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Career Catalyst Mentorship Program

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SSO’s recently established Career Catalyst Mentorship Program (CCMP) provides support and development opportunities for up-and-coming, mid-career surgical oncologists with leadership potential. In 2024, the program’s focus is on “Leading Outside the OR” allowing recipients to attend SSO 2024 and participate in a week-long observership with a US-based SSO member mentor post-meeting. Participants and mentors were matched based on shared professional and scientific interests. 

We are excited for this year’s program to commence, and proud to announce our 2024 winners below: 

Dr. Kamran Idrees is the Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery. He is also Director of Pancreas and GI Surgical Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. After completing his general surgery training at University of Alabama at Birmingham, he finished a clinical fellowship in surgical oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he was trained in regional perfusion treatments including Heated Intra-Peritoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) and Isolated Limb Infusion (ILI). He also carried out a research fellowship in colorectal cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in addition to a Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Surgery clinical fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and performs complex, minimally invasive (robotic and laparoscopic) surgeries.

Dr. Idrees is a member and has held leadership roles in various national and international societies including Society of Surgical Oncology, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association and Association of Academic Surgeons. He is on the editorial board of Annals of Surgical Oncology and Surgical Oncology Insight.

Dr. Amanda Kirane, MD, PhD-c, FACS, FSSO, is the Director of Cutaneous Surgical Oncology and, as the John and Marva Warnock Scholar, is Principal Investigator of a robust basic and translational immunology laboratory at Stanford University. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Texas, B.A. in Biochemistry, followed by general surgery residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and clinical fellowship in Complex General Surgical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Kirane completed her post-doctoral research fellowship in cancer biology in the laboratory of Rolf Brekken at the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology and has recently qualified for matriculation from University of California Davis, PhD in Immunology in 2024 from the laboratory of Emanual Maverakis. She has served as PI and Co-I of multiple clinical and translational studies of novel immunotherapy approaches in melanoma and her benchwork focuses on complex 3D cellular modeling of tumor immune evasion and dormancy, precision biomarker assay innovation, and the role of myeloid cell targeting in overcoming checkpoint failure. She currently holds the ASCO Women Who Conquer Cancer Development Award for her first in class trial of neoadjuvant oncolytic virus therapy in high-risk primary melanoma.

Ugwuji N. Maduekwe, MD, MMSc, MPH, FACS, is an Associate Professor and Director of Regional Therapies in the Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Associate Dean and Deputy Director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, a role in which she is focused on supporting actionable projects focused on making Wisconsin the healthiest state.  She is also the co-director of the Advancing Cancer Equity in Surgery research collaborative.  Her clinical focus is on peritoneal surface malignancies and upper GI cancers, while her research focuses on how variations in patterns of surgical oncologic care in gastrointestinal malignancies lead to health inequities. Dr. Maduekwe has an undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, underwent medical training at Harvard Medical School, general surgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Complex General Surgical Oncology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Jennifer Plichta is an Associate Professor of Surgery & Population Health Sciences at Duke University. She joined Duke in 2016 and currently serves as the Director of the Breast Risk Assessment Clinic in the Duke Cancer Institute, where she cares for patients with breast cancer, benign breast problems, and those with an increased risk of breast cancer. She also serves as the Co-Director for the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program. Her clinical interests include establishing routine breast cancer risk assessment for women and creating personalized management strategies for those found to be “high risk”.

Dr. Plichta’s research focuses on identifying and managing women with risk factors for breast cancer, including those with genetic mutations, such as BRCA, those with abnormal breast biopsies, and those with a family history of breast cancer. She is also studying how breast cancer staging can be used to improve patient care and education, and she is currently a BIRCWH (Duke K12) scholar.

However, her dedication to breast cancer extends beyond her clinical and research interests, as she also enjoys educating others about breast cancer. Currently, she is the Program Director for the Duke Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship, and she is the creator and primary coordinator of Duke’s free, annual breast education day for the community, “What’s best for breasts?”.

Dr. Reddy is an Associate Professor in surgical oncology, with interests in both surgical education, and also a primary surgical focus in treating those with pancreatic cancer. He is the Program Director for a Complex General Surgical Oncology fellowship, while also serving as the lead for a surgical oncology research fellowship program. Within the space of surgery, his clinical and academic direction is optimizing treatment of patients with borderline resectable pancreatic cancer. This has culminated into rewarding collaborations within the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, to which he was named Co-Director in 2019.

Multidisciplinary care and collaboration within the institute has resulted in multiple grant funding opportunities for his group, most notably in the space of modulation of the pancreatic stroma, and the impact on the tumor microenvironment. Dr. Reddy has led his clinical pancreas team in developing trials utilizing unique protocols in delivering chemotherapy and radiation in sequence and has worked with radiation oncologists in moving forward the pulsed-low dose radiation and ablative treatment options. Dr. Reddy has spoken regionally, nationally, and internationally about utilizing neoadjuvant therapies in these circumstances.

