Dr. Kristiina Vuori was recently named the first woman president of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, making her one of only a few female presidents of major research institutions anywhere in the country. But that distinction is the last thing she wants to be known for.
Vuori would rather not recognize any gender differences. She is a scientist, and so she values results: Professional achievement should be measured by the contributions a person has made to her field, and gender has no influence on that.
“She’s not all girl-power, she’s even further evolved than that,” said Robin Richardson, a drug discovery researcher who works for Vuori. “I think she’s never thought that the fact that she’s a woman is anything worth considering.”
Vuori is instead known by scientists from across the world for her research on ways to prevent cancer’s spread. Her colleagues know her for her deep scientific knowledge, unflappable nature and tireless work ethic, all of which they say make her the perfect choice for the president role. And Sanford-Burnham’s employees and board members already know her for her leadership of Sanford-Burnham’s Cancer Center, a program within the institute that focuses on cancer-specific research.
Clearly Vuori is well known. But she would rather the recognition fall on the institution she works for, which has grown since its establishment in 1976 to more than 1,100 employees and has added two additional campuses in Santa Barbara and Orlando in the last four years.
The research institute’s growth is partly responsible for Vuori’s promotion. The expansion led it to split the president and chief executive officer roles previously held by Dr. John Reed, Vuori said.