Physician, cancer biologist to lead UConn Health Center

A physician who leads Wake Forest University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center will become the next dean of the UConn School of Medicine, the university announced Friday.

Dr. Frank M. Torti will also serve as UConn’s vice president for health affairs and will hold a professorship in the Department of Medicine when he joins the health center May 1.

Torti currently serves as chair of cancer biology at Wake Forest’s medical school and as the vice president for strategic programs. He also has experience in government; Torti worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a principal deputy commissioner, chief scientist and acting commissioner.

UConn President Susan Herbst cited Torti’s experience in fields considered key in the health center’s growth.

“Dr. Torti understands the landscape of drug and device development and the promise of personalized medicine like few others in this country,” Herbst said in a statement. “He is the right person at the right time for UConn and the state of Connecticut.”

Torti will lead the health center at a time of significant transformation. Lawmakers last year approved an $864 million expansion and renovation plan for the health center, which includes UConn’s medical and dental schools, research laboratories and John Dempsey Hospital. In addition, The Jackson Laboratory, a Bar Harbor, Maine-based genetics research institution, is in the process of developing an institute on the health center’s Farmington campus that will focus on genomic research and personalized medicine.

“Governor [Dannel P.] Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut program and the state’s partnership with Jackson Laboratory are nothing less than transformational,” Torti said in a statement released by UConn. “Working together, Connecticut and the University will change the bioscience landscape and grow the region’s economy. I look forward to working with everyone to ensure that this outstanding academic medical center reaches its full potential.”

Torti will receive a base salary of $780,000 a year and is eligible to receive a $150,000 performance incentive at the end of his first year.

His wife, Suzy V. Torti, will also join the health center as a professor in the department of molecular, microbial and structural biology, and in the Center for Molecular Medicine. Suzy Torti is currently a tenured professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest’s medical school.

Frank Torti will succeed Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, who stepped down as vice president for health affairs and medical school dean last year. Former UConn President Philip E. Austin has served as interim vice president for health affairs since then, while Dr. Bruce T. Liang, who directs the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, have served as interim dean.

Torti attended Harvard Medical School and received a public health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. He also developed and is principal investigator on a cancer biology training program that is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.