Six Month Milestone of Mike Feldman's Tenure as Chair
It is hard to believe but it's already been more than six months since I arrived at Indiana University to take over the chair position of this great Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. During this period, I have listened in one-on-one meet-and-greets with our faculty, worked with our extended lead teams, rolled up our sleeves working on individual projects, discussed new research ideas in our research group meetings, and numerous other activities. I have witnessed our teams' passion for their profession and a deep compassion for each other and the patients we serve. Teamwork is at the very core of what I have seen and our accomplishments in our clinical, education, and research endeavors succeed because of our collective team effort. It's not a cliché to say that our IU Health values of Excellence, Purpose, Team, and Compassion play out every day in our daily work together. I have been privileged to see these values in our daily work and to participate with all of you to drive these values home and I can’t thank you enough for your efforts in support of each other and on behalf of our patients.
Getting to know you, in meeting after meeting with so many of you, has been immensely gratifying and illuminating and it has helped me appreciate the many facets of the department. You have made me feel very welcome and you have been very open with your ideas and suggestions of how we can create a Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine that is ready and nimble: ready and poised for the challenges of the future and nimble enough to take advantage of the opportunities for new growth in new directions. At the same time, I am very much aware that this department has had to endure a lot of difficult changes over the years. And, just in the last few weeks, we lost two of our esteemed colleagues—a loss that serves as a painful reminder of how hard it can be when change is compounded with grief.
Therefore, while I recognize that it is not always easy to go through periods of change, I do appreciate your commitment and your support for my vision of the department as we embark on this journey together. For this reason, I want to point out a few milestones that we have already accomplished together and that will provide a solid foundation on which we can continue to build.
In a remarkably swift process, we were able to recruit our first new research faculty member: Spyridon Bakas, PhD, joined us September 1 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he held joint faculty appointments in the Departments of Pathology, Radiology, and Bioengineering. Spyros specializes in machine learning and pattern analysis, areas that promise to revolutionize the fields of computational pathology, cancer imaging, and radiogenomics. He holds a PhD in Medical Image Computing & Analysis from Kingston University London. Spyros will be a tremendous catalyst to grow our basic science and translational programs because of how his work synergizes with our clinical efforts and I am very thrilled to have him come aboard. He will lead a new division in our department, the Division of Computational Pathology, and lead the newly established Research Center for Federated Learning in Precision Medicine. The goal of this new division will be to nucleate a team that brings cutting-edge image and bioinformatics to pathology as a research domain but also into the translational and clinical domains to further enhance the clinical practice of pathology. Spyros will work broadly across IU School of Medicine and IU to partner with the growing number of computational scientists in other departments, including Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Biostatistics and Health Data Science, the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, the Regenstrief Institute, the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering at the Purdue University School of Engineering & Technology.
Active recruiting is also ongoing in neuropathology to grow our neurodegenerative research disease teams. Dr. Ruben Vidal is leading these efforts.
In addition, I have made a number of changes in the administrative leadership structure of the department that underscore the importance I place in education, research, faculty development, and equity and inclusion. Each of these aspects is crucial for the future success of this department, which is why we are actively recruiting leaders for them and elevating them to vice chair status. I was happy to appoint Matthew Kuhar, MD, to be our first Vice Chair of Education. Dr. Kuhar has already demonstrated his leadership capabilities as the longstanding director of the residency program and I am confident that our educational mission will benefit greatly from his conscientious approach and inclusive perspective.
Dr. Kuhar joined our department as an AP/CP resident in 2005, served as chief resident and IU School of Medicine house staff president, and completed his dermatopathology fellowship before taking his first staff position in Boston. He was recruited to rejoin our department as a dermatopathologist in 2013. Dr. Kuhar is a widely respected teacher and mentor. He was awarded the Pathology Department Resident Teaching Award in 2008 and 2009 and an IU Trustee Teaching Award in 2018. He is active in organizations dedicated to pathology education, including serving on the ACGME Review Committee for Pathology, which sets national accreditation requirements for pathology residency and fellowship programs. He served as a board examiner for the American Board of Pathology for Dermatopathology certification (2017-2022), for Continuing Certification in Anatomic Pathology (2016-2023), and has also contributed to reshaping pathology life-long learning as an inaugural member of the American Board of Pathology’s Continuing Certification Advisory Committee. Dr. Kuhar advocates for learners through his work on the Mentorship Awards Committee and Membership Committee of the American Society of Dermatopathology, as a member of the USCAP DEI Committee, and as chair of their Resident Advisory Subcommittee.
As Vice Chair for Education, Dr. Kuhar will collaborate with and support our myriad education programs as they continuously improve their quality while they expand to meet the healthcare needs of Indiana. Taking over as residency program director is John-Paul Lavik, MD, PhD, with Brandon A. Umphress, MD, and Dr. Kuhar serving as associate directors. In fact, the residency program recently received approval from the ACGME to expand its size, so there are now 22 residents, and we successfully recruited an excellent cohort of seven new residents who started in July.
Our Genitourinary Fellowship received accreditation from the ACGME, with Dr. Muhammad Idrees serving as the program director. Two other fellowship programs are pursuing ACGME accreditation: a Bone and Soft Tissue Fellowship, directed by Dr. Laura Warmke, was approved by IU and is in the process of pursuing ACGME accreditation. The Gastrointestinal and Liver Fellowship program, directed by Dr. Jingmei Lin, has expanded to two fellows per year and is also in the process of pursuing ACGME accreditation.
Another important development in the educational space is the fact that Ashley S. Inman, MD, is taking a leadership role on Executive Associate Dean Dr. Paul Wallach's team in Faculty Affairs and Professional Development in order to prepare the school for their Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) site visit. The site visit is critical to maintaining medical school accreditation and occurs once every eight years.
I am also very pleased that Jessica Lee Davis, MD, the Lawrence M. Roth Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, has agreed to serve as the new Vice Chair of Anatomic Pathology. Dr. Davis has served as the director of surgical pathology and the Surgical Pathology Fellowship program director at IU School of Medicine since November 2022. Prior to that, she was the director of surgical pathology and the associate director of the pathology residency program in the Department of Pathology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. She completed her AP/CP residency at the University of California San Francisco, where she also completed her surgical pathology fellowship San Francisco with a focus on bone & soft tissue pathology. This was followed by a pediatric pathology fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital/University of Washington. Her research interests include pediatric pathology and molecular diagnostics of soft tissue tumors.
Dr. Davis is a dynamic and people-oriented administrator, who has already garnered impressive accolades in recognition of her transformative leadership accomplishments. She received Faculty Awards of Excellence in Teaching at UCSF and OHSU and was one of the 40 under Forty Award recipients from the ASCP. As the new Vice Chair of AP she is tasked with implementing a patient-centered sub-specialization practice and standardization model across the IU Health System, building a culture of open communication that emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion, engaging the entire department (faculty, staff, trainees) in pathology education, and increasing and supporting research endeavors within the anatomic pathology space for current and future faculty, trainees, and staff. Dr. Davis is a strong proponent of technological innovation that improves and optimizes pathology operations and supports new scientific inquiries. Her ability to build communities and establish relationships will also be immensely helpful in outreach efforts and in developing local, regional, and national partnerships for the department.
Our national searches for the vice chair positions of research, faculty development, and equity and inclusion will launch in the next few weeks, and I may call on many of you to help in the selection process.
Joining us as well are eleven new clinical faculty members in both anatomic pathology and laboratory medicine to match the growing clinical needs of our statewide health system. Two new faculty started in hematopathology this summer, Dr. Kenneth Ofori and Dr. Kemin Xu, joining us from Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, respectively. Dr. Kenneth Gavina joins our faculty after having completed his microbiology fellowship at IU. He is actively working to grow our infectious microbiology disease testing capabilities. Dr. Haseeba Khan will start in December and will split her time between the practice of infectious disease and clinical microbiology, having completed her microbiology fellowship at IU and infectious-disease training at Rush University. This represents a new partnership between pathology and the infectious disease division in internal medicine. In GU pathology, Dr. Andrew Acosta joined us from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he practiced for three years. Dr. Varsha Nair joined us from MD Anderson, where she completed her surgical pathology and urologic pathology fellowships. Dr. Jessica Hata joins us in pediatric pathology and nephropathology from the University of Louisville Medical School Norton Children’s Hospital after completing her renal pathology fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Carina Dehner, specializing in dermatopathology and bone and soft tissue pathology, joins us from the Mayo Clinic, where she completed her bone and soft tissue fellowship and previously completed her dermatopathology fellowship at Washington University in St Louis. Dr. Carli Whittington joins us after completing her dermatopathology training at University of Michigan and her dermatology training at University of Vermont Medical Center. This is another new partnership between pathology and dermatology. Dr. John Oylekin is joining us from UTMB Galveston for clinical chemistry and toxicology. Dr. Ahmad Muhammad, specializing in breast and gyn pathology, will join surgical pathology in October from Weill Cornell Medical College. Open recruiting is ongoing in neuropathology, GI pathology and gyn pathology.
There are also a number of changes we are making that will benefit the department in the months and years to come. One important component of these changes is a thorough redesign of our department's presence on the IU School of Medicine website. We have partnered with a local design company to relaunch our site and have started work on the back end already.
Lastly, I have been intensely focused on bringing together various sides of the clinical service lines. As part of this integration, we have also restructured the executive administrative leadership, who are now meeting on a biweekly basis. I have been meeting with other departments who can benefit from our clinical expertise and I am pleased to report that these efforts have been very productive and fruitful. For example, we are beginning to work closely with the Departments of Molecular Genetics, Pediatrics, and the Hematology/Oncology division, and are establishing new lines of collaboration with the cancer center.
I want to reiterate that such achievements depend in large part on the hard work and dedication of each and every one of you and I am very grateful for your commitment. Your work and spirit inspire me every day, so I thank you for making our department an excellent place to work and one that is infused with grace.
All the best,