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The University of Utah announced Wednesday that Vivian Lee, a vice dean at New York University with a scientific background in radiology, has been chosen to lead its heath sciences division, succeeding the retiring Lorris Betz.

As senior vice president for health sciences, Lee will oversee a massive biomedical research enterprise, serve as medical school dean and lead University of Utah Health Care as CEO — a $2 billion a year academic and clinical empire — when she takes over July 1. Betz is now the U.'s interim president after Michael Young stepped down to become the University of Washington's president.

Lee's hiring, at a base pay of $710,00, must be approved by the U. Board of Trustees.

"The University of Utah is a remarkable place that is held nationally in the highest esteem — for the quality of its clinical care, for outstanding research in a broad range of areas from basic sciences to clinical research to community health, and for training top-notch scientists and health care professionals," Lee said in a prepared statement. "I am excited and honored to be joining this extraordinary institution."

She is the mother of four young girls and is married to NYU law professor Benedict Kingsbury, a legal scholar who is expected to join the U. law faculty.

As a relatively young Chinese-American woman from outside Utah, Lee will bring diversity to the U.'s senior leadership. She was chosen after a yearlong search by a committee impressed with her accomplishments in technology transfer, building up research investments, recruiting faculty and by her own distinguished career as a researcher in kidney and vascular function.

"Beyond that, it was her vision for leading the university's health sciences programs into an exciting and challenging future that, ultimately, made her the consensus choice among an exceptional pool of national applicants," said committee Chairman John Zone, chairman of dermatology.

"She has an international reputation and will be moving her active research center here funded to the tune of $2 million," Betz said. "She is a very warm and engaging person. In my mind, she has great people skills."

Lee currently is chief scientific officer and vice dean at NYU's Langone Medical Center, where she launched new centers in translational and interdisciplinary research. During her four-year tenure, Langone has seen a significant jump in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and has recruited numerous research faculty.

"I am thrilled someone as accomplished and talented as Dr. Lee has accepted the challenge of leading this huge and complex enterprise," Betz said. "The future of the health sciences will be very bright in her capable hands."

Lee will arrive in Utah as the flagship's most highly paid administrator, but Betz said the U. is tapping an expensive talent pool and is getting an excellent value in hiring Lee.

"Coming from New York, salaries for people in this position are multiples of that figure," Betz said. "We feel fortunate to get someone with her credentials at what we think is a competitive salary." Vivian S. Lee

Lee grew up in Norman, Okla., and earned undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard, and a doctorate in medical engineering from Oxford University while a Rhodes Scholar. She completed medical residencies in general surgery and in diagnostic radiology at Duke University, before joining New York University as an MRI fellow in 1997. She is currently a professor of radiology, physiology and neuroscience, and served as vice chairwoman for research in the radiology department. In 2007, she became vice dean and chief scientific officer for NYU's medical center. The mother of four young girls, Lee is married to NYU law professor Benedict Kingsbury.