David J. Skorton.

The Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents has appointed David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University and a board-certified cardiologist, as the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. Skorton will assume his new post in July 2015. He succeeds G. Wayne Clough, who announced his resignation in September 2013.

Skorton, 64, has been president of Cornell University since July 2006. He will be the first physician to lead the Smithsonian. Before taking the helm at Cornell, Skorton was president of the University of Iowa from 2003 to 2006.

"Becoming a part of the Smithsonian is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an institution that is at the heart of the country's cultural, artistic, historical and scientific life," Skorton said in a press release. "I am honored by the Board of Regents' decision. I look forward with great enthusiasm to partnering with the excellent staff and volunteers, and engaging with the Regents, Congress and the Smithsonian's many friends, supporters and affiliates to further extend our reach."

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution comprises some 185 affiliate museums in 43 states, Puerto Rico and Panama. Its annual budget is $1.3 billion. The federal appropriation for fiscal year 2014 is $805 million, or about 62 percent of the budget.