UW Dermatology Faculty Honored with Mohs Family Endowments

Dr. Frederic Mohs’ microscope and medical bag on display at the Mohs Investiture Ceremony.

In January 2022, Gloria Xu, MD, PhD, Professor, Dermatology, was named the inaugural Mohs Family Faculty Fellow and Nihal Ahmad, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Dermatology, was named the Dr. Frederic E. Mohs Skin Cancer Research Chair.

Dr. Xu is a skilled micrographic surgeon in the treatment of thin melanoma as well as nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC). She serves the UW Department of Dermatology as the Director of the Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology Fellowship. Her research focuses on translational and clinical research in cutaneous oncology, including gene discovery in basal cell nevus syndrome, discovery and validation of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets in skin cancers (particularly melanoma), high-risk squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, clinical studies optimizing management of high-risk cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, and quality improvement studies in dermatologic care. The professorship provides support to advance Dr. Xu’s research program for two years.

In addition to her research, Dr. Xu represents the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer  Center as a member of the Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer guideline committee of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network since 2016. Dr. Xu is a past awardee of the Dermatology Foundation Clinical Career Development Award for Dermatologic Surgery.

Dr. Ahmad is a nationally recognized expert on cancer biology, prevention, and therapeutics, especially focusing on skin and prostate cancers. He is currently the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Dermatology and a Co-Leader of the UW Carbone Cancer Center Cancer Prevention & Control Program. His research focuses on two major lines of investigation: (1) the mechanism of cancer development, with a specific focus on cell cycle and cell death and differentiation; and (2) the prevention and experimental therapeutics of cancer by naturally occurring agents such as resveratrol, vitamin E, selenium, melatonin, and others. Dr. Ahmad also studies the mechanisms associated with cutaneous ultraviolet (UV) responses. His research is funded by multiple federal grants (NIH, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other sources).

Dr. Ahmad is also the Director of the Pilot and Feasibility Studies program of the UW Skin Disease Research Center. He has served or is serving on several Peer-Review Panels of the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Department of Defence. He is an Associate Editor of Photochemistry and Photobiology, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Frontiers in Oncology, and Journal of Skin Cancer, and serves on the editorial board of several journals.

Generous Support from the Mohs Family

The endowed fellow and chair were established with a gift from the Mohs family, pictured above with Drs. Ahmad and Xu.

In 1938, University of Wisconsin-Madison medical school graduate Frederic E. Mohs developed the Mohs micrographic surgery technique to remove skin cancer lesions. Dr. Mohs’ novel surgical technique transformed the way skin cancer patients are treated; his method has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives from skin cancer and other secondary cancers, due to its high cure rates for high-risk lesions and maximal preservation of healthy tissue. Following the passing of Dr. Mohs’ son, Tom, in 2016, Tom’s wife Nancy Mohs has been acting on behalf of the Mohs family to expand their legacy at UW-Madison.

The Mohs family established the endowed chair and the faculty fellow within the UW Department of Dermatology to help advance discoveries in skin cancer research and patient care; this investment will help keep UW-Madison as the standard of excellence in the field of dermatology and allow departmental leaders to recruit and retain the best and brightest in the field.

The Mohs family and the Department of Dermatology were also keenly interested in celebrating the legacy of Dr. Mohs and preserving the artifacts, stain samples, and other items used during his career; in 2020, Nancy Mohs helped solidify a partnership with UW Libraries to support exhibitions, programming, and an oral history project for the Frederic E. Mohs Collection within the university’s archives.

The endowment recipients and the Mohs family were honored at the Mohs Investiture Ceremony held on June 13, 2022, at the Pyle Center. The event was attended by members of the Mohs family; Drs. Xu and Ahmad; Robert Golden, Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health; faculty of the Department of Dermatology; and members of the University of Wisconsin Foundation and UW-Madison Libraries. Lisa Carter, the Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian was in attendance to speak about the Frederic E. Mohs Collection project.

For the Mohs family, continuing to support the endowed chair and starting the new faculty fellowship exemplifies the value of research in advancing the future of healthcare. Acting as a spokesperson for the family, Nancy Mohs remarked: “Fred was very interested in promoting his treatment for skin cancer but not in promoting himself. He would be very pleased that doctors and researchers are continually working to improve the care and treatment for skin cancer patients.”

“What a great honor and privilege for me to be the first awardee of the Mohs Family Faculty Fellowship,” said Dr. Xu, “It is a calling and a joy for me to conduct clinical and translational research pertinent to cutaneous oncology. I strive to continue Dr. Mohs’ legacy beyond the scope of simply preserving his techniques. I want to embody his scientific curiosity and hunger for new discoveries for the sake of better patient care. [The Mohs family’s] kind and generous support has fueled me with more energy and excitement in pursuing my research projects.”

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to become the recipient of the Dr. Frederic E. Mohs Skin Cancer Research Chair,” Dr. Ahmad added, “It is a great honor for me to be associated with Dr. Mohs’s legacy. This endowment will enable me to continue my research in cutaneous oncology, with more zeal and enthusiasm, to further his legacy as well as his scientific curiosity. I will continue to strive to find novel means and approaches for a better management of skin cancer.”

Drs. Xu and Ahmad with Robert Golden, Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health; Dr. Beth Drolet, Chair of the Department of Dermatology; and Dr. Juliet Aylward, Section Chief of Dermatologic Surgery.