Dr. John Byrd named chair of UC Department of Internal Medicine

John C. Byrd, MD, the D. Warren Brown Chair of Leukemia Research at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, has been named professor and chair of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, pending approval by the UC Board of Trustees. His appointment is effective July 1, 2021.

At Ohio State University, Byrd also currently is a Distinguished University Professor, a permanent title that is the highest faculty honor at the university and is given to full professors who have demonstrated exceptional teaching, research, scholarly or creative work and service. His primary appointment is in the College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, with secondary appointments in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and the Department of Veterinary Bioscience in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Additionally, he is director of the Clara Bloomfield Center for Prognosis in Myeloid Leukemia, senior advisor for cancer experimental therapeutics and co-leader of the Leukemia Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. From 2010 until 2017, he served as director of the Division of Hematology.

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to have attracted someone with the clinical and research expertise and leadership qualities that Dr. Byrd has demonstrated during his academic career,” says Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean of the UC College of Medicine. “Our Department of Internal Medicine has a lengthy history of enjoying nationally recognized leadership, and Dr. Byrd will certainly continue that tradition.”

portrait of Dr. John C. Boyd

John C. Byrd, MD

Byrd, who also will hold the Gordon and Helen Taylor Professor of Medicine endowed chair, is assuming leadership of the second largest department within the College of Medicine, behind only the Department of Pediatrics. The Department of Internal Medicine has an annual budget of nearly $140 million with 334 full-time, adjunct, emeritus and volunteer faculty and 610 staff in nine divisions.

The department trains 216 residents and fellows each year. Investigators within the department have more than $118.9 million in current research grant holdings, and received 141 new research grants totaling $20.7 million during fiscal year 2020. Additionally, clinical researchers obtained $5.9 million in clinical trial support last year. Department faculty physicians handle more than 500,000 inpatient and outpatient visits annually.

“I am truly humbled by the opportunity to be chosen to lead this group and look forward to helping the faculty within the Department of Internal Medicine to be impactful in all elements of our mission including empathetic patient care, research, education and service to our community,” Byrd says.

A board-certified hematologist, Byrd specializes in caring for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He is an active researcher who has received more than $28 million in basic and clinical research grant support during his career. He leads a laboratory that focuses on translational immune and molecular pharmacology. Byrd’s research has shown that therapeutic agents such as rituximab, idelalisib, ibrutinib and acalabrutinib are effective against CLL, and has led efforts to understand how resistance develops to these agents.

His work with ibrutinib was transformative in eliminating the use of chemotherapy in most patients with CLL and changing the natural history of this disease. Byrd's work with ibrutinib also extended beyond CLL to other diseases, such as chronic graft versus host disease, where it is approved for use. Byrd continues to study novel immune-based therapies for CLL, however, five years ago, he transitioned much of his experimental therapeutics effort toward AML, where he has been attempting to identify genomic-specific targeted therapies in the laboratory and translate them to clinical trials. He serves as the chief medical officer for Beat AML, a precision medicine effort that will also come to the University of Cincinnati and provide access to patients to novel treatments in the Division of Hematology. He has published more than 550 scientific papers related to his research and is a top-cited author among the world in biomedical research.

Filak and Richard P. Lofgren, MD, president and chief executive officer of UC Health, expect Byrd to have a significant impact on cancer care and the UC Cancer Center.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Byrd and his deep leadership experience to further advance the entire department of internal medicine and the tripartite mission, and in particular, his significant contributions in cancer care and research will only enhance our dedication to excellence within the UC Cancer Center,” Lofgren says. “Our teams are looking forward to the continued commitment and advancements that will help us thrive as Dr. Byrd brings his experience to UC Health and the University of Cincinnati.”

As chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, Byrd also will serve as chief of internal medicine services for UC Health reporting to Lofgren. In that role he will develop and maintain outstanding clinical programs with the department in term of patient safety, quality, patient outcomes and patient experience.

Byrd received his medical degree in 1991 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He did his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and then completed a fellowship there in hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation. Byrd also received a year of translational laboratory training at Johns Hopkins University.

After serving for four years as an active duty medical officer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a practicing hematologist and Johns Hopkins University as a laboratory researcher, Byrd joined Ohio State University in 2001. In addition to his extensive oncology clinical and research efforts, he also has worked to advance female faculty in the Ohio State University Division of Hematology. During his seven years of division leadership, 17 of the 27 faculty he recruited were women.

Byrd is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Leukemia Steering Committee and the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and Chair of the Leukemia and Correlative Science Committee within the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.

In 2015, Byrd received the William Dameshek Prize from the American Society of Hematology. The following year, he received the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Return of the Child Award and the American Association for Cancer Research Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research.

Byrd follows Gregory Rouan, MD, as chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. Rouan has led the department since June 1, 2011 and will transition back to the faculty with Byrd’s arrival. Under Rouan’s leadership, the department changed its governance model, hired more than 100 new faculty members, five new division chiefs, nearly doubled the clinical volume and revenues, quadrupled the total research holdings, built an enduring infrastructure to support each mission and significantly enhanced the undergraduate and graduate medical education programs.

“Since June 2011, the department, in collaboration with the college, UC Health, the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, Cincinnati Children’s and our community partners, has implemented and succeeded with an integrated strategic initiative. This has allowed the department to grow considerably in each of its tripartite missions and position it to succeed further under Dr. Byrd’s leadership. We are delighted to have attracted him to serve as chair, and expect continued success under his leadership,” Rouan says.

Rouan has been a member of the UC community since 1976 when he began his medical education at the College of Medicine, followed by postgraduate training and a faculty position at UC. As an American College of Physicians Teaching and Research Scholar, he completed a fellowship in clinical epidemiology at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He was associate chair for education of the department from 1992 to 2011, program director since 1989. He became a professor in internal medicine in 1995 and was named to the Richard W. and Sue P. Vilter Chair of Internal Medicine in 1999, an endowed chair he held until becoming departmental chair and the Gordon and Helen Taylor Professor of Medicine in 2011.

Since 2015, Rouan has served as a member of the UC Health Board of Directors and chair of the UC Health Foundation Board, and was a founding member of the UC Healthcare System Board of Directors from 2011 until 2015. He has been a member of the Cincinnati Academy of Medicine Board of Directors since 2012 and served as president in 2017-2018. He also has chaired the college’s Daniel Drake Medal Selection Committee since 2006. Rouan was recently elected as a fellow in the Royal Academy of Physicians in Great Britain. He is recipient of numerous teaching awards, including receiving the Silver Apple Award for clinical teaching four times, the Teacher of the Year Award in the Department of Internal Medicine, elected into the Gold Humanism Society and the prestigious Parker Palmer Teaching Award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Featured photo of the UC College of Medicine was taken by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.