Steven L. Gonias, M.D., Ph.D.
Steven L. Gonias, M.D., Ph.D., a respected protein scientist and clinical pathologist, has been named the new chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. Recently, he has served as vice chair for research and development in the Department of Pathology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and as associate director for translational research in the University of Virginia Cancer Center. Gonias is expected to begin his duties as chair and professor of pathology at UCSD sometime this summer.
A researcher who has focused on cancer and vascular biology, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, Gonias is also a highly respected clinical pathologist with expertise in the laboratory diagnosis of thrombosis and bleeding disorders.
“An outstanding physician-scientist, Dr. Gonias brings his passion for science as well as his diagnostic experience in the medical setting to UCSD’s Department of Pathology,” said Edward W. Holmes, M.D., UCSD vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine.
“Pathology is a demanding discipline that seeks to determine the causes, development and progress of disease, plus the ultimate consequences on the body,” Holmes added. “We look forward to Dr. Gonias’ leadership in our training and research programs, as well as our diagnostic laboratories.”
Gonias said he was attracted to UCSD’s “outstanding scientists, committed physicians and educators, and most importantly, leadership with the experience and know-how to make this medical school truly exceptional. If I can be forgiven for a sports metaphor, I feel like I have been drafted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers!”
Gonias said he is anxious to begin work with “UCSD’s excellent faculty. We will work on further strengthening all three aspects of our academic mission: health services, research and education.”
He added that the Department of Pathology will “capitalize on the wealth of information that has emerged in the post-genomic era. We are well positioned to translate new molecular information into a better understanding of human disease.”
In addition to his leadership skills, Gonias brings his personal research interests to UCSD. He has focused on proteins called proteases that were originally thought to be involved exclusively in fibrinolysis, the process by which blood clots are dissolved. His past work has demonstrated that these proteins have profound effects on important properties of cancer cells, such as the propensity of the cancer cell to invade or metastasize. At the level of the cell, he has characterized surface-proteins called receptors that bind to proteases and initiate cell signaling, which is biochemical circuitry leading to specific cell responses.
“Understanding these circuits remains an important goal of my ongoing research,” Gonias said.
Gonias received his B.S. degree in biochemistry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University School of Medicine. He served as a resident physician at Duke University Medical Center prior to joining the University of Virginia faculty in 1987. He is board certified in clinical pathology.
Gonias has written hundreds of scientific articles and published studies, and he is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the chairmanship of the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Study Section of the National Institutes of Health, a Research Development Career Award and a Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences. Among his professional memberships are the American Society for Investigative Pathology, the American Society of Cell Biology, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Gonias is the elected chair for the 2006 Gordon Conference on Fibrinolysis and Extracellular Proteolysis.
The UCSD Department of Pathology
Founded in 1968, the UCSD Department of Pathology includes 60 faculty members plus many adjunct and clinical affiliated physicians located on the School of Medicine campus in La Jolla, at the UCSD Medical Centers and adjacent clinical teaching facilities in Hillcrest and La Jolla, and at the VA Medical Center. There are 16 pathology residents and a departmental Molecular Pathology Graduate Program with 50 students, which is a shared program between UCSD and the Burnham Institute. Students in the graduate program are located at the Salk Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, at Burnham, and in several UCSD medical departments and divisions.
The Department includes the following divisions: Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Pathology/Laboratory Medicine, Neuropathology and Comparative Pathology.
Research interests are diverse with major focuses on molecular pathology of cancer, infectious diseases and neuromuscular disorders. In addition, there is a research program on scholarship and teaching of research ethics and responsible conduct of science. The department has in excess of $13 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and additional research contracts valued at $4.3 million.
Clinical laboratory services provide a wide range of services in support of all UCSD inpatient and outpatient activity as well as serving as a community resource for reference testing. The combined annual test volume is 4 million, including 13,000 surgical pathology cases and 23,000 cytopathology cases. In a recent survey, physician users expressed a high level of satisfaction with the range of tests offered, the turnaround time, and the accuracy of results.
Previous Department of Pathology chairs have included Drs. Averill Liebow, Kurt Benirschke, Peter Lampert and David Bailey. Henry Powell, M.D., has served as interim chairman from 1999-2000 and from 2002 to the arrival of Dr. Gonias.
Gonias noted that as he moves forward with the development of the department, he expects “to embrace the wealth of experience and knowledge that both Drs. Bailey and Powell possess.”
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