President Joel Seligman's Comments

July 10, 2006 | Rochester, NY


Today the torch of leadership in the University of Rochester Medical Center is passed to a new generation. I am delighted to report the selection of Dr. Bradford C. Berk, currently Charles A. Dewey Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief of Strong Memorial Hospital, and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute to be the Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center, effective August 1, 2006. To ensure the most effective transition, I have asked Dr. Berk effective today to assume the responsibilities of the Senior Vice President on each University Committee and with the University of Rochester Board of Trustees and the University of Rochester Medical Center Board.

The selection of Brad Berk marks the culmination of an extraordinarily comprehensive and representative search. From the initiation of the search approximately six months ago, I benefited from the hard work and thoughtful advice of an extraordinary Main Search Committee (which I chaired) and which included:

  • Charles Phelps, University Provost,
  • Secretary Paul Burgett, University Vice President and General Secretary,
  • Barbara Iglewski, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology,
  • Hucky Land, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics,
  • Lissa McAnarney, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics,
  • Tim Mosmann, Director of the Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology,
  • Michael O'Reilly, Chair of the Medical Faculty Council,
  • Gary Paige, Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy,
  • Kevin Parker, Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,
  • Kathy Parrinello, Chief Operating Officer of Strong Memorial Hospital,
  • Jeff Peters, Chair of the Department of Surgery,
  • Bethel Powers, Professor of Nursing,
  • Randy Rosier, Chair of the Department of Orthopaedics,
  • and Mark Taubman, Chief of Cardiology.

This Committee took the lead in preparing a Position Specific/Description and reviewing approximately 50 individuals who allowed their names to be considered as candidates. The Main Search Committee ultimately selected nine outstanding semifinalists whom we interviewed. The selection of the finalists was based not only on these interviews, but also on the basis of outside reference checks and lengthy discussion among those on the Main Search Committee.

The finalists also met with six other advisory groups whom I want to particularly thank.

A Board of Trustees Advisory Committee which included University Trustees:

  • Bill Peck (committee chair),
  • Ernie Bates,
  • Roger Friedlander,
  • Bob Hurlbut,
  • Lou Lange,
  • Cathy Minehan,
  • Tom Richards,
  • Nat Wisch,
  • and Bob Witmer (chair of the University Board of Trustees);

A Clinical/Affiliates Advisory Committee which included:

  • Committee Chair Robert Griggs, Chair of the Department of Neurology,
  • Cindy Becker, Highland Hospital Chief Operating Officer,
  • Tom Campbell, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine,
  • Richard Ciccone, Professor of Psychiatry
  • Steve Feldon, Director of the Flaum Eye Institute,
  • Vicki Hines, President of Visiting Nurse Service,
  • Robert McCann, Highland Hospital Chief of Medicine,
  • Ed Messing, Chair of the Department of Urology,
  • Paul Okunieff, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology,
  • Walter Pegoli, Division Chief for Pediatric Surgery,
  • Web Pilcher, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery,
  • Sandy Schneider, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine,
  • Len Shute, Chief Financial Officer of Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals,
  • Todd Thierer, Ambulatory Dental Services Director,
  • David Waldman, Chair of the Department of Imaging Sciences,
  • Pat Witzel, Strong Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer,
  • and James Woods, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Chair.

A Research/Teaching Advisory Committee which included:

  • Bill Hall, Director of the Center for Healthy Aging Director (Chair),
  • Robert Bambara, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics,
  • Tom Gasiewicz, Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine,
  • Diane Hartmann, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education,
  • Harriet Kitzman, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Nursing & Pediatrics,
  • Paul LaCelle, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education,
  • David Lambert, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education,
  • Vivian Lewis, Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Division,
  • Mark Noble, Professor of Biomedical Genetics,
  • Tom Pearson, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research
  • Alice Pentland, Chair of the Department of Dermatology,
  • Kathy Rideout, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Nursing,
  • Ignacio Sanz, Division Chief of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology,
  • Ira Shoulson, Professor of Neurology, Medicine and Pharmacology,
  • Peter Szilagyi, Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics,
  • William Tank, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology,
  • Richard Waugh, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering,
  • and Andrei Yakovlev, Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology.

A Student/Trainees Advisory Committee which included:

  • Graduate student Tara Arndt,
  • Doctoral student Susan Ciurzynski,
  • Resident Kristi Cowell,
  • Graduate student Tamala David,
  • Medical student Elton Lambert,
  • Resident Kindra Larson,
  • Resident Jason Lyons,
  • Medical student Kofi Mensah,
  • Graduate student Vanessa Morales-Tirado,
  • Resident Rona Norelius,
  • Medical student Allison Panzer,
  • Graduate student Douglas Short,
  • Medical student Marianne Taylor,
  • And Graduate student Matthew Testa-Wojteczko.

The Senior Leadership Group of the University of Rochester Medical Center, which included:

  • Steve Goldstein, President and Chief Executive Officer of Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals,
  • Mike Goonan, Chief Financial Officer of the Medical Center,
  • David Guzick, Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry,
  • Ray Mayewski, Chief Medical Officer for Strong Memorial Hospital,
  • and Peter Robinson, Medical Center Vice President.

