Podolsky becomes third president of UT Southwestern

Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky
Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky

DALLAS — Sept. 3, 2008 — Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, former chief academic officer of Partners HealthCare and chief of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, became the third president of UT Southwestern Medical Center on September 2. Dr. Podolsky’s appointment is the culmination of a national search for candidates that began after Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern since 1986, announced his retirement in October 2007.

Dr. Podolsky, who has been associated with Harvard Medical School throughout his career to date, said his decision to come to UT Southwestern was in large part based on the opportunity to build on the remarkable accomplishments made since UT Southwestern was established nearly 65 years ago and its bedrock values of excellence in research, education and patient care.

“I have long admired UT Southwestern as an outstanding academic center, particularly in the vigor of its research programs,” Dr. Podolsky said. “I would like to build on that foundation and all that has been accomplished during Dr. Kern Wildenthal’s tenure as president. Drawing on these historic strengths, our priorities must also include expanding our commitment to clinical excellence in all its dimensions innovation that translates biomedical research into new approaches to patient care; quality that provides our patients with consistently safe and efficient care; and a culture that makes each patient feel truly cared for by our attention to them and their families.”

UT Southwestern is one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrating pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education on its 387-acre campus. The institution Dr. Podolsky leads has approximately 10,000 employees and an operating budget of $1.5 billion. It has more than 1,500 full-time faculty members including four active Nobel Prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 97,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 1.7 million outpatient visits a year.

Physicians care for patients in UT Southwestern University Hospital, in Parkland Health & Hospital System, which is staffed primarily by UT Southwestern physicians; and in its affiliated hospitals, Children’s Medical Center Dallas and the VA North Texas Health Care System. UT Southwestern programs are offered in Waco, Wichita Falls, Richardson, Plano/Frisco and Fort Worth. Three degree-granting institutions — UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UT Southwestern School of Health Professions train nearly 4,200 students, residents and fellows each year. UT Southwestern researchers undertake more than 3,500 research projects annually, totaling more than $360 million.

As chief academic officer of Partners HealthCare for the past three years, Dr. Podolsky was responsible for a $1 billion research enterprise in addition to overseeing its graduate medical education programs encompassing more than 1,800 residents and fellows, technology transfer activities, faculty affairs and systemwide research initiatives. Partners HealthCare was founded in 1994 by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General, the two largest hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and now includes specialty and community hospitals as well. Dr. Podolsky concurrently served as faculty dean of Harvard Medical School for academic programs at Partners and participated in university-wide strategic planning for science and engineering.

Dr. Podolsky is an expert in the study of epithelial biology and mucosal immunology with particular interests in the causes and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. His laboratory made significant contributions to understanding the mechanisms by which growth factors and cytokines regulate epithelial function, as well as the mechanisms of epithelial injury and repair. In addition to his own laboratory he served as director of an NIH-funded digestive disease research center. During the 20 years he served as chief of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General, he also led a clinical program that expanded fifteenfold under his direction and that is now ranked fourth among all digestive disease programs in the U.S. News & World Reports honor roll of best hospital specialty services.

At UT Southwestern, Dr. Podolsky expressed his enthusiasm for working with colleagues in addressing the new challenges of the medical center.

“I believe my experience as an investigator, clinician and administrator over these past years will be helpful in my new role and for the practical challenges to achieving success here,” Dr. Podolsky said. “A top priority for me is to get to know UT Southwestern in a much more detailed way, and I hope to accomplish that as quickly as possible. I am committed to doing all I can to ensure that UT Southwestern remains in the vanguard in its basic research program and at the same time work to be sure its clinical programs and clinical and translational research are also similarly innovative and of outstanding quality.”

In addition, taking full measure of the educational programs of the medical school, graduate school and health professions school are top priorities for Dr. Podolsky. He noted that UT Southwestern has a special commitment to the people of Texas to provide an outstanding training ground for future health care professionals.

“We must be forward-thinking in what it takes to educate physicians and graduate students who will be the source of health care advances for the future,” he said. “One of my early goals will be to have a better understanding of the curriculum at UT Southwestern and how it has come to its current formulation and see where there is opportunity for innovation.”

Recruiting excellent researchers and clinicians will continue to be critical for the vitality of UT Southwestern, Dr. Podolsky noted. In the context of national trends in funding and regulation, all academic centers such as
UT Southwestern face rising challenges to marry research with patient care while continuing to address the mission of teaching and education, he said.

“A variety of talents are essential for an outstanding academic medical center. There is an interdependence between excellence in research and clinical programs that attracts the very best trainees,” Dr. Podolsky said. “In the end, it’s the quality of the people you can attract that will determine the strength of the enterprise. UT Southwestern has had great stewardship financially, and it has strong support from the community, which are clearly major reasons why the future here is so promising.”

In announcing Dr. Podolsky’s appointment, Dr. Kenneth Shine, interim chancellor of the UT System, said, “He had a very formidable job [at Partners] in that he succeeded Dr. Eugene Braunwald, an icon in American medicine, who was the chief academic officer at that time. That was good training for this job in that he is succeeding a very successful individual.

“Dr. Podolsky has done a superb job as chief academic officer. [At Harvard] he was responsible for about $1 billion of research. He was responsible for all the graduate medical education programs. He knows about residencies and post-graduate education.”

Dr. Podolsky began his career somewhat serendipitously while looking for a laboratory job his first year in college at Harvard University where he was accepted as a sophomore student at the age of 18. The laboratory to which he applied was at Massachusetts General under the direction of Drs. Milton Weiser and Kurt Isselbacher. It was there he decided his career would encompass research and clinical medicine.

“Certainly through my early years of college, I always assumed I would pursue a career in science. When I applied for my first laboratory job, it happened to be in a hospital setting, and I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to choose one or the other,” Dr. Podolsky said.

After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, he went on to complete his medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1978. He finished his residency and fellowship at Massachusetts General and joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital in 1981.

In 1989, he became the chief of the gastroenterology unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Isselbacher. In 1991, Dr. Podolsky established a multidisciplinary Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease funded through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Digestive Disease Center program.

Among his other achievements, Dr. Podolsky is an active member of the American Gastroenterological Association, where he served as president in 2003-04. He is the past editor-in-chief of the journal Gastroenterology. Dr. Podolsky’s research has led to more than 300 original papers and review articles. He is the member of the board of directors of GlaxoSmithKline PLC, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and also co-founded The GI Co., a privately held specialty biopharmaceutical company based in Framingham, Mass.


Media Contact: Katherine Morales
e-mail: katherine.morales@utsouthwestern.edu

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