December 3, 2004

Peek named chief of Gastroenterology

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Richard M. Peek Jr., M.D., here in his Medical Center North laboratory, is the new chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and Mina Cobb Wallace Associate Professor of Medicine.
photo by Dana Johnson

Peek named chief of Gastroenterology

Richard M. Peek Jr., M.D., has been named chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and Mina Cobb Wallace Associate Professor of Medicine. He succeeds Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., who recently left the position to head the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center as its new center director.

Peek is no stranger to Vanderbilt and the Division of Gastroenterology. After earning his M.D., with distinction, from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and serving as chief medical resident at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Peek came to Vanderbilt in 1992 for his fellowship in the Division of Gastroentrology. He joined the faculty in 1996 and has risen through the ranks to associate professor and director of research in the division.

“The institution through the Department of Medicine conducted a thorough national search to find a new leader for this important area of medicine,” said Eric G. Neilson, M.D., Hugh Morgan Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine. “After evaluating a large number of excellent candidates, the search committee concluded that Rick Peek provided the best vision and leadership potential going forward. I was delighted that Rick accepted our offer to lead this illustrious division. I can think of no finer replacement to build on the legacy left by Ray Dubois.”

Raymond F. Burk, M.D., professor of Medicine, who served as director of the Division of Gastroenterology from 1987 until 1998 as well as interim chief prior to Peek's appointment, said Peek's research accomplishments will serve him well in his new role.

“Dr. Peek is an outstanding academic gastroenterologist and is highly respected on a national level for his research on Helicobacter pylori, as evidenced by his service on a National Institutes of Health study section and on American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) committees.

“Dr. Peek has exemplary personal attributes to go with his outstanding academic credentials and we are fortunate to have him as our chief,” Burk said.

Peek relishes the challenge of leading the division, and credits his predecessors and VUMC's administration for creating the infrastructure necessary to grow and enhance the institution's gastroenterology efforts.

“For me there is a great foundation to build upon to make Vanderbilt one of the premier centers of gastroenterology research and clinical care in the country,” Peek said.

“I'm incredibly excited about the opportunity to move the division to another level and I'm also humbled by the responsibility. But I have no doubt that the caliber of our faculty, fellows and staff will permit us to become one of the top five gastroenterology programs in the country.”

Peek's goals for the division include growing the number of faculty devoted to cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art clinical care; increasing the opportunities to interface with other divisions and departments of the Medical Center to enhance research and patient care; building divisional subspecialties including, but not limited to, inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease; and modifying the fellowship to boost retention and provide clinical gastroenterology fellows the opportunity to engage in research.

“There are strong components in place and we need to utilize the available resources to achieve our goal of becoming a premier center,” Peek said. “We want to move our clinical practice to a more nationally recognized level by focusing on existing expertise, recruiting additional faculty and delivering compassionate clinical care to a larger number of patients, all of which will help elevate the profile of the program.

“The Department of Medicine has been very forthcoming by providing the requisite resources and support to accomplish these goals, and with the level of expertise and commitment we have in the division, I know we'll be successful,” Peek said.

Peek's own research focuses on the pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori and how virulence factors impact cellular signaling pathways. He's published numerous papers and won several awards and honors, including the Grant Liddle Scholarship for excellence in clinical research in 1994; the Glaxo Institute of Digestive Health Basic Research Award in 1995; the AGA's Miles and Shirley Fiterman Foundation Basic Research Award in 2001; and the Young Investigator Award from the AGA in 2003.