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Khabele named head of obstetrics and gynecology

Known as outstanding physician-scientist in gynecologic oncology

by Diane Duke WilliamsJanuary 13, 2020


Gynecologic oncologist Dineo Khabele, MD, noted for her expertise in ovarian cancer research and treatment, has been named head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Khabele, whose appointment becomes effective June 1, also will be installed as the Mitchell and Elaine Yanow Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

She specializes in treating women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and other gynecologic cancers and was selected after a national search. Khabele is known for her outstanding skills as a physician-scientist, her leadership instincts and her passion for women’s health.

Khabele joins Washington University from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, where she is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and of cancer biology, director of the Division of Gynecological Oncology and vice chair for research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her appointment was announced by David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor.

“I am very happy to announce Dineo Khabele as the new head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology,” Perlmutter said. “She is an outstanding physician-scientist and advocate for women’s health, and we believe she is the best candidate in the country to lead this department. Her research on the pathobiology of ovarian cancer and molecular targets for novel therapies has the potential to help many women with this devastating disease. And under her leadership, I am confident that the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology will build on its distinguished legacy to become ever more impactful as a leader in advancing women’s health at a critical moment in American medicine.”

Khabele’s laboratory, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), uses tumor samples to study ovarian cancer in mice. Such samples are used to investigate how DNA damage affects genes and how genes are regulated — or dysregulated — in ovarian cancer. Her lab also studies inflammation in ovarian cancer and molecular pathways that lead to cell death.

Her recent research has provided the basis for a clinical trial evaluating a new approach to treating ovarian cancer when it no longer responds to chemotherapy, a mainstay treatment for the disease.

“It is truly an honor to join Washington University School of Medicine as head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology,” Khabele said. “The department already delivers outstanding clinical care, groundbreaking research, innovative training programs and community service. I am thrilled to be able to play a role in leveraging the incredible talent of this world-class institution, in collaboration with BJC HealthCare, the Siteman Cancer Center and community partners, to make an even bigger impact on improving women’s health and the health of communities locally and globally.”

Khabele is actively involved in mentoring and teaching the next generation of young scientists and physicians and recently started the first gynecologic oncology fellowship in the state of Kansas. Throughout her career, she also has volunteered in her community, including work with the local chapters of The Links Inc. in Nashville and Kansas City. The Links Inc. is an international service organization that works to enhance the lives of people of African descent.

Khabele earned her bachelor’s and medical degrees from Columbia University in New York City. After completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, she completed a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, also in New York. Following four years at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Khabele joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in Nashville for nine years, with appointments in obstetrics and gynecology and in cancer biology. She also served as the director of gynecologic oncology translational research at Vanderbilt. In 2017, she joined the University of Kansas School of Medicine faculty.

Among many honors and awards for her research, Khabele was elected in 2019 to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. She also serves as a member of the NIH Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant review committee and as program director for the Society of Reproductive Investigation. Additionally, she serves as co-chair of the Health Disparities Committee of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons.

Khabele replaces D. Michael Nelson, MD, PhD, who served as interim head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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, ranking among the top 10 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.