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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / June 2023 / Nancy Bennett Stepping Down as UR CTSI Co-Director, Karen Wilson Named Her Successor

Nancy Bennett Stepping Down as UR CTSI Co-Director, Karen Wilson Named Her Successor

Karen Wilson, MD, MPH, and Nancy "Nana" Bennett, MD, MS.Karen Wilson, MD, MPH (left) will succeed Nancy "Nana" Bennett, MD, MS, as UR CTSI co-director when she steps down at the end of June. 

Nancy “Nana” M. Bennett, MD, MS, who has served as a co-director of the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI) since 2014, will step down from that role at the end of June. Karen Wilson, MD, MPH, the Ruth A. Lawrence Professor of Pediatrics and vice chair for clinical and translational research in Pediatrics, has been named as Bennett’s successor, pending approval from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science.

Bennett also announced her intent to step down from her separate role as director of the Center for Community Health & Prevention (CCHP) last September. The search for the next CCHP director, which is co-led by UR CTSI Co-Director Martin Zand, MD, PhD, and Colleen T. Fogarty, MD, MSc, chair of the Department of Family Medicine, is ongoing. Bennett will stay on as CCHP director until her successor is named.

Bennett has been an integral member of the UR CTSI from its inception, starting as the institute’s director of Community Engagement 17 years ago.

“Nana is the longest serving member of the UR CTSI leadership. She has been here from the beginning,” said Zand, who has served as UR CTSI co-director with Bennett since 2015. “Nana really ensured that community engagement and population health improvement was front and center in the UR CTSI’s work - and helped us become nationally known for engaging the community in research.”

Alongside Zand, Bennett helped to expand the UR CTSI beyond its main source of funding, the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), and established a stable and long-lasting structure for the broader institute. Together, they brought a variety of new functions under the UR CTSI umbrella and launched several new offices and programs, including the development of the Office of Health Equity Research and recruitment of its founding director, which Bennett considers a significant accomplishment of her tenure as co-director.

She also counts the UR CTSI’s almost perfect score on the last CTSA renewal among the team’s highest achievements. The $24 million grant, which was awarded in July of 2020, brought the UR CTSI’s total lifetime CTSA funding to $132 million.

“As we begin to write the next CTSA renewal, it’s time for new ideas and new directions,” said Bennett. “The timing feels right for me to pass the baton – and I know I’m leaving the institute in very capable hands. I have no doubt Karen will be an excellent co-director with her breadth of experience in research, education, and administration.”

Wilson, Bennett’s successor, will pick up the baton on July 1 and plans to run with it. Having served as strategic director of Research Services and co-director of the KL2 Career Development Award Program at the UR CTSI for nearly two years, Wilson plans to focus simultaneously on getting better acquainted with the many members and functions of the UR CTSI and writing the grant renewal.

“It has been just a tremendous honor and joy to work with Nana and I will greatly miss our partnership,” said Zand. “As we bid Nana a fond farewell, we are very fortunate to have Karen step into the role as co-director of the UR CTSI. She brings critical skills and varied experience at this time of change in the landscape of translational research and translational science.”

Wilson has over two decades of research experience, which began at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Starting here as a research assistant and clinical research coordinator, she rose through the ranks to become a physician-scientist with a strong clinical research portfolio. Along the way, she earned a master of public health and a medical doctorate with distinction in research, and completed her pediatric residency and a fellowship in General Academic Pediatrics.

Though her URMC roots are strong, Wilson also gained valuable experiences from other institutions, advancing to associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and serving as the section head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine for the Children’s Hospital Colorado. In 2016, she left Colorado for an endowed professorship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and was simultaneously named vice chair for clinical and translational research and the division chief of General Pediatrics. She also later co-directed the Pediatric Clinical Trials Office at Mount Sinai.

In 2021, she returned to Rochester to spearhead the Department of Pediatrics’ effort to create an institute devoted to advancing child health research and to join the UR CTSI leadership.

“I have known about the UR CTSI since before I left Rochester, so the idea that I could come back to Rochester and to be a part of the CTSI was just really exciting for me,” Wilson said. “It is a fantastic program, wonderful people, and the work that the UR CTSI does is incredibly important to ensuring the health of all the people in our community and beyond.”

Having served for nearly a decade at other institutions with CTSAs, Wilson brings a new and diverse perspective to the UR CTSI. She has witnessed the strengths and weaknesses of those institutions and hopes to apply that knowledge to help make the UR CTSI even stronger.

“I hope to build on the amazing work that Nana and Martin have already done in terms of our community-based research and our community-based partnerships,” Wilson said. “I would love to be able to expand on that and really leverage the UR CTSI to help make our community and region healthier.”

Michael Hazard | 6/1/2023

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