Stanford names top clinical research leader to chair Department of Medicine

Robert Harrington

Robert Harrington

Robert Harrington, MD, leader of the world’s largest academic clinical research organization, has been appointed as the new chair of the Department of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He will assume the position July 1.

Harrington, 51, an interventional cardiologist and experienced clinical investigator in the area of heart disease, has spent the past five years as the director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, leading more than 200 faculty and 1,200 staff members. The institute has conducted studies in 65 countries while building diverse research programs in clinical trials and health services research.

“Dr. Harrington’s breadth of knowledge, area of research, commitment to patient care and clinical excellence, and leadership roles at Duke and nationally make him an ideal choice,” said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “His knowledge and prominence in population science and quantitative medicine converge remarkably with Stanford’s burgeoning efforts in this evolving area of medicine, science and health care as well.”

At Stanford, Harrington will lead a department of about 220 faculty members in 14 divisions. The chair works closely with the dean and other leaders of the medical school and Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

“One of the most important criteria established by the search committee was that the candidate should have been successful in leading a complex academic/clinical enterprise that has achieved excellence in its mission areas,” said Stephen Galli, MD, who led the search committee for the new chair. Galli, the Mary Hewitt Loveless, MD, Professor in the School of Medicine, is chair of the Department of Pathology and professor of pathology and of microbiology and immunology. “Robert Harrington has established an enviable record both as a premier academic cardiologist and as a visionary leader of the world’s largest academic clinical research organization.”

Harrington has been a faculty member at the Duke University School of Medicine since 1993 where he is the Richard S. Stack MD Distinguished Professor in the division of cardiology. As a clinical investigator he has worked primarily in the area of acute ischemic heart disease, establishing clinical research collaborations that involve investigators from around the world. This led to his position as director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, where he has built a research faculty that excels at conducting global, multisite research.

“My science progressed from the focused study of thrombosis to using more broadly the tools of clinical science to answer clinical questions while finding new and innovative ways to design clinical trials and use clinical data to improve the care of patients,” Harrington said. “My experience fits well with where Stanford is going — building new hospitals with new clinical programs, planning for the broader role of how health care will be delivered, advocating for the leadership role of academic health systems in health-care reform and understanding how this will impact the health of patients and populations through research and education.”

Harrington added that Stanford has a vital role to play as the nation implements health-care reform and adapts to new constraints on government funding for both health care and medical research. “Society needs academic centers to step up and figure out how we are going to deliver health care while also advancing science and educating the next generation of clinical leaders,” he said. “Stanford has some unbelievably talented people who can lead — from discovery scientists to health policy experts to others with expertise in informatics and biostatistics to physicians and other health professionals delivering clinical care. My role is to help put all that together. These are challenging but exciting times to be at a place like Stanford with such a rich history of accomplishment and leadership in science and clinical care.”

Harrington plans to bring his collaborative style of leadership, essential as an institute director, to his new position at Stanford.

“Dr. Harrington is frequently described as a natural and energetic leader who is able to bring diverse groups of individuals together to achieve shared goals and objectives, and he is deeply committed to the future of academic medicine,” Pizzo said.

“We are so thrilled to have Dr. Harrington join us here at Stanford, as he is uniquely positioned to lead Stanford in delivering leading-edge and coordinated care,” said Amir Dan Rubin, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital. “As the pre-eminent expert in integrating translational medicine into a coordinated and outstanding patient experience, Dr. Harrington’s leadership will help Stanford transform research and care delivery models, and also achieve new heights in patient care outcomes and experience.”

Harrington is a native of Massachusetts. He has an undergraduate degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He received his medical degree from Tufts University in 1986 and completed an internship, residency and served as chief resident at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He trained in general and interventional cardiology as a fellow at Duke.

Accompanying Harrington to Stanford will be his spouse, Rhonda Larsen, who is a leader in clinical research administration and education at Duke University. They have four adult daughters. Harrington is an associate editor of the American Heart Journal, an editorial board member of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and one of the editors of the 13th edition of Hurst's the Heart, a leading textbook in cardiovascular medicine. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians as well as a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention, the American College of Chest Physicians and the European Society of Cardiology. He is a member of the board of trustees for the American College of Cardiology. He recently served as chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee, and will chair the annual sessions of the American Heart Association in 2013-14.

The Department of Medicine is currently being led by interim chair Linda Boxer, MD, PhD, chief of the division of hematology and professor of medicine.


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