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.