Wahid Wassef, MD, MPH, FACG
Wahid Wassef, MD, MPH, FACG

Distinguished Physician-Researcher Plans to Develop Pancreatic Center of Excellence in Phoenix

Beth Smith
Beth Smith
Wahid Wassef, MD, MPH, FACG
Wahid Wassef, MD, MPH, FACG

Wahid Wassef, MD, MPH, FACG, has joined the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix as division chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He also holds the role of medical director of Digestive Diseases and Endoscopy at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.

Dr. Wassef is a leader in pancreatic disease education and research. He will help with the transformation of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology into an academic leader, delivering world-class care for our patients.

"I am excited to join the talented team at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. I believe we have a lot of opportunities here to develop our unit into a pancreatic center of excellence," said Wassef. "We are committed to providing comprehensive patient care and advancing education about the causes of pancreatic disease."

Pancreatic disease affects more than 5,000 patients in the greater Phoenix area. The disease can be difficult to diagnose, with symptoms mirroring those of other illnesses. These factors contribute to patients not being diagnosed until the disease is in an advanced stage. Proper care requires the support of multiple specialties and disciplines, including gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, dieticians and geneticists. 

Dr. Wassef is tasked with building a robust research and education enterprise that will attract the nation’s top talent. He and his team will focus on creating a pancreatic center of excellence in Phoenix. A pancreatic center of excellence is one that includes a multi-disciplinary approach to help ensure the best care and outcomes possible. Another pivotal goal for this center will be making these services more accessible to underserved populations.

“The skill, experience and international reputation that Dr. Wassef brings to the department and the college significantly advances our clinical, educational and investigative missions. We are excited to support his vision for a GI center of excellence,” said Michael Fallon, MD, executive director for Clinical Research and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Wassef is developing the pancreatic center of excellence with community outreach as a pillar of its mission. He and his team will employ virtual workshops, community engagement and interdisciplinary collaboration to serve individuals at higher risk for developing pancreatic disease. Patients are often reluctant to acknowledge or seek treatment for symptoms, such as chronic abdominal pain, weight loss and diarrhea. Patients can experience acute symptoms, chronic symptoms or a combination. There is no cure for pancreatic disease, making early detection and intervention crucial to managing treatment and providing patients a better quality of life.

"I am inspired by the words of Theodore Roosevelt, 'Believe you can and you're halfway there,'" said Wassef.

Dr. Wassef will also advance the research agenda through translational research across all aspects of gastroenterology and hepatology. An accomplished leader in pancreatic research, he has made significant contributions to the medical community. His recent work has focused on developing better diagnostics combined with new therapies for acute pancreatitis that will offer better quality of life for patients.

He previously served as the director of Advanced Endoscopy and Fellowship Training, medical director of the Pancreatic Disease Clinic and associate chief quality officer for the Department of Medicine at UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“We are excited to have Dr. Wassef join the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Dr. Wassef brings a distinguished record as a physician, researcher, leader and patient advocate to his role as Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He has a long record of providing superb education for medical students, residents and fellows that will prepare them to become even better physicians,” said Guy L. Reed, MD, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. “Through his leadership, our students, residents and fellows will have a wonderful opportunity to advance the understanding and treatment of disease in this discipline.” 

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About the College

Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 593 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,400 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.