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Stanford's New Surgery Chair Believes in Research, Clinical Involvement by all Team Members

Dr. John E. Niederhuber, one of the nation's leading experts on surgery in the treatment of cancer and most recently at The Johns Hopkins University medical school, was appointed Friday (Oct. 11) as professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Stanford University

Niederhuber, whose tenured appointment was approved by the Advisory Board of the Medical Center, is expected to spearhead a variety of new or revitalized programs in the Department of Surgery in addition to hands-on leadership in his own subspecialty of surgical oncology. As department chair, he will serve as chief of surgery at Stanford University Hospital.

Although he will head a department of more than 50 surgeons and some 30 other staff members, Niederhuber said, "I've been personally committed to the treatment of cancer patients for a long time, and I'm bound and determined to continue to be in the operating room every day."

Niederhuber's appointment is part of a major revitalizatoin of the Medical Center's clinical programs announced by the institution in 1987.

A centerpiece of Stanford's oncology program is expected to be a $45 million Stanford Cancer Research Center Phase One, which will provide office, clinic and laboratory space for a variety of cancer programs. The facility is expected to be built within a few years.

Meanwhile, a $2.5 million Stanford Center for Cancer Treatment, currently under construction in the Diagnostic and Treatment Building of Stanford University Hospital, will provide state-of-the-art facilities for cancer patients in a consolidated location. Completion is expected by the end of the year.

Niederhuber's own research has focused on the molecular physiology of the immune system.

"Cancer research has shifted over the past several decades from the study of symptomatic problems of patients to cellular and molecular studies to begin to understand cancer at its source -- at the point where biological growth and regeneration goes awry, the point where we can most effectively intervene to stop this major killer," the new chair said.

While successfully treating patients may be the ultimate goal of all medicine, Niederhuber said he is extremely anxious to develop a program that will lead to that objective in a comprehensive fashion.

"I believe that cancer patient care and research are both most effective when the two critical components are not simply equal functions in the same environment. Both elements, combined with education, must be carefully integrated," Niederhuber said. "The sum is larger than its parts."

New programs -- to be lead by new faculty members recently arrived or being recruited -- include a multi-organ transplant center, which will expand or renew services in kidney, liver and pancreas transplantation. The program will continue to foster research in the prevention of organ rejection by cooperating closely with immunologists and pharmacologists who are working to overcome this major stumbling block to the success of transplantation.

Inaugurated last July is an academic training program in emergency medicine, which will offer specialty training in that field to interns and residents. Previously, interns and residents included emergency department training as part of another program, such as general surgery or medicine.

Niederhuber is also recruiting more than 20 new faculty surgeons in such specialty areas as vascular, gastrointestinal, surgical oncology, transplant surgery, trauma, and pediatric surgery.

The potential for combining patient care, research, and teaching in a meaningful way, Niederhuber said, is virtually unlimited at Stanford.

"Some team members, certainly, will have a particular interest in clinical medicine, others will be more interested in the laboratory. But all team members must be involved in both areas to achieve progress.. My challenge at Stanford is to help build such a collaboration," he said.

Niederhuber joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1987. A year earlier, after leaving a faculty position at the University of Michigan, Niederhuber served for a year as a visiting professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Hopkins, located in Baltimore.

He then joined the faculty at Hopkins, holding appointments in the Departments of Surgery, Oncology and Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. Niederhuber is a 1964 M.D. graduate of Ohio State University Medical School.

In a related action by Stanford University, Niederhuber was appointed to an endowed professorship, the Emile Holman Professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine. Previous occupant of the chair was another surgeon, Dr. Robert A. Chase, who retired as a professor of surgery in 1988 but remains fully active as a teacher and chief of the Division of Human Anatomy.


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