University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced on July 29 that Christine Lau, MD, MBA, the George Minor Professor of Surgery and chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Virginia (UVa), will become the next chair of the Department of Surgery at UMSOM and the chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). She will begin her new position on a full-time basis Dec. 1, 2019.
Lau is a nationally renowned thoracic and lung transplant surgeon who is widely regarded for her leadership in the field of thoracic surgery. She is a federally funded scientist and an expert clinician who is widely acclaimed for her work in improving outcomes for lung transplant patient.
Lau’s selection followed an extensive nationwide search in which nearly 100 candidates were nominated for this coveted position. This appointment makes Lau the first woman to chair the Department of Surgery at UMSOM since its early beginnings in the 1800s. It also makes her one of a small number of women throughout the United States to lead a major department of surgery.
“We are delighted that Dr. Lau will be the next chair of our excellent and nationally acclaimed Department of Surgery. She is ideally qualified to lead the department to new and even greater heights," said Reece who also is executive vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “She has been a true pioneer in the field of lung transplantation, and the School of Medicine and the medical center will continue their upward trajectory resulting from her strong record of academic and clinical leadership as well as her scholarly excellence and management experience."
Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, president and CEO of UMMC, added: “Dr. Lau brings a stellar record of clinical and research accomplishments to our already outstanding Department of Surgery. Her demonstrated commitment to excellence in patient care, as well as to driving innovation and discovery, bode well for the future of the department. We are truly excited that she will be assuming this important leadership role.”
Rajabrata Sarkar, MD, PhD, the Barbara Baur Dunlap Professor in Surgery, vice chair for clinical operations in the Department of Surgery, and head of the Division of Vascular Surgery, served as interim chair of the department during the past year and a half.
"We are deeply grateful to Dr. Sarkar for his outstanding transitional leadership during this important period for the department," Reece added. "We look forward to his continuing contributions to the department and the SOM as one of the preeminent vascular surgeons in the nation." Previously, the department was led for many years by Stephen Bartlett, MD, a distinguished transplant surgeon.
Lau will lead the UMSOM Department of Surgery, which has a long and rich history dating back to the start of the school in 1807. In its early days, UMSOM was the first medical school in the country to perform several surgical procedures that have since become routine. For the past 50 years, the Department of Surgery, in collaboration with other departments including internal medicine and anesthesiology, has been an international leader in multi-organ transplantation, cardio-thoracic surgery, trauma and critical care, cancer care, and other major surgical programs. The department remains widely regarded for groundbreaking research in basic, translational, and clinical science.
“I am beyond thrilled to be joining such a talented team of surgeons and individuals,” Lau said. “While I never saw myself leaving UVa, the opportunity to influence the future direction of surgery at the University of Maryland is simply something that I wanted to be a part of!”
Lau will continue her federally funded research program in her new position. She brings with her a multi-year, $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the use of a new therapy to prevent ischemia-reperfusion injury in lung transplant recipients.
In May, she and her colleagues presented findings from the NIH-funded trial at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery Annual Meeting. The trial demonstrated, for the first time, the safety of Regadenoson (an adenosine 2A receptor agonist) for use in human lung transplant patients to potentially prevent ischemia-reperfusion injury, which contributes to the less-than-optimal survival rates in lung transplant recipients. Adenosine 2AR agonists like Regadenoson, which is used in cardiac stress testing, offer a potentially novel treatment for this common inflammatory complication where none exists today.
At UVa, Lau helped to build the lung transplant program to be among the best in the nation for patient outcomes during her time as director of lung transplantation. Her research, which she will continue at UMSOM, has added significant advances in areas that include lung injury and inflammation.
Lau specializes in all aspects of general thoracic surgery and is board-certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery. She has been consistently named a "Top Doctor in America" by Newsweek and other publications. She currently serves as director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and serves on the Board for the American Association for Thoracic Surgeons. In addition, she serves on the expert panel for Leap Frog, a national nonprofit organization that collects and reports on hospital performance, and she serves on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Study Section for Anesthesiology and Trauma Research.
She received her medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., graduating No. 1 in her class. She garnered numerous awards while she was there, including being elected to the National Medical Honor Society and receiving the Janet M. Glasgow Memorial Award. She did her internship and residency in general surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. After completing training in general surgery, she went to Washington University in St. Louis for her fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery and also in lung transplantation, which she finished in 2005. She earned an MBA in 2012 from UVa’s Darden School of Business with a focus on management and leadership development.
Before joining UVa, Lau was an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Lau has authored or co-authored more than 140 articles in leading publications such as the Journal of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery, Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine, and the American Journal of Transplantation. She also has written or contributed chapters to 35 medical textbooks on her specialty interests, which include lung cancer, esophageal cancer, mediastinal diseases, lung volume reduction, laparoscopic surgery, and lung transplantation.
In 2006, Lau was awarded the John Kirklin Fellowship by the American Association of Thoracic Surgery. She is a member of the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons; American College of Surgeons; Society of Thoracic Surgeons; Women in Thoracic Surgery; the International Society of Heart & Lung Transplantation; the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association; the American Society of Transplant Surgeons; and the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. She is also a founding member of the Mosenthal Surgical Society; a member of the Sabiston Surgical Society; a member of the John Alexander Surgical Society; and a member of the Muller-Jones Surgical Society.
Reece, working in collaboration with Suntha and UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, launched a campuswide Culture Transformation Initiative, a long-term program dedicated to ensuring a professional, respectful, and inclusive work environment for all. Lau is strongly committed to embracing this initiative and extending its reach across the Department of Surgery and beyond.