Appreciation and a Fond Farewell to Dr. Ken Kaushansky

Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACPOn July 19, Dr. Ken Kaushansky officially begins his work as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in New York.

When he announced his departure to the faculty and staff of the UCSD Department of Medicine on June 7, he described his new position as an opportunity to implement, on a larger scale, the successful programs that the Department of Medicine has instituted under his leadership here.

He called his years at UCSD a time of “incredible transition in our faculty, our leaders, our teaching programs, and our clinical impact.”

During Dr. Kaushansky’s tenure as Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair, the Department of Medicine expanded from 253 to over 420 faculty members, added four divisions, and recruited 11 division chiefs. Its annual budget grew from $86 million to nearly $150 million.

Dr. Robert Schooley“Dr. Kaushansky has been an outstanding Chair for this department,” said Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs in the Department of Medicine.“

During his eight years as Chair, the medical house staff program became one of the most highly regarded programs in the country. New divisions in Hospital Medicine, Biomedical Informatics, Geriatrics, and Global Public Health were developed and research programs thrived throughout the Department,” Dr. Schooley said.

“In response to increasing interest in international medicine among the medical house staff, Dr. Kaushansky launched the Department’s Global Medicine Residency Program in 2009,” he said.“Dr. Kaushansky worked with his counterpart at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane to establish a model program in international cooperation that has revitalized postgraduate medical training in the Republic of Mozambique.”


Dr. Kaushansky with Drs. Marisa Magaña, Emilia Noormahomed, and Robert Schooley in Mozambique Dr. Kaushansky on a global medicine planning trip to China.Dr. Kaushansky with Drs. Marisa Magaña, Emilia Noormahomed, and Robert Schooley in Mozambique (left); on global medicine program planning trip to China (right).

Since 2002, the Department’s NIH research funding has grown from $60 million to $113.6 million. It has more than twice as many complex multi-investigator program-project grants and career development awards granted to the junior faculty and fellows.

The Department has also boosted its showing in the “America’s Best Hospitals” rankings from U.S.News & World Report. In 2002, two subspecialty clinical programs ranked in the nation’s top 50: respiratory at 9th and cancer at 41st. In the most recent rankings, five subspecialties ranked in the top 50, including one (HIV/AIDS) in the top 10.

Dr. Greg Maynard“Ken was directly responsible for building up the strength of clinical care at UCSD,” said Dr. Greg Maynard (right), Health Sciences Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine.

“He recruited me here about 7-1/2 years ago, and in that time, the Hospital Medicine program has grown from 4 hospitalists to nearly 30, as just one example of that.”

“Dr Kaushansky nurtured my career here at UCSD,” said Dr. Pradipta Ghosh (below left), physician-scientist and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh“As a product of the Physician-Scientist Training Program,” she said, “I am one of those few who enjoyed special access to this busy department chair. His doors were always open. I recall having multiple consultations with him at various stages of my career as it grew here at UCSD.

“When the time came for me to choose where to spend the first decade of my young career as an independent investigator, it was his support and a match in our visions which tilted my decision in favor of UCSD,” she said.

“His tireless efforts at instilling the physician-scientist culture here in the Department of Medicine, both from top-down and bottom-up, have paved the path for many young folks like me to craft a career for themselves as physician-scientists,” Dr. Ghosh said.

Dr. John Carethers“Ken was the reason why I eventually accepted the GI Chief job at UCSD,” said Dr. John M. Carethers (right), now John G. Searle Professor and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan.

When Dr. Kaushansky joined the UCSD faculty, Dr. Carethers was an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology. Dr. Carethers became division chief in 2004

“Ken … gave me enough autonomy to help grow the GI Division, gain a GI Center grant, coordinate well with the Cancer Center and other divisions, and allowed me to grow personally,” Dr. Carethers said. “The GI Division flourished under that mantra.

“We went to a clinical service chief structure, developed a new hierarchy for our administrative staff, started a robust web site, grew our fellowship, and survived many challenges over that time because of his support,” he said.

“Ken provided invaluable advice on my career,” Dr. Carethers said. “He was a great sounding board, not pretentious; encouraging, but never overprotective. I think he understood the value of growth and opportunity, something that is hard to come by these days.”

