School of Medicine

Surgeon-scientist Olson named head of surgery

On July 1, John A. Olson Jr., MD, PhD, will become head of the Department of Surgery and the William K. Bixby Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Olson comes from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he is head of the Division of General and Oncologic Surgery. (Photo: Mark Teske, Univ. of Maryland)

John A. Olson Jr., MD, PhD, noted for his clinical and scientific expertise in endocrine surgical diseases, has been named head of the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He will take the helm July 1.

The position is a homecoming of sorts for Olson, who also will become the William K. Bixby Professor. During the 1990s, Olson completed his postdoctoral research fellowship at Washington University and his surgical training at then-Barnes Hospital, where he rose to chief resident in surgery.

Olson is at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he is head of the Division of General and Oncologic Surgery, and the Campbell and Jeannette Plugge Professor of Surgery. He is also vice chair of strategy and finance for the Department of Surgery, founding director of the University of Maryland Cancer Network, and associate director of the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a top U.S. cancer institution by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A recipient of multiple NIH grants, he achieved recognition for his groundbreaking basic science and clinical research on endocrine tumor formation. In particular, his work has led to a greater understanding of how excessive hormone and calcium levels can contribute to tumor development and disease, with a particular focus on how hyperparathyroidism leads to parathyroid neoplasia. His research team reported the first isolation and functional characterization of parathyroid cell subtypes from parathyroid tumors, findings that have enabled the field to hone in on the disease’s development and trajectory.

Further, his clinical research has focused on novel endocrine therapies aimed at shrinking breast cancer tumors and determining biomarkers related to breast cancer outcomes.

“Dr. Olson is a superb clinical surgeon, a leading surgeon-scientist, and a respected educator with the kind of leadership experience we want to propel our surgery department into its next era of nation-leading innovations,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “We are so fortunate in having attracted John to this critically important position. The School of Medicine has been blessed with a world-leading Department of Surgery for many decades, including groundbreaking innovators in clinical practice, education and science in every area of the surgical disciplines, and we can now expect that to continue under his leadership.”

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