Upstate News

October 19, 2009
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate taps bariatric, trauma surgeon with research expertise as surgery chief

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Robert Cooney, M.D., the Charlene J. Smith Professor of Surgery and Cellular & Molecular Physiology, and chief of the Division of Surgery at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at Upstate Medical University. The appointment, effective Nov. 1, was announced by Steven Scheinman, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the College of Medicine.

Cooney comes to Upstate after a 17-year affiliation with Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which began in 1992, during which time he held key positions, including surgical director of critical care (1992-2005), chief of bariatric surgery (1999-2005), Trauma Program medical director (1998-2002), chief of the Section of Trauma and Critical Care (2000-2004), vice chair for research, and co-director of the Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, two of his most recent assignments.

“Dr. Cooney is an accomplished academic surgeon with a breadth of achievement spanning clinical care, education, research, and administration,” Scheinman said. “Upstate is fortunate to have him join us in this clinical leadership position.”

Upstate’s surgery department includes some of the institution’s highest profile services, the Clark Burn Center, the area’s only Level 1 trauma center, the Olivia Pietrafesa Center for Children’s Surgery and breast and bariatric surgery centers, which were recently recognized for outstanding care by the American College of Surgeons.

Cooney’s experience in academic medicine is extensive and varied. Throughout his service to Hershey Medical Center, Cooney played a key role in creating performance improvement and patient safety initiatives, and helped bolster the recruitment and retention of physicians. As chief of bariatric surgery at Hershey Medical Center, he spearheaded a program to increase bariatric surgery volume and reduce costs, through the integration of various bariatric services, including nutrition counseling, medically supervised weigh loss and support group activities. Dr. Cooney’s clinical practice at Upstate will involve elective general, bariatric and acute care surgery, including trauma and emergency surgical care.

Cooney has led the development of various educational and research training programs for students, residents, nurses and other physicians. He established an NIH-funded trauma grant to train future academic surgeons to perform clinically important scientific research. His research on nutrition, obesity, the metabolic response to injury and gastric bypass surgery are funded by awards from the NIH and the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation. His recent research has provided important insights on how gastrointestinal procedures, like gastric bypass result in the resolution of type 2 diabetes in nearly 80 percent of patients.

Cooney received his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire in 1979 and his doctor of medicine degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in 1985. He served an internship in general surgery at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston, and completed residencies in general surgery at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, where he served as senior and chief resident. He also served as surgical critical care fellow at the University of North Carolina Hospitals. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Critical Care Medicine and numerous academic surgical societies.

He has published more than 70 manuscripts and book chapters, and currently serves on three editorial boards. Cooney has received numerous awards, and was twice honored with the Ballentine Award for Excellence in Surgical Education.

“I am excited about the leadership opportunity in Surgery at Upstate. The commitment of the faculty to excellence in patient care, medical education and research were a major attraction for me,” Cooney said. “The institutional vision of engaging excellence and developing high quality, cost effective clinical programs to meet the needs of the Syracuse region is both timely and compelling. I look forward to joining the Upstate community in this vision.”

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