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Joseph A. Califano III, M.D. Appointed Director of Moores Cancer Center


We are pleased to announce that Joseph A. Califano III, MD, has accepted the position of director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, beginning immediately.

Following a comprehensive national search, Dr. Califano succeeds Scott Lippman, MD, who announced in November 2021 that he would be stepping down as director to lead the PreCancer Genome Atlas (PCGA). 

Dr. Califano brings immense experience and expertise to the new position, having served as physician-in-chief at Moores Cancer Center, director of the Hanna and Mark Glieberman Head and Neck Cancer Center and co-leader of the Structural and Functional Genomics Program. He will transition from these duties to focus on the directorship.
A board-certified otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck surgical oncology and the integration of basic, molecular and biological research in that practice, Dr. Califano’s clinical expertise includes minimally invasive treatment of tumors of the mouth, throat and head and neck.

Dr. Califano directs a National Institutes of Health funded laboratory investigating the molecular and biological basis of head and neck cancer and serves as principal investigator for multiple clinical trials. He has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed articles related to both the clinical and basic scientific aspects of cancer, serving on a variety of professional organizations and editorial boards, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Head and Neck Steering Committee, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network board of directors and the Council of the American Head and Neck Society.

As physician-in-chief, he oversaw clinical operations and all related inpatient and outpatient oncology services at UC San Diego Health, as well as operations with affiliates and outreach clinics. He participated in Board of Visitors and philanthropy meetings, and was appointed to the Cancer Center Executive Committee, where he worked in partnership with the chief administration officer on operational and strategic opportunities that further the mission and vision of the cancer center. 

Prior to joining UC San Diego Health in 2015, Califano was a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Califano completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

Moores Cancer Center is the region’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center, an NCI designation reserved for institutions with the highest achievements in cancer research, clinical care, education and community contributions. The NCI designation places Moores Cancer Center among the top 4% of approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States, and one of only 53 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation.

In the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” survey, UC San Diego Health’s cancer program was ranked 20th in the nation.   

A key reason that UC San Diego Health is ranked #1 in San Diego and #5 in California is the exceptional and enduring excellence of its cancer programs, exemplified by the extraordinary physicians, nurses and staff at Moores Cancer Center and throughout the health system.

Dr. Califano is assuming leadership of an extraordinary team and institution, one that he has already invested years and talent in helping to build, expand and improve.

We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to Dr. Lippman for his more than 11 years of service as Moores Cancer Center director, a period that encompassed two exceptional renewals of the NCI’s crucial Cancer Center Support Grant and dramatic growth in both the research and clinical enterprises.

Dr. Lippman will continue as associate vice chancellor for cancer research at UC San Diego while also heading the PCGA, an NCI-sponsored effort to map in time and space all of the molecular, cellular and structural characteristics of premalignant lesions and how they evolve into invasive cancers.

We also thank the members of the search committee for their excellent work.

Dr. Steven R. Garfin
Interim Vice Chancellor, Health Sciences

Patty Maysent
Chief Executive Officer, UC San Diego Health