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University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health names Erik Ranheim, MD, PhD chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Ranheim has been a faculty member for nearly two decades and has served as vice chair of education for the department since 2011. A highly respected leader with multi-faceted expertise, he has served in several leadership capacities in the school’s medical education curriculum. From 2007-2015, he directed the department’s residency program. His research focuses on the fundamental processes underlying immunity and the application of those principles to understanding the development of leukemia and lymphoma and potential immunotherapies for a variety of cancers.

“I am humbled, honored, and excited to lead an extraordinary group of clinicians, researchers, teachers, and staff,” Ranheim says. “I have been deeply committed to our department, UW–Madison, and the greater Madison community for nearly 20 years, and look forward to pursuing excellence in all of our missions in a healthy and welcoming departmental environment.” 

Pathologists, technical, and professional staff in the department are at the forefront of diagnosing disease and ensuring proper treatment for patients, providing laboratory medicine services in anatomic pathology and clinical pathology for eight hospital and clinic-based laboratories. Anatomic pathologists in the department process 60,000 surgical and hematopathology specimens and 30,000 cytologies per year, and perform forensic and medical autopsies. Clinical pathologists and laboratory medicine staff conduct more than 3.8 million laboratory tests annually, analyzing bodily fluids such as urine, blood, plasma, and saliva using state-of-the-art technology.

The department is also home to a vibrant research portfolio and is ranked 16th in the nation for funding from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers have focused on topics including the immunology of infectious diseases, neuroimmunology, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, glaucoma, and hematopoietic stem cells.

Ranheim completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a PhD in immunology and MD at the University of Minnesota. He completed his residency training in anatomic pathology, fellowships in hematopathology and autopsy, and postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford University.

Ranheim received the school’s Dean’s Teaching Award and a Team Science Award from the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer. He has also been named Physician Citizen of the Year by the Wisconsin Medical Society, among other honors.

His background as a clinician, educator, and researcher with a systems-level view makes him highly qualified to step into this role, says Robert N. Golden, MD, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

“Dr. Ranheim is a deeply respected leader in our school and academic health system,” he said. “It is exciting to see him step into this important leadership role. He understands the remarkable synergies that are created through the integration of our research, education, and clinical missions.”  

Ranheim’s appointment will be effective in mid-August.

 

About SCHOOL: 

“Recognized as an international leader in education, research and service, the School of Medicine and Public Health continues to evolve to meet changing health care needs.

From creating academic programs targeting health professional shortage areas to becoming the nation's first school to integrate medicine and public health, the University of Wisconsin consistently strives to be on the forefront of health care innovation through service, science, scholarship and social responsibility.”

 

About Erik Ranheim, MD, PhD: 

Dr. Ranheim’s laboratory has two broad areas of interest, the interaction of the immune system with tumor cells, and the role of the frizzled/wnt/beta-catenin pathway in normal and neoplastic lymphoid development and function. The field of tumor immunology is replete with studies showing that immunization of mice prior to tumor introduction can prevent cancer. While this demonstrates the potential of the immune system in treating cancer, it says almost nothing about the true clinical situation of a patient with a long standing tumor presenting for treatment. He hopes to step back and examine the mechanisms of how the immune system and tumor interact and why, even with evidence that anti-tumor lymphocytes are present, the tumor usually wins. Dr. Ranheim is involved in anti-tumor immunity research in both mouse models and human patients in B cell leukemia/lymphoma and melanoma, in collaboration with other members of the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

The second area of interest involves the frizzled/wnt pathway, a family of receptors and ligands that regulate the level of beta-catenin within cells that has been implicated in a number of human tumors, most notably colon cancer and the familial polyposis syndrome. His interest stems from the fact that work in Irv Weissman’s laboratory showed that beta-catenin signaling may be a critical signal directing hematopoietic stem cells to self-renew rather than differentiate. His examination of frizzled 9 knockout mice suggests that this pathway may offer a similar signal to developing cells in the B lymphoid lineage as well as affecting plasma cell function. Malignant cells also seem to be signaled to “self-renew” rather than differentiate, and the beta-catenin pathway is likely to be involved in this decision. Dr. Ranheim’s laboratory has found that particular members of this signaling pathway are critical for development of lymphoma/leukemia in a mouse model of human chronic lymphocytic leukemia and is exploring whether other B cell malignancies may also use this pathway to enhance survival and growth of the malignant cells.

 

Sources:

News: https://www.med.wisc.edu/news-and-events/2022/july/erik-ranheim-named-chair-of-pathology/

School: https://www.med.wisc.edu/about-us/

Erik Ranheim, MD, PhD: https://pathology.wisc.edu/staff/ranheim-erik/

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