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Cell Biology & Physiology names Stewart vice chair

Cancer biologist to focus on strategic planning, trainee and faculty development

by Tamara BhandariJune 22, 2021

Washington University

The Department of Cell Biology & Physiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has named Sheila Stewart, PhD, the Gerty Cori Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology, to the newly created position of vice chair. Stewart steps into the role July 1.

As vice chair, Stewart will work with David Piston, PhD, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of the department, and others to help develop a strategic plan for the department. She will lead an effort to develop strategies and programs to support the professional and personal development of the department’s trainees, as well as to enhance faculty recruitment and professional development.

“Dr. Sheila Stewart is a fantastic scientist and a wonderful colleague,” Piston said. “Over the last few years, she has increasingly stepped up to improve our training opportunities and to devise ways to support the mental health of our trainees. She played an important role in developing our policies during the COVID-19 shutdown and ramp-up of research, and she was an invaluable partner in communication between the leadership, faculty and trainees. In many ways, she has been helping the department as an ad hoc vice chair for some time, and it is only fitting to recognize her efforts officially.”

As a cancer biologist, Stewart studies how the noncancerous cells, known as the stroma, in tumors promote the development of cancer. In particular, she investigates how age-related changes in the stroma modulate the immune response and affect dormant tumor cells, thus promoting cancer. The goal is to identify points of intervention at which the process can be interrupted, thereby preventing or treating cancer.

Her extensive experience in cancer research will help the department strengthen its longstanding relationship with Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The department has a strong history of cancer cell biology research and plans to recruit additional faculty who specialize in the field.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, consistently ranking among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Tamara covers pathology & immunology, medical microbiology, infectious diseases, cell biology, neurology, neuroscience, neurosurgery and radiology. She holds a double bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics & biochemistry and in sociology from Yale University, a master's in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in biomedical science from the University of California, San Diego. Tamara worked in research labs for about a decade before switching to science writing. She joined WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications in 2016. She has received two Robert G. Fenley writing awards from the American Association of Medical Colleges. In 2020, she won a bronze for "Mind’s quality control center found in long-ignored brain area" and in 2022 a silver for "Mice with hallucination-like behaviors reveal insight into psychotic illness."