Dr. Mary Stenzel-Poore to step down as school's senior associate dean for research

Will take position as chief of research operations for Knight Cancer Institute

Dr. Mary Stenzel-PooreJune 28, 2017

Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D. '86, will step down as senior associate dean for research in the OHSU School Medicine on Aug. 31, 2017, taking on a new role as chief of research operations in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

Her new responsibilities will include strategic development of Knight Cancer research programs, operations and management of the research enterprise, overseeing strategic research partnerships and overseeing recruitment of research scientists and leaders in the institute. Dr. Stenzel-Poore will work with incoming School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson, M.D., on a transition plan for leadership dedicated to research in the school.

"Mary Stenzel-Poore has approached her research leadership role as, first and foremost, an advocate – an advocate for the pursuit of science in the school and an advocate for faculty," said John Hunter, M.D., interim dean, OHSU School of Medicine. "In the wake of one of the largest expansions of the research enterprise in the school's history, she has engaged faculty at all levels in shaping a vision and in thoughtfully identifying and going after the resources needed to realize it. And she has been a trailblazer for women in science, leading by also empowering others. She leaves her post with a School of Medicine research enterprise well equipped to move to the next level. We are grateful to Mary for her service."

Since becoming senior associate dean for research in 2012, Dr. Stenzel-Poore has been instrumental in helping shepherd Oregon's primary biomedical discovery engine serving the state's four million residents and beyond. During her tenure, she's worked closely with leaders, faculty and researchers in 26 basic science and clinical departments, which together brought in $254 million in research funding last year. Over the last 15 years, OHSU research programs (roughly two-thirds of which are within the School of Medicine) have expanded tremendously, achieving eminence in many areas.

Dr. Stenzel-Poore's accomplishments are myriad. They include:

  • Creating a school-wide mechanism and process for faculty to provide input into research advancement;
  • Helping recruit key research leaders to OHSU, including Drs. Joe Gray, Lisa Coussens, Sancy Leachman, Adam Margolin, Bita Moghaddam, Carsten Schultz and Sadik Esener;
  • Launching and guiding strategic partnerships to help advance research in the school through partners such as Intel and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory;
  • Spearheading the development of new faculty programs in computational biology and cryo-EM (OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine);
  • Developing better integration between clinical and science departments through mechanisms such as the Collaborative Recruitment Pool Program; and
  • Working with faculty to forge a vision for the future of research in the school.

Over her 40-year OHSU career, Dr. Stenzel-Poore has become a well-respected neuro-immunologist, focusing on immunotherapy research that seeks to protect the brain against injury in stroke.

Her work has led to the discovery that Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands can provide profound protection against ischemic brain injury. Her lab was the first to show that treatment with TLR ligands prior to stroke reprograms the brain's response to ischemia away from inflammation and injury and towards cell survival and neuroprotection. Her group is well into pre-clinical trials. She has also launched a biotech startup called Neuralexo, Inc., to help bring those discoveries into use. As her administrative responsibilities grew, she kept one foot in the lab through a hand-picked research team who maintained her stroke program.

Dr. Stenzel-Poore began her career at OHSU as a research assistant in 1977, working her way from graduate student, postdoc and instructor to professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and, in 2010, chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

"The academic environment appealed to me because it wasn't prescribed what you had to do," she said. "It was about making a discovery, which led to another discovery, which led to another discovery."

When the school's associate dean for basic science position opened up in 2008, she was selected to serve in this research leadership position.  

"Doing my science is great and for an important cause, but I wanted to build the community around me," she said. "I wanted to give back."

In 2012, Dr. Stenzel-Poore went on to become the senior associate dean for research where she had the opportunity to work more broadly with research leaders throughout the school.

"Mary has created channels for faculty to help shape the research direction in the school and provide input into resource acquisition and allocation," said Susan Hayflick, M.D., professor and chair of molecular and medical genetics, OHSU School of Medicine. "She has been an unflagging advocate for science in the school both internally and nationally. Our research enterprise is better because of her leadership."

Although she has been serving as an associate director of the Knight Cancer Institute, in this new role she will completely focus her scientific, leadership and institutional experience on the organization.

"Mary's organizational expertise, recruitment prowess and natural leadership style are just a few of the attributes that have helped shape the Knight Cancer Institute's recent growth," said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the Knight Cancer Institute. "We are excited that she will focus her attention on ensuring our continued success in achieving our mission of ending cancer as we know it."

"The chief of research operations role will be a remarkable opportunity for me to combine all that I have done and learned at the OHSU School of Medicine to serve Knight Cancer as they launch their ambitious path in cancer early detection and precision oncology," Dr. Stenzel-Poore said. "I have treasured my service in the Dean's Office, creating a bridge between faculty and school leadership and am grateful for the support during my tenure."