NEW YORK (Oct. 8, 2021)—Dr. Larissa V. Rodríguez, a distinguished physician-scientist and urologic surgeon who specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, has been named chair of the Department of Urology at Weill Cornell Medicine and urologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
In her new role, Dr. Rodríguez will build on the department’s reputation of clinical excellence in areas including kidney, prostate and bladder health, as well as urologic cancers, in order to provide exemplary care to patients throughout their lives. Dr. Rodríguez will further enhance the department’s expertise in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, an area of medicine that reflects women’s experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. She will also strive to enrich the department’s cutting-edge research enterprise, recruit and mentor a diverse and talented group of urologists, and provide exceptional training to the next generation of specialists.
Recruited to Weill Cornell Medicine as the Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Urology, Dr. Rodríguez succeeds Dr. Peter Schlegel, who served in the role from 2004 until fall 2020. Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, chairman of the Department of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, has led the department in an interim capacity.
Dr. Rodríguez is currently a professor of urology and obstetrics and gynecology, vice chair of academics, and director of the Division of Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is also director of the Keck School’s Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship. An internationally renowned urologic reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Rodríguez specializes in the treatment of women with urinary and pelvic floor conditions, such as pelvic organ prolapse, stress urinary incontinence, genitourinary tract reconstruction and chronic pelvic pain. Her clinical research focuses on outcomes of vaginal and robotic surgery, health disparities related to pelvic floor disorders, and the development and treatment of chronic bladder pain. Two patents have been filed for her surgical reconstruction innovations. In the laboratory, Dr. Rodríguez examines the role of environmental stress in the development and maintenance of urinary symptoms, voiding dysfunction and bladder pain in rodents. She is also investigating the utility of a specific kind of adult stem cell abundantly found in fat tissue, called adipose-derived stem cells, for lower urinary tract reconstruction.
“Dr. Rodríguez is a pioneering physician-scientist whose clinical and research innovations have transformed the health and quality of life of her patients and set the bar for exemplary care,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “I am thrilled that she will lead our Department of Urology into a new era, driving new medical and scientific advances while mentoring outstanding future generations of urologic specialists.”
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Rodríguez to lead the Department of Urology at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and chief executive officer of NewYork-Presbyterian. “Dr. Rodríguez is an outstanding physician and innovative researcher whose dedication to her patients has advanced the field of urology in exciting new ways. We look forward to her leadership of our urology services and her mentorship of the next generation of physicians.”
“I am excited about the opportunity to join this prestigious academic medical center and work with such an esteemed group of colleagues,” Dr. Rodríguez said. “Together we will propel the department to the next level of excellence, enhancing the care we provide patients while pursuing cutting-edge discoveries and innovations.”
Under Dr. Rodríguez’s leadership, the department will strengthen multidisciplinary collaborations to comprehensively treat the whole patient throughout their whole lifetime. For example, Dr. Rodríguez will forge collaborations with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to reach women who may have developed pelvic floor conditions following pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. These conditions—such as urinary leakage after a laugh, cough or sneeze; or pelvic organ prolapse, when pelvic organs drop into or out of the vagina due to pelvic muscle weakness—often impede quality of life. Incontinence is the main driver of older women losing their independence and moving into nursing homes, Dr. Rodríguez said.
“These are diseases of silence and shame,” she said. “It’s vital to raise awareness of these conditions and their prevalence, and how they affect women’s confidence, quality of life and intimate relationships. We need to empower women, remind them that they are not alone and involve them in the treatment process.”
These multidisciplinary teams will enhance the care provided to women and men across the age spectrum for a range of urologic needs, including malignant and benign tumors; kidney, prostate and bladder health; and congenital anomalies. Dr. Rodríguez will expand the urology programs at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital so that patients across metropolitan New York can access the most advanced, high quality care.
She will also recruit leading talent and cultivate the next generation of urologists through the department’s training programs, with a particular focus on mentorship and diversity. A native of Puerto Rico, Dr. Rodríguez is committed to fostering diversity and inclusion within urology and medicine at large.
“There is evidence that congruency of gender as well as race leads to better outcomes in patients,” said Dr. Rodríguez, who at Keck School served as associate provost of faculty and student initiatives in health and STEM, helping oversee the university’s science and health diversity and inclusion initiatives as well as diversity pipeline programs. “For that reason alone, the healthcare workforce should represent the patients we treat. But broadly, diversity in backgrounds and experiences leads to more creative ideas, greater productivity and overall professional success.”
This is especially true in urology, Dr. Rodríguez said. When she began her postgraduate medical training, women accounted for roughly 1.2 percent of board-certified urologists. Now, women represent about 10 percent of the specialty’s workforce. Dr. Rodríguez will be the first woman at Weill Cornell Medicine to serve as chair of the Department of Urology and urologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“A position in leadership will allow me to prioritize diversity, inclusion and equity,” she said. “It’s incredibly important to me that people feel like they belong, that they have something to contribute and that their voices are heard.”
About Dr. Larissa V. Rodríguez
Dr. Rodríguez is a board-certified urologist with expertise in the surgical reconstruction of pelvic floor conditions. A clinical and basic scientist, Dr. Rodríguez has published more than 100 original studies in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Urology, Urology, and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. She is the principal investigator of the NIH-sponsored Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Urologic Pelvic Pain (MAPP) research network, which investigates the underlying causes of bladder pain syndrome and how best to treat it. Dr. Rodríguez has received numerous research grants and served as reviewer of multiple journals and member of study sections for the NIH, including its Kidney and Urologic Systems Function and Dysfunction Study Section. She has received multiple research awards from the American Urological Association as well as its Western Section, and the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine, and Urogenital Reconstruction (SUFU). In 2008, Dr. Rodríguez received SUFU’s Paul Zimskind Award, which honors physicians who are within 10 years of completing residency or fellowship and have made significant contributions to the field of pelvic medicine and voiding dysfunction, primarily through basic and clinical research.
Dr. Rodríguez earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989 and her medical degree in 1994 from Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing a urology residency at Stanford University, Dr. Rodríguez joined UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, where she completed a fellowship in female urology, voiding dysfunction and reconstructive surgery under the direction of Dr. Shlomo Raz, as well as postdoctoral research training under Nobel Laureate Dr. Louis Ignarro. She joined UCLA’s faculty in 2001 and became a professor of urology and of obstetrics and gynecology, co-director of the Division of Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, and director of female urology research until 2014, when she was recruited to USC.
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