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University of Maryland School of Medicine Appoints Director of Division of Translational Radiation Sciences

Monday, August 13, 2012

Zeljko Vujaskovic, M.D., Ph.D.

Accomplished Physician-Scientist Zeljko Vujaskovic, M.D., Ph.D. to Direct New Division of Translational Radiation Sciences in the Department of Radiation Oncology

University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., and William F. Regine, M.D., chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, have appointed Zeljko Vujaskovic, M.D., Ph.D., as professor and director of the new Division of Translational Radiation Sciences in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

“The Department of Radiation Oncology is a cornerstone of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s burgeoning research enterprise, and a critical part of the world-leading patient care provided by our faculty at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center,” says Dean Reece, who is also vice president for medical affairs of the University of Maryland. “The new Division of Translational Radiation Sciences will serve to further expand and centralize our cutting-edge research in radiation biology, leading the exploration of new ways to treat and eradicate deadly cancers. Dr. Vujaskovic is an accomplished, National Institutes of Health-funded physician-scientist with outstanding leadership skills and a distinguished career in research and patient care. I am confident he will lead our faculty to new heights.”

Dr. Vujaskovic joined the University of Maryland from his previous position as professor, Director of the Normal Tissue Injury Laboratory and Director of the Clinical Hyperthermia Program at Duke University Medical Center.  Dr. Vujaskovic’s clinical and research work for the past two decades has been to elucidate the mechanisms associated with radiation normal tissue injury, identify potential biomarkers predicting individual patient risk for injury, and develop novel therapeutic interventions/strategies to prevent, mitigate, or treat radiation injury.  He is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field of radiation related normal tissue injury.  Many future clinical care protocols, new novel therapies and future drug development will stem directly from the result of Dr Vujaskovic’s research/patent work and lead to improvement in radiation therapy and quality of life for cancer patients.

The new Division of Translational Radiation Sciences will bring together the department’s basic science research activities in radiation biology. In his new role as division director, Dr. Vujaskovic will take the lead in defining the use of radioprotectors and sensitizers in treating a broad spectrum of malignancies. He will work closely with Thomas J. MacVittie, Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology, and director of the preclinical radiobiology program. As a clinician, Dr. Vujaskovic will have a primary focus in genitourinary and prostate cancers. He will also work closely with division directors and departmental and institutional leadership to formalize a departmental mentorship program for clinical research and clinical science faculty, including offering guidance in grant writing and submission for the National Institutes of Health, industry and extramural funding.

“Our Department of Radiation Oncology is ranked among the top 10 nationwide in federally funded research,” says Dr. Regine, who is a professor and Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology at the School of Medicine. “We are growing exponentially in our research and clinical care efforts. Dr. Vujaskovic’s long record of internationally recognized leadership and outstanding science and patient care make him the ideal candidate to direct our new division and to further elevate our already strong department.”

Dr. Vujaskovic currently directs a robust research program with nearly $4 million in external funding, including from the National Institutes of Health. His research focuses on how to predict, prevent and modify normal tissue response to radiation. He also examines the use of hyperthermia in the treatment of cancer.

“I am looking forward to working with the many highly regarded physician-scientists at the University of Maryland to enhance my own research as well as theirs, and to advance the science of radiation oncology to ultimately help more patients,” says Dr. Vujaskovic. “Radiation science is changing and improving every day, and I hope to help keep our department at the forefront of this exciting and dynamic field of medicine.”

In 1985, Dr. Vujaskovic received his medical degree from the University of Zagreb Medical School in Croatia. He earned his Ph.D. from the Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., in 1994. He completed an internship at the Medical Centre Karlovac in Croatia in 1986, and trained as a resident at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from 1986 to 1987. He also completed residency training at the Medical Centre Karlovac in Croatia through 1989. He finished a fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver in 1990, and a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Radiological Health Services at Colorado State University in 1994. He served as an assistant professor of radiotherapy and radiobiology at the University of Groningen School of Medicine in the Netherlands from 1994 to 1999. In 1999, he joined the Department of Radiation Oncology at Duke as a visiting assistant professor and became an assistant professor in 2000. In 2002, he was promoted to associate professor, and full professor in 2009.

Dr. Vujaskovic is an internationally renowned physician-scientist who has received many awards and honors. He received the R. Wayne Rundles Award at Duke Cancer Center in 2009, an award presented to a Duke physician whose research has made an important contribution to the detection, treatment, or prevention of cancer.  He is a member of many medical associations, including the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and serves as the president of the Society for Thermal Medicine. He is widely published, having written several book chapters in radiation oncology and more than 120 peer-reviewed publications.

“We need strong leadership and accomplished physicians and scientists to lead our oncology program to new heights, and I believe Dr. Vujaskovic has a proven track record to be successful in this new leadership role,” says Dean Reece.

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