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Yale Cancer Center Names Barbara Burtness, MD, Interim Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


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Barbara Burtness, MD, Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology), has been appointed Interim Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Yale Cancer Center.

Barbara Burtness, MD

Barbara Burtness, MD

Nita Ahuja, MD, MBA, FACS

Nita Ahuja, MD, MBA, FACS

“Dr. Burtness’ leadership and innovative ideas will ensure that we emphasize an inclusive culture, with increased diversity in our workforce—including trainees, staff, and faculty—and help to foster the career advancement of all members of our diverse community,” said Nita Ahuja, MD, MBA, FACS, Interim Director of Yale Cancer Center and Physician-in-Chief at Smilow Cancer Hospital, William H. Carmalt Professor of Surgery, and Chair of Surgery.

Dr. Burtness has a long history of advancing equity, both at Yale School of Medicine and on a national level. At Yale, she has served on the Executive Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine since 2015, represented this same committee on the Faculty Advisory Council, and served on the Dean’s Climate Working Group. Nationally, Dr. Burtness is Chair of the Task Force on Advancement for Women for the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ECOG-ACRIN). In addition, she brings extensive personal experience to her new role from the mentorship of numerous trainees and faculty throughout her career.

A Leader in the Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer

Dr. Burtness joined Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital in 2014 from Fox Chase Cancer Center. At Yale, she leads the Disease Aligned Research Team for the Head and Neck Cancers Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital, is Co-Leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at Yale Cancer Center, and leads a laboratory program studying synthetic lethal therapy for p53-mutated head and neck cancer.

Dr. Burtness has chaired the ECOG-ACRIN Head and Neck Therapeutics Committee since 2006, pioneering biomarker-guided therapy and treatment deintensification studies. She has served on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Head and Neck Guidelines Committee as well as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Head and Neck Cancer Steering Committee. Dr. Burtness co-chaired the NCI Clinical Trials Planning Meeting on TP53-Mutated Head and Neck Cancer and co-chairs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Project 2025 for Head and Neck. She is the founding Director of the Yale Head and Neck Cancer SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) and has led numerous clinical trials, including the international phase III trial that led to regulatory approval of immunotherapy in the first-line treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. 


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