Califano Named New Director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health

Currently physician-in-chief and a preeminent head and neck surgeon, Califano succeeds Scott Lippman as head of the region’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Joseph A. Califano III, MD, has been named director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.

Califano succeeds Scott Lippman, MD, who announced in November 2021 that he would be stepping down as director to lead the PreCancer Genome Atlas, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored effort to map in time and space all of the molecular, cellular and structural characteristics of premalignant lesions and how they evolve into invasive cancers.

Califano is currently physician-in-chief at Moores Cancer Center, director of the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center and co-leader of the Structural and Functional Genomics Program.

“I am honored to be chosen as director, and to continue working with a remarkably talented faculty and staff, whose abilities, compassion and dedication have made Moores Cancer Center one of the premier destinations for research and treatment since it was founded in 1978.”

A board-certified otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck surgical oncology and the integration of basic, molecular and biological research in that practice, Califano’s clinical expertise includes minimally invasive treatment of tumors of the mouth, throat and head and neck.

Califano directs a laboratory investigating the molecular and biological basis of head and neck cancer. He has published more than 260 peer-reviewed articles related to both the clinical and basic scientific aspects of cancer, and has served on a variety of professional organizations and editorial boards, including the NCI Head and Neck Steering Committee and the Council of the American Head and Neck Society.

“The remarkable physicians and researchers at UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center have a history of setting treatment standards nationwide for more than 200 different types of cancer,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Dr. Califano’s proven leadership in academic medicine will expand the Center’s influence and distinction as a world-wide leader in cancer research, teaching and clinical care.”

As physician-in-chief, he oversaw clinical operations and all related inpatient and outpatient oncology services at UC San Diego Health, as well as operations with affiliates and outreach clinics. He participated in Board of Visitors and philanthropy meetings, and was appointed to the Cancer Center Executive Committee, where he worked in partnership with the chief administration officer on operational and strategic opportunities that further the mission and vision of the cancer center.

“Dr. Califano brings enormous experience and expertise to the job of director,” said Steven R. Garfin, MD, interim vice chancellor for health sciences at UC San Diego. “His medical credentials are superb. He has a history of achievement. And he is already fully immersed and involved in the institution’s multiple missions and ambitions. He will hit the ground already running.”

Prior to joining UC San Diego Health in 2015, Califano was a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. He completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

Moores Cancer Center is the region’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center, an NCI designation reserved for institutions with the highest achievements in cancer research, clinical care, education and community contributions. The NCI designation places Moores Cancer Center among the top 4% of approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States, and one of only 53 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation.

In the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” survey, UC San Diego Health’s cancer program was ranked 20th in the nation.

“A key reason that UC San Diego Health is ranked #1 in San Diego and #5 in California is the exceptional and enduring excellence of its cancer programs, exemplified by the extraordinary physicians, nurses and staff at Moores Cancer Center and throughout the health system,” said Patty Maysent, CEO, UC San Diego Health.

“Dr. Califano is assuming leadership of an extraordinary team and institution, one that he has already invested years and talent in helping to build, expand and improve. I expect all of that will continue unabated, with greater achievements ahead.”

Lippman will remain at UC San Diego as associate vice chancellor for cancer research.


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