Surgical oncologist Zeh named new Chair of Surgery

Dr. Herbert J. Zeh III

DALLAS – April 2, 2018 – Dr. Herbert J. Zeh III, an innovator and leader in the field of pancreatic diseases and pancreatic cancer, has been selected as the next Chair of the Department of Surgery.

Dr. Zeh, who began his role at UT Southwestern on April 1, served as the Watson Family Professor of Surgery and Chief of the GI Surgical Oncology Division since 2011 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). At UT Southwestern, he succeeds Dr. Robert Rege, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, who has been serving as Interim Chair of Surgery.

“Dr. Zeh is exceptionally well-prepared for this new role,” said Dr. J. Gregory Fitz, former Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, who was significantly involved in the recruitment of Dr. Zeh and appointed him Chair of Surgery before he stepped down from that role. “He received advanced training in surgery, surgical oncology, and pancreatic-hepatobiliary surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and also served a Surgical Oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“Dr. Zeh is recognized for his teaching and research excellence. He is the recipient of multiple resident and fellow teaching awards and directs a robust translational and clinical research program funded by the NIH that focuses on the role of autophagy in pancreatic cancer,” added Dr. Fitz.

Dr. Zeh said the move from the familiarity of UPMC was eased by the opportunities that UT Southwestern presented.

“The decision to join the UT Southwestern team was an easy one; I was attracted to its excellence,” said Dr. Zeh, who holds the Hall and Mary Lucile Shannon Distinguished Chair in Surgery. “UTSW is truly one of the world’s first-class medical centers. It features an incredible tradition of medical education with one of the country’s largest medical schools, world-class research, and state-of-the-art facilities to build innovative clinical programs. It is a place where there is an opportunity to transform the way medical care is delivered.”

Dr. Zeh said his life and career have been tied to a singular goal: to make tomorrow better. To that end, he and his team at UPMC team have extensive experience with robotic-assisted pancreatic resections – among the largest in the world – for management of pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic diseases. The author of more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, Dr. Zeh also directs a translational research laboratory examining damage associated molecular pattern (DAMP) molecules in pancreatic cancer and serves as Principal Investigator on several phase one and two clinical trials.

“My vision for UTSW’s Department of Surgery is to challenge our team to use its talents each day to make tomorrow better for our colleagues, our patients, and for society,” he said. “The Department has a long tradition of excellence in American surgery. It is my genuine honor and privilege to be asked to be the steward of this tradition.”

Dr. Zeh received his medical degree cum laude in 1994 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was recognized by membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He majored in biology and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame before entering medical school.

“I have always looked for the toughest challenge, and pancreatic cancer represents that,” Dr. Zeh explained. “Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and it has been predicted that it will rise to the No. 1 spot by 2020. Patients with this disease are in desperate need of better solutions. I have dedicated the better part of the past two decades to building innovative approaches to chemotherapy and surgical care of pancreatic cancer.

“I believe that the Department of Surgery can leverage the resources and infrastructure across the entire UTSW enterprise to provide a springboard to even greater advances in the fight against this deadly disease.”

Dr. Zeh and his wife, Kelly, have three children. Their son, Ryan, is a first-year medical student at The Ohio State University, and their two daughters – Makenzie and Teegan – are completing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Fitz holds the Nadine and Tom Craddick Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, 600,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year.