UAMS invests in two endowed chairs during Sept. 7 ceremony

September 26 - October 2, 2022

By The Daily Record Staff


The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine recently invested Drs. Jonathan Laryea and Matthew Steliga to endowed chairs established with gifts exceeding $1 million, university hospital officials announced on Sept. 13.


An endowed chair is among the university’s highest academic honors for a faculty member. A chair is established with gifts of at least $1 million, which are invested, with the interest proceeds used to support the educational, research and clinical activities of the chair holder. Those named to a chair are among the most highly regarded scientists, physicians and professors in their fields.


During a Sept. 7 ceremony, Laryea was invested in the Nolie and Norma Mumey Endowed Chair in Surgery. The chair was established in 2009 through a bequest by Norma and Dr. Nolie Mumey to the College of Medicine. Dr. John B. Cone, known as a pioneer in working toward establishing the state’s first trauma system at UAMS, was the inaugural holder of the chair.


Laryea is chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery in the Department of Surgery and medical director of cancer services at UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. A native of Ghana in West Africa, he graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School in 1998. During his senior year, he spent a semester at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine doing research in neurosurgery. 


After his housemanship in Ghana, he immigrated to the United States to complete his residency, first in internal medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, Saint Raphael Campus in New Haven, Conn., and then in general surgery at Waterbury Hospital, Yale School of Medicine in Waterbury, Conn. He moved to Atlanta for a colon and rectal surgery fellowship at the Georgia Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates. He was recruited to UAMS as an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery in 2008, and promoted to associate professor in 2013 and professor in 2018.


“It’s an incredible honor and privilege to be [the] recipient of the Nolie and Norma Mumey Endowed Chair in Surgery,” said Laryea. “I want to thank all the people in this room and around the world who have contributed to my career. Every journey begins with one step, and we have to be able to own and tell our stories. I have been blessed because I came from humble beginnings in Ghana but had a dream and goal, and thank God that I am here.”


Since joining UAMS as the only colorectal surgeon, Laryea has helped build the Division of Colorectal Surgery, which currently has three surgeons. Throughout his career, he has been committed to patients with colorectal diseases, especially those with colorectal cancer. He has a particular interest in racial disparities in cancer outcomes. He is board certified in general surgery, colorectal surgery and clinical informatics.


“I want to congratulate Dr. Laryea as this honor is incredibly well deserved,” said Dr. Cam Patterson,  UAMS chancellor and CEO of UAMS Health. “Thank you very much for what you do for the people of Arkansas, for UAMS and for our civilization as a whole.”


Laryea has served in various roles in national and international organizations including the executive council of the Association for Academic Surgery, the Surgical Section of the National Medical Association and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.


“Investitures are also an opportunity to reflect on the namesakes for the endowed chairs and the generous supporters who made them possible,” said Dr. Susan Smyth, executive vice chancellor of UAMS and dean of the College of Medicine. “We have enduring gratitude for the late Norma and Dr. Nolie Mumey, whose bequest supports the chair that Dr. Laryea will hold, as well as scholarships and the UAMS Historical Research Center.” 


During the Sept. 7 ceremony, Steliga was invested in the Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology. He is chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery in the UAMS Department of Surgery and a tenured professor of surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.


Steliga is a recognized expert in lung cancer, cancer screening, smoking cessation and surgical education. He has represented UAMS globally, speaking throughout North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Because of his expertise in cancer care and prevention, he has been selected to serve in advisory roles for the American Cancer Society and the Arkansas Department of Health. Further, he has chaired workshops with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Association for Cancer Research and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.


“I want to thank the East family for establishing this endowment, Lynn and Julie Marshall for extending it further and to Dr. Kent Westbrook for being a pioneer and leading us forward in surgical oncology,” said Steliga. “This endowed chair allows us to reflect on our past and all the great things that have come before us in a very humbling way, and I hope that we can push our work even further into the future.”


James C. and Mary Kay East, longtime supporters of UAMS, established the chair through a $1 million gift in 2015. Mary Kay East passed away in 2018. Kent C. Westbrook, M.D., the inaugural chairholder, served from 1984-1999 as director of what is now the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. 


A distinguished professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery, Westbrook also served in such roles as interim chair of the Department of Surgery, interim vice chancellor for development, and chair of the Department of Dermatology. 


The elevation of the chair to a distinguished chair was made possible by a gift from Lynn and Julie Marshall.


“Endowed chairs honor our most distinguished faculty members, and I want to congratulate Dr. Steliga for all that he has accomplished,” said Patterson. “He has worked hard on behalf of his patients and the people he has helped educate, but he has also worked hard to advance scholarship that helps people across the globe.”


Steliga completed his undergraduate studies and a master’s degree in Speech, Language and Learning at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He returned to his home state of Wisconsin to complete his medical degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Following medical school, he completed a surgical internship and residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine in Memphis before moving to Houston for a cardiothoracic fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute. Upon completion of his two-year cardiothoracic training, he completed an additional fellowship as an instructor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with focused training in thoracic surgical oncology. He joined UAMS in 2009.


Steliga’s clinical work focuses on thoracic oncology with an emphasis on lung cancer, esophageal cancer, other tumors of the chest and metastasis to the lung with a focus on minimally invasive surgery. Since joining UAMS, he has grown the Division of Thoracic Surgery and pushed for expansion of UAMS surgical programs and oncology programs with the Baptist Health system. He was instrumental in developing lung cancer screening and integrating smoking cessation in clinical care at UAMS. His work has gained national and international attention and he has led workshops on tobacco cessation in cancer care.


Steliga is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and he is a member of the Society of Surgical Oncology as well as several other professional societies. He has represented Arkansas on the National Lung Cancer Roundtable consortium for the American Cancer Society.  


“Dr. Matthew Steliga is a superb surgical oncologist who specializes in the cancer of the lungs and esophagus. He has built a great clinical program with treatment, prevention, detection and research components,” said Westbrook. “I congratulate him on his accomplishments and look forward to his future role as the leader in surgical oncology at UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.”  


Photo Captions:


1. Dr. Susan Smyth (left), UAMS College of Medicine dean, and UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson present the UAMS endowed chair medallion to Dr. Jonathan Laryea.


2. Dr. Susan Smyth (left), UAMS College of Medicine dean, and UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson present the UAMS endowed chair medallion to Dr. Matthew Steliga.




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