Duke Surgery Appoints New Division Chief of Surgical Sciences

Georgia Tomaras, PhD
Georgia Tomaras, PhD, has been named the new Chief of the Division of Surgical Sciences at Duke.

The Duke Department of Surgery is pleased to announce the appointment of Georgia Tomaras, PhD, to the role of Division Chief of Surgical Sciences.

Dr. Tomaras’ research career at Duke spans more than two decades, beginning with a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Surgery in 1998. She is currently a Professor in Surgery with tenure, Professor in Immunology, and Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As Duke faculty, Dr. Tomaras previously served as the Director of Research (and Associate Director of Research) for the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) for 10 years, facilitating cutting-edge and collaborative research consistent with the goals of the Institute. She co-founded the Center for Human Systems Immunology (CHSI) at Duke University to advance discoveries across quantitative and clinical sciences, and is the current director of the Duke Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), with a longstanding focus to build interdisciplinary partnerships and strengthen the infrastructures for innovative research at Duke.

Duke Surgery Department Chair Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, says Dr. Tomaras is a natural fit for the role and is confident she will lead the division to further success.

“The Division of Surgical Sciences is a unique strength of the Department of Surgery. It has continuously bolstered our scientific mission, enabling our nation-leading scope of discovery for surgical departments.  I’m delighted that Dr. Tomaras will take the helm of this vital division,” says Dr. Kirk. “Immunology research has never been more critical than it has in the last few years, and Dr. Tomaras’ extensive body of research has contributed greatly to the cause. Her impressive leadership roles—both internationally in organizations like the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and locally at Duke in centers such as CFAR—have positioned her for great success in this new role. Beyond her basic work, Dr. Tomaras is an exemplary scientific mentor. Our surgical trainees have benefited greatly from her teaching and mentorship. In all, I’m inspired by Dr. Tomaras’ commitment to scientific discovery and translation, and I’m enthusiastic about the future of the division under her leadership.”

A History of Leadership

Fortunately, Dr. Tomaras will assume her role as chief for a division that has a long history of leadership excellence. The previous chief, Kent Weinhold, Joseph W. and Dorothy W. Beard Distinguished Professor of Experimental Surgery, expertly guided the Division of Surgical Sciences for more than a decade. Under his leadership, Duke Surgery significantly expanded its research enterprise, attracted top scientists and researchers in their fields, and became one of the highest federally funded surgery research programs in the country.

“Working as division chief in support of an amazingly talented group of divisional faculty members over the past 14 years, and witnessing both their steep academic career trajectories as well as their extraordinary scientific accomplishments, will most certainly serve as the proudest and most rewarding period of my ongoing 42-year Duke career,” says Dr. Weinhold. “In passing the reins to the new chief, I wish Dr. Tomaras the best as she leads the division into its next decade in pursuit of scientific excellence and insights that will improve the existing standard of medical care.” 

Dr. Dani Bolognesi, Professor Emeritus of Surgery and former Vice Chair of Clinical Science Departments in the Department of Surgery, echoes this sentiment from Dr. Weinhold.

“I’m confident that Dr. Tomaras has all the attributes to maintain Dr. Weinhold’s legacy,” Dr. Bolognesi says. “In the years to come, she will expertly lead the Division of Surgical Sciences to the next level.”

Dr. Tomaras’ Immunology Research  

Prior to beginning her career at Duke, Dr. Tomaras obtained her B.S. in biology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York.

Currently, Dr. Tomaras’ research focuses on mechanisms of protective immunity, about which she has authored more than 320 peer reviewed publications. Her laboratory comprises a multi-disciplinary team of scientists that effectively bridge basic and translational science through qualification and validation of innovative immune methods to quantify specific immune responses and measure their dynamic interplay in host-pathogen interactions. Her laboratory’s goals are to reveal the specificities and functions of protective immune responses that lead to prevention or resolution of disease—findings that directly contribute to the design and implementation of new vaccine and immuno-prophylaxis clinical trials.

Shelley Hwang, MD, Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Surgery, says the department and division are fortunate to have continued, effective leadership in the sciences. 

“Dr. Tomaras is a world class immunologist, researcher, and mentor, who has made invaluable contributions to human health and in training the next generation of scientists throughout her successful career,” says Dr. Hwang. “We are immensely fortunate to have her at Duke, and we are grateful that she has stepped forward to lead the Division of Surgical Sciences. The division is renowned internationally as a beacon of excellence in scientific discovery, and we look forward to continued success for this group under Dr. Tomaras' leadership. We sincerely thank Dr. Weinhold for his outstanding guidance of the division, and for his deep and enduring commitment to bridging the basic and clinical sciences.”

The Future of Surgical Sciences

Dr. Tomaras is enthusiastic about her role as chief, and has a clear vision for how she can both honor the division’s legacy and move it forward to stay on the forefront of scientific progress.

“My overarching vision as chief is to accelerate high impact scientific discoveries in the areas of immunology and therapeutics—major strengths for Surgical Sciences. To realize this vision, I will work to strengthen cross-cutting research among surgeons and wet-lab scientists; foster a positive culture with a strong appreciation for different viewpoints; and enrich scientific partnerships across our institution and globally.”

The department would also like to thank Shelley Hwang, MD, chair of the search committee, and the participating faculty across the SOM for their diligent efforts in selecting the new division chief.

Please join the Department of Surgery in congratulating Dr. Tomaras on this new leadership position. She began her role as chief on December 1, 2022.