Alvarez named chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology
May 6, 2016 | Jessica Pasley
Ronald David Alvarez, M.D., Ellen Gregg Shook Culverhouse Chair in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His appointment is effective Sept. 1.
Alvarez will succeed Howard Jones III, M.D., Betty and Lonnie S. Burnett Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt and current chair of the department. Jones will be stepping down as chair on June 30, but will continue his clinical practice and serve as a consultant on outreach projects. Prior to his appointment as chair in 2009, Jones was director of Gynecologic Oncology for 28 years.
“Dr. Alvarez is an outstanding addition to our leadership team. He is a distinguished clinician scientist and brings a large clinical research portfolio along with the knowledge and experience to serve women’s health care needs through population-based initiatives. His skills and vision for Obstetrics and Gynecology are a great fit for our future,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
“I want to again acknowledge Dr. Jones’ numerous contributions over the span of more than three decades of service at VUMC. During his tenure as chair, the number of department faculty more than doubled. He has been a superb leader, and we are fortunate he will continue as a clinician and mentor.”
A leading expert in the field of clinical gene therapy for ovarian and cervical cancers, Alvarez’ long-term research interests have included the development of novel therapeutics for ovarian cancer and screening and prevention strategies for cervical cancer. He has been the recipient of several National Cancer Institute (NCI) and other industry-funded grants in support of his research in gene therapeutics for ovarian cancer.
Alvarez also serves as the senior scientist at the Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for AIDS Research at UAB.
“Everyone in health care understands that within the majority of families, women drive health care decisions. As such, our Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is of strategic importance to the growth of our health system. In Dr. Alvarez, we are fortunate to have recruited a caring, compassionate champion of women’s health for this important leadership role,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System.
“Under Dr. Jones’ leadership, in addition to the substantial increase in births here on our main campus, six new outpatient clinics in surrounding communities have been added. I want to thank Howard for aggressively growing our clinical services and express my appreciation for all that he has done to help lead his department and our health system.”
After spending 33 years at UAB, 26 as a faculty member, Alvarez hopes that his myriad clinical, educational, scientific and administrative experiences will serve him well in his move to Vanderbilt.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me,” said Alvarez. “I am appreciative of the confidence the leadership at Vanderbilt has in me and look forward to building upon an already outstanding program.”
There are three areas Alvarez wants to impact, he said.
• Delivering high-quality, cost-effective care to women served in a population-based health model.
• Continuing innovative training for the future providers of women’s health care.
• Addressing unmet clinical needs through collaborative research.
“Women have unique issues throughout the spectrum of their lives,” Alvarez said. “How can we as a department promote wellness, address illness and provide high-quality care in the most cost-effective manner in a population-based health model? Vanderbilt can be a leader in further defining how this can be done.
“We need to consider how the providers of women’s health will practice in five to 10 years and begin to refine how we prepare our trainees to deliver high quality care in ways that differ from how it is done today,” he said.
“There is enormous potential to tap into the scientific resources currently available at Vanderbilt to ask and answer important questions regarding the unmet clinical needs that affect women throughout the continuum of their lives.
“None of this can be done overnight. The goal is to make incremental gains and be able to look back and see great progress,” Alvarez said.
Jones said Alvarez is poised to take the department to the next level.
“I have known Dr. Alvarez for more than 20 years. A well-respected leader and clinician, he is an excellent fit for Vanderbilt,” Jones said.
“During his visits to the campus, it was evident that the faculty liked him, liked his approach and liked his manner. He is a very comfortable person to work with and is known for his mentoring and teaching. I feel fortunate that we were able to attract such a strong leader in our discipline.”
Alvarez graduated from Louisiana State University in 1979. He received his medical degree from Louisiana State University Medical Center in 1983 and completed his residency at UAB in 1987, followed by a fellowship in gynecologic oncology in 1990.
After completing his training, he remained on the faculty of the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 2013 he received his MBA from Auburn University.
He has served on study sections for the NCI Clinical Oncology Section and the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program.
Alvarez has served as president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology and is currently a co-principal investigator in cervical neoplasm vaccine projects included in the Johns Hopkins/UAB Cervical SPORE.
He is also currently director of the Gynecologic Oncology Division of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Alvarez has published more than 250 articles in various peer-reviewed journals and has served on the editorial board of Gynecologic Oncology.