SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The first medical doctor trained at a Utah school has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to the University of Utah.

Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, officially becoming the 16th director of the NIH, which is the United States’ medical research agency. She began operating in the role in early October.

Bertagnolli is a cancer surgeon who graduated in 1985 from the University of Utah’s Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, according to the press release. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last December while serving as the first female director of the National Cancer Institute. She said doctors are also human and are not just providers, but patients as well.

“It’s one thing to know about cancer as a physician, but it is another to experience it firsthand as a patient as well. To anyone with cancer today: I am truly in this together with you,” Bertagnolli said in December.

While experiencing her own personal health challenges, she is continuing to lead the nation’s health research at the NIH. The NIH is “the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world” and has a $47 billion budget, the press release said.

Bertagnolli is originally from Wyoming, born to first-generation Italian and French Basque immigrants, according to the NIH announcement. She studied engineering at Princeton University, attended medical school at the University of Utah, and received surgery training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts.