Four faculty members in Pritzker, BSD receive named appointments

Four faculty members in Pritzker, BSD receive named appointments

January 17, 2012

Four members of the faculty in the Biological Sciences Division -- Habibul Ahsan, Peter Angelos, David Song and Jerrold Turner -- have received named professorships.

Habibul Ahsan, MD, MMedSc, professor in the departments of health studies, human genetics and medicine, director of the Center for Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the University of Chicago Medical Center and associate director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been named a Louis Block Professor.

Ahsan studies the relationships between environmental and genomic factors in cancer and other diseases to understand the pathogenesis, prognosis and prevention of diseases of broad public health significance. He has published extensively on the large-scale epidemiology, genetic susceptibility and prevention of health effects of arsenic exposure, from contaminated wells in parts of Bangladesh, and also on the molecular and genetic epidemiology of breast and other cancers.

Since 2000, Ahsan has led the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study, or HEALS. This study examines the long-term consequences of arsenic exposure -- a problem that affects nearly a third of the population of Bangladesh -- on a sample of 20,000 men and women in Bangladesh. In 2010, his team showed that the risk of dying from a chronic disease was nearly 70 percent higher for those with high arsenic levels. Those with moderate exposures had a 20 to 30 percent increased risk. A follow-up study found that the combination of arsenic exposure with smoking multiplied the risk.

Based on the scientific leads from HEALS, Ahsan and colleagues are now testing whether inexpensive supplements of selenium and vitamin E can reduce rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and death for those with elevated arsenic levels among 7,000 exposed individuals in a separate study called Bangladesh vitamin E and Selenium Trial (BEST).

He is also principal investigator of two genome-wide association studies to identify novel genes for breast cancer risk and prognosis among 7,000 young women from the United States, Germany, Canada and Australia.

Born in Bangladesh, Ahsan received his medical degree from Dhaka University in 1988, followed by a M.Med.Sc degree in epidemiology from the University of Western Australia in 1992 and post-doctoral training in molecular epidemiology at Columbia University from 1993-1995. He then served on the faculty at Columbia for 11 years before coming to Chicago in 2006.

Peter Angelos, MD, PhD, professor of surgery, section chief of endocrine surgery and associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, has been named the Linda Kohler Anderson Professor at the University of Chicago.

A highly regarded physician with extensive experience in surgery of the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, Angelos is an expert in the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques in the treatment of endocrine cancers. He is also an authority on issues of medical professionalism, training new surgeons and surgical ethics.

A prolific author, Angelos has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on improving outcomes of thyroid and parathyroid surgery, minimally invasive endocrine surgery, best practices for thyroid cancer treatment and ethical decision making in health care. He has edited the first and second editions of a book on Ethical Issues in Cancer Patient Care, delivered 150 invited lectures, primarily on surgical innovation and ethics, and was featured in a series of instructional surgical videos. He was chair of the ethics committee of the American College of Surgeons oncology group for 13 years and currently serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and the U.S. chapter of the international Society of Surgery.

Angelos earned both his BA in medical science and philosophy and his MD in 1989 through a joint six-year program at Boston University. He completed his surgical residency at Northwestern University, with a year spent in an ethics fellowship at the University of Chicago, and his PhD in philosophy in 1995 at Boston University. After a second fellowship in endocrine surgery at the University of Michigan in 1996, he joined the faculty in surgery and medical ethics and humanities at Northwestern University, where he was chair of the ethics committee. He moved to the University of Chicago in 2006. Included in multiple lists of "top doctors," he has received many honors for his clinical skills, emphasis on professionalism and devotion to teaching.

David H. Song, MD, MBA, professor of surgery, vice chair of the Department of Surgery, section chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery and director of the plastic surgery residency training program at the University of Chicago Medical Center, has been named the Cynthia Chow Professor.

An internationally recognized expert in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Song specializes in breast reconstruction and oncoplastic surgery -- a multispecialty approach to tumor removal and tissue reconstruction. His research, including several current clinical trials, focuses on improving breast reconstruction after lumpectomy or mastectomy. He also has pioneered techniques for the repair of chest wall defects.

A fellow in the American College of Surgeons and past president of the Chicago Society of Plastic Surgeons, Song also has served as a board member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Association of Academic Chairmen of Plastic Surgery. He serves on the boards of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the Medical Aid for Children of Latin America, which provides free surgical care for children with congenital deformities in the Dominican Republic. He organizes and staffs outreach efforts for this organization each year.

Song earned his BS in biomedical sciences from the University of California, Riverside, and his MD from the University of California, Los Angeles, in a joint seven-year program. He completed his general surgery residency and fellowships in plastic surgery and microsurgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, then joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. He was named section chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at age 34 in 2004. In 2009, he completed an MBA at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and was named vice chair for business and strategy for surgery.

He and surgical colleagues developed a new technology that is now commercially available for closing the chest after open-heart surgery. He is the author or co-author of more than 50 research studies and multiple book chapters. He edited two textbooks and is associate editor for Plastic Surgery, 3rd Edition, the definitive textbook in the field, to be published in 2012.

Song has received many honors including recognition from the Korean Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons; the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of California, Riverside; and clinician of the year from Y-ME, a national breast cancer advocacy organization. In 2005, he was featured in Crain's Chicago Business' list of up-and-comers in its "40 Under 40."

Jerrold R. Turner, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and medicine and associate chair of the Department of Pathology, has been named a Sara and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor.

An active physician and scientist, Turner has primary clinical expertise in gastrointestinal pathology. His research interests relate to disorders associated with defective intestinal barrier function, including inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and graft versus host disease. Turner's research group integrates tools from diverse disciplines, including cell biology, electrophysiology, structural and molecular biology, and immunology to understand how barrier dysfunction drives disease.

Turner studies how the epithelial cells that line the digestive tract establish, maintain and regulate barriers to prevent uncontrolled exchange between the hostile environment of the gut lumen and the sterile internal tissues. His laboratory has focused the biology and pathobiology of tight junctions, the structures that seal and regulate flux across the space between adjacent epithelial cells.

Turner's recent work has changed scientists' understanding of how tight junctions function, replacing an older static model in which tight junction proteins are stably cross-linked with a more dynamic view in which the proteins actively bind to and release from one another. Ongoing efforts of his lab include molecular characterization of these interactions and their roles in barrier regulation. Application of these data to preclinical models has allowed Turner to develop novel therapeutic approaches that restore intestinal barrier function and limit or prevent disease.

The author of more than 190 original articles, reviews, and book chapters, Turner has been recognized with Outstanding Investigator awards from the American Society for Investigative Pathology and the American Physiological Society. He is presently associate editor of Gastroenterology, serves on several editorial boards and holds leadership positions in major pathology, physiology and gastroenterology societies.