Cancer center appoints new interim physician-in-chief

Dr. Cooke on balcony

Cancer center appoints new interim physician-in-chief


David Tom Cooke has been appointed interim physician-in-chief for UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and UC Davis Health. In the position, he will lead the development and oversight of the cancer center’s performance targets and metrics, setting standards of care, measuring and improving clinical outcomes and disseminating best practices. Cooke’s direct reports will include the medical directors of the inpatient oncology units and outpatient clinics, as well as the cancer center’s disease groups, physicians and clinician leaders. He assumes the position on Dec. 1. 

Cooke is currently a professor and founding chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery. His motto for the division is “Equality of Great Quality.” He is an ardent advocate for reducing the cancer burden on marginalized communities, working toward health equity for all. Last year, he was recognized for care and compassion in medicine after receiving the 2022 Ethnic Physician Leadership Award. He was also named to Cancer Health’s 25: Black Lives Matter list in 2021. 

“I look forward to advancing the mission of our cancer center, steadfastly supporting our patients and their families, multidisciplinary team members, referring providers and networks as well as our broader California communities,” Cooke said. “From prevention to survivorship, with a focus on access, care coordination and innovation, our cancer center is indispensable to the health of Californians.” 

Cooke is currently vice chair for faculty development and wellness for the Department of Surgery. In this role, he helps to oversee high-quality training and resources for UC Davis faculty. 

“Dr. Cooke’s natural leadership acumen and strong communication skills will serve him well. I anticipate a seamless transition as he steps into this new role, replacing the highly regarded Richard Bold, who recently departed,” UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr. said. “I look forward to Dr. Cooke bringing further innovation to the cancer center as we continue integrating research, clinical trials, education, training and outreach into clinical oncology services.” 

Cooke recently helped launch the new lung cancer integrated service line focused on increasing lung cancer screening rates in the region and catching lung cancer when it is the most curable. This includes the Lung Cancer – Lung Nodule Early Detection (Lung-LEAD) Clinic

Cooke specializes in the surgical treatment of malignant and benign lung and esophageal diseases and is a national leader in robotic thoracic surgery. Cooke's research includes oncologic trials, surgical outcomes and health services research, patient-centered outcomes research, surgical education, and medical social media as an educational tool. He has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications. 

Cooke is president of the Thoracic Surgery Directors Association, a director with the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, a director with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a member of the American Surgical Association and an associate member of the American College of Surgeons Academy of Master Surgeon Educators. Cooke currently serves on the American Lung Association National Lung Cancer Expert Medical Advisory Panel, speaking nationally and appearing as a media spokesperson on the prevention, screening and treatment of lung cancer. 

Cooke completed his cardiothoracic surgery training at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his general surgery residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley

Cooke was part of the inaugural class of UC Davis Health's Leadership and Executive Administration Development Program. Instructed by Vice Chancellor and CEO of UC Davis Health David Lubarsky and other executive UC Davis Health leaders, participants gained a broader understanding of the landscape around the health care enterprise, taking experiential learning opportunities to a high level.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit