Duke University Awards Four School of Medicine Faculty Distinguished Professorships

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Four School of Medicine faculty were awarded distinguished professorships at a May 4th dinner. Distinguished professorships recognize both exceptional achievement and the potential for future achievement. They are awarded to our most distinguished faculty who have demonstrated extraordinary scholarship in advancing science and improving human health. 

Charles Johnson, MD, Professor of Medicine

James L. Abbruzzese, MD

James L. Abbruzzese, MD, is a professor in the Department of Medicine and chief of the Division of Medical Oncology. He is a member of the Duke Cancer Institute and serves as its associate director of Clinical Research and Training.

Dr. Abbruzzese is one of the world's foremost leaders in the clinical study and treatment of pancreatic cancer. His research focuses on the development of novel therapeutic agents for pancreatic and other gastrointestinal cancers. He has held National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NCI) grants in phase I and phase II drug development, a translational research grant from the NCI assessing novel anti-angiogenic agents in cancer patients, and a SPORE grant focused on the development of novel therapies for pancreatic cancer.

Co-author of more than 400 research publications, Dr. Abbruzzese has recently served as the chair of the Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee of the National Cancer Institute. He currently serves on the editorial board of a number of prestigious journals, including as deputy editor of the AACR journal Clinical Cancer Research. He also serves on the scientific advisory board for Pancreatic Cancer United Kingdom.

Dr. Abbruzzese earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He also completed clinical fellowships in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins and in Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School. Before his recruitment to Duke University he spent most of his professional career at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he progressed through the ranks to assume leadership positions as professor and chairman of the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology and associate vice-provost for Clinical Research. Dr. Abbruzzese joined the Duke faculty in 2013.


Barbara Levine University Professor 

David G. Kirsch, MD, PhD

David G. Kirsch, MD, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.  Dr. Kirsch serves as the vice chair for Basic and Translational Research in the Department of Radiation Oncology.  He is also the leader of the Duke Cancer Institute’s Radiation Oncology and Imaging Research Program. 

An internationally-recognized expert in sarcoma, Dr. Kirsch is a compassionate clinician, who utilizes radiation therapy to care for patients with bone and soft tissue sarcomas.  In his laboratory, Dr. Kirsch applies state-of-the-art tools in mouse genetics, imaging, and cell biology, to study sarcoma and radiation biology in order to develop new cancer therapies in the pre-clinical setting.  Dr. Kirsch has developed primary mouse model systems of sarcoma and generated a number of novel genetically engineered mice, which are utilized by a number of laboratories around the world.  He has used these models to tackle the most challenging and controversial questions in radiation biology; thereby, making seminal contributions to the field.

Dr. Kirsch serves as a councilor for the Radiation Research Society, participates on the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) 8th Edition Soft Tissue Sarcoma Expert Panel, and is the chair of the Developmental Therapeutics Committee for the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC).

Dr. Kirsch attended Duke University as an undergraduate student, graduating in 1993. He received his MD and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2000. He completed his residency in Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Kirsch joined Duke to start his independent laboratory in 2007 and was promoted to full professor in 2015.


Mary and Deryl Hart Professorship of Surgery 

Stuart Knechtle, MD

Stuart Knechtle, MD, is a professor in the Department of Surgery and also serves as executive director of Duke’s Transplant Center. 

A nationally-recognized surgeon and a leader in the field of liver and kidney transplantation, Dr. Knechtle performed the first living donor liver transplant and the first combined liver/pancreas transplant in the state of Wisconsin. He has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Health since 1992. The focus of his research is immunologic tolerance to organ transplants, as well as immunologic monitoring of transplant patients to detect transplant rejection. Dr. Knechtle’s research has led to the development of tools to benefit human organ transplant recipients including immune cell depletion, costimulation blockade, and a method to monitor kidney transplant patients by measuring chemokines in their urine. 

Dr. Knechtle has published over 250 scientific papers, over 50 book chapters and edited three medical textbooks. He is on the editorial board of several national academic journals, including Liver Transplantation, Transplant Immunology, and Annals of Surgery, and serves as the editor-in-chief of Transplantation Reviews. 

Dr. Knechtle received his MD from Cornell University Medical College. He completed his residency and fellowship in general surgery at Duke, where he served as chief resident from 1988-1989. He completed a fellowship in multi-organ transplantation at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Knechtle served as director of Transplantation at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and chief of the Division of Transplantation in the Department of Surgery at Emory University before joining Duke as a full professor in 2015.


Mary and Deryl Hart Professorship of Surgery

Peter K. Smith, MD

Peter K. Smith, MD, is a professor in the Department of Surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. He also serves as co-director of the Duke Heart Center and chief of Cardiac Surgery at the Durham Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center.  Dr. Smith is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke and a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI).

As principal investigator for the Duke site in the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute’s (NHLBI) Cardiothoracic Surgery Clinical Trials Network, Dr. Smith leads activities designed to develop surgical clinical trialists and to promote clinical research capacity. He has a long track record of extramural funding and is presently the principal investigator of two NHLBI UO1 awards. He also has been awarded site funding from the Veteran’s Administration to begin cooperative clinical research trials at the Durham VA. 

Dr. Smith has over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Cardiology, and a member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the American Surgical Association and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. Smith is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He received his MD from Duke University School of Medicine. He completed his training in surgery and thoracic surgery at Duke and was an American Heart Association Clinician Scientist Awardee during his research training years. He served as chief resident in 1986 before joining the Duke faculty in 1987 as assistant professor sponsored by a Research Career Development Award from the NIH. Dr. Smith was promoted to a full professor and division chief in 1994.