Jeffrey Matthews appointed chairman of surgery at the University of Chicago

August 2, 2006

Portrait of Dr. Matthews

Gastrointestinal surgeon Jeffrey Matthews, MD, a leading authority on the surgical treatment of diseases of the pancreas, bile ducts and liver, and a prominent scientist known for his fundamental research on defects in chloride transport in epithelial tissue, has been appointed chairman of surgery at the University of Chicago, effective October 1, 2006.

Matthews, 47, comes to the University of Chicago from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine where he was the Christian R. Holmes Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery and a professor of molecular and cellular physiology. Before going to the University of Cincinnati in 2001, Matthews' career was based at Harvard Medical School.

"We are enormously pleased to bring in Jeff Matthews as chairman of surgery," said James Madara, MD, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center at the University of Chicago.  "He combines a sterling reputation as a physician, international renown as a bench scientist and widespread recognition as an inspirational teacher with an established track record as an imaginative and efficient administrator, having run a large academic surgery department for five years.  He is the model of a University of Chicago faculty member and leader and exactly the sort of rare person we had hoped to find."

"The University of Chicago has a distinguished history of surgical innovation and remarkable strengths in digestive disease, gastrointestinal surgery and cancer," said Matthews.  "It's also a place that is unusually committed to interdisciplinary basic, translational and clinical research--and it is in this unparalleled environment that we can create the new knowledge that will shape the future practice of surgery."

In his five years as chairman of surgery at Cincinnati, Matthews brought new strengths to a department that was already strong. He more than doubled research funding and doubled clinical revenue. He recruited 35 new clinical and research faculty and developed programs in minimally invasive and robotic surgery. He expanded multidisciplinary programs in pancreas and liver disease and in vascular, weight-loss and cosmetic surgery, and rebuilt the division of cardiac surgery.

He also launched an interdisciplinary program in emerging technologies and extreme environment research that brings together academia, industry and the military to "create a platform," he said, "for developing, validating and disseminating new technologies for surgical care in military and civilian settings."

At the same time, he led an effort to improve teaching throughout the department. As a result, the number of medical students at Cincinnati who chose a surgical career quadrupled. Deeply committed to the importance of cultural and gender diversity in surgery, he launched a successful initiative to attract women and underrepresented minorities into the specialty.

Despite these diverse responsibilities, Matthews remains an active clinical surgeon, with special expertise in pancreatitis, bile duct reconstruction and complex reoperative gastrointestinal surgery.

Matthews' laboratory research, with long-term support from the National Institutes of Health, focuses on the fundamental mechanisms used by epithelial tissues to regulate salt secretion--which goes awry in several diseases, including cystic fibrosis and many forms of diarrhea. His insights into this process have suggested several novel approaches to therapy.

His clinical research has involved surgical treatment of pancreatic and liver disease, including cancer of the pancreas and liver, and surgical treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. He also studies inflammation, the effects of temporary loss of blood supply to the intestine and its ability to recover after such an injury.

Born in New Rochelle, NY, Matthews was a cum laude graduate from Harvard College in 1981 and from Harvard Medical School in 1985. He began his residency at Harvard's Beth Israel Hospital in 1985, spent by a year as a fellow in hepatobiliary surgery at the University of Bern, Switzerland, then returned to serve as chief resident at Beth Israel in 1990-91, followed by a research fellowship in pathology at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

He joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor of surgery in 1992 and was promoted to associate professor in 1996. At Harvard, he also served as chief of general and gastrointestinal surgery at Beth Israel Hospital and as "physician champion" for the physicians organization at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In 2001, he was appointed professor and chairman of surgery at Cincinnati and surgeon-in-chief at Cincinnati's University Hospital. He has held numerous board of trustees positions, including the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Museum Center, as well as LifeCenter Organ Donor Network as Board Chair.

The author of nearly 100 original articles in research journals, 30 reviews and book chapters, and several instructional videos, Matthews is active at the national level in many professional organizations. A recent past-president of the Society of University Surgeons he is currently a director of the American Board of Surgery and treasurer of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. He is also a member of the American Surgical Association, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Society of Clinical Surgery. He has been both member and chair of review committees for the NIH, Veteran’s Administration, the National Pancreas Foundation, and other foundations. He is a member of the editorial board of numerous surgical and scientific journals. He has won many awards for his research and for his teaching.

Matthews replaces Bruce Gewertz, MD, an internationally recognized vascular surgeon who served as chairman of surgery at the University of Chicago from 1992 to 2006. In July, Gewertz became chair of the department of surgery, surgeon-in-chief and vice president for interventional services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Matthews is the 14th new department chairman recruited to the biological sciences at the University of Chicago since Madara became dean of the division in 2002, a remarkable achievement for both the size and speed of the transition and the caliber of the new leadership. "These are superb scholars on their own," said Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh, former chairman of medicine at the University of Chicago and now dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for the health system at the University of Pennsylvania. "Taken together, they constitute a significant and considerable achievement for the division."

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