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Translational Scholar: Courtney Scaife, MD

Read Time: 3 minutes

Courtney Scaife, MD
Courtney Scaife, MD

Huntsman Cancer Institute has established The Society of Huntsman Translational Scholars, an initiative that recognizes excellence in the discipline of translational science. Translational researchers extend basic discoveries made in the laboratory and apply them to solve clinical problems and benefit patients through new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Leaders at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah recently recognized three physician-scientists with a Huntsman Translational Scholar award.

Recognition as a Huntsman Translational Scholar provides financial support to promote cancer-focused studies that accelerate the development of new treatments. The awardees also work as a cohesive team to share best practices and mentor other scientists interested in translational cancer research. “The Huntsman Translational Scholars is an initiative designed to recognize and advance the careers of exceptional scientists who are making strides in translational research,” says Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle.

Courtney Scaife, MD, is chief for the Section of Surgical Oncology in the Division of General Surgery at Huntsman Cancer Institute. She represents the Department of Surgery at Huntsman Cancer Institute as Vice-Chair for Cancer Affairs and serves as the Gastrointestinal Disease Center Leader. She is also a professor of surgery at the University of Utah (U of U), specializing in gastrointestinal oncology.

Scaife earned her undergraduate degree from DePauw University and her medical degree from the University of Wisconsin. She completed her general surgery residency at the U of U, followed by a two-year fellowship in surgical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

It was during medical school that Scaife became interested in surgery. “I think I always wanted to be a physician,” Scaife expresses, “but surgery became intriguing to me during medical school. I was fascinated by anatomy and really appreciated the ability to fix a problem hands-on and then help to care for the whole patient in their recovery.”

In close collaboration with her residents, Scaife works tirelessly to optimize patient outcomes, ensuring that their approaches in the clinical setting and follow-up care of gastrointestinal cancer patients are the best possible. She also studies underlying mechanisms leading to pancreas cancer, with a focus on how this disease spreads (metastasizes) to other organs.

Scaife has been part of the team since the Huntsman cancer hospital opened in 2005. She says Huntsman Cancer Institute is unlike any other cancer center in the world. “It is an amazing facility where every employee understands the importance of using compassionate care in all aspects of their work.”

Scaife enjoys advocating for patients by making their visits to Huntsman Cancer Institute both convenient and effective. Currently, she is developing a strategy whereby all preoperative appointments for surgical patients will be scheduled on the same day. This approach will be highly beneficial, particularly for those living far from our facility.

Scaife is delighted she has received the translational scholar award.  “It is an honor and a privilege to be recognized among so many talented, accomplished peers—to be gifted, and trusted, with an award that will allow us to expand our efforts to define this disease and develop productive collaborations across the center,” Scaife said.

Cancer touches all of us.