Franz O. Smith, MD, MAcM, FACS, is a Surgical Oncologist and Associate Professor of Surgery at RWJ BarnabasHealth Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, New Jersey. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. He completed residency at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in 2011. During residency he pursued the fellowship in Surgical Oncology in Tumor Immunotherapy and Surgical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda Maryland. The focus of his research was on cell-based immunotherapies for melanoma, kidney cancer and other solid organ malignancies.

Dr. Smith did his fellowship in Complex General Surgical Oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Institute-University of South Florida, Tampa Florida. He is board certified in both General Surgery and Complex General Surgical Oncology. His clinical interests are in Sarcoma, Melanoma, Breast, Gastrointestinal cancers, and Patient Safety and Quality Improvement. In 2013, he returned to Cooperman Barnabas to practice surgical oncology, and was promoted to Program Director General Surgery residency in 2016.

He earned masters’ degrees in Academic Medicine (MAcM) from the University of Southern California-Keck School of Medicine, and Masters of Applied Science (MAS) in Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Smith has developed and delivered workshops on adult learning principles, remediating the learner in difficulty, patient safety and quality improvement, curriculum development, leadership and team development.

He is a board member of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery, and has held memberships on the subcommittees for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for the Association of Academic Surgery and Association of Program Directors in Surgery. In 2019, he was appointed as the Chief Academic Officer at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center; and Associate Dean at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in 2021.

Dr. Smith is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Society of Surgical Oncology. He is completing his PhD in Health Professions Education at Massachusetts General Institute of Health Professions.

Mediget Teshome MD, MPH, FACS, is currently an Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery, Section Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of Breast Health at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) within the Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology.  She is committed to advancing the care of women and men with breast cancer through high quality patient care, collaborative clinical research, education, career development, and promoting equity in health care and society. 

Dr. Teshome received her undergraduate education at UCLA and Medical Degree at the University of Michigan Medical School. She graduated from the Stanford General Surgery Residency Program during which she also obtained an MPH degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. She then completed a Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where she joined the faculty until transitioning to UCLA in January 2024.

As a faculty member at MD Anderson, Dr. Teshome served in several leadership roles including the Program Director for the Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, Division of Surgery Professionalism Ambassador, Faculty Senator for the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology and Chair of the Mid-Career Faculty Committee. 

She currently contributes to the SSO as the Vice Chair of the Breast Fellowship Program Directors Committee and a member of both the SSO Women in Cancer Surgery Working Group and Constitution and Bylaws Committee. She also is the Vice Chair for the American Society of Breast Surgeons Annual Meeting Scientific Committee and Chair of the Education Committee for the American College of Surgeons Cancer Surgery Standards Program.

Dr. Woodworth is an Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery with Keck Medicine of USC and serves as Director of Breast Health USC & Henry Mayo Hospital /Santa Clarita Valley. She has expertise in the high-risk breast cancer population, risk reduction and early detection of breast cancer and is certified in cancer genetic and risk assessment. She has worked tirelessly in educating her local community, creating, and continuing a “Girl Talk” series educating women about health issues pertinent to them. She has received grants in community education, navigation, and early detection of breast cancer. Dr. Woodworth has been a featured speaker on the national and local level for breast cancer detection, prevention and treatment. She currently serves on the American Cancer Society National Breast Cancer Roundtable. She completed her Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship at Keck Medicine of USC/Hoag Hospital with a focus in Oncoplastics which she continues to teach to her current fellows, as well as, nationally.

The 2024 program is structured as follows: 

  • Cohort will participate in a pre-meeting educational session on March 20 at SSO 2024 in Atlanta, GA. Topics may include: 
  • Leadership skills 
  • Organizational leadership 
  • Participants and Mentors will have on-site networking opportunities, in addition to a week-long observership at the Mentor’s institution, March 25-29, 2024. 
  • Bi-monthly touchpoints will be scheduled for the cohort through SSO 2025. 
  • Cohort will reconvene at SSO 2025 and may be asked to be involved in the educational activities for future cohorts. 

Successful applicants were matched with SSO Member Mentors based on interest in the following categories:  

  • Hospital Administration  
  • Hybrid or Community Practice Systems  
  • Education Leadership 
  • Academic Surgical Leadership 
  • Cancer Center Directorship 
  • Research Leadership  

The 2025 Career Catalyst Mentorship Program will be announced to membership later this year. If you have additional questions, please contact Andrea King (andreaking@surgonc.org).  

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