practice.

With her medical training and degree from Weill Cornell Medicine’s Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program, along with her business acumen, Dr. Mani has an eye for what makes a health-care company successful. She honed her intellectual fearlessness as a graduate student. “When you pursue a Ph.D. in basic research, you have to be data-driven, but you also have to be creative in defining the question the right way and then seeking the truth,” she says. “That data-driven inquiry and self-driven creativity is also important as an entrepreneur and in the venture investing world.”

When assessing potential investment partners, Dr. Mani makes it a priority to visit clinical sites and speak with staff.

“As a health-care provider, you’ve been in the hospital, you’ve done procedures, you’ve rounded, you’ve seen patients and families at their most vulnerable,” Dr. Mani says. “I try to use all of those experiences to understand the patient and family experience and bring that to our investment discussions.

“I keep advocating, whether it’s on the management teams of our companies or in our own team, for the need for diverse voices when making major decisions, particularly voices from care providers,” Dr. Mani says. “And it’s not just the doctors. It’s the nurses, it’s the social workers, it’s health-care administrators. All those perspectives need to shape how we think about investments in innovation.”

By systematically tracking clinical and financial outcomes for their partner companies, she says, Town Hall Ventures is working to ensure that underserved patients are receiving the best possible care.

“We believe it’s our collective obligation to rigorously track and measure outcomes and raise the bar for the quality of care in underserved populations.” Dr. Mani says.

— Aviva Meyerowitz

Dr. Barry Kappel

Committed to Cancer Research

Dr. Barry Kappel

Founder, President and CEO, Sapience Therapeutics

Though his work included time at a life science consulting firm and at a biotechnology company focused on infectious disease, Dr. Barry Kappel (Ph.D. ’06, M.B.A. ’07), founder, president and CEO of Sapience Therapeutics, was always committed to returning to cancer research.

“To me, cancer is the ultimate puzzle,” says Dr. Kappel, who was a researcher at the Sloan Kettering Institute before and during his time in the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and was mentored by world-renowned cancer researchers and pioneers in the field.

In 2015, he set out to find a promising academic oncology research program to license for commercial development. A New York native, he traveled the globe but found the ideal match back at home at Columbia University. Within months, Dr. Kappel launched Sapience Therapeutics, a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on addressing high-mortality cancers through peptide-based therapeutics aimed at previously “undruggable” targets.

“The word ‘un’ will never sit well with me and shouldn’t sit well with any scientist,” says Dr. Kappel. “I see it as a challenge.”

In the past nine years, Sapience Therapeutics has met the challenge head on. The company has already completed early clinical trials for one drug, ST101, which has generated compelling data — presented at the 2023 Society of Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting — showing an overall survival benefit for patients with glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer, compared to those who are receiving current standard of care treatments.

Dr. Kappel refers to another drug in the Sapience Therapeutics pipeline, ST316, as their “crown jewel.” The drug, which targets beta-catenin (a key protein involved in regulation and coordination of gene transcription) is in phase 1-2 trials and is intended to create nontoxic treatments for those with colorectal cancers and other high-mortality solid tumors driven by the WNT development pathway, which may be responsible for greater than 50% of all solid tumors when it is dysregulated.

“When patients get our drugs, they’re not experiencing severe toxicities, they’re not losing their hair, they’re able to get their treatments and go to work,” Dr. Kappel says. “My hope would be that we see a lot more treatments like this — effective, well-tolerated treatments, especially for later stages of disease.”

— Aviva Meyerowitz

Dr. Jessica Clemons

A View into Psychiatry

Dr. Jessica Clemons

Psychiatrist, Callen-Lorde clinic

In her last year of medical school, Dr. Jessica Clemons (M.D. ’15) completed two residency applications — one for OB-GYN and the other for psychiatry. Though her pull was toward psychiatry, she was hesitant.

“Stigma was a big reason for that,” says Dr. Clemons, a psychiatrist at the nonprofit Callen-Lorde clinic, which serves New York’s LGBTQ+ community. “My family very much emphasized emotional health, talking about our feelings and not shying away from it, but that next step — to seek out treatment — was just something that wasn’t really on their radar.”

Dr. Clemons fell in love with the field during her inpatient psychiatry rotation under the direction of her mentor, Dr. Balkrishna Kalayam, clinical associate professor of psychiatry. She recalls feeling incredibly moved after seeing a patient with depression experience significant improvement after undergoing electroconvulsive therapy.

