June 27, 2011

Roberta Sonnino, M.D., named vice dean of Faculty Affairs

Roberta Sonnino, M.D., has been appointed vice dean of Faculty Affairs for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and associate provost for Medical Affairs for the university. She will join the school Sept. 1.

Dr. Sonnino comes to the School of Medicine from the University of Minnesota Medical School, where she has served as associate dean of Faculty Affairs since 2008. She is a professor of Pediatric Surgery and clinical director of Microsurgical Skills.

Previously, she served as associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs for the Creighton University School of Medicine, and assistant dean for Student Affairs and associate dean for Women in Medicine and Special Programs at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

"We are fortunate to have Dr. Sonnino join our School of Medicine," said Dean Valerie Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. "She brings with her a wealth of experience and expertise that will be crucial as we continue adapting to meet the challenges of the future of medical education."

A board-certified pediatric surgeon, Dr. Sonnino grew up in Italy. She completed her undergraduate degree in pre-medicine at the University of Michigan and graduated from the University of Padova (Italy) Medical School with a Laurea in Medicine and Surgery. After a pediatric internship at Children's Hospital of Cincinnati, she served as an intern and resident for the University of Minnesota Department of Surgery. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Sonnino served a residency and was named chief resident in the Department of Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She then completed a fellowship in Pediatric Surgery at the Montreal Children's Hospital. She served as president of the Society for Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine from 2006 to 2007.

As associate provost for Medical Affairs, Dr. Sonnino will assist the office of Provost Ronald T. Brown with issues related to the School of Medicine.

"The world of medical education changes rapidly and medical schools and their home universities must remain nimble to confront those changes," Provost Brown said. "Communication is key to that agility and Dr. Sonnino will ensure that the university and the medical school are working in unison."

Dr. Sonnino said she is excited to have the dual role. "I'm going to be the point person on medical issues that need to be communicated between the medical school and the larger university so that there is a constant dialog. I don't know of any other university doing this, so I am delighted to be spearheading this."

Her immediate goals, she said, include reorganizing the Office of Faculty Affairs. "We need to do that while taking full advantage of the incredible talent that is already there," she said. "I want to bring a little more structure."

Another goal is implementing and emphasizing faculty mentoring. "We need to emphasize mentoring for the faculty at all levels of their careers, even the chairs," she said. "I really want to get good mentoring programs in place."

While at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dr. Sonnino established faculty development and recognition programs, and built a number of programs and curricula surrounding women faculty development, leadership and creating high performance work groups for the Association of American Medical Colleges. She won the AAMC's Group on Women in Medicine and Science Leadership Award in 2010 and in 2008 received the Women in Medicine and Science Leadership Award from Creighton University.

She is a member of the American Association of University Women, the Society for Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Women Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons and the Academy of Surgical Research, of which she is a past president. She is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Sonnino, who loves sports, classical music and opera, said she looks forward to re-establishing ties in Michigan, and to again subscribing to the Michigan Opera Theater. Her first love after medicine and medical education is photography. A certified professional photographer, she took all the photographs for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education 2005 monograph, "Journey to Authenticity: Voices of Chief Residents." She also has volunteered to shoot photos for the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation, an organization that provides for families portraits of newborns who are not expected to survive. She said she hopes to continue that volunteer service in the Detroit area.