UAB adds leading surgeon-scientist as head of Department of Surgery

Top physician-scientist tapped to succeed Kirby Bland as chair of the UAB Department of Surgery.

Written by Kendra Carter
Media Contact: Bob Shepard,

herb chen 2016Herbert Chen, M.D., an internationally recognized surgeon-scientist and medical educator, has been named chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and surgeon-in-chief of UAB Hospital.

Chen comes to UAB from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, where he is the Layton F. Rikkers, M.D., Chair in Surgical Leadership, chair of the Division of General Surgery, vice chair of Research for the Department of Surgery and professor in the departments of Surgery, Biomedical Engineering and Pediatrics.

Chen will succeed longtime chair Kirby I. Bland, M.D., who will continue his surgical practice and research in the School of Medicine as he steps down from the top post after 16 years of leadership. Chen will officially join UAB on Oct. 1.

“The UAB Department of Surgery is nationally and internationally known as one of the best departments in the country, with strong clinical programs and a long history of making important contributions to the field,” Chen said. “This chance to come to Birmingham and lead is an incredible opportunity. Dr. Bland has done a fantastic job over the last 16 years, and it’s quite an honor to be following in his footsteps.”

The UAB Department of Surgery provides surgical care for the state of Alabama and beyond and has earned an international reputation for its unique blend of advanced medicine, excellent patient care and research. The department includes more than 160 faculty members and 108 residents and fellows.

Chen is a specialist in endocrine surgery, specifically in thyroid disease, hyperparathyroidism, adrenal neoplasms and neuroendocrine tumors. He is a principal investigator of 10 active grants, including those from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, American Cancer Society, and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Chen has mentored more than 100 faculty, postdoctoral fellows, residents, medical students and undergraduates in his lab. He has published more than 430 original research and review articles and has edited 12 textbooks.

“Dr. Chen is an outstanding academic surgeon in the fullest extent of the term,” said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president of Medicine and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. “He is an accomplished clinician, researcher and educator, and I look forward to working with him to build on the legacy of the prior department leaders.”

A native of Wisconsin, Chen received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and began his medical education at the Duke University School of Medicine, graduating in 1992.

While in medical school, Chen was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow in the Department of Surgery at Duke. He completed his surgical residency in general surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1999, along with a postdoctoral research fellowship in 1997 and a surgical oncology and endocrinology fellowship in 2000.