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Internationally Regarded Oncologist, Kathleen A. Cooney, M.D., Named Chair of Internal Medicine


(SALT LAKE CITY)—A physician-scientist recognized internationally for her seminal research in understanding hereditary prostate cancer has been named chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the U of Utah School of medicine.

Kathleen A. Cooney, M.D., professor of internal medicine and urology and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School, begins in her new role at the U on March 1, 2016. Cooney, also deputy director of the U of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, comes to Utah after 22 years on the Michigan faculty.

Cooney's vision for leading internal medicine makes her an ideal fit to become chair of a department that has a critical role in the leading health care transformation, according to Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., University of Utah senior vice president for health sciences, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of University of Utah Health Care.

"Dr. Cooney's experience and leadership as a practicing oncologist, world-class researcher and highly regarded administrator at Michigan equip her well to lead our Department of Internal Medicine," Lee says. "Her talents and vision are exactly what we need for internal medicine to continue its strong trajectory as a research-intensive department providing ready access to high value, patient-centered care. I look forward to her helping the university move ahead as a leader in transforming health care, medical education and research to benefit patients worldwide."

Cooney said she is impressed with how University of Utah Health Care and the entire health sciences campus are embracing health care transformation. "The leadership and faculty are trying to innovate and do things differently, which is critical if we are to move U.S. health care forward," she says.

The university's strengths in cancer treatment and research as well as human genetics also provide a strong draw for coming to Utah, according to Cooney. Long interested in the genetics of prostate cancer, her research led to the important discovery of a recurrent mutation in the HOXB13 gene that increases the chances of getting hereditary prostate cancer and is estimated to cause about 5 percent of such cases worldwide. Since men with HOXB13 mutations are at a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer, they may benefit from participation in screening and potentially prevention protocols in the future.

As an oncologist, Cooney focuses on treating advanced forms of prostate cancer, particularly in younger patients. Preparing for her new position, Cooney has identified several initial goals, which include growing internal medicine's clinical mission to help fund research and increasing the number of National Institutes of Health-funded physician-scientists and the amount of National Institutes of Health research grants in the department. Additionally, she plans to grow internal medicine's reputation as a great place to train. "We want the best and brightest to come here as both students and faculty," she says.

Cooney also will make a priority of fostering a research environment of innovative and collaborative work among people of various disciplines and promoting a respectful teaching and learning environment.

Cooney's husband, Gary Faerber, M.D., a nationally regarded urologist on the U of Michigan faculty, will also join the University of Utah medical school as a professor of surgery and University of Utah Health Care administrator. Faerber has served as associate chair of Michigan's Department of Urology, was the department's medical residency director and occupies an important position in the American Urology Association's North Central Section. He is known nationwide for his expertise in endourology and for treating stone disease.

Cooney succeeds John R. Hoidal, M.D., who has led the Department of Internal Medicine as interim chair and chair since 2001, a time marked by significant change in academic medicine and the training of future doctors.

"I want to thank Dr. Hoidal for his exemplary leadership of almost 15 years, during which the Department of Internal Medicine has grown to 15 divisions with nearly 350 full-time faculty members," Lee says. "His leadership has laid a strong foundation for the department to adapt to and thrive in the rapidly changing world of medicine. We at the university are grateful for Dr. Hoidal's thoughtful and considered contributions to our institution and to medicine."