Dr. Patricia FinnDr. Patricia Finn (left), Professor and Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, described Dr. Kaushansky as “a tireless advocate for his faculty.”

“He is accessible 24/7 to offer support and guidance, which is huge to a new faculty member just moving cross country,” she said.

“On a personal note, when I had barely arrived here he was already nominating me for positions and committees to help me advance my career.”

Dr. Kirk Knowlton“His integrity, fairness, and open-mindedness built an environment of trust that allowed the substantial growth of the Department of Medicine during his tenure as Chair,” said Dr. Kirk U. Knowlton (right), Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Cardiology.

“I am struck by how he has been able to hold the respect of so many people with widely disparate interests,” Dr. Knowlton said.

“This included people who were fully engaged in basic science and those who were busy taking excellent care of their patients; medical students and residents and post-graduate research fellows; administrators and faculty; and others over whom he might have had influence or who crossed his path.

“The people he has worked with knew that they could count on him to represent their interests in the context of the institution’s goals in a considered and reasonable manner while at the same time maintaining his vision of the future of the Department of Medicine.”

“He is a rare breed,” Dr. Maynard said. “I guess I’d call him a quadruple threat. An outstanding scientist, a superb clinician, a great educator, and an incredible leader and administrator to boot.

“While he is not really replaceable,” he said, “he has left an enduring legacy that stresses clinical and operational excellence, as well as research contributions.”

Dr. Finn said, “In addition to [his] world-class scientific reputation, Dr. Kaushansky is most respected for his character and vision.”

“He makes his department and faculty a priority, while striving to always do the right thing for the patients,” she said. “He will be most remembered for his infectious enthusiasm, upbeat attitude, and steady, insightful guidance of students and faculty.”

“He leaves an 8-year legacy that advanced the Department of Medicine in many ways,” said Dr. Carethers, “including growing faculty, changing the way residents learn, obtaining key recruitments for division chiefs and faculty, enhancing VA relations, and being an all out cheerleader for the Department.”

On June 21, Dr. Kaushansky was honored at a farewell reception hosted by David Brenner, M.D., Dean of the UCSD School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor, Health Sciences. In his remarks there, Dr. Kaushansky expressed his appreciation for “eight and a half years of good friends, challenges, and teamwork.”

Observing that he had been involved in recruiting many of the faculty members in the room, he said, “Everything at UCSD works toward recruiting great people.”

“It’s easy, at UCSD, to build things and to make a difference,” he said. “Everybody makes everyone else stronger.”

Dr. Kaushansky praised UCSD’s “incredible richness” of people, science, teaching, and clinical programs. “I’ve never seen more devotion to the three missions,” he said.

And now he looks ahead.

“In academic medicine, you get to re-craft yourself every ten years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my newly-found steep learning curve.”

Dr. Kaushansky was honored at a tribute from the senior leaders of the Department of Medicine on July 11. There will be a tribute from all departmental staff, faculty, and house staff on a date to be selected.

“Although one could cite metric after metric by which his unceasing efforts strengthened the Department,” said Dr. Schooley, “what many of us think distinguished his tenure most was the way in which his ‘bottom up’ style of leadership brought out the best in all of us.

“The Department will benefit for many years to come from things he set in motion – as will each of its members from what we learned from his multifaceted demonstration of scholarship, integrity, imagination and dedication to his Department.”


Drs. Ken Kaushansky and Wolfgang Dillmann   Drs. Ken Kaushansky and Wolfgang DillmannDr. Kaushansky with newly designated Interim Chair Wolfgang Dillmann, M.D.

Dr. Gary Firestein Steps Down as Chief of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology; Dr. Robert Terkeltaub Named Interim Chief

Dr. Gary Firestein

Dr. Gary Firestein

Dr. Gary Firestein will step down as Chief of the Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology division as of July 1, announced Dr. Ken Kaushansky, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and outgoing Chair of the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Firestein, who has been chief of the division since 1998, is making the move because of the increasing demands of his leadership responsibilities as Dean of Translational Medicine and Director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) for UCSD Health Sciences.

“During the last 12 years, the division grew dramatically in both accomplishments and international visibility. This is due entirely to the incredibly creative faculty, our outstanding trainees, and the dedicated staff,” said Dr. Firestein.

