Six years after the Smilow Cancer Hospital opened its doors, its founding physician-in-chief, Thomas Lynch ’82 MED ’86, has left to lead 2,900 faculty physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. The School of Medicine will soon begin a nationwide search for his successor.

Lynch, who directed the Yale Cancer Center for six years, became chairman and CEO of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization on Tuesday. Peter Schulam, chair of urology at the School of Medicine, will serve as interim director of the Cancer Center and interim Physician-in-Chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital until a successor is named. Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern said he hopes that the vacancy will be filled by the end of Spring.

“Hopefully, we will accomplish this during the academic year,” he said. “Quality is more important than speed.”

Lynch said he will have no part in the selection process. Alpern is currently in the process of assembling a committee to lead the search.

Candidates will typically send in a CV, and those who advance to the later stages of selection will also send in a vision statement, outlining what they hope to do in the role. Alpern said applicants can enter the selection process in different ways, including being recommended by the search committee, faculty members or the search firm used by the school to identify candidates. Candidates can also self-nominate.

Alpern, who expects between 20 and 40 candidates, said all applicants are screened by a search firm, which then sends a summary and the candidate’s CV to the committee. The search committee decides on which candidates to interview after reviewing this information. Interviews frequently involve spending a day or two on Yale’s campus. Those who get through the first round of interviews are invited back for a second round. Two or three final candidates may come for a third visit.

Lynch said he expects the candidates for his replacement will be very strong. He said it would be ideal for the candidate to have a background in both the research and clinical realms.

“It doesn’t have to be a doctor, but I think it should be,” he said.

Lynch said he would like to see his replacement continue to invest in research, citing Chief of Medical Oncology Roy Herbst’s successful application for an $11 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. He added that he would prefer his replacement to be found in time for the summer, so that the individual has time to prepare the Comprehensive Cancer Center grant proposal, a five-year grant that supports the cancer center and must be renewed in two years. The proposal will take about a year to prepare, he said.

While Alpern has not yet formed the selection committee, he said the school’s recent increased emphasis on diversity will be reflected in the committee’s composition. In a May 29 email to the School of Medicine community, Alpern announced a series of initiatives to advance minority leadership, including the introduction of a chief diversity officer.

Lynch said he expects a broad scope of candidates to apply for his role. He said that, though the two leadership positions that he filled could be occupied by two separate people, he would prefer that only one person is chosen to lead both the clinical and research sides of cancer care. Both Alpern and Schulam said they would prefer a single successor, but Schulam said in a Thursday email that Lynch was a unique leader and “capable of leading both the research and clinical missions.” He added that Alpern and the hospital will “need to determine whether they can identify a single candidate for both roles.”

The Yale Cancer Center is one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as determined by the National Cancer Institute.