The Scientific Forum of this year’s Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), held Oct. 22-26 in San Diego, has been dedicated to Diana Farmer, chair of the UC Davis Department of Surgery and surgeon-in-chief of UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
The dedication is an honor recognizing one ACS member each year for his/her leadership in academic surgery, established research program, history of fostering surgical trainees and ongoing participation in the forum, a platform for surgeon-scientists of all career levels to share their research before a national audience.
Farmer has been a constant presence at the forum since 1988, when she presented a study on “T cells bearing the natural killer antigen leu-19 mediate non-MHC restricted activated killing of human tumors.” Today, she is an internationally recognized fetal and neonatal surgeon known for her expertise in treating congenital anomalies before birth and cancer, airway and intestinal conditions in newborns. She also is advancing a global initiative to improve surgical care for children in developing nations.
Throughout her career, Farmer has been on a path to curing spina bifida, starting with her pioneering use of in utero surgery to improve brain development in children with the condition. Later, she showed that prenatal surgery combined with human placenta-derived mesenchymal stromal cells helped research lambs with the disorder walk without noticeable disability. The treatment was recently given to two dogs born with spina bifida that would have been euthanized but now run and play like other dogs. Soon, she will move that discovery to human clinical trials.
Farmer has been honored with numerous awards, including becoming a Luce Scholar, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and a member of the esteemed National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. She also served as president of the American Pediatric Surgical Association.
In a dedication published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Elizabeth Wick of Johns Hopkins highlighted Farmer’s selfless commitments to bench science that helps patients and to mentoring future surgeons and scientists.
“As a result, Diana will leave an indelible mark on pediatric surgery, and now surgery as a whole for many, many years to come,” wrote Wick, one of Farmer’s former surgical residents. “We cannot think of a more fitting person on whom to bestow the honor of the Scientific Forum dedication than Dr. Farmer.”