“I want to express my thanks to Dr. Firestein for being such an outstanding division leader for the past 12 years,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “Under Gary’s leadership, the division has continued to grow and prosper in all three of its missions: research, education, and clinical care.

“The division has gone from unranked to a consistent top-20 ranking in the ‘America’s Best Hospitals’ list from U.S.News & World Report,” he said. “Its research portfolio has grown to be generally among the largest in the department.”

“Gary has also overseen the creation and expansion of the Center for Innovative Therapy as a model for translational medicine and helped bring in supporting program project grants,” Dr. Kaushansky said.

These include the NIH-funded Specialized Centers of Research program on rheumatoid arthritis, the Rheumatic Diseases Core Center grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and a new NIAMS Ruth L. Kirschstein T32 Training Grant to support research training in rheumatic diseases.

“Gary has also recruited a number of very successful research-oriented faculty into the Rheumatology and Allergy/Immunology sections,” Dr. Kaushansky said. “The division’s clinical mission has expanded to include a novel multidisciplinary clinic with the Department of Orthopaedics.

Dr. Robert Terkeltaub

Dr. Robert Terkeltaub

Dr. Robert A. Terkeltaub, Professor of Medicine, will serve as Interim Chief. For most of the last decade, Dr. Terkeltaub has served as Associate Director of the division and Director of the Rheumatology Training Program.

He has been Chief of the Rheumatology Section at the VA San Diego Healthcare System since 1985.

“I’m grateful to Dr. Robert Terkeltaub for agreeing to serve in the interim role,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “I know he will carry on the rich tradition of the division.”

“Dr. Terkeltaub is an outstanding physician-scientist who has played an integral role in the division’s success. We are truly grateful that he agreed to take on this new responsibility,” said Dr. Firestein.

“I look forward to helping the division through the transition period and into the future,” Dr. Terkeltaub said.

“We are very proud of our faculty and their accomplishments,” he said. “We want to ensure that the clinical programs remain strong and the clinical, translational, and basic research from our very accomplished faculty members grows in breadth, quality, and scope.”

Another goal, he said, is to increase the division’s interaction with other Department of Medicine divisions, including the three newest – Geriatrics, Global Public Health, and Biomedical Informatics.

About Dr. Terkeltaub

Dr. Terkeltaub received his M.D. degree and completed his internship, residency, and fellowship at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. From 1981 to 1984, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Ginsberg at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.

He spent the following year as a research associate at The Scripps Research Institute before he joined the UCSD faculty as Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and Chief of the Rheumatology Section at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

Dr. Terkeltaub has served on numerous study sections for the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Arthritis National Research Foundation, and other organizations. He is currently Associate Editor of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

As an investigator, Dr. Terkeltaub studies the interfaces of inflammation with skeletal and vascular biology, focusing on arthritis and vascular diseases, including infantile artery calcification, gout, and osteoarthritis. At the VA and UCSD, his lab discovered the molecular etiology of generalized artery calcification of infancy, and has done seminal research on innate immunity in gout, and on cartilage innate immunity and chondrocyte hypertrophy in osteoarthritis.

About Dr. Firestein

Dr. Gary Firestein first joined the UCSD Department of Medicine faculty in 1988 as Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology.

He spent 1992 through 1996 as Senior Director of Immunology for Gensia, Inc, and returned to UCSD as Associate Professor of Medicine in 1996. He was promoted to Professor of Medicine in 1998, when he was also appointed division chief.

On a personal note, Dr. Kaushansky said, “Gary was the only person I knew at UCSD when I started interviewing for the position here. We collaborated on a couple of papers back in our formative days.”

Those days were in the late 1980s, when Dr. Kaushansky was Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology at the University of Washington and the younger Dr. Firestein was Assistant Professor in the Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology division here at UCSD.

The two papers reported some of Dr. Firestein’s earliest work, with his mentor and then-division chief Dr. Nathan Zvaifler, on the presence of pro-inflammatory mediators in the synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis patients.

In the following years, Dr. Firestein’s basic science studies would open the way for the development of anti-cytokine agents as the first broadly effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Firestein was founding director of the UCSD Clinical Investigation Institute, a responsibility that has evolved into his current role as Director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute.

He was appointed Dean of Translational Medicine for UCSD Health Sciences in 2008.