A Renowned Physician-Scientist Joins Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Wael El-Rifai, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned physician-scientist, has joined the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as co-leader of the Tumor Biology Program and associate director for Program Development. His departmental appointments are professor and associate vice chair of surgery, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

“I was attracted to this opportunity because I wanted to be part of a rapidly developing cancer center,” said El-Rifai. “Cancer is not one disease but many diseases and subtypes, and as the only academic cancer center in South Florida, we want to offer personalized medicine, not generic treatments. We want to show patients throughout the region that they have no reason to go anywhere else. Our shared goal — obtaining the National Cancer Institute designation — will give us access to the very best scientists around the world and help make our rapid development possible.”

El-Rifai joins the Miller School from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was professor of surgery and of cancer biology, and held the William Scott Jr. Chair in Surgery. As director of surgical oncology research, he ran nine NIH-funded laboratories. He also has served as a research health scientist at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, and has been an ardent believer in the training of residents and mentoring of junior faculty, some of whom are now at Sylvester.

“Dr. El-Rifai has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research,” said Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. “He works closely with both basic science and clinical investigators to develop new therapies that will lead to better clinical outcomes. His belief is that clinical and translational research, founded on strong basic science discoveries, is the way to win our battle against cancer. He joins an outstanding group of gastrointestinal cancer researchers here at Sylvester, and I look forward to the important contributions he will make to the growth of our cancer center and to the continually improving quality of our cancer research and patient care.”

El-Rifai received his M.D. (with honor), M.Sc. (with honor) in human genetics, and D.M. in pediatrics, from the Ain Shams University School of Medicine in Cairo. He received his Ph.D. in cancer genetics from the University of Helsinki School of Medicine in Finland. He has delivered more than 50 lectures at medical conferences around the world, and he has published more than 150 articles in high-impact academic journals.

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