July 11, 2008

Friendship spurs Hart chair in Urologic Surgery

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At a celebration of the establishment of the Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair in Urologic Surgery were, from left, Rodes Hart, Patricia Ingram Hart, Kimberly Cookson and Mike Cookson, M.D. (photo by Tommy Lawson)

Friendship spurs Hart chair in Urologic Surgery

Rodes Hart and Mike Cookson, M.D., forged the best of friendships through Hart's diagnosis of prostate cancer in November 2006.

The longtime member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and member of the Vanderbilt Medical Center Board since 2003 was referred to Cookson, a urologic surgeon, by his internist in 2005. After the diagnosis of prostate cancer, Cookson performed surgery and has cared for him since.

Hart and his wife, Patricia, Vanderbilt University graduates and longtime generous benefactors to Vanderbilt and Peabody College, decided to honor Cookson by establishing the Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair in Urologic Surgery, with Cookson as the initial chair holder.

Hart, who is now retired, said that Cookson not only operated on him, but helped him and his family through the experience. “I had a highly satisfying experience with Dr. Cookson. He has an outstanding personality. He's a delightful guy, a dear friend and an exceptionally skilled surgeon,” Hart said.

Saying thank you didn't seem quite enough, so Hart said he decided to fund the chair that Cookson would hold.

“I had tremendous confidence in Dr. Cookson and as a result of the successful surgery and what he did for me, it was a privilege to be able to fund a chair with Mike being the first chair holder, “ Hart said. “I'm a grateful patient. I'm very interested in helping Dr. Cookson further his research in reducing the invasiveness of prostate surgery. My brother, father and great-grandfather were surgeons, and when surgery is a cure, I believe in that procedure.”

Cookson received both his undergraduate and medical school degrees from the University of Oklahoma. After medical school, he completed his Urology residency at the University of Texas San Antonio, then a urologic oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York in 1996. He came to Vanderbilt in 1998 from the University of Kentucky, where he was assistant professor of Urology, and was promoted to full professor at Vanderbilt in 2006. He is currently the co-director of genitourinary oncology and the director for the newly established Urologic Oncology Fellowship at Vanderbilt.

“Rodes and I have become good friends over the past several years, and this extends far beyond the traditional doctor-patient relationship,” Cookson said. “Rodes possesses unique and exceptional leadership qualities, and his benevolence knows no bounds. He's a total gentleman, and one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people you will ever meet.

“The Harts' longstanding interest and commitment to Vanderbilt University and to the Medical Center are a testimonial to their infectious generosity which, quite frankly, has become contagious,” Cookson said.

“I am doubly blessed to have been not only awarded such a generous gift, but to also have such a close personal relationship with the Harts, which for me, makes this all the more special.”

Joseph Smith, M.D., professor and chair of Urologic Surgery, said the chair represents exactly the right combination of people who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping others.

“Rodes Hart is a true and unselfish philanthropist and Mike Cookson is a world class urologic surgeon,” he said.