David J. Leffell, M.D., deputy dean for clinical affairs, chief executive officer of Yale Medical Group and professor of dermatology and surgery, has been named the David Paige Smith Professor of Dermatology.
Leffell specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers. He is an expert in Mohs surgery, a technique in which skin cancers are removed layer by layer and studied immediately under a microscope using a frozen section method. The Mohs technique allows removal of the entire tumor, providing the highest cure rate and minimizing scarring. The Cutaneous Oncology Unit that Leffell founded in 1988 treats more than 3,500 patients per year.
His research focuses on non-melanoma skin cancer, wound healing and cancer epidemiology. Leffell and colleagues discovered the skin cancer gene PTCH in 1996, and he has conducted collaborative research clarifying the role of ultraviolet radiation in skin cancer and skin aging. Other research includes the role of the p53 gene in skin cancer and the development of innovative diagnostic devices.
As deputy dean of the School of Medicine, Leffell has been responsible for the growth and development of the school’s clinical practice.
David Paige Smith, who joined Yale’s medical faculty in 1873, was a grandson of Nathan Smith, a premier physician in post–Revolutionary War New England. Nathan Smith was a central figure in the establishment of the Medical Institution of Yale College, as the School of Medicine was known at the time.