Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Simari named executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Robert D. Simari, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, has been named executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Douglas Girod, M.D., announced today.

“Robert Simari is an accomplished clinician and researcher who has served in several leadership roles at the Mayo Clinic,” Girod said. “He brings a diverse set of skills and a record of innovation to his new position. He is also an alumnus of the KU School of Medicine with a deep commitment to improving the state of health in Kansas.”

Simari received his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1986.

Simari said the School of Medicine he remembers “no longer exists.” He noted the role the school has played in The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute designation, the Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health and the reputation of The University of Kansas Hospital.

“Kansas University Medical Center has undergone one of the most impressive trajectories in academic medicine,” he said.

Simari will transition March 24, 2014. He will succeed Girod, who has served as interim executive dean since he became executive vice chancellor on Feb. 1, 2013. The positions of executive dean and executive vice chancellor have been held by the same individual since 2005, when Barbara Atkinson, M.D., then the executive dean, added the responsibilities of executive vice chancellor.

At the Mayo Clinic, Simari is the vice chair of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and co-director of the Mayo Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. He is also former dean of clinical and translational research. In these roles, he has led a diverse group of professionals that supports clinical research on all three Mayo campuses.   

An accomplished National Institutes of Health-funded translational scientist, Simari has focused on the response of blood vessels to injury and studied the role of adult stem cells in atherosclerosis. Simari chairs a group of physicians and scientists involved in the study of cell therapies for treating heart disease.

Sponsored and funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Network includes investigative teams at seven sites. In 2011 and 2012, the network reported the results of three separate trials using adult stem cells for cardiac dysfunction following heart attack in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

Simari co-owns and has applied for several patents. He is the co-founder of Anexon, a company licensed to develop the discovery of a peptide that is being developed to protect kidney function during heart failure.

Simari has been a course director, lecturer and tutorial director in the Mayo Graduate School. He has mentored dozens of postdoctoral and undergraduate fellows.

“It is an exciting time in the history of the University of Kansas School of Medicine and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as executive dean,” he said. “We will strive for excellence in education, research and practice while training future physicians and scientists to improve the health of all Kansans.”

Born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, Simari was 10 when his family moved to Overland Park, Kansas. His father, a pharmacist by training, worked for Ayerst Laboratories, for which he managed regional operations from Overland Park.

Simari graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School in 1978. He credits Ken Bingman, who taught biology at Shawnee Mission West from 1967 to 2001, with developing his interest in science. Bingman, who went on to teach in the Blue Valley school district, is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

“Ken Bingman was arguably the greatest high school science teacher in the history of Kansas,” Simari said.

Simari received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and cites the influence of Norton Greenberger, M.D., the chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the time he was a student at KU, on his decision to train in internal medicine.

After receiving his medical degree, Simari completed a residency at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He went to the Mayo Clinic to train as a fellow in cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., at the University of Michigan prior to joining the Mayo faculty.

Simari and his wife, the former Kelly Stavros, have four children ages 17 to 27.