Dr. Nipun B. Merchant Honored with the Alan Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology
In a ceremony that honored the achievements of two exemplary members of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, renowned surgical oncologist Nipun B. Merchant, M.D., became the inaugural holder of the Alan Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology.
UM and Miller School leadership, colleagues, and family members gathered October 17 at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute to honor Dr. Merchant as the chair recipient and to honor the career and legacy of Alan Livingstone, M.D., the Lucille and DeWitt Daughtry Professor and chairman emeritus of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at the Miller School.
“This is a great honor for me to be awarded this endowed chair,” said Dr. Merchant, who is the chief surgical officer and associate director of translational research at Sylvester and the medical director of the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute. He is also the chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology in the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery and executive director of perioperative services for the University of Miami Health System.
The Alan Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology is unique in the fact that grateful patients established it in 1996 to show their appreciation to Dr. Livingstone for his lifesaving work. Since its inception, hundreds of donors have contributed to the fund, which supports cutting-edge research in the field of surgical oncology.
Donors in attendance included Malcolm and Marlene Resnick; Barbara Pessel; and James “J.D.” Daughtry, M.D. ’72, a member of the family that named the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, and his partner, Charlie Myers.
“This is indeed a great honor and legacy,” said Dr. Livingstone, who served as the department chair from 1997-2015.
University of Miami President Julio Frenk said the endowed chair underscores a rising trajectory for UM, which is in the midst of its “100 Talents” initiative, designed to secure 100 new faculty chairs by the university’s centennial in 2025.
“Endowments, like the one we are celebrating tonight, are critical to the continuity of the highest standards in higher education,” said Frenk. “They are a reflection of our donor’s great confidence in the enduring role the university will play today and in the future.”
Henri R. Ford, M.D., MPH, dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, said an endowed chair is the highest academic honor a faculty member can receive.
“Being named a chair holder allows physicians to pursue breakthroughs in their field and translate those discoveries into interventions that will transform the health of humanity,” Dr. Ford said. “This chair is further evidence of the excellence that is synonymous with the Miller School and is a great tribute to our faculty members.”
Dr. Merchant joined the Miller School in 2015 and quickly recruited an exceptional team of surgeons and scientists who lead cancer care and research at UHealth. Along with Ashok Saluja, Ph.D., he was also integral to the launch of the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute, the first research institute of its kind in Florida.
“As holder of the Alan Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology, Dr. Merchant will have the ability to continue his research investigating signal transduction and tumor-stromal interactions in pancreatic cancer and continue his translational research in the area of surgical oncology,” said Omaida Velazquez, M.D., professor and David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, and surgeon in chief for UHealth and Jackson Health System.
Dr. Merchant is an internationally recognized specialist in the clinical management of gastrointestinal malignancies, with a focus on hepatobiliary, pancreatic, and neuroendocrine malignancies. He has an active basic science and translational research laboratory and has maintained extramural research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for more than 13 years as the principal investigator on several grants.
He has been a mentor to numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, residents, and junior faculty. He is currently the president of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons and is a member of the Pancreas Task Force of the National Cancer Institute’s GI Steering Committee, the Commission on Cancer, and the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
He received his undergraduate degree from New York University in 1985 and earned his medical degree cum laude from the State University of New York in 1990. He completed his general surgery residency at Temple University Hospital in 1996 and his surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 1998. In 2001, Dr. Merchant joined Vanderbilt University where he served for 14 years.
In accepting the honor, Dr. Merchant spoke about the significant impact of a chair.
“Because of the original vision set forth by the generosity of these special people, there are all the people whose lives are touched because of the existence of this chair,” Dr. Merchant said. “There are the students, the residents, the postdoctoral students, and the younger faculty with whom I have had the privilege of working. And, there are the patients, who are the true heroes in this process, whose lives I have been humbled to touch in some small way, and improve their life after a devastating diagnosis of cancer.”
Dr. Merchant also thanked his wife, Sonia, and his children, Shaan and Jaisal, as well as his parents and in-laws for their support. He also welcomed two former colleagues who traveled from out of town to help celebrate his endowed chair — Douglas Fraker, M.D., chief of surgical oncology and endocrine surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, and John Olson, M.D., Ph.D., chief of general surgery and surgical oncology at the University of Maryland.
Recruited by Dr. Livingstone in 2015, Dr. Merchant said his decision to come to the Miller School relied heavily on the positive and respectful relationship he saw between Dr. Livingstone and his faculty members.
“Nipun has not only become a valued colleague and partner in surgical oncology, but also a dear friend,” Dr. Livingstone said. “I am so proud of him having this chair.”
Dr. Livingstone maintains a busy surgical practice treating esophageal, liver, and pancreatic cancer patients. He previously served as chief of surgical services at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital and as chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the Miller School.
Under his leadership, the division was actively involved in translational research for esophageal, breast, pancreas, colon, and liver cancer; attained accredited fellowship programs in complex surgical oncology and breast cancer; and developed a research section of molecular oncology with substantial funding from the NIH.
A fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, Dr. Livingstone is a member of 30 professional organizations. He has authored numerous books, book chapters, and more than 265 peer-reviewed articles and has given more than 600 presentations.
In 2002, he received the Honoris Doctor Causa award from the Universidad de Morόn in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the prestigious Robert Zeppa, M.D. Award of Excellence from the University of Miami. In 2014, he was inducted into the prestigious Brazilian National Academy of Medicine.
Among those celebrating with Dr. Livingstone were his wife, Pat; daughter, Keri, an alumna of the Miller School Class of ’97; sons, Adam and Joshua, an alumnus of the Miller School Class of ’09, along with Joshua’s wife, Stacy, and son, Tristan.