Pioneer in Wound Healing Honored at Dedication of William H. Eaglstein, M.D. Endowed Chair

At a ceremony honoring two of the world’s renowned researchers in wound healing, Marjana Tomic-Canic, Ph.D., became the holder of the William H. Eaglstein, M.D. Endowed Chair in Wound Healing.

Speaking before her family, friends, and colleagues at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center on the University of Miami campus February 22, Dr. Tomic-Canic said she is humbled to be the chair’s inaugural holder.

“Today is first and foremost about honoring Bill Eaglstein,” said Dr.Tomic-Canic, who is professor and vice chair of research in the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “His vision and lifetime achievements advanced the field of wound healing and paved the way for scientists like me.”

With a remarkable legacy spanning nearly 40 years at the Miller School, Eaglstein is a leading clinical authority in many aspects of dermatology and wound healing. As the second of only four chairs in UM’s Department of Dermatology’s 63-year history, Eaglstein served in the post for 17 years before stepping down in 2003.

“Today is an extraordinary day for the University, the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, and both Dr. Eaglstein and Dr. Tomic-Canic,” University of Miami President Julio Frenk said. “Dr. Eaglstein made many seminal contributions to wound care and helped to train hundreds of residents and members of his department. His impact and guidance were so profound that many of those former residents are the ones who helped to make the chair in his name possible. We are incredibly grateful for their generosity.”

One of the earliest departments founded at the Miller School of Medicine, the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery has grown into one of the nation’s most respected and dynamic programs in the country, known for its innovation, discovery, clinical care, and development of leaders.

Robert S. Kirsner, M.D., Ph.D., said that an estimated 25 department chairs at Universities nationwide either trained or were faculty at UM.

“Well beyond the walls of our UHealth clinics, diagnosis and treatments are being rendered throughout the world based on work performed at UM,” said Dr. Kirsner, who is the Harvey Blank Professor and chair of the department.

“This is what the Eaglstein chair in wound healing allows,” he added. “With a great foundation in wound healing that was laid down by Dr. Eaglstein and the department he helped to build, we will be able to continue in the future with the exceptional efforts of Dr. Marjana Tomic-Canic, those she trains, and the chair holders of the future.”

Dr. Kirsner added that the Eaglstein chair is only the second wound healing chair in the United States and the first to be named after an academic physician/researcher.

“The presentation of an endowed chair is a marvelous tradition,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., MHA, dean, and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “It is one of the highest academic honors that we can confer on a faculty member and a tribute to the faculty member’s achievements. It instills our sincere and utmost confidence that this individual is going to continue on a path of excellence.”

Dr. Tomic-Canic, who joined the Miller School in 2008, has dedicated her professional life to basic and translational research in wound healing. Among her many accomplishments are pioneering the use of approaches in genomics as diagnostic and prognostic tools for wound healing, and the development of new therapies that can promote healing in patients.

Dr. Tomic-Canic received her doctoral and postdoctoral training at NYU School of Medicine before joining the faculty there. In 2005, as a faculty member of the Cornell University Weill Medical College, she directed the Tissue Repair Program at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Department of Tissue Engineering, Regeneration, and Repair.

Dr. Tomic-Canic’s current research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of wound healing and its pathophysiology, human and diabetic models of wound healing, wound genome, local sustained gene delivery, predictive and diagnostic biomarkers for chronic wounds.

“Like the wound healing process itself, research of wound healing requires a team effort,” said Dr. Tomic-Canic, who was joined by her husband, Predrag, and their children, Tijana, and Dimitrije, at the ceremony. “I am grateful to all my collaborators and generations of students and trainees who trusted me with their career. I am a proud mentor of 85 mentees, and counting, all of whom helped me push boundaries and never stopped inspiring me. I share this honor with them.”

Dr. Tomic-Canic holds many roles at UM: director of the Wound Healing and Regenerative Medicine Research Program, professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology, and professor of human genomics and genetics. She also holds adjunct faculty appointments at New York University School of Medicine.

Dr. Tomic-Canic thanked her mentors, including Dr. Eaglstein, who has made pivotal contributions to wound care, including the development of the porcine model for wound healing, the use of this model to study the effect of steroids on healing, occlusion on healing, and the impact of anti-microbial drugs.

“I think it is vital to have a chair in wound healing,” said Dr. Eaglstein, professor and chair emeritus. “For me, it is particularly gratifying that it is in the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery.

Dr. Eaglstein also thanked all those who contributed to the chair and said it was a great personal honor.

Among his many other contributions is the idea that skin grafts do not act solely as a tissue replacement, but as pharmacologic agents in healing. He co-proposed the growth factor trap hypothesis for venous leg ulcers, pioneered the study and use of cyanoacrylates for healing, and influenced his faculty to develop the concept that biofilms play a role in chronic wound healing.

A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Medicine at Columbia, Dr. Eaglstein completed his dermatology training under the direction of Harvey Blank, M.D., founder of the dermatology department at UM.

He returned to Miami in 1986 to assume the role of the department’s chair after serving as chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh for six years.

He leaves a strong legacy, not only in scientific contributions but also in mentorship within the department.

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