NEWS | September 22, 2010

UC Davis School of Medicine names Lydia Pleotis Howell chair of pathology and laboratory medicine


Lydia Pleotis Howell, an anatomic and clinical pathologist well known for her work to improve protocols for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast and cervical cancer, has been named chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She has served as acting chair since 2008.

Howell oversees nearly 40 faculty members and more than 400 clinical and academic staff who provide comprehensive laboratory testing for UC Davis Medical Center and other hospitals and clinics through Northern California, conduct leading-edge basic and translational research, and advance training at all levels within the field. The department performs more than 5 million clinical tests annually using a state-of-the-art robotic system in the new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion at UC Davis Medical Center. With more than $6 million in external research funding and strong collaborations within and beyond the health system, department faculty are advancing knowledge in cancer, cardiovascular disease, nutrition, neuroscience, infectious diseases and stem cell biology.

“The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine is renowned for its pioneering implementation of new clinical technologies and academic innovations,” said Claire Pomeroy, chief executive officer of UC Davis Health System, vice chancellor for human health sciences at UC Davis and dean of the School of Medicine. “Lydia Howell is an exceptional clinician and academician who has long championed the importance of clinical excellence and the transformational power of translational research. I am confident that under her innovative and capable leadership, our pathology and laboratory medicine department will become known as one of the top academic departments of its kind, providing our patients with the latest in care and our students with an unparalleled educational experience, while at the same time advancing scientific research.”

Howell is leading collaborations between the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and UC Davis scientists in biophotonics, engineering, and radiology, among others, to design innovative tools and technologies for diagnostic and prognostic testing. A pioneer in new methods for cervical cancer screening, Howell led clinical testing of liquid-based Pap tests and computer-assisted screening, leading to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and national implementation of these technologies, which now set the standard of care.

Through her participation in national consensus conferences, committees and panels for the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the College of American Pathologists, and the California Department of Public Health, Howell has contributed to the development of a national uniform terminology for gynecologic cytology, algorithms and guidelines for breast and cervical cancer screening and management of abnormal results, uniform practice of breast fine-needle aspiration and laboratory accreditation and quality improvement programs.

“UC Davis’ Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine will serve as the model department for the future – a department that leads innovation in science, education and clinical care and that fully develops the health-care workforce of the future, so that all can have successful careers that meet their personal and professional dreams,” said Howell. “It is an honor to serve as chair of the department that has nurtured me for the past 24 years. UC Davis has given me many leadership and development opportunities in addition to providing career flexibility as I raised my two daughters. I am grateful for the foresight and consideration that enabled me to assume this position today, and I hope to provide similar opportunities to my colleagues.”

Known for her commitment to faculty development, work-life balance, and for encouraging the success of women in medicine and science, Howell is co-principal investigator of a $1.27 million, four-year grant from the National Institute of Health for research on family-friendly policies for women with careers in medicine. She serves as an advisor to the American Council on Education and the Sloan Foundation on issues related to career flexibility for medical school faculty and also serves as a representative to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Women in Medicine and Science.

During her tenure as associate dean of academic affairs, Howell expanded and standardized medical and family leave policies, which served as the basis for similar changes adopted through the University of California system. Howell has published articles on generational issues in academic medicine, medical school faculty career tracks and mission-based management.

Howell received her bachelor’s and doctor of medicine degrees from Northwestern University Medical School’s Honors Program in Medical Education in Chicago. She served as resident and chief resident in anatomic and clinical pathology at Temple University Hospital, after which she completed a fellowship in cytopathology at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia.

In addition to being associate dean of academic affairs, Howell served as director of anatomic pathology and director of cytology before being named the acting chair of the pathology and laboratory medicine department.

Dr. Howell serves as an advisor to the California Department of Health Services, is a member of the Hematology and Pathology Devices Panel, Medical Devices Advisory Committee for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiologic Health, and will become the American Society of Cytopathology’s president in 2011-12.

As chair of the department, Howell receives an annual base salary of $167,700. Additional information about her compensation is available upon request.

The UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation's leading medical schools, recognized for its research and primary-care programs. The school offers fully accredited master's degree programs in public health and in informatics, and its combined M.D.-Ph.D. program is training the next generation of physician-scientists to conduct high-impact research and translate discoveries into better clinical care. Along with being a recognized leader in medical research, the school is committed to serving underserved communities and advancing rural health. For more information, visit UC Davis School of Medicine at