March 30, 2009

Jacobson to retire as leader of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Balser named as successor

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson will retire as vice chancellor for health affairs at Vanderbilt University June 1, and Dr. Jeffrey Balser, dean of the School of Medicine, will succeed him, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced today.

[Note: Download high-resolution photos of Dr. Harry Jacobson and Dr. Jeffrey Balser .]

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson will retire as vice chancellor for health affairs at Vanderbilt University June 1, and Dr. Jeffrey Balser, dean of the School of Medicine, will succeed him, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced today.

Since assuming leadership in 1997 of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Jacobson has overseen phenomenal expansion of its facilities, research and services, including many that are unique to the region, while the medical center’s recognition for overall excellence has grown.

“Under his leadership, Vanderbilt has become the premier health care institution in our region and is recognized as one of the best in the country,” Zeppos said in a message to VUMC faculty, staff and students. “Those accomplishments are the result of Harry’s bold vision and laser focus on delivering unsurpassed health care at every level. His unyielding support of cutting-edge research has distinguished Vanderbilt as an institution that knows no bounds in advancing scientific and medical discoveries.”

“Leading this outstanding medical center has been a great privilege, and I am proud of our success,” Jacobson said. “I have worked closely with Jeff for many years and have watched him develop into a strong leader who is confident, ready and prepared to take the helm and steer VUMC into a very exciting future.”

Dr. Jeffrey BalserBalser, who has held several clinical and research leadership roles at Vanderbilt, was named dean of the School of Medicine last October and will continue to serve in that role for now. Balser’s appointment as vice chancellor is subject to approval by the university’s Board of Trust, which meets in late April.

“Harry and Jeff have made a formidable team as senior leaders at the Medical Center, and Harry has mentored and prepared Jeff for this new role,” Zeppos said.

The chancellor added that Balser “has a keen intellect and has served with distinction in every leadership role he has taken on at Vanderbilt. Jeff knows and understands Vanderbilt’s culture and is committed to the core principles, values and missions of our institution and our community. I have the utmost confidence in Jeff’s ability to move every part of the medical center forward and to continue the path of progress that Harry has blazed.”

Balser said, “It is a tremendous honor to follow Harry Jacobson in this leadership role at Vanderbilt. His many accomplishments have provided a phenomenal platform for Vanderbilt to lead the nation and the world as we experience the next decade of transformational changes in science and healthcare – from unprecedented advances in diagnosis and therapy, to more cost-effective and patient-centered ways of providing care.”

As vice chancellor for health affairs, Jacobson serves as chief executive officer and academic head of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which has annual net revenues of $2.3 billion, more than 16,000 employees and 2,100 full-time faculty members. The medical center encompasses more than 20 entities, including the Vanderbilt School of Medicine; the Vanderbilt School of Nursing; Vanderbilt University Hospital; the Vanderbilt Clinic; and the Vanderbilt Medical Group, one of the largest physician practices in the Southeast.

During Jacobson’s tenure, the medical center has taken on and met new challenges. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, already one of 41 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the United States, became the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee in 2001.

In 2004, the state-of-the-art Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt opened, offering the most comprehensive care for children in the state. It has been recognized as one of the premier children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Parents magazine.

Most recently, Jacobson has overseen the establishment of Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks as a community resource for many of the medical center’s clinics and services in a 440,000-square-foot campus extension.

In recent years, VUMC has become a national leader in biomedical informatics, creating novel techniques for linking information into diagnostic and treatment processes in a more cost-efficient and streamlined manner.

Among the many honors VUMC has garnered under Jacobson was its listing last year on U.S. News & World Report’s “honor roll” of hospitals – an honor reserved for a select group of institutions labeled by the magazine as the “best of the best.” Vanderbilt ranked 15th in the nation in the 2008 issue of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

Last year Jacobson was chosen by Modern Healthcare magazine as among the 50 most powerful physician executives in the United States. In 2002 he was elected into the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. He is also a leader in the field of technology transfer, having chaired the board of the Vanderbilt University Technology Corporation.

A nephrologist with both clinical practice and laboratory research experience, Jacobson came to Vanderbilt in 1985 as professor of medicine and director of the Nephrology Division. Previously, he was associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center and served as chief of the U.S. Army Surgical Research Center at Brooke Army Surgical Center in San Antonio, Texas, from 1976 to 1978.

Balser served as associate vice chancellor for research at the School of Medicine from 2004 to 2008, a period of extraordinary expansion that moved Vanderbilt into 10th place among U.S. medical schools in NIH funding. He previously served the clinical enterprise during a period of marked expansion of the surgical and Intensive Care Unit services as chairman of anesthesiology. He also has been an innovator and leader of educational programs, serving as the first associate dean for physician scientist career development in the School of Medicine.

“As an alumnus of both our medical and graduate schools, Jeff is deeply committed to the lives and careers of our faculty and staff, and to our growing number of students and trainees in the sciences and healthcare,” Zeppos said.

After receiving his M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology from Vanderbilt in 1990, Balser trained as a resident in anesthesiology and as a fellow in critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins, where he joined the faculty in 1995. He returned to Vanderbilt in 1998, rising through the ranks to professor in 2000. He is a member of American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, has chaired the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Committee, and became a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2008. His research has been continuously supported by the NIH; his publications in Nature and other leading journals have established new genetic targets for the control of cardiac rhythm.

Zeppos said Balser “has earned the respect of his colleagues in the medical center, and throughout Vanderbilt, for his sound judgment and high ethical standards. He is a leader, a clinician, a researcher and a mentor with the energy and insight to shepherd us to an even greater level of achievement nationally and internationally in the years to come.”

Media contact: Beth Fortune, (615) 322-4234