Five School of Medicine faculty were awarded distinguished professorships. 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.
Grace Kerby Chair, School of Medicine
Soman Abraham, PhD, is a Professor in Pathology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Dr. Abraham is also a Professor in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School (Duke-NUS). He is a recognized leader in the field of Infectious Diseases and Immunology. His current research focuses on the molecular interactions between infectious pathogens and various host cells, which he believes will lead to the development of new therapies and vaccination strategies. Dr. Abraham has made several influential and notable findings throughout his esteemed career. His laboratory revealed the creative ways virulent pathogens, such as salmonella, uropathogenic E.coli and the plague bacteria, circumvent the body’s immune defenses. From the study of immune responses at different body sites, his laboratory has revealed several effective strategies to combat infections, particularly urinary tract infections, which do not involve the use of antibiotics. Another key discovery of his relates to mast cells, which are generally known for their role in harmful allergies. Dr. Abraham found that mast cells play a powerful role in modulating both innate and adaptive immune responses to infection. In collaboration with his Duke University colleague, Dr. Herman Staats, Dr. Abraham discovered the effectiveness of mast cell activators as powerful adjuvants for various vaccine formulations. Dr. Abraham earned his BS and MS degrees from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. He earned his PhD from Newcastle University, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tennessee. He held a faculty position at Washington University in St. Louis before joining Duke University.
Edwin Crowell Hamblen Chair of Reproductive Biology and Family Planning
Matthew D. Barber, MD, MHS, is a nationally recognized educator, researcher and surgeon specializing in urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery. His early research career focused on developing, validating and assessing research outcomes for pelvic floor dysfunctions, particularly health-related quality of life and patient-reported outcomes. His primary research contribution, however, has been the conduct of randomized clinical trials for the treatment of benign gynecologic conditions, particularly surgical trials for pelvic floor disorders. Dr. Barber has led several single and multi-site clinical trials, including landmark trials in the treatment of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse and use of robotic and laparoscopic surgery for treatment of gynecologic disease. In 2017, Dr. Barber was named the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke. Before joining Duke. He held numerous leadership positions at the Cleveland Clinic including vice chair for Research in the Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Barber earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and a master’s degree in Health Science in Clinical Research from Duke University School of Medicine. He completed residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery at Duke University.
Samuel L. Katz Professorship in Pediatrics
P. Brian Smith, MD, MHS, MPH, has made seminal contributions in the field of pediatric drug safety, neonatal pharmacology, and the epidemiology of neonatal infections research. A professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Quantitative Sciences in the Department of Pediatrics. He is a neonatologist and a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute.Dr. Smith’s research has focused on breaking down the barriers to appropriate drug dosing and safety studies in infants and children, especially in low birth weight and premature neonates. Dr. Smith has had an important impact on the field of clinical trial design and conduct. He is a recognized leader in the implementation of networks dedicated to child health and is principal investigator for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Coordinating Center. He has focused on optimizing clinical trial design methods to determine the dosing, safety, and efficacy of therapeutic agents used in infants—neonatal clinical pharmacology. By relying on unique trial designs and funding from multiple sources, he has led efforts to close the therapeutic knowledge gap that exists in this vulnerable population. Dr. Smith earned his medical degree from Mercer University and completed his residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in neonatal medicine at Duke in 2004 and 2007, respectively. He completed an MHS in clinical research from Duke University in 2006 and an MPH in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009.
Morris N. Broad Distinguished Professorship
Fan Wang, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Neurobiology. Her research aims to understand the neural mechanisms that transform tactile or painful stimuli into percepts and movements, with a special emphasis on “active” sensation. She also studies how the brain switches between conscious and unconscious states. A key facet of her research program centers on inventing powerful methods to identify and perturb these neural circuits. Dr. Wang exploited a molecular system she developed for retrograde trans-synaptic transport of markers to create remarkable sensorimotor circuit diagrams. She also discovered the details of central connections between touch afferents with different functional properties and the second-order neurons. In related work on pain, Dr. Wang revealed a dual amino-acid and opioid-peptide transmitter descending system that plays critical anti-pain functions in the spinal cord. Dr. Wang invented and is now exploiting a system called “CANE,” for “Capturing Activated Neural Ensembles.” Using CANE, Dr. Wang discovered a unique neural connection underlying heightened emotional responses to head and face pain. Dr. Wang is also using CANE to reveal how the brain controls the conscious versus unconscious state. She finds that the switch between a conscious versus unconscious state is an active process, regulated by neurons that must be active to create unconsciousness. Dr. Wang completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University and received her PhD from Columbia University.
Charles Johnson, MD, Chair of Medicine
Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc, is Professor of Medicine, and Chief of the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine. He is internationally recognized as a leading clinical nephrologist and physician-scientist in the fields of disordered mineral metabolism and cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Dr. Wolf’s groundbreaking research of the bone-derived phosphate-regulating hormone, fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), was instrumental in advancing new paradigms and identifying new therapeutic targets at the nexus of kidney and cardiovascular diseases. His research on FGF23 helped to redefine the pathophysiology of disordered mineral metabolism in CKD, and has been adopted in textbooks and board exams. His epidemiological research identified elevated levels of FGF23 as a novel predictor of cardiovascular events and death, and his basic research suggested novel molecular mechanisms underlying these relationships. Dr. Wolf earned his B.A. in biology from the Johns Hopkins University, his M.D. from the State University of New York, Downstate, and his Master of Medical Sciences Degree in Clinical and Physiological Investigation from Harvard Medical School. He completed his internship and residency, and a fellowship in nephrology, at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Before joining Duke in 2016, he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School; the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he served as assistant dean for translational and clinical research and as chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension; and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he served as founding Director of the Center for Translational Metabolism and Health, and Director of the Department of Medicine’s Physician Scientist Training Program.