Dr. Sallie Permar, an eminent physician-scientist who focuses on the treatment and prevention of neonatal viral infections, has been appointed chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine and pediatrician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, effective Dec. 1.
Recruited as the Nancy C. Paduano Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Permar will helm the pediatrics enterprise at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Under her leadership, the department will continue to enhance its mission to provide exceptional patient care and medical education in pediatrics, and conduct cutting-edge research on diseases that affect newborns and children.
“Dr. Permar is a distinguished physician-scientist, highly skilled educator and proven leader,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “Under her direction we will advance our mission of excellence in pediatrics, enhancing research and innovation, training future pediatricians and pediatric specialists, and providing the best care and the brightest future to children and their families. We are thrilled that Dr. Permar is joining us as chair of the Department of Pediatrics.”
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Permar to NewYork-Presbyterian,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “Dr. Permar is a national leader in the field of pediatrics and a renowned researcher, who is committed to improving the health of children everywhere by expanding access to outstanding care, pioneering critical research and mentoring the next generation of pediatricians. With her leadership, we look forward to improving the health of children in all the communities we serve.”
Dr. Permar was recruited from Duke University School of Medicine, where she serves as professor of pediatrics, immunology, and molecular genetics and microbiology; associate dean of physician-scientist development; and founding director of the Children’s Health and Discovery Institute. She will succeed Dr. Gerald Loughlin, who has served as chair of the department since 2002 and is retiring. Under Dr. Loughlin’s dedicated leadership, the department grew exponentially, strengthening its presence in a variety of subspecialties and building a foundation of excellence in pediatrics.
A prominent physician-scientist in pediatrics, Dr. Permar’s research focuses on the treatment and prevention of viral infections in newborns. She and her team are working on the development of vaccines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of viruses such as HIV, Zika and cytomegalovirus (CMV)—the most common congenital infection and a leading cause of birth defects, affecting roughly one in 150 newborns. She discovered in her research a protein in breast milk that neutralizes HIV, and developed a nonhuman primate model for congenital CMV infection, now being used to test CMV vaccine strategies.
“If you can prevent an infection from the first day of life, or from very early on, you’re giving that child a chance at a lifetime of development, health and wellness,” Dr. Permar said.
As department chair, she will oversee 14 subspecialty divisions, including allergy and immunology, cardiology, hematology and oncology, infectious disease, and pediatric primary care. The Department of Pediatrics also houses dozens of associated programs, services and clinics including the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic, the neonatology service located at NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, and multiple outpatient care sites and subspecialty facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of pediatric disorders.
In her new role, Dr. Permar will help expand access to equitable, quality primary and subspecialty care for pediatric patients throughout New York City. This will include appointing a number of departmental leadership positions and working closely with the department’s clinical divisions to increase telemedicine opportunities in a variety of subspecialties, as well as recruiting a diverse and skilled cadre of pediatric trainees, faculty and physician-scientists. She will also aim to grow the education program, supporting future generations of pediatricians and pediatric physician-researchers through mentorship initiatives.
“Weill Cornell Medicine together with NewYork-Presbyterian has been a renowned pioneer in the care of children, providing cutting-edge and compassionate treatment to some of the most vulnerable populations in the city,” Dr. Permar said. “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with an outstanding team of pediatricians to continue building clinical and academic missions that serve children, foster research to improve pediatric health in New York City and beyond, and build the next generation of academic pediatricians who will advance frontiers in children’s health.”
Dr. Permar will also work to further the discovery and translation of treatments and prevention strategies to better the lives and health of children. She will seek to expand collaborations between basic science investigators and physicians who provide pediatric clinical care across Weill Cornell Medicine departments and institutes, in particular working closely with Drukier Director Dr. Virginia Pascual and her team of skilled investigators at the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health, building on the institute’s wealth of pediatric research.
Dr. Permar will work to foster new opportunities for collaborative, translational pediatric research and scientific discovery with investigators and clinicians at neighboring institutions such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and The Rockefeller University, also working closely with peers throughout the NewYork-Presbyterian health system including the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“The key to the future of academic medicine is going to be bringing the engines of research and medical care closer together—translating our findings from the lab to the clinic to achieve population wellness, which starts in childhood. By taking this approach, we hope to be able to offer a lifetime of health and vitality to our young patients,” she said.
For the 14th year in a row, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ranks among the best in the nation for children’s care in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.”
Board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric infectious disease, Dr. Permar has been honored with several prestigious awards, including the 2014 Young Investigator Award, the 2020 E. Mead Johnson Award from the Society for Pediatric Research, the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and most recently the Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research from Weill Cornell Medicine. She is a member of numerous professional organizations such as the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Microbiology, and she sits on the board of the National CMV Foundation.
Dr. Permar has published nearly 150 studies in journals including Nature Medicine, Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and JAMA Pediatrics, as well as top publications in her field, and her work has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the Journal of Virology.
Importantly, she has led a number of NIH-funded training programs to develop physician-scientists, including serving as director of the Pediatric Scientist Development Program, which is supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) and the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs (AMSPDC), and which trains pediatric subspecialists across the nation for a career in pediatric health research.
Dr. Permar received a Bachelor of Science from Davidson College and went on to earn a doctorate in microbiology/immunology from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She completed her clinical training in pediatric infectious diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital. After serving as an instructor and then assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, she joined the faculty of Duke University School of Medicine.
She will be joined in her exciting new opportunity in New York City by her husband, Matt Ferraguto, and two children.
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Article originally posted on Weill Cornell Medicine's newsroom on 9/17/2020: