Nita Ahuja, M.D., M.B.A., has been named chair of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine and chief of surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, effective February 1.

Ahuja is currently the Jacob C. Handelsman Professor in Abdominal Surgery and professor of surgery, oncology, and urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and chief of surgical oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She also serves as vice chair of academic affairs for the Department of Surgery and associate director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

“Nita is widely respected for innovative patient care, renowned for her research on cancer epigenetics, and passionate about mentoring the next generation of surgeon scientists. Her ability to be a collaborative leader will make her a welcome addition to the School of Medicine community,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine.

At Johns Hopkins, Ahuja leads the integration and expansion of surgical oncology programs across the health system. Her surgical specialization is in gastric, rectal, and pancreatic cancers. She has developed an international reputation for the management of peritoneal cancer metastases with cytoreduction, a technique to remove the maximum number of cancer cells that is possible, and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy.

As an investigator, Ahuja directs a National Institutes of Health-funded cancer research laboratory focused on improving outcomes for gastrointestinal cancers. In addition to her widely recognized work in translational epigenetics—the expression of our genetic code—she recently has been a leading member of the Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team “Bringing Epigenetic Therapy to the Forefront of Cancer Management.” She conducts investigator-initiated clinical trials in colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other solid tumors and has developed biomarkers for the early detection of colorectal and pancreatic cancers. She also leads a National Cancer Institute Clinical and Laboratory Training Program for developing a pipeline of academic surgical oncologists.

“I am the poster child for the tripartite academic mission,” she says. “I strongly believe in it.”

Building upon the growth of the department, she says she would like to add to its stature by setting the tone for care delivery and being at the forefront of clinical outcomes, research programs, and faculty mentorship. “Health care is being disrupted by market forces, but at the same time there is lots of opportunity,” she notes. “It is our job to seek out those opportunities and fashion how health care delivery will happen in the next 20 to 30 years.”

Ahuja obtained her medical education at the Duke University School of Medicine and her training in general surgery at Johns Hopkins. After completing a fellowship in surgical oncology at Johns Hopkins focused on hepatobiliary malignancies, she joined the faculty in 2003.