October 8, 2019

New leadership appointments for Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Alice Coogan, MD, has been named interim chair of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PM&I) in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, effective this week.

Alice Coogan, MD

Coogan, professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, succeeds Samuel Santoro, MD, PhD, the Dorothy Beryl and Theodore R. Austin Professor of Pathology, who announced his intention a year ago to step down as chair but remain on faculty.

Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, the Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor of Pathology and director of the Division of Molecular Pathogenesis, will serve the department in the new role of Vice Chair for Research.

Coogan currently is vice chair and executive medical director of the Anatomic Pathology Laboratories at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, director of the Division of Anatomic Pathology, medical director of the Cytology Laboratory and program director of the Cytopathology Fellowship.

Coogan earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her medical degree from Vanderbilt. Following her residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and a fellowship in Cytopathology at Duke University Medical Center, Coogan joined the Duke faculty in 1994.

Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH

While at Duke she served as the associate director of the residency program and won the Bernard Fetter Teaching Award in Pathology. She joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1997.

In addition to her clinical work in cytopathology, Coogan has been actively engaged in teaching medical students, residents and fellows. She has been a member of the School of Medicine Admissions Committee since 2010 and served as Chair of Admissions from 2014 to 2018.

“Dr. Coogan is perfectly poised to assume leadership as interim chair,” said David Raiford, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs in the School of Medicine and Chief of Clinical Staff for VUMC. “In her 22 years of superior service at Vanderbilt she has been repeatedly recognized for her outstanding contributions to the clinical and educational missions of the Department, School and Medical Center. The respect and relationships she has established will enhance her effectiveness in this important role.”

“Among her other responsibilities, we appreciate the leadership that Dr. Coogan will be providing for our diagnostic laboratories and for Vanderbilt Pathology Laboratory Services. We look forward to working with her and her team as we plan the future of laboratory services,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Samuel Santoro, MD, PhD

She has received several honors for teaching, including the Shovel Teaching Award, Jack Davies Basic Science Teaching Award, Residents’ Teaching Award in Anatomic Pathology and the faculty award for teaching excellence in a small group setting.

In addition to his faculty and departmental positions, Skaar is associate director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation (VI4), founded in 2017 to coordinate and support trans-institutional initiatives in these rapidly evolving disciplines.

“Dr. Skaar is an internationally recognized leader in infectious disease research and is making seminal discoveries at the intersection between nutrition and infection,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research for VUMC, Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “In addition to his scientific expertise and breadth, he brings tremendous leadership skills and direction to keep the research moving forward in the department. He is highly respected by faculty in basic sciences, translational research and clinical investigation across Vanderbilt.”

Skaar earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and his PhD in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis and MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Northwestern University.

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, he joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2005. The author of more than 160 scientific papers, Skaar studies interactions between hosts and pathogens with the long-term goal of developing novel therapies to treat microbial diseases.

In 2014 he received Vanderbilt’s Stanley Cohen Award for his highly innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to studying microbial pathogenesis and the body’s response to infection, and three years later was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Skaar also has received several honors for teaching and mentoring including the 2018 F. Peter Guengerich, PhD, Award for Mentoring Postdoctoral Fellows or Residents in the Research Setting.

Santoro, who earned his MD and PhD from Vanderbilt, joined the faculty in 2003 to chair the Department of Pathology. In 2011 he oversaw the combining of the pathology department and Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Under Santoro’s direction the new department significantly expanded its faculty as well as the size and scope of its clinical and research programs. PM&I is now considered one of the leading and most innovative departments of its kind.

High-visibility VUMC programs such as the Personalized Cancer Medicine Initiative and Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care and Treatment (PREDICT) were instituted in the department’s clinical laboratories.

The department expanded the pathology residency program into one of the most desired in the country and created new clinical fellowship programs in almost all areas of diagnostic pathology. More than 40% of all U.S. medical school graduates entering pathology now apply to VUMC’s program.