November 20, 2009

Polk named to lead pediatrics at USC

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D. Brent Polk, M.D., is taking a leadership position at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Polk named to lead pediatrics at USC

D. Brent Polk, M.D., will leave Vanderbilt next spring to join the executive leadership at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.

Effective April 1, 2010, Polk will become chair of Pediatrics and vice dean for Academic Affairs at Children's Hospital Los Angeles at University of Southern California, physician-in-chief and vice-president of Children's Hospital Los Angeles and director of the Saban Research Institute.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to work to bring together three institutions that have tremendous strengths and challenges,” Polk said. “The hard part is leaving our friends and colleagues at Vanderbilt and in Nashville. Terry [Carr-Hall] and I came here almost 20 years ago and were given tremendous opportunities. It is because Vanderbilt has provided so many wonderful experiences that this new opportunity is possible.”

Polk is the director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Vanderbilt University Department of Pediatrics, the Vanderbilt Dean's Professor of Pediatrics and Cell & Developmental Biology and director of the Vanderbilt Digestive Disease Research Center.

He grew the division, one of the oldest in the country, from three faculty members to 12 in his nine years as director. Polk said the division has made initial and important discoveries in childhood disorders including fatty liver disease, glycogen storage disease, probiotics and basic science pathways regulating intestinal repair and inflammation.

“Brent is one of our premier physician scientists. He has served Vanderbilt with distinction for nearly two decades in a number of critical roles including interim chair for the Department of Pediatrics and as chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Under Brent's leadership, his division has experienced significant growth in terms of faculty, programs and grant awards from the NIH,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine.

“Brent's talents will be missed, but we are proud he will be occupying this important leadership role with USC and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.”

Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Maternal and Child Health Affairs, chair of of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, agreed.

“Brent Polk is a thoughtful and dedicated physician-scientist who has led our pediatric gastroenterology division with distinction. While I am disappointed that he will leave our faculty, I am immensely proud for him and delighted that academic pediatrics will maintain the tradition of excellent leadership at USC.”

Polk came to Vanderbilt in 1990 from Stanford, where he served as a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics. He is currently on sabbatical at Stanford in the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute until February 2010.

“I'm so proud of what Brent has accomplished over nearly two decades of outstanding service at Children's Hospital,” said Kevin B. Churchwell, M.D., chief executive officer and executive director of Children's Hospital. “He has led the development of an outstanding Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. More importantly, Brent has been a true friend to me and our children's hospital and he will be greatly missed.”

Polk earned his M.D. at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. He completed residency at UAMS and Arkansas Children's Hospital and fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine.