Skip to Main Content


New chairs appointed in three departments; clinical leadership changes

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2001 - Spring


Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., has announced the appointment of three new chairs to lead the departments of Cell Biology, Pharmacology and Surgery.

Ira Mellman, Ph.D., became chair of the Department of Cell Biology in December. Mellman, who earned his doctoral degree in genetics from Yale in 1978, has been on the faculty since 1981. He is a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, which provides research support to his laboratory and increasingly to Yale as a whole, and serves as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Cell Biology and on the editorial boards of Cell and The Journal of Experimental Medicine. He is also a professor of immunobiology and the founding director of Yale’s interdepartmental graduate Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS).

Mellman’s research focuses on how cells control the composition of their intracellular membranes. He is credited with the discovery and definition of cell organelles known as endosomes, which enable cells to take up macromolecules such as hormones, and with the identification of mechanisms enabling individual cells to generate and maintain the asymmetries required to produce complex multicellular structures such as organs and tissues. His laboratory group is now investigating the cellular basis of the immune response and has revealed the inner workings of dendritic cells, which are uniquely responsible for initiating virtually all known immune responses. Lynn Cooley, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics and cell biology, will succeed Mellman as director of the BBS.

Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D., arrived at Yale on Feb. 1 as the new chair of the Department of Pharmacology. Schlessinger, who headed the pharmacology department at New York University School of Medicine and directed the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, is one of a handful of scientists leading the signal transduction field. For the past 25 years he has been the single most visible figure in the area of signal transduction via receptor tyrosine kinases, molecules at the cell surface that tell cells when to grow or stop growing.

Schlessinger, who was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences last year, is one of the most frequently referenced authors in biomedical science and a co-founder of SUGEN Inc., a biotech company in South San Francisco that was acquired in 1999 by Pharmacia and Upjohn. He serves on the boards of a dozen journals, including The EMBO Journal, Cell, and Molecular Cell. In conjunction with Schlessinger’s arrival, the school will renovate portions of the B-wing of Sterling Hall of Medicine and build a 15,000-square-foot addition.

Robert Udelsman, M.D., M.S.B., M.B.A., will become chair of the Department of Surgery on June 1. Udelsman is currently the Richard Darnall Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins, where he is also director of endocrine and oncologic surgery.

Udelsman completed his medical training at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and his surgical residency and chief residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In addition, he has completed fellowships in surgical oncology at the National Cancer Institute, in endocrinology at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and in gastrointestinal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His research and clinical interests focus heavily on endocrine surgery, particularly endocrine oncology. His clinical practice focuses on surgery of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal gland and endocrine pancreas. His clinical research focuses on outcome research, particularly on innovative techniques for minimizing the trauma of surgery. These are particularly relevant to laparoscopic adrenalectomy and outpatient minimally invasive parathyroidectomy. Dean’s office appointments

Several key administrative appointments were announced recently as well.

Richard L. Edelson, M.D. ’70, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology, was named deputy dean for clinical affairs. His responsibilities include activities related to research, training and services for the entire clinical enterprise. He will also serve as the chief clinical liaison between the dean’s office and the clinical leadership of Yale-New Haven Hospital.

David J. Leffell, M.D., HS ’86, professor of dermatology and director of the Yale Medical Group, was promoted to senior associate dean for clinical activities and strategic planning. Leffell will help to develop, initiate and carry out plans necessary for the ongoing growth and sustained health of the medical school’s clinical programs.

Norman J. Siegel, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine and chair of the Yale Medical Group’s finance committee, was named senior advisor for planning and priorities. Siegel will lead the school’s ad hoc committee on long-term financial planning. He will also become the school’s chief liaison to its affiliated hospitals in Connecticut, especially in regard to the implementation of the 1999 affiliation agreement between the medical school and the Yale New Haven Health System.

Searches are under way for new chairs for the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and of Pediatrics and for a section chief in medical oncology.