Brink to assume radiology chair

Dr. James Brink, interim chairman of the department of diagnostic radiology at the Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital, has been appointed to a permanent position as chairman, Dean Robert Alpern said in an e-mail to the Medical School community Thursday.

Brink’s promotion was greeted with wide approval among his colleagues. Interim chairman since 2003, he heads up a department of 80 faculty members that houses a busy clinical practice, extensive basic science and clinical research, and training and research programs for people ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows. Balancing these three broad missions, Brink said, will be the most important part of his appointment.

The promotion comes with a recruitment package that will enable Brink to hire more than six new faculty members and fund significant investments in technology, including new magnetic resonance imaging units.

While Alpern said the Medical School as a whole will emphasize raising the profile of its clinical practice, Brink will be working on clinical care in addition to research and education. Colleagues in the department said his promotion from interim to permanent chairman will grant the department more clout and give it increased stability.

“It’s very difficult for an interim chairman to do things that promote a long-term vision or garner the resources and support to do things,” diagnostic radiology professor Dr. Jeffrey Weinreb said. “We have two different areas: clinical and basic research. Both of them are going to benefit on equipment, staffing and support. It will make it easier to stay current.”

The key to improving the department’s national reputation is enhancing research abilities, said George Zubal, a professor of diagnostic radiology. The department recently saw the opening of a new research center focused on the diagnostic technology called PET, or positron emission tomography. Brink was responsible for recruiting the two co-directors, well-known experts, Zubal said, from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health. Brink said the department will be receiving a new several-million-dollar magnetic resonance imaging unit solely for research.

But the department’s increased research capacity will not stem from machines alone. Brink said he will be recruiting six new research faculty members: a cardiovascular imaging physicist, a magnetic resonance contrast agent scientist, an optical imaging specialist and three translational researchers to bridge the gap between the lab and the patient. These three will come from the oncology, neuroscience and cardiovascular imaging specialties, three areas to which Brink said he hopes to bring a renewed focus.

Faculty recruitment extends to the clinical side of Brink’s vision for the department. He expects to recruit “a host” of new clinical faculty, especially in ultrasound, interventional radiology and pediatric radiology.

Dr. Robert White, Jr., a professor of diagnostic radiology and an interventional radiologist who served as department chairman from 1988-1995, said Brink understands the fairly new but growing field that merges diagnostic imaging and treatment.

“He will give us extra time and faculty to have more academic time,” White said. “His impact could be huge.”

Brink said the proposed cancer center expansion to Yale-New Haven Hospital would be the largest increase in imaging capacity the department has ever seen, boosting the capacity 50 percent above current totals.

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