The UF College of Medicine has announced the appointment of Paul Okunieff, M.D., as the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation and David B. and Leighan R. Rinker chair. The chair was established last year with a 10-year pledge of $1.2 million from the foundation and the Rinkers. The gift supports the physician in chief of the Shands Cancer Hospital at UF and the College of Medicine’s academic cancer program.
“The board of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation and I are impressed with the high level of cancer care and research being accomplished at UF and Shands,” said David B. Rinker. “We are proud to support this very important work and hope the establishment of this chair will help further advance cancer treatment and research for the people of our state.”
Originally from Indiana, Marshall E. “Doc” Rinker Sr. came to Florida in 1925 and founded Rinker Materials Corp. with a single truck. By 1988, his company had become the largest building materials supplier in the state of Florida. Rinker died in 1996 at 91. The Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation, led by his son David, and its predecessor foundations have had a tremendous impact on UF through their private support of the university and its programs.
Okunieff is the first to be appointed to the chair, funding for which was facilitated by UF President Emeritus Marshall Criser, who is a board member of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation.
“We are honored to have such a skilled leader to direct the clinical cancer programs at Shands, and to receive such generous support for this chair from the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation and David and Leighan Rinker,” said Timothy Goldfarb, chief executive officer of Shands HealthCare.
In addition to serving as the cancer hospital’s physician in chief, Okunieff also serves as the director of the UF Shands Cancer Center and as chair of the UF College of Medicine department of radiation oncology. He is board-certified in therapeutic radiology and is among the pioneers of in-vivo nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of tumors. Okunieff came to UF in 2009 from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he served as the Philip Rubin professor in radiation oncology and chair of the department of radiation oncology. Prior to his appointment in Rochester in 1998, Okunieff served as branch chief of radiation oncology at the National Cancer Institute and as an assistant professor in radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School between 1988 and 1993.
Okunieff earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, where he also completed his postdoctoral fellowship in medicine and a fellowship in radiation medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. His bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and biological science, were earned from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Okunieff serves as radiation oncology chair for national cooperative groups, has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed papers, and has patents for several instruments and agents aimed at measuring and preventing toxicity of radiation exposure.
“Private support, like that of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation and David and Leighan Rinker, provides the margin of excellence at UF,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands health system. “Their generous gift has made possible the appointment of an eminent physician to lead our cancer program.”