During her residency, Dr. Clemons began using social media to build a professional community. With more than 86,000 followers on her Instagram account (@askdrjess), she now uses it as a space to “educate, destigmatize and give people a different vantage point into psychiatry,” with a specific focus on combating stigma and seeking better access to mental health care for people in Black and underserved communities.

Her online approach has been recognized by national media outlets like “TODAY” and “CBS Mornings,” featured in Forbes and praised by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who celebrated her on X as being “a leader in making #MentalHealth and wellness part of our everyday dialogue through her use of social media.” She also presented on her use of social media at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting.  

“Opening these conversations up in the public arena helped to bring people’s guard down a little bit, where people could really start to generate questions or ideas about how they can take care of themselves,” says Dr. Clemons, who also addresses where to seek care and the steps needed to get there in her Audible original, “Be Well: A Guide to Better Mental Health for All.”

As for Dr. Clemons’ family and their feelings about psychiatry? “They get it now. And they definitely support it.”

— Aviva Meyerowitz

Photo: Michael Marquand; Portraits: Nigel Buchanan

Summer 2024 Front to Back

  • Features

    Science Over Stigma

    By probing the physical cause of obesity, researchers have repudiated harmful misconceptions, leading to new, highly effective medications.
  • Features

    The Sounds of Science

    How insights from ornithology, coupled with advances in AI, could enable doctors to screen for disease using the human voice.
  • Features

    Bones’ Secret Cells

    Research led by Dr. Matthew Greenblatt and his lab is revealing connections between bone stem cells and a surprising array of conditions — including cancer.
  • Notable

    Expansion in Midtown

    A 216,000 square-foot expansion of clinical and research programs at 575 Lexington Ave. will provide state-of-the-art clinical care at the Midtown Manhattan location.
  • Notable

    A Dramatic Growth in Research

    In the decade since the Belfer Research Building’s opening, Weill Cornell Medicine’s sponsored research funding has more than doubled.
  • Notable


    Heart disease presents differently in resource-poor countries like Haiti. Dr. Molly McNairy and colleagues are working to identify underlying causes and prevention.
  • Notable


    Weill Cornell Medicine faculty members are leading the conversation about important health issues across the country and around the world.
  • Notable

    News Briefs

    Notable faculty appointments, honors, awards and more — from around campus and beyond.
  • Grand Rounds

    Living With Endometriosis: A 12-Year Journey

    How the right treatment reduced the pain of endometriosis
  • Grand Rounds

    Taking Action Against Lung Cancer

    Monitoring by Weill Cornell Medicine’s Incidental Lung Nodule Surveillance Program can lead to early cancer detection.
  • Grand Rounds

    News Briefs

    The latest on teaching, learning and patient-centered care.
  • Discovery

    Gut Check

    New evidence shows that a bacterium found in the gut of livestock could be a trigger of multiple sclerosis in humans.
  • Discovery

    Researchers Chart the Contents of Human Bone Marrow

    A new method for mapping the location and spatial features of blood-forming cells within human bone marrow provide a powerful new means to study diseases that affect it.
  • Discovery


    The latest advances in faculty research, published in the world’s leading journals.
  • Alumni


    Forging critical connections to move research from the bench to the bedside, our alumni are making an impact.
  • Alumni


    What’s new with you? Keep your classmates up to date on all your latest achievements with an Alumni Note.
  • Alumni

    In Memoriam

    Marking the passing of our faculty and alumni.
  • Alumni


    Marking celebratory events in the lives of our students, including the White Coat Ceremony and receptions for new students.
  • Second Opinion

    Equal Risk

    Does race have a role in calculations of health risks?
  • Exchange

    Health Equity

    Two faculty members discuss the importance of community-engaged research in their work to help combat cancer disparities fueled by persistent poverty.
  • Muse

    Finding Strength in Art

    Surin Lee is a Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar medical student, Class of 2026, and a visual artist.
  • Spotlight

    Partners in Solving Surgical Challenges

    Dr. Darren Orbach (M.D. ’98, Ph.D.) and Dr. Peter Weinstock (M.D. ’98, Ph.D.) are pioneering the use of practice simulations to ensure successful complex surgeries.