August 22, 2008

Pediatric Gastroenterology renamed in Polk’s honor

Featured Image

Brent Polk, M.D.

Pediatric Gastroenterology renamed in Polk’s honor

In a rare move, the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology has been re-named to honor its chief, Brent Polk, M.D.

Earlier this month, at a luncheon in his honor, Polk was told the division he has led since 2001 would be titled the <a href="">Brent Polk Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition</a>.

“Such recognition is uncommon, indeed this is the first time for our Department of Pediatrics, and speaks to the extraordinary achievements that Brent has made at Vanderbilt,” said Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Since becoming chief, Polk has built the division from just three full-time faculty to 12. The division is now one of the largest of its kind and is among the top three in grant awards from the National Institutes of Health.

Polk has also taken leadership of the Digestive Diseases Research Center. Along with associate director Richard Peek, M.D., director of the adult Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Polk is guiding the center through unprecedented growth.

“As a trans-institutional center, our investigators are located all over the campus; more than 50 members from 13 different departments,” Polk said. “On the 10th floor of Medical Research Building IV we have 28,000 square feet, but completion of new construction will add another 17,000, bringing us to 45,000 square feet sometime next spring.”

Polk called the naming of the division for him an unbelievable honor. He said he felt especially humbled because of the division's rich history.

“The leaders before me were giants. Harry Greene was the first division director here in 1973, and among the first to lead such a division in the nation.

“I really had no desire to leave Stanford, but Fayez Ghishan (division chief at the time) lured me here with the promise of working with Stanley Cohen and Graham Carpenter. Graham (professor of Biochemistry) was my mentor and I owe a debt of gratitude to him and so many others,” Polk said.

Polk says he is proud to achieve his goal of establishing and developing the following services within the pediatric division:

• Hepatology and liver transplant, directed by Lynette Gillis, M.D.

• Inflammatory bowel diseases, directed by Dedrick Moulton, M.D.

• Nutrition and intestinal failure, directed by Andres Martinez, M.D.

• Functional abdominal pain and motility disorders, directed by Julie Anderson, M.D., with mentorship from Lynn Walker, Ph.D.

• Interventional endoscopy and special procedures, directed by Brian Riedel, M.D.

“The idea is that within each of these, we become the referral center for the southeastern United States. We can link to strengths within Vanderbilt for research and education to round out these programs, particularly as a platform for training the future leaders in pediatric gastroenterology,” Polk said.