And the University Senior Leadership Group which included:

  • Dean Joanna Olmsted from the College,
  • Dean Raffaella Borasi of the Warner School,
  • Dean Pat Chiverton from the School of Nursing,
  • Dean Jamal Rossi from the Eastman School of Music,
  • and Dean Mark Zupan of the Simon School,
  • Cyril Meyerowitz, Director of Eastman Dental Center
  • Lynne Davidson, Deputy to the President,
  • Bill Murphy, Vice President for Communications
  • Jim Thompson, Senior Vice President for Advancement
  • Ron Paprocki, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance
  • Doug Phillips, Senior Vice President for Institutional Resources
  • and Sue Stewart, University General Counsel

Each finalist also met with the current Senior Vice President for Health Affairs and Medical Center CEO, Mac Evarts.

We were immensely aided during the six month search by Jordan Hadelman and Sandy Williams of the Witt-Kiefer Search Consulting Firm.

After the interviews with the finalists I met with all seven Advisory groups, culminating in a meeting with the Main Search Committee. I was deeply impressed by the quality of the analysis in each meeting and the sense that each of the finalists was reviewed from several important, and sometimes, quite different perspectives.

I subsequently spent an additional ten hours interviewing Brad Berk before concluding that he is the right person to be the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences of the University of Rochester Medical Center. In selecting Brad I choose someone who has been highly successful in each role he has performed in his career to date.

Renowned for his research into the cellular mechanisms that cause cardiovascular disease, Berk earned medical and doctoral degrees from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He has held academic appointments at Harvard Medical School, Emory University, and University of Washington in Seattle before being recruited to the University of Rochester Medical Center in 1998 to serve as Chief of Cardiology and Director of the newly formed Center for Cardiovascular Research in the Aab Institute for Biomedical Sciences. In 1999, URMC named Berk as its Chair of Medicine.

The Department of Medicine is the largest Department of the University of Rochester Medical Center with over 250 full-time faculty and a total of over 1,000 employees. As with many departments at our Medical Center, the Department of Medicine was challenged with space constraints when Brad arrived, which also created significant recruitment challenges. The Department of Medicine was struggling financially and had a faculty of approximately 175.

In subsequent years the Department has hired 84 new faculty members; the clinical enterprise has approximately doubled; and research revenues have grown at an average of 15 percent per annum since 2001. In anticipation of a slowdown or decline in NIH research support, the Department of Medicine has pursued a two track approach to obtain research support focusing on NIH awards while expanding projects supported by foundations, pharmaceutical firms, and independent disease-oriented associations, which today constitute approximately 40 percent of the Department's research revenues. Notably, space constraints are being addressed through the conversion of the former Wyeth Building to a new Cardiovascular Research Institute on Bailey Road.

Under Brad's leadership, the Department has created two new divisions: the Hospital Medicine Division and the Division of Geriatrics, two new centers: the Center for Cellular and Molecular Cardiology and the Center for Healthy Aging, and has had significant success in hiring several division chiefs.

Brad has been continuously funded for 20 years by the NIH for his cardiovascular research. With nearly 250 papers, books, chapters, and other publications to his credit, Berk is frequently invited to present his scientific work nationally and internationally.

He has received numerous honors, including membership in Alpha Omega Alpha honorary society, the Robert Kates and Doran Stephens Memorial Prizes in Research, the American Society of Hypertension's Marion Young Scholar Award, the American College of Cardiology's Young Investigator Award, and the American Heart Association's Established Investigator Award. He was also named an American Heart Association Katz Prize finalist, and received the Russell Ross Lectureship Award from the American Heart Association.

As important as Brad's record was in considering him for the position of Senior Vice President for Health Sciences was the significance of our discussion. I am convinced that Brad will be a leader of the University of Rochester Medical Center with whom I can work seamlessly. He shares my conviction that our basic challenge in the years to come is to accelerate the progress of the Medical Center and of the University. In comparison to other leading Department of Medicines, the University of Rochester has had fewer resources, but Brad has used them strategically to strengthen significantly his Department during the past seven years. I was impressed by his commitment to all four of the basic missions of the Medical Center (research, clinical, teaching and community health) and his ambition to complete a strategic plan that is both ambitious and realistic. He spoke with precision and nuance about each important issue we explored.

I was impressed by Brad's commitment to the Rochester community and to the Medical Center. It is a measure of his determination to perform as effectively as possible as the next Senior Vice President for Health Sciences that he is committed to phasing out his work as principal investigator on each of his research projects and not continuing as a principal investigator on future projects. It is also my understanding that in the near future Brad will announce a national search for a new Chair of the Department of Medicine.

At the end of the process, what I most sought was a strong leader for the University of Rochester Medical Center, who had the right combination of energy, intelligence, strategic planning ability, financial responsibility, and dedication to the Medical Center and Rochester to further significantly strengthen our Medical Center. In Brad Berk, I have found such a leader.