One of UCLA Medical Center's star surgeons is moving to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to head a new multimillion-dollar neurosurgical institute specializing in brain cancer.
Dr. Keith L. Black, a specialist in malignant tumors who has been lauded by colleagues at UCLA as a "superstar" and by patients as a "miracle worker," will assume his new position at Cedars' Neurosurgical Institute on July 1. He said he will bring with him two brain researchers, a neuro-oncologist and a gene therapy specialist, and about 10 support staff members. Though he plans to retain his professorship in neurosurgery at UCLA and will continue to collaborate with colleagues there, his move to Cedars is a coup for the private medical center and a loss for UCLA, one of the leading neurosurgical centers in the country.
Cedars officials said it was Black who approached them, and that his desire to head his own program fit in with their expansion plans in specialty areas including neurosurgery, cardiac services and transplantation.
"We seized the opportunity," said Cedars surgery chairman Dr. Achilles Demetriou. "There was nothing tactical, nothing hostile, about it.
"Essentially, what we are trying to do is establish a major presence in neurosurgery in California, nationally and internationally," he said. "Our strategy was to recruit someone with the credentials and the stature of Dr. Black to serve as the anchor."
Black said he could not resist Cedars' offer to invest tens of millions of dollars in the new institute, including a "21st century operating room."
"The resources they are putting into this are really just an incredible opportunity to fulfill a dream," Black said. "We are going to build a world-class center that does state-of-the art research."
Black initially will focus on developing less invasive treatment of tumors, using computer and brain-imaging technology, gene therapy, immune therapies and more selective delivery of drugs to the brain. Within three years, he hopes to recruit a staff of 48, including neurosurgeons, neurologists and other scientists. The staff will include specialists on staff at Cedars.
Black, 39, who is head of UCLA's Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program, has published more than 100 scientific articles and performs more than 200 brain tumor operations annually.
Dr. Donald Becker, head of the UCLA division of neurosurgery, said the university wishes Black well and is grateful for his contributions, but that his departure in no way diminishes UCLA's stature in neurosurgery.
"UCLA just continues in the normal mode of providing excellent teaching and clinical programs. We have centers of excellence in virtually every neurosurgical program, and we will continue to have those programs function."
Becker, who two years ago described Black as "spectacular" and a "superstar in our field," said Thursday that UCLA does not see Black "as leaving a void."
He said UCLA is recruiting Dr. Eric Holland, a specialist from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to pursue research into the genetic mutations that cause neurological cancer.
Becker said Black's departure is not related to that of a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Warwick Peacock, who after 11 years at UCLA has accepted a similar position at UC San Francisco for personal reasons.