By Jeff Tucker

Itzhak Nir, MD, Named to New Endowed Professorship


Itzhak Nir, MD, has been appointed the first-ever Elsie P. Barry/Cowboys for Cancer Research Endowed Professor in Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary and Oncology Surgery at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Dr. Nir is an exceptional cancer surgeon and is highly trained in complex cancer surgery with a focus on hepatobiliary/pancreatic surgery,” said Cheryl Willman, MD, Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research and Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center.

“With his expertise and skill, Dr. Nir has built an outstanding statewide and regional referral program for those affected by cancer and other disorders of the liver, gallbladder and pancreas,” added John Russell, MD, chair of the UNM Department of Surgery. “He is working to build the Section of Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary (HPB) Surgery within the Division of Surgical Oncology, and the Center for Advanced HPB Surgery within the Department of Surgery and the UNM Cancer Center.”

Over the past decade, Nir has held many leadership roles, including the Navajo Nation Cancer Control Task Force, the American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association and the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance Cooperative Clinical Trials Group Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee.

“Only a handful of people have the training and skill in both transplantation and oncology to build a hepato-biliary pancreatic practice. Dr. Nir is one of them,” said Mark Langsfeld, MD, professor in the Department of Surgery.

Nir’s clinical skills have earned him a reputation throughout the region and he is increasingly referred problematic or complex patients, Langsfeld said.

“I have collaborated with him on a number of difficult cases and I profoundly respect his surgical skills and clinical acumen,” Langsfeld said. “Although his skills are tremendous, I believe his greatest attribute is his surgical and clinical judgment.”

Nir’s influence on surgical residents may be his greatest contribution, as some of those physicians doing surgical oncology fellowships will return to New Mexico to practice, Langsfeld added.

“The honor of being bestowed with the endowed professorship coincides with my 10th anniversary of arrival to New Mexico,” Nir said. “This is certainly a moment of reflection, however, rather than resting on my laurels, I feel the responsibility to merit the position I was entrusted with. Expanding the mission, along the University's espoused values, is my focus for the upcoming decade.”

Nir joined the faculty of the UNM Division of Surgical Oncology in October 2010. Since July 2013, he has served as the division’s director of regional cancer therapies. He also serves as chief of the Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Surgery section in the Department of Surgery.

Nir completed a fellowship in surgical oncology from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He also served as surgical director in transplantation surgery at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem from July 2008 to June 2009.

He completed a fellowship in multi-organ transplantation surgery at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.

He completed residencies in general surgery from Hadassah University Hospital and Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

Nir received his Bachelor of science and medical degree from Ben Gurion University School of Medicine in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

Cowboys for Cancer Research has been a longtime supporter of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center and is committed to addressing New Mexico’s most important cancer challenges through funding research initiatives and creating endowed professorships. 

UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius.

Its more than 120 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 600 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provide treatment to 65% of New Mexico's cancer patients from all across the state and partner with community health systems statewide to provide cancer care closer to home. They treated approximately 14,000 patients in about 100,000 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital.

A total of nearly 400 patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments that include tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing.

The more than 100 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded $35.7 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects. Since 2015, they have published nearly 1000 manuscripts, and promoting economic development, they filed 136 new patents and launched 10 new biotechnology start-up companies.

Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 500 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery.

Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center, Education, School